15 Essential Sci-Fi Movies

A lot of us are currently stuck at home, either due to enforced quarantine, or just chosen self-isolation. So I thought I should push out something I’ve been working on for a bit, to give you something to do.

Somewhat recently Collider.com released an article called “100 Essential Movies Any Serious Film Fan Should See,” as a guide if you want to be considered knowledgeable in the realm of film critique. Collider is a film site first, and a fandom site second. At The Nerdd, I consider us to be a fandom site first, and a film site second. Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to list out the top films I believe any Nerdd should see, if they want to be able to keep up in a more advanced nerdy conversation. I split the list into three sections, the first being comic book movies, then science fiction movies, and then the last list has fantasy, horror, and more.

Science fiction, along with fantasy, is one of the two traditional core pillars of nerd culture, with a rich history, and central to mainstream fiction.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s film epic about a astronauts, artificial intelligence, and giant black pillars, is one of the most influential films of the past century and, while having the most confusing ending possible, is core science fiction of the modern era.

Is '2001: A Space Odyssey' too arty for the Kids Today ...

Avatar

This movie, for some reason, was at one point the highest grossing movie of all time. We know why (higher ticket price for 3D, rerelease, James Cameron holding the title previously with Titanic), but when you look at the film on it’s own, you realize that aside from cool design, it’s not great. ” white colonists invade a magic tribe of natives, in an effort to find the hard to obtain ore is called “unobtanium, with the use of technology. It’s only on this list because everyone has seen this movie, and it’d be weird if you haven’t.

Avatar amnesia: how the world forgot about the biggest film of all ...

Back to the Future

While not the first time-travel movie, or even the best (jury’s still out), this is certainly the coolest, and, probably as a result, the most popular. Follow high school slacker Marty McFly as he goes back in time with a disgraced nuclear physicist (who’s either 40 or 80, no one knows), almost sleeps with his mom, and plagiarizes “Johnny B. Goode.” But man, there’s a DeLorean, skateboards, guitar solos, and it’s just a cool movie.

See 'Back to the Future' live in concert tomorrow night | The Scene

Blade Runner

In the middle of his run as Han Solo, Harrison Ford starred in another famous science fiction movie, based on the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and takes gritty futurism to it’s extreme. A man who’s job it is to hunt down robots who are hyper-realistic, and just want to live like a person. It’s sequel finally came out in 2017, after a 35 year gap, didn’t do very well in the box office, because I think not enough people have seen the original. It’s not a fun romp, but it’s a solid sci-fi that you should see.

Los Angeles, 'Blade Runner,' and the Theory of Relativity | WIRED

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Classic Steven Spielberg, while not the most influential on this list, E.T. is a childhood favorite of so many people, that you can’t NOT include it on this list. A small alien finds himself in the house of some small children who care for him and feed him Reese’s Pieces, and has surprising magical powers. Fun, lighthearted, and a great introduction to sci-fi for kids.

E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL | Events | The Belcourt Theatre

The Fifth Element

The future is funky. In some versions of the future, we see a utopia, where currency is obsolete, and in others a dystopia where the world is run by oppresive regimes. The Fifth Element cares not for these turns in history, and instead assumes that the world will, more or less, continue on as it does today. People have jobs like driving cabs, there are eccentric talk show hosts, and maybe there are evil aliens coming to destroy us all in 5,000 years.

The Fifth Element

Ghostbusters

I ain’t afraid of no ghosts! Sure, this is less science fiction, and more ghost-based comedy, but the main characters are scientists who use “proton packs” to electrostatically trap the negatively charged energies of ghosts. If that’s not the most fiction science jargon on this list, I don’t know what is.

Ghostbusters | Classic Film Review | Consequence of Sound ...

Interstellar

The newest on this list, and so maybe the most debatable on if it’s essential. However, this film has had so many astrophysicists and theoretical physicists chime in on the accuracy of the film, that it deserves an amount of attention. Focusing so heavily on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the relationship between gravity and time, and the effect of black holes, that this one the most “science-y” of the science fiction.

Interstellar gives a spectacular view of hard science

Jurassic Park

Aside from it’s amazing use of practical and CG effects, making this movie’s mark in history, it also has a really cool science-based side of it. Choosing to spend a scene explaining how they created dinosaurs, where their science would fall flat, how they make up for it, and the unforeseen problems that occur from their solutions, is such a great focus on a movie that could just be about dinosaurs breaking out and causing chaos.

10 Movies to Fill the 'Jurassic'-Sized Hole in Your Heart - NYT ...

The Matrix

What if we are in nothing but an elaborate computer simulation? Statistically speaking, we probably are. This movie takes science fiction in a whole different direction. Instead of going into the future, or supposing that we have futuristic technology, we are simply in a fictional timeline all together, and the real world, beyond our perception, is already in the post-apocalyptic world we fear is coming.

Tie original Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) in the Matrix Revolutions ...

Men in Black

Aliens! They are among us, trying to live in peace and harmony on Earth, bringing with them amazing interstellar technology, like Velcro! Why are they kept secret then? One word: Racism! If we can’t even treat other humans with respect, we wouldn’t be able to treat literal aliens with respect either, so they pretend to be human and live around us. The technology and design of this movie is really fun, and Will Smith is just as charismatic as he always is.

MEN IN BLACK—10 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets | Regal Reel

Star Trek: Wrath of Khan

You are definitely at least familiar with Star Trek, even if you haven’t seen any of the movies or shows. If you want to expand your knowledge beyond “red shirts always die” and “live long and prosper,” Wrath of Khan is the second film, and arguably the best. Of course with anything that has as much history and lore as Star Trek, you’re never going to fully understand from just one movie, but here you’re going to understand the most you can from any one project.

Appreciating James Horner's Musical Score for Star Trek II: The ...

Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back

Similarly to Wrath of Khan above, if there was one single Star Wars movie that you could watch and understand as much as possible, this movie has Vader, Yoda, Boba Fett, “I am your father,” and more. It’s funny, because if you ask someone what the most important movie is, they will probably say A New Hope, but when you look at the cultural impact, and the references people make, so often it comes from Empire.

Empire Strikes Back' Review: 1980 Movie | Hollywood Reporter

Terminator

The world of the future has been overrun by Skynet, an AI that comes to the conclusion to destroy all humanity. So they send back a killer robot that looks like a large muscular man to the year 1984 to kill the mother of the leader of the human resistance. There are a few versions of the end of the world, and Terminator made a robot uprising one of the more popular options.

Bullets, Bombs and Beatdowns: The Terminator (1984) - Geeks + Gamers

Tron

In the ’80s, Tron was one of the first in this computer-based version of science fiction (that we see again in The Matrix). As video games are starting to gain traction, using that as a focal point of science fiction is what has given this movie it’s longevity. Though no one looks back at this movie as one of the greats, it’s stylization is still instantly recognizable, and has allowed it to earn it’s spot on this list.

Classic Photos from the Original 'Tron' – Variety

What do you think is the most essential science fiction movie? Let us know in the comments below!

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