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100 best sci-fi films of all time, according to critics

  • 100 best sci-fi films of all time, according to critics

    Of all major movie genres, sci-fi has perhaps the most passionate devotees—just look at the feverishly adoring fanbase of the “Star Wars” saga and Marvel Cinematic Universe. These admirers do more than frequent Comic-Con, engage in cosplay, and read throngs of backstory in comic strips and books: Legions of fanboys and fangirls also drive up user ratings as soon as the newest installment of a favorite franchise drops. This can lead to a somewhat skewed perspective in terms of whether or not these movies are actually worth watching.

    Enter the almighty film critic: a movie expert who, while not necessarily impervious to personal bias, is more likely to judge a film based on its own merits. To that end, a list of the best critically reviewed sci-fi films will be different from one compiled according to IMDb user ratings—even if certain titles are bound to overlap.

    With that in mind, Stacker presents the 100 best sci-fi films of all time (according to what the critics say). Each film was ranked by its Metacritic score. In the case of a ratings tie, the title with more critic ratings ranked higher. Excluded from consideration were any movies that have not yet been released to the public. Without further ado, here are the 100 best sci-fi films of all time, according to the critics.  

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  • #100. Inception

    Metascore: 74
    Year: 2010
    Director(s): Christopher Nolan

    Christopher Nolan goes layers-deep in this mind-bending thriller, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a thief skilled in the art of extraction. And what is extraction? Nothing more than the ability to enter someone’s dream world in order to change his or her opinion, or retrieve vital information. Meanwhile, the thief’s own subconscious secrets threaten to derail his latest assignment. Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Ellen Page, and Tom Hardy co-star.

  • #99. Interstellar

    Metascore: 74
    Year: 2014
    Director(s): Christopher Nolan

    Another mystifying sci-fi epic from Christopher Nolan, “Interstellar” takes place in the not-too-distant future, where climate change pushes humanity to the brink of extinction. In a last-ditch effort for survival, a group of explorers searches for an inhabitable planet in the deepest corners of space. Playing one of the explorers is Matthew McConaughey, whose distant journey brings him closer to home than he ever could have anticipated. The film’s impressive cast also includes Timothée Chalamet, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine.

  • #98. Thor: Ragnarok

    Metascore: 74
    Year: 2017
    Director(s): Taika Waititi

    Injecting the traditional superhero format with a colorful palette and some lighthearted humor, “Thor: Ragnarok” opens with its titular hero being imprisoned on a faraway planet. After executing his escape, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a race against time to stop a powerful villainess (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home of Asgard. The film scored big with critics and fans alike for its rejuvenated approach, raking in more than $850 million at the worldwide box office.

  • #97. THX 1138

    Metascore: 75
    Year: 1971
    Director(s): George Lucas

    Years before he changed the game with “Star Wars,” George Lucas released this low-budget sci-fi thriller. Set in the 25th century—where humans are rigidly controlled by an oppressive regime—it follows a man and woman (Robert Duvall and Maggie McOmie) as they rebel against the state. Proving that the film holds a special place in Lucas’ heart, he would later name his audio/visual company THX—and also injected "1138" into a number of subsequent works.

  • #96. Repo Man

    Metascore: 75
    Year: 1984
    Director(s): Alex Cox

    This 1984 cult classic stars Emilio Estevez as an angry punk rocker named Otto, who’s hired as a repo man and subsequently submerged in a world of constant zaniness. While fulfilling his newfound duties, he crosses paths with UFO conspiracy theorists, rival repo men, a deranged government scientist, and an otherworldly Chevy Malibu. Underpinning the comic narrative is a genuine punk ethos along with a range of anti-consumerist themes, which helps account for the movie’s lasting appeal.

  • #95. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

    Metascore: 75
    Year: 1978
    Director(s): Philip Kaufman

    This 1978 remake tells the timeless tale of an alien invasion occurring right under humanity’s collective nose. It all starts when people begin to notice that their friends and loved ones have become devoid of human emotion—as if possessed by a strange spell. Upon further investigation, it’s discovered that aliens are taking over human bodies at breakneck speed. Can the invasion be stopped before the whole world has been taken over?

  • #94. Metropolis

    Metascore: 75
    Year: 2002
    Director(s): Rintaro

    "Metropolis" is loosely based on a manga series and on Fritz Lang’s silent-era classic. The Japanese film follows an AI-robot girl named Tima as she navigates the complex, multi-leveled world of a futuristic society. While critics weren’t necessarily floored by the storytelling, they heaped near-universal praise upon the film’s brilliant use of stunning animation.

  • #93. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

    Metascore: 75
    Year: 1991
    Director(s): James Cameron

    The “Terminator” saga might have begun back in 1984, but it was this sequel seven years later that blew the lid off this franchise. Arnold Schwarzenegger takes on the role of a helpful cyborg who must protect a future resistance leader (Edward Furlong) and his mother (Linda Hamilton) from the deadly clutches of the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). The film features groundbreaking CGI effects, which still feel somewhat revolutionary even decades later.

  • #92. Attack the Block

    Metascore: 75
    Year: 2011
    Director(s): Joe Cornish

    This British film pits inner-city London gang members against a horde of invading aliens in what is one part foul-mouthed comedy and one part sci-fi, with some poignant socioeconomic themes thrown in for good measure. "Attack the Block" comes from the producers of “Shaun of the Dead” and “The World’s End,” two films exploring similar conceptual terrains. A financial disappointment in its day, the film endures as an underrated masterpiece.

  • #91. Okja

    Metascore: 75
    Year: 2017
    Director(s): Bong Joon-ho

    From the South Korean director of “Snowpiercer” and “The Host” comes an adventure film about the relationship between a young girl named Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun) and a mystical beast named Okja. After Okja gets abducted by a multinational conglomerate, the young girl embarks on a quest to save her friend. She crosses paths along the way with greedy capitalists and angry demonstrators, all of whom want to control Okja’s fate. Tilda Swinton also stars.

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