Best Science Fiction movies


We've decided to try to talk a little less about movies on the podcast, but architects love to talk about movies!

The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe podcast just came up with a list of the critical core scifi movies everyone should see, in order of importance:

Star Wars
The Matrix
Forbidden Planet
Blade Runner
Back To the Future
The Thing
Close Encounters
Planet of the Apes (original)
Children of Men
Mad Max (I'm thinking they mean the 2nd movie, with Mel Gibson)
A Clockwork Orange
Star Trek (not sure which series, but they love Wrath of Kahn, the original)
Twelve Monkeys
District 9
Wall E
The Martian

Debate? I haven't seen a few of these, fell asleep during Dune (both the movie AND the book). I somewhat hope to never watch Clockwork Orange again (as it was terrifying).

I would watch 12 Monkeys over and over and over again, not just for Brad Pitt, but also for how accurately it portrayed Philly.

Is it surprising that Avatar wasn't on the list? What else should have been? What scifi movies affected your architectural sensibilities?

Oct 21, 15 9:57 am

Have to include this image....

(edit) WTF I can't get the Blade Runner image to post! You guys know which one I mean.

Oct 21, 15 9:59 am

Logan's Run

As a riff on LR, Out of Time with JT was entertaining- I particularly like the idea that futuristic cars, where actually designs of 1960s cars; Lincoln Continentals and the resurrected Charger


Oct 21, 15 10:20 am

Oooh, Logan's Run had a huge impact on me as a child, nice one. Same with The Andromeda Strain.

Oct 21, 15 10:24 am

Since they have some recent movies I would add Moon to that list

Oct 21, 15 10:45 am

i would add firefly / serenity

can we add buffy the vampire slayer (the series) just to get joss whedon in a bit more?

Oct 21, 15 11:06 am
Non Sequitur
  • Demolition Man
  • Fifth Element
  • Escape from NY
  • Zardov
Oct 21, 15 11:26 am

Great list Donna!  Here are a few more....

- ex-machina (one of the best new sci-fi movies imo)

- The Road

- Starship Troopers

- Total Recall (the original...the new one was horrible)

- Aeon Flux (good movie but charlize theron made it great...then again I could watch her taking a 2 hour dump and give it 5 stars...)

- Terminator 1 and 2

- Gattaca

- Matrix

- Batteries Not Included (favorite movie as a kid)

- Moon

- Minority Report

- Sunshine

- The Fly

- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

- AI

Oct 21, 15 11:41 am

Cherry 2000

Galaxy Quest

Enemy Mine

Time Bandits


Oct 21, 15 11:45 am

Oh, man. SO many good movies.

Sunshine is one of my favorites, but I'm not sure it should make a best of all time list. Same with Galaxy Quest, which I could watch over and over again, but I don't think it had an impact on culture, it's just hilarious.

It does seem a little odd that Brazil isn't on there but 12 Monkeys is.

Firefly/serenity is amazing! But, the Serenity movie wasn't "important", while I do think the series was, I don't think the series' impact pushes the movie onto the list.

JeromeS, you mentioned Out of Time...did you mean In Time, with Justin Timberlake? Where people have to work for minutes? That was, IMO, a REALLY great science fiction view of our contemporary society.  Very painful to watch.

If horror/scifi like The Fly is on there, then Antiviral should be too. Super stylized view of future USA. Also, then, Her should likely be considered. It certainly had a stylized, architectural emphasis on the physical surroundings.

Oct 21, 15 1:08 pm

Oh, and yes to Gattaca.

Oct 21, 15 1:10 pm

Last Man on Earth / Omega Man / I am Legend 



West World 

Silent Running

Oct 21, 15 1:19 pm
wurdan freo

Blade Runner is one of my all time favorites. What the hell does that Unicorn mean.... Edward James Olmos! Interstellar would top many in this list. More theoretical than formal. Not a movie, but the Battlestar Galactica series from 2004-2009 is a must see for any arch-i-nerd! Coincidentally.. Or not... Also features Olmos in the cast. And for you art house lovers out there, the classic, La Jetee.

Oct 21, 15 1:28 pm

Yes, I meant In Time.  I didn't notice JT in the movie.  I only remember Olivia Wilde. ;)

Oct 21, 15 1:35 pm

I need to see "The Martian"....was it good?

Oct 21, 15 1:37 pm
A FB friend of mine said The Martian should more accurately have been called Neoliberals In Space. I can't speak to that, I haven't seen it either.
Oct 21, 15 1:41 pm

Star Trek FTW

Oct 21, 15 1:49 pm

Great topic, Donna!

Already mentioned, but I'll enthusiastically second Andromeda Strain and Westworld.  Both really grabbed me as a kid, but also foreshadowed a lot of subsequent standards in sci-fi movie-making.

Galaxy Quest is one of the funniest movies ever (sci-fi or not), especially any scene with Sam Rockwell/ Guy Fleegman.  (Also: "This episode was badly written!")

And I've probably seen Aliens a hundred times, in portions when I come across it on TV.

Oct 21, 15 2:18 pm

Man, Ex-Machina was a tough one great movie, but tough to watch.  

Great topic, I think all my favorites have been hit already, nothing else to add other than my feelings on Ex-Machina...

Oct 21, 15 3:41 pm

let's give lebbeus woods a mention for inspiring the 12 monkeys set design.  and props to terry gilliam for making amazing films.

Oct 21, 15 4:04 pm
wurdan freo

^ "inspiring" is a good word for it considering he filed suit in court and won for someone straight up stealing his design.

Oct 21, 15 4:08 pm

It's not a movie, but we're 20 comments in and no one has brought up the Sleestaks. I feel I must.

Oct 21, 15 4:20 pm

OMG, in Galaxy Quest when Teb says "...and it EXPLODED" my son could barely breathe from laughing so hard. I'd watch that movie forever!

Oct 21, 15 4:26 pm


My mom refused to let us watch TV.  There was always a book to read or the outdoors to play in.  Consequently, we longed for TV, any TV.  If we got home from school before she was home we'd watch as much TV as we could, careful to leave enough time for the TV to cool off so we didn't get caught.

Despite our TV starvation, my brother and I hated that show.  We would rather turn off that TV than watch THAT!

Oct 21, 15 4:29 pm

Land of the Lost with wil farrell was frigging hilarious.  not a top sci-fi movie but still great...

Oct 21, 15 4:32 pm


From a design point of view, I have always enjoyed the Chronicles of Riddick.  The Necromonger armor, ships, etc all look like someone really took time in developing it all so it worked together.  That and I have a thing for lines.

I've always thought A Clockwork Orange was overhyped garbage.  The cinematic equivalent of Nirvana.

It's not really pure science fiction, but has anyone seen The Fountain?

Oct 21, 15 4:45 pm

Finally - a subject I know something about!
Recent films:

Europa Report
Monsters (2010)
Moon (2009)
Super 8 (2011, Elle Fanning)
Elysium (Matt Damon & Sharlto Copley)
Chappie (Blomkamp)
The Rover (2014)

Modern Classics:

District 9

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Spielberg)
Blade Runner
The Thing (horror, Carpenter)
Brazil (Gilliam)
Twelve Monkeys (Gilliam, based on La Jetée, 1962)
Metropolis (Giorgio Moroder's 1986 adaption of the 1927 original)
City of Lost Children (1995, Ron Perlman)
Alien (horror)


The World's End (2013, Simon Pegg)
Dr. Strangelove (1964, Sellers)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
Sleeper (1973, Woody Allen)
Mars Attacks (1996, Tim Burton)
Repo Man (1984)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Gilliam, 1988)
Galaxy Quest
Men In Black
The Fifth Element

Lots of great films from the '50s:

On the Beach (1959)
The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
War of the Worlds (1953)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
The Thing From Another World (1951)
Them! (1954)
Forbidden Planet (1956)

Almost none from the '60's

2001 (1968)
Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1962)
Planet of the Apes (1968)


Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu (1979, Herzog / Kinski)
Frankenstein (1931)
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
The Blob (Steve McQueen)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
King Kong (1932)
Slaughterhouse Five (1972)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976, Bowie)
Silent Running (1972, Bruce Dern)

Favorites are in bold.

I have to mention Gilliam's Time Bandits, an inspired effort that fell apart. It's worth seeing for it's relevance to his development as a filmmaker. Also 9, a beautifully done animated film set in a post-apoaclypse fantasy world.

Spielberg's 2005 version of War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise is another film worth mentioning. I'm not a horror fan and there are some truly horrible moments in this one but Hollywood (as usual) saves the day.

Oct 21, 15 4:48 pm

Anyone see Idiocracy? Not a great "film" but hilarious.

Oct 21, 15 5:37 pm

im surprised no one said

- Cowboys and aliens

- john carter

- Jupiter ascending

- (one of my very favorites of all time!!!!) Weird Science

Oct 21, 15 5:57 pm

I thought I was the only one who liked Europa Report.  not a great film, but the idea of going to europa is probably the scariest thing...

Oct 21, 15 5:57 pm

What is the consensus on Oblivion?  That was one I wanted to see, but grad school...

Oct 21, 15 6:23 pm
shuellmi, IMO Idiocracy is one of the best social satire films ever made, and hilarious, but painfully so. It feels so accurate. So it's not really science fiction, I think. More biting comedy.
Oct 21, 15 6:57 pm

"Idiocracy" is a documentary, not science fiction.

Oct 21, 15 7:07 pm
++gwharton, I can agree with that!
Oct 21, 15 7:13 pm

I actually just watched Elysium while on the road for work last week (thanks to cable). Better than I was expecting...

Given Metropolis' (the original) age seems like that has to be on the list. It seems to always be referenced in essays on urbanism/futurism etc...

Didn't realize Moroder made a version, thought he was a music man only. Did he do the soundtrack as well?

Oct 21, 15 8:02 pm

Moroder wrote a killer score then enlisted great musicians to record it. Freddie Mercury, Pat Benatar, Jon Anderson, Bonnie Tyler ... his hand-colored edit turns the difficult and overly long original film into a gorgeous fast-paced production in which Lang's visuals are even more powerful. 

Oct 21, 15 8:36 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_


Oct 21, 15 8:43 pm

Tron = Olivia Wilde

Cowboys vs Aliens = Olivia Wilde

Oct 21, 15 10:08 pm

Donna, don't forget Guy, after teleportation:


Oct 21, 15 10:22 pm

I've been listening to that Moroder Metropolis score lately.  It's very 1985, but certain tracks hold up well, especially Benatar.  Some say the updated film was a travesty, but I agree with Miles that it was made much more accessible.

Oct 21, 15 10:28 pm
Nate Hornblower

Hunger Games
Transformers Dark of the Moon

Oct 21, 15 10:30 pm

How could we possibly missed out the Inception?

Oct 21, 15 10:38 pm

Equalibrium....ok movie about a future where "ornament is crime" literally.

Oct 21, 15 11:27 pm
null pointer

I might get flack for this but:

Children of Dune, Sci-Fi Mini-series.


(also probably one of the best sci-fi novels I've ever read).

Oct 22, 15 10:50 am

flash gordon

the time machine

Oct 22, 15 12:17 pm

aw, rod taylor died this year, bummer

Oct 22, 15 12:18 pm

No Anime? How about Ghost in the Shell and Akira

Oct 22, 15 12:22 pm

Some of my favourites:

Stalker - by A. Tarkovsky, I think it's also one of the greatest films ever made;

Fantastic Planet (La Planete sauvage) - a very low budget and obscure animated film, yet so alien and haunting. The original French version is better;

Fahrenheit 451 - by Francois Truffaut, w/ Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack;
Contact - w/ Jodie Foster, based on Carl Sagan's book;
Solaris - the one by S. Soderbergh, almost in the same league as the original by Tarkovsky;

1984 - w/ John Hurt and Richard Burton.

Speaking of Anime:

Blame! - in my opinion, the best Anime out there;

Also, a few more interesting films which are worth a look::

Fantastic Voyage;
2081 - based on a K Vonnegut novel;
Colossus: The Forbin Project;
I, Robot - mostly because it prompted me to go back to the book, which i enjoy a lot more.

Things to come - a 30's film, based on HG Wells

Btw - Non Sequitur, it's Zardoz.

Oct 22, 15 4:51 pm
I do love Contact.
Oct 22, 15 8:26 pm
Olaf Design Ninja_

inception,yes every architect should know this, sonce the key players in this movie studied architecture

Oct 22, 15 8:30 pm

The Abyss

Oct 22, 15 8:30 pm

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