Before I start, let me be clear about one thing: this is not a list of the best SF movies of all time—although if I were to compile my top picks, some of the titles below would definitely be on that list as well. This is a list of mind-blowing movies—movies that, while not universally revered or even known about, will alter your consciousness and quite possibly change the way you see the world, and yourself. Some are classics that have been largely forgotten by time while others are just trippy, surreal, cranium-cracking masterworks.
A few of these movies have become a little dated or have noticeable flaws—for example, I hate the end of Beyond the Black Rainbow, but would highly recommend it anyway, because the rest of the movie is mesmerizing. But though these films may be imperfect, their thematic intensity and visual brilliance is still there, more than enough to blow you away.
10. Solaris (1972)
Long before George Clooney’s butt cheeks graced the 2002 remake, this minimalist Russian film based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem had me entranced. Every time I watch this movie about a sentient planet that recreates an astronaut’s deceased wife, I enjoy it even more.
9. Soylent Green (1973)
Featuring Charlton Heston, overpopulation, and blockbuster plot twists, this movie, loosely based on Harry Harrison’s novel Make Room! Make Room!, is just plain awesome. “Soylent green is people!”
8. Logan’s Run (1976)
The concept of carousel in this movie set in the 23rd century made me look at religion—and government—in a new light. Michael York, Farrah Fawcett’s hair, the post-apocalypse—what else can anyone ask for from ‘70s SF?
7. Westworld (1973)
If you haven’t seen this movie set in a futuristic amusement park for adults (and written and directed by Michael Crichton), you’re just not a hardcore fan of science fiction.
6. Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
One of the most hypnotic movies I’ve ever seen, although I thought the ending was completely wrong.
5. Stalker (1979)
Another hypnotic flick, this Russian movie will haunt your subconscious weeks after you watch it.
4. Scanners (1981)
Yeah, everyone remembers the exploding heads, but Scanners is so much more than splatterific gore—this movie, directed by David Cronenberg, is a perfect fusion of science fiction and existential horror.
3. Altered States (1980)
This trippy exploration into varying states of consciousness is literally jaw-dropping—an undeniable classic.
2. THX 1138 (1971)
Directed by George Lucas, this stark vision of humankind’s future is both visually spectacular and thematically profound. I love the ending and the fact that it’s so filled with memorable one-liners like “Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents, and be happy.”
1. Fantastic Planet (1973)
I have watched this animated masterpiece (produced in France and Czechoslovakia) dozens of time over the last few decades, and every single time I’ve been blown away. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, watch it as soon as possible!
Have you seen any/most of/all of the movies on Paul’s list?