The 25 Best Sci-Fi Movies of the Last 15 Years

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Good point. It would have been better if I had been using something more like, "Placing the story in the future is a sufficient, but not necessary, indicia that it is science fiction." After all, not only do you have novels like Frankenstein, you also have a number of alternate histories that take place in an imagined past that are usually considered science fiction (and, weirdly, often involve Nazis and/or dirigibles, but that's another issue).

Of course, the problems with defining the term itself have long been noted, and it is usually better to be over-inclusive with the umbrella term than under-inclusive.

The US Library of Congress had the following back in 2008. The last paragraph seems to be the important part for defining Science Fiction, but I included the two above it for extra context into their view:

"Throughout this statement particular attention is given to science fiction (although it is, in fact, a sub-genre of fantasy) because it dominates the genre of fantasy in terms of the total number of titles published. It will be the general rule, therefore, throughout this statement to speak of "fantasy and science fiction" together and on equal terms. Unless otherwise specified, however, the fantasy provisions below apply equally to all of the other sub-genres of fantasy.

1. Fantasy
Fantasy includes the sub-genres of science fiction, horror and adaptations of traditional myths. The distinguished writer, Arthur C. Clarke, has stated that "any sufficiently advanced technology is undistinguishable from magic." (Omni, April 1980, p. 87.). This view is borne out by the fact that the distinctions between science fiction and the various other sub-genres of fantasy are indeed blurred at times and usually artificial. In fact, many authors in the genre frequently cross these artificial barriers in mid-work or in mid-career. Publishers, furthermore, often confuse these sub-genre identifications even further by failing to differentiate among them. Publishers do, however, frequently identify books in these various sub-genres with tags which usually appear on the spine or cover of the individual books stating that they are specifically fantasy, horror, science fiction, etc. These tags may be very useful in identifying materials whose precise classification is doubtful or subject to various interpretations. Although difficult to define with precision, fantasy usually requires a willing suspension of disbelief. Works in its various sub-genres often 1) adapt, rework, or provide an alternate telling of a myth or folktale; 2) involve an alternate reality or alternate universe; 3) rely on a displacement of time or space; or 4) make use of elements of the horrific, supernatural, paranormal, or the occult.

2. Science fiction
In addition to sharing any or all of the general characteristics listed above for fantasy, science fiction usually 1) is speculative in nature; 2) assumes change as a given; 3) projects a story-line into the future or into an alternative reality or history; 4) explores a problem in technology, culture, philosophy, etc. beyond its current state; and 5) presents an atmosphere of scientific credibility regardless of the reality. Not all science fiction 1) takes place in the future; 2) involves space travel; 3) describes technology beyond current reality; or 4) deals with alien cultures. However, these elements are common in this sub-genre and uncommon outside it."


The full document is at: https://www.loc.gov/acq/devpol/scific.pdf
 
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Li Shenron

Legend
I'll start by striking off those I haven't seen:

25. A Quiet Place (2018)
24. Moon (2009)
23. Snowpiercer (2013)
22. Colossal (2016)
21. The Endless (2017)
20. Attack the Block (2011)
19. Under the Skin (2013)

18. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
17. Gravity (2013)
16. Pacific Rim (2013)
15. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
14. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
13. Annihilation (2018)
12. Looper (2012)
11. The Martian (2015)
10. WALL-E (2008)
9. Her (2013)
8. District 9 (2009)
7. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
6. Dune (2021)
5. Ex Machina (2015)

4. Interstellar (2014)
3. Inception (2010)
2. Arrival (2016)
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)


Next let's see what's left, add my quick feelings and a reference grade on a scale 1-10 (6 is "passable"):

24. Moon (2009) -> much more than I expected, I really enjoyed this one (7)
23. Snowpiercer (2013) -> absolute garbage, and quite sadistic too (3)
18. Blade Runner 2049 (2017) -> extremely well done, but probably the original story should not have been continued (7)
17. Gravity (2013) -> too much hype around it, at the end it was ok but nothing special (6)
15. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) -> dumb but not bad (6)
14. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) -> thoroughly enjoyable despite being a spin-off (7)
12. Looper (2012) -> interesting story but not as entertaining as could have been (6)
11. The Martian (2015) -> fell asleep while watching, nuff said (but can't honestly vote)
10. WALL-E (2008) -> I probably wouldn't count it together with others, but this was a masterpiece of animation (9)
8. District 9 (2009) -> sometimes felt a bit goofy but overall quite original and well made (7)
7. Edge of Tomorrow (2014) -> fantastic story and execution (9)
4. Interstellar (2014) -> epic in so many things (9)
3. Inception (2010) -> difficult to the point I had to watch it three times in two different languages, but that only made me like it even more (9)
2. Arrival (2016) -> definitely different from the usual, awesome story and artwork (9)
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) -> great action and execution but mediocre story (7)



See if IMDB helps me remember what sci-fi I watched since 2007 (might have forgotten some):

I am Legend (2007) -> felt like an old remake, and badly done (5)
Sunshine (2007) -> a lot more boring than I expected (5)
The Happening (2008) -> more horror than sci-fi, interesting premise but very predictable (5)
Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009) -> campy but entertaining (7)
Splice (2009) -> vomit (3)
Prometheus (2012) -> beautiful, but felt a bit too vague, and definitely not at all needed in the Aliens story (6)
Cloud Atlas (2012) -> lots of good actors for an otherwise confused and floppy story (6)
The Hunger Games (2012) -> not bad, but overmarketed and unfortunately the story is ripped off from older Battle Royale (6)
Safety not Guaranteed (2012) -> actually pretty good plot for a seemingly minor movie (7)
Coherence (2013) -> not bad but neither memorable (6)
Elysium (2013) -> another very well produced movie that ultimately didn't feel as good as it looked (6)
About Time (2013) -> plenty of goofs that purists would hate, but overall it's a nice idea with a good plot and excellent actors (8)
These Final Hours (2013) -> just boring, made me wish those hours could have been minutes (5)
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) -> ok it's star trek... good actors, obvious cameo, story not bad but... it's star trek, once again (6)
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015) -> perfectly done, but frankly I am tired of the franchise (7)
Terminator Genisys (2015) -> oh no, not again... (5)
The Age of Adaline (2015) -> very nice story (7)
The Lobster (2015) -> this was extremely original, I wonder why I ended up bored anyway (6)
Ghostbusters (2016) -> remake or reboot or whatever, it was certainly not needed, but I enjoyed this much more than supposedly "new" big titles (6)
Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) -> still dumb, now also repetitive (5)
Life (2017) -> crap, completely unoriginal and predictable (4)
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017) -> see episode VII (7)
Time Trap (2017) -> this had pretty good twists (8)
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) -> cartoonish but not bad at all (7)
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) -> another good spin-off (7)
The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) -> blah, stupid to the extreme (4)
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019) -> how many times do I have to say it? (7)
Stowaway (2021) -> seemed predictive but fooled me, which is good, but eventually still disappointed me (5)


Cut down to 25 and apply my final ranking:

25.The Hunger Games (2012)
24.Elysium (2013)
23. Looper (2012)
22.Ghostbusters (2016)
21.Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
20.Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)
19.Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
18.Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
17.Safety not Guaranteed (2012)
16. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
15.Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009)
14.Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)
13. District 9 (2009)
12. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
11. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
10. Moon (2009)
9.The Age of Adaline (2015)
8.Time Trap (2017)
7. Tenet (2020)
6.About Time (2013)
5. WALL-E (2008)
4. Arrival (2016)
3. Interstellar (2014)
2. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
1. Inception (2010)

Edit: so the good old [sblock] tag doesn't work anymore

Edit 2: gnolldung... I knew I was going to forget something important, and it's in the top 10
 
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A classic example here would be Bester's "The Stars My Destination"; while its set in the future he assumed time marches on, the core element of the novel is about the teleportation and its effects on the world and society (and, of course, the protagonist).
Why did no one ever make a movie of that?! That was my mother's favourite SF novel!
 

MGibster

Legend
You think low quality special effects don't matter? They don't hurt the audience's suspension of disbelief?
Not quite. But then I don't think high quality special effects makes for a particularly good movie either with Avatar being a prime example. Ghostbusters was considered to be big budget effects movie back in 1984, but most of us don't really remember it for the great special effects. John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), is still a great movie despite the effects looking rather dated (even if they're better than the CGI from the 2011 "prequel" of the same name). Though, oddly enough, The Thing was widely panned in 1982 and it really wasn't until the 90s that critics started reassessing the movie. While the special effects in The Thing were great, it was nominated for an Academy Award after all, special effects aren't why we remember it. Okay, that last part is a lie. Part of why we remember the special effects is because they were so gruesome. But I maintain the reason the movie is well remembered is because it was well acted, well plotted, and it was tense as hell.
 

Why did no one ever make a movie of that?! That was my mother's favourite SF novel!

Supposedly someone started to at one point in the late 50's (!!) but it never got anywhere. Getting genuine SF novels made in their own time was not a thing that happened for a long time (even now it doesn't happen that often). Its also harder to compress SF novels into films than some other types of novels, I think, because they require more set-up.

Its probably not a coincidence that in most cases of visual presentation of old SF and fantasy, more often than not they're at least mini-series,
 

Not quite. But then I don't think high quality special effects makes for a particularly good movie either with Avatar being a prime example. Ghostbusters was considered to be big budget effects movie back in 1984, but most of us don't really remember it for the great special effects. John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), is still a great movie despite the effects looking rather dated (even if they're better than the CGI from the 2011 "prequel" of the same name). Though, oddly enough, The Thing was widely panned in 1982 and it really wasn't until the 90s that critics started reassessing the movie. While the special effects in The Thing were great, it was nominated for an Academy Award after all, special effects aren't why we remember it. Okay, that last part is a lie. Part of why we remember the special effects is because they were so gruesome. But I maintain the reason the movie is well remembered is because it was well acted, well plotted, and it was tense as hell.

"The Thing" was perceived (correctly) as as much horror movie as SF, and critics relationship with horror is always complicated. There are plenty of them who consider horror crap on the face of it (which is why some people will try to market less gory/supernaturally focused ones as "suspense" which often gets something of a pass); combine other critics who respond the same way to SF, it was simply going to have a hard row to hoe.
 

MGibster

Legend
"The Thing" was perceived (correctly) as as much horror movie as SF, and critics relationship with horror is always complicated. There are plenty of them who consider horror crap on the face of it (which is why some people will try to market less gory/supernaturally focused ones as "suspense" which often gets something of a pass); combine other critics who respond the same way to SF, it was simply going to have a hard row to hoe.
We must find these critics and put an end to their nefarious practices before they can do more harm.
 

Ryujin

Legend
Supposedly someone started to at one point in the late 50's (!!) but it never got anywhere. Getting genuine SF novels made in their own time was not a thing that happened for a long time (even now it doesn't happen that often). Its also harder to compress SF novels into films than some other types of novels, I think, because they require more set-up.

Its probably not a coincidence that in most cases of visual presentation of old SF and fantasy, more often than not they're at least mini-series,
I'm still waiting for a modern take on "Lensmen" and no, I don't mean the anime. I mean the book series that started in the late '40s. It would likely make a better series though.

Come to think of it, "Babylon 5" borrowed more than a few elements from that series.
 

Hex08

Adventurer
I have seen 21 of the 25 movies. Those I haven't seen are:
Colossal
The Endless
Wall-E
Her

There are six movies that I would add:
Sunshine
Rise of the Planet of the Apes - I love all things Planet of the Apes and would love to place this whole trilogy on the list but there isn't enough I want to pull from the list to do it
Upgrade
10 Cloverfield Lane
Melancholia
Dredd

I would remove:
Pacific Rim - I love Del Toro's work and thought this was a fun movie but not good enough to be on a top 25 list
Her - This might be a cheat since I haven't seen it but when I saw the trailers I thought it looked uninteresting and have had no desire to watch it
Guardians of the Galaxy - Like Pacific Rim it was a lot of fun but there are better movies
Under the Skin - Maybe I need to rewatch this but I remember struggling to get though it
The Endless - Another possible cheat since I haven't seen it but something needed to go to add all of my choices
A Quiet Place - Another movie I really like but it's pretty low on the list and, in my view, it's one of the least sci-fi movies on the list

The most egregious rankings are:
I would place Arrival above Fury Road but it's only a difference of 1 spot so I guess I should let that one go....
Moon should be much higher on the list
Interstellar is too high, the ending really hurt what was an otherwise great movie
 
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payn

Legend
Not many folks talking about Ex Machina which I had high expectations for. It's one of those movies that's so predictable you know exactly where it is going. The tension in act 1 and 2 is so good though it keeps you on board. Then, the third act just kind of lets you down hard.
 

Not many folks talking about Ex Machina which I had high expectations for. It's one of those movies that's so predictable you know exactly where it is going. The tension in act 1 and 2 is so good though it keeps you on board. Then, the third act just kind of lets you down hard.
Was to familiar to anyone who reads SF.
 

I'm still waiting for a modern take on "Lensmen" and no, I don't mean the anime. I mean the book series that started in the late '40s. It would likely make a better series though.

Come to think of it, "Babylon 5" borrowed more than a few elements from that series.

Yeah, you'd need to do some updating here and there, but it'd probably work.
 




A Quiet Place - Another movie I really like but it's pretty low on the list and, in my view, it's one of the least sci-fi movies on the list

I'm going to argue its more of one than it appears.

Yes, its a monster movie, but the whole movie turns around how the monsters work and the weapon found to use against them. That's a very SF thing in its way.
 

Mallus

Legend
I would love to see that happen. Or perhaps Luc Besson. The esthetic from "The Fifth Element" would work very well for "Lensmen." Played straight, though. Not action comedy.
Hear me out: the Lensmen directed by a Wachowski or two. Script by J. Michael Straczynski.
 



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