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150 Essential Sci-Fi Movies to Watch Now

There’s only one place where you can get clones, time travel, simulated realities, irradiated and irritated giant lizards, and space fights and beyond. (Maybe not all at once, but we can dream.) Anything’s possible in this creative nebula known as science fiction, and with its long and historic association with cinema, we present our choices of the greatest science-fiction movies ever: The 150 Essential Sci-Fi Movies!

As they do with horror, filmmakers use science fiction to reflect our aspirations, terrors, and issues of the times. Through genre lens, we can consider our impact on the environment (Godzilla, WALL-E), technology gone berserk (The Terminator, Ex Machina), identity (Blade Runner, The Matrix), and societal breakdowns (Children of Men, A Clockwork Orange). We might even check-in on the current state of the human condition (Gattaca, Her).

Or, maybe we just want to see giant ants wreak havoc across the neighborhood. There may not be a lot of subtext in a big monster movie like Them!, or even crowd-pleasing masterpieces like Star Wars or Back to the Future, but they speak to the one thing that attracts us to movies in the first place: escapism. Science-fiction movies are our tickets to planets far-away (Star Trek, Avatar, Starship Troopers), or a quick hop to a local joint in the solar system (The Martian, Total Recall). They take us just above the atmosphere (Gravity), deep down to the bottom of the ocean (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Abyss), and into the human body (Fantastic Voyage). Limited only 2020by imagination, sci-fi inspires wonder, awe, terror, and hope for alternative mindsets and better futures.

Sci-fi spreads across subgenres, all represented here: the monster movie (Cloverfield), space opera (Serenity), cyberpunk (Ghost in the Shell), and post-apocalyptic (Mad Max: Fury Road) and more. Or it can fuse onto traditional genres like drama (Donnie Darko, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), comedy (Repo Man, Idiocracy), and action (Predator, Demoliton Man). Wherever the destination, these movies — each with at least 20 reviews — were selected because of their unique, fun, and possibly even mind-blowing spins on reality.

It’s time to strap in and cue the Theremin for some of the best science-fiction films created: Time to launch the 150 Essential Sci-Fi Movies!

#150
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is trying to prevent his house from being bulldozed when his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def)... [More]
Directed By: Garth Jennings

#149

The Endless (2017)
92%

#149
Adjusted Score: 98417%
Critics Consensus: The Endless benefits from its grounded approach to an increasingly bizarre story, elevated by believable performances by filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.
Synopsis: Two brothers receive a cryptic video message inspiring them to revisit the UFO death cult they escaped a decade earlier.... [More]

#148

Timecrimes (2007)

#148
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Nacho Vigalondo's time-travel thriller opens with Hector spying on a beautiful woman undressing in the woods near his property. Investigating,... [More]
Directed By: Nacho Vigalondo

#147

Ad Astra (2019)
83%

#147
Adjusted Score: 106774%
Critics Consensus: Ad Astra takes a visually thrilling journey through the vast reaches of space while charting an ambitious course for the heart of the bond between parent and child.
Synopsis: Thirty years ago, Clifford McBride led a voyage into deep space, but the ship and crew were never heard from... [More]
Directed By: James Gray

#146

Westworld (1973)
85%

#146
Adjusted Score: 88544%
Critics Consensus: Yul Brynner gives a memorable performance as a robotic cowboy in this amusing sci-fi/western hybrid.
Synopsis: Westworld is a futuristic theme park where paying guests can pretend to be gunslingers in an artificial Wild West populated... [More]
Directed By: Michael Crichton

#145

High Life (2018)
82%

#145
Adjusted Score: 96494%
Critics Consensus: High Life is as visually arresting as it is challenging, confounding, and ultimately rewarding - which is to say it's everything film fans expect from director Claire Denis.
Synopsis: Monte and his baby daughter are the last survivors of a damned and dangerous mission to the outer reaches of... [More]
Directed By: Claire Denis

#144

Coherence (2013)
88%

#144
Adjusted Score: 90274%
Critics Consensus: A case study in less-is-more filmmaking, Coherence serves as a compelling low-budget calling card for debuting writer-director James Ward Byrkit.
Synopsis: Eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of events due to the malevolent influence of a passing... [More]
Directed By: James Ward Byrkit

#143
Adjusted Score: 80873%
Critics Consensus: Rocky Horror Picture Show brings its quirky characters in tight, but it's the narrative thrust that really drives audiences insane and keeps 'em doing the time warp again.
Synopsis: In this cult classic, sweethearts Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), stuck with a flat tire during a storm,... [More]
Directed By: Jim Sharman

#142

Midnight Special (2016)
83%

#142
Adjusted Score: 97824%
Critics Consensus: Midnight Special's intriguing mysteries may not resolve themselves to every viewer's liking, but the journey is ambitious, entertaining, and terrifically acted.
Synopsis: The government and a group of religious extremists pursue a man (Michael Shannon) and his son (Jaeden Lieberher), a young... [More]
Directed By: Jeff Nichols

#141

Wizards (1977)
59%

#141
Adjusted Score: 61011%
Critics Consensus: Its central metaphor is a bit too on the nose, but Wizards is an otherwise psychedelic, freaky trip into an alternate version of our world.
Synopsis: After the death of his mother, the evil mutant wizard Blackwolf (Steve Gravers) discovers some long-lost military technologies. Full of... [More]
Directed By: Ralph Bakshi

#140

Annihilation (2018)
88%

#140
Adjusted Score: 108010%
Critics Consensus: Annihilation backs up its sci-fi visual wonders and visceral genre thrills with an impressively ambitious -- and surprisingly strange -- exploration of challenging themes that should leave audiences pondering long after the end credits roll.
Synopsis: Lena, a biologist and former soldier, joins a mission to uncover what happened to her husband inside Area X --... [More]
Directed By: Alex Garland

#139

Contact (1997)
66%

#139
Adjusted Score: 70084%
Critics Consensus: Contact elucidates stirring scientific concepts and theological inquiry at the expense of satisfying storytelling, making for a brainy blockbuster that engages with its ideas, if not its characters.
Synopsis: In this Zemeckis-directed adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel, Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) races to interpret a possible message... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#138

The Congress (2013)
73%

#138
Adjusted Score: 75930%
Critics Consensus: The Congress rises on the strength of Robin Wright's powerful performance, with enough ambitious storytelling and technical thrills to overcome its somewhat messy structure.
Synopsis: An aging actress (Robin Wright) agrees to preserve her digital likeness for a studio to use in any future films... [More]
Directed By: Ari Folman

#137
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This 1978 Disney adventure tells the story of 12-year-old David (Joey Cramer) who lives with his family in Fort Lauderdale,... [More]
Directed By: Randal Kleiser

#136
#136
Adjusted Score: 95282%
Critics Consensus: Remixing Roger Corman's B-movie by way of the Off-Broadway musical, Little Shop of Horrors offers camp, horror and catchy tunes in equal measure -- plus some inspired cameos by the likes of Steve Martin and Bill Murray.
Synopsis: Meek flower shop assistant Seymour (Rick Moranis) pines for co-worker Audrey (Ellen Greene). During a total eclipse, he discovers an... [More]
Directed By: Frank Oz

#135
#135
Adjusted Score: 81597%
Critics Consensus: Alita: Battle Angel's story struggles to keep up with its special effects, but fans of futuristic sci-fi action may still find themselves more than sufficiently entertained.
Synopsis: Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido, a... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

#134

Ready Player One (2018)
72%

#134
Adjusted Score: 98574%
Critics Consensus: Ready Player One is a sweetly nostalgic thrill ride that neatly encapsulates Spielberg's strengths while adding another solidly engrossing adventure to his filmography.
Synopsis: In 2045, the planet is on the brink of chaos and collapse, but people find salvation in the OASIS, an... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#133
#133
Adjusted Score: 67242%
Critics Consensus: The epitome of so-bad-it's-good cinema, Plan 9 From Outer Space is an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi "thriller" from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude.
Synopsis: Residents of California's San Fernando Valley are under attack by flying saucers from outer space. The aliens, led by Eros... [More]
Directed By: Edward D. Wood Jr.

#132

Rollerball (1975)
68%

#132
Adjusted Score: 69682%
Critics Consensus: In Rollerball, social commentary collides with high-speed action -- and the audience is the winner.
Synopsis: The year is 2018 in a futuristic society where corporations have replaced countries. A violent futuristic game known as Rollerball... [More]
Directed By: Norman Jewison

#131

Silent Running (1972)
71%

#131
Adjusted Score: 72857%
Critics Consensus: It doesn't fulfill the potential of its ambitious themes, butSilent Running stands as a decidedly unique type of sci-fi journey marked by intimate character work and a melancholic mood.
Synopsis: After the end of all botanical life on Earth, ecologist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) maintains a greenhouse on a space... [More]
Directed By: Douglas Trumbull

#130
#130
Adjusted Score: 87773%
Critics Consensus: Steven Spielberg's adaptation of War of the Worlds delivers on the thrill and paranoia of H.G. Wells' classic novel while impressively updating the action and effects for modern audiences.
Synopsis: Dockworker Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) struggles to build a positive relationship with his two children, Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#129

Metropolis (2001)
87%

#129
Adjusted Score: 87540%
Critics Consensus: A remarkable technical achievement, Metropolis' eye-popping visuals more than compensate for its relatively routine story.
Synopsis: Visually stunning Japanese anime interpretation of Fritz Lang's classic film, also based on Osamu Tezuka's outstanding 1945 illustrations. A Japanese... [More]
Directed By: Rintaro

#128

Shin Godzilla (2016)
86%

#128
Adjusted Score: 90731%
Critics Consensus: Godzilla Resurgence offers a refreshingly low-fi -- and altogether entertaining -- return to the monster's classic creature-feature roots.
Synopsis: A mysterious monster emerges from Tokyo Bay and wreaks havoc upon Japan.... [More]

#127
Adjusted Score: 82958%
Critics Consensus: Though it may be short on dazzling special effects, The Search for Spock is still a strong Star Trek installment, thanks to affecting performances by its iconic cast.
Synopsis: Adm. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) has defeated his archenemy but at great cost. His friend Spock has apparently been... [More]
Directed By: Leonard Nimoy

#126
Adjusted Score: 113613%
Critics Consensus: Rogue One draws deep on Star Wars mythology while breaking new narrative and aesthetic ground -- and suggesting a bright blockbuster future for the franchise.
Synopsis: Former scientist Galen Erso lives on a farm with his wife and young daughter, Jyn. His peaceful existence comes crashing... [More]
Directed By: Gareth Edwards

#125

The Fountain (2006)
53%

#125
Adjusted Score: 60769%
Critics Consensus: The Fountain -- a movie about metaphysics, universal patterns, Biblical symbolism, and boundless love spread across one thousand years -- is visually rich but suffers from its own unfocused ambitions.
Synopsis: A man (Hugh Jackman) travels through time on a quest for immortality and to save the woman (Rachel Weisz) he... [More]
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky

#124

Logan's Run (1976)
63%

#124
Adjusted Score: 65649%
Critics Consensus: Logan's Run overcomes its campier elements and undercooked plot with a bounty of rousing ideas and dashing sci-fi adventure.
Synopsis: In the year 2274, young residents enjoy an idyllic, hedonistic lifestyle within the protective confines of a domed city. The... [More]
Directed By: Michael Anderson

#123

The Blob (1958)

#123
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A drive-in favorite, this sci-fi classic follows teenagers Steve (Steven McQueen) and his best girl, Jane (Aneta Corseaut), as they... [More]
Directed By: Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.

#122

Scanners (1981)
70%

#122
Adjusted Score: 72537%
Critics Consensus: Scanners is a dark sci-fi story with special effects that'll make your head explode.
Synopsis: Scanners are men and women born with incredible telepathic and telekinetic powers. There are many who exercise the benefits of... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#121

Things to Come (1936)
93%

#121
Adjusted Score: 97557%
Critics Consensus: Eerily prescient in its presentation of a dystopian future, Things to Come's special effects may be somewhat dated, but its potent ideas haven't aged at all.
Synopsis: It's Christmas 1940, and Everytown resident John Cabal (Raymond Massey) fears that war is imminent. When it breaks out, the... [More]

#120

Cube (1997)
64%

#120
Adjusted Score: 65916%
Critics Consensus: Cube sometimes struggles with where to take its intriguing premise, but gripping pace and an impressive intelligence make it hard to turn away.
Synopsis: Without remembering how they got there, several strangers awaken in a prison of cubic cells, some of them booby-trapped. There's... [More]
Directed By: Vincenzo Natali

#119

Strange Days (1995)
65%

#119
Adjusted Score: 68180%
Critics Consensus: Strange Days struggles to make the most of its futuristic premise, but what's left remains a well-directed, reasonably enjoyable sci-fi fantasy.
Synopsis: Former policeman Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) has moved into a more lucrative trade: the illegal sale of virtual reality-like recordings... [More]
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow

#118

Heavy Metal (1981)
61%

#118
Adjusted Score: 62964%
Critics Consensus: It's sexist, juvenile, and dated, but Heavy Metal makes up for its flaws with eye-popping animation and a classic, smartly used soundtrack.
Synopsis: Adventures from deep space to futuristic New York, and beyond. Each world and story is dominated by the presence of... [More]
Directed By: Gerald Potterton

#117
#117
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Vic (Don Johnson) is a libidinous 18-year-old traversing the post-apocalyptic desert of 2024, in the company of his telepathic dog,... [More]
Directed By: L.Q. Jones

#116
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A robotic boy, the first programmed to love, David (Haley Joel Osment) is adopted as a test case by a... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#115
#115
Adjusted Score: 78602%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After meteors enter Earth's atmosphere, blinding much of the planet's population in the process, plantlike creatures known as Triffids emerge... [More]
Directed By: Steve Sekely

#114
#114
Adjusted Score: 80653%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After Dr. Bronson (Hayden Rorke) discovers Zyra, a new planet, fellow astronomer Dr. Hendron (Larry Keating) checks Bronson's data and... [More]
Directed By: Rudolph Maté

#113

Sunshine (2007)

#113
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future, Earth's dying sun spells the end for humanity. In a last-ditch effort to save the planet,... [More]
Directed By: Danny Boyle

#112

Liquid Sky (1982)
96%

#112
Adjusted Score: 96541%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An alien creature invades New York's punk subculture in its search for an opiate released by the brain during orgasm.... [More]
Directed By: Slava Tsukerman

#111

Dark Star (1974)
78%

#111
Adjusted Score: 79146%
Critics Consensus: A loopy 2001 satire, Dark Star may not be the most consistent sci-fi comedy, but its portrayal of human eccentricity is a welcome addition to the genre.
Synopsis: A satiric look at the problems experienced by a crew of bumbling astronauts on a mission to destroy rogue planets.... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#110
#110
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Handsome 25-year-old Cesar (Eduardo Noriega) had it all -- a successful career, expensive cars, a swank bachelor's pad, and an... [More]
Directed By: Alejandro Amenábar

#109

Paprika (2006)
85%

#109
Adjusted Score: 87384%
Critics Consensus: Following its own brand of logic, Paprika is an eye-opening mind trip that is difficult to follow but never fails to dazzle.
Synopsis: Dr. Atsuko Chiba works as a scientist by day and, under the code name "Paprika," is a dream detective at... [More]
Directed By: Satoshi Kon

#108

Serenity (2005)
82%

#108
Adjusted Score: 88357%
Critics Consensus: Snappy dialogue and goofy characters make this Wild Wild West soap opera in space fun and adventurous.
Synopsis: In this continuation of the television series "Firefly," a group of rebels travels the outskirts of space aboard their ship,... [More]
Directed By: Joss Whedon

#107

Turbo Kid (2015)
91%

#107
Adjusted Score: 91465%
Critics Consensus: A nostalgic ode to kids' movies of yesteryear, Turbo Kid eyes the past through an entertaining -- albeit surprisingly gory -- postmodern lens.
Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, an orphaned teen (Munro Chambers) must battle a ruthless warlord (Michael Ironside) to save the girl... [More]

#106

THX-1138 (1971)
86%

#106
Adjusted Score: 91474%
Critics Consensus: George Lucas' feature debut presents a spare, bleak, dystopian future, and features evocatively minimal set design and creepy sound effects.
Synopsis: In the future, mankind lives in vast underground cities and free will is outlawed by means of mandatory medication that... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#105

Attack the Block (2011)
90%

#105
Adjusted Score: 96874%
Critics Consensus: Effortlessly mixing scares, laughs, and social commentary, Attack the Block is a thrilling, briskly-paced sci-fi yarn with a distinctly British flavor.
Synopsis: South London teenagers (John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Leeon Jones) defend their neighborhood from malevolent extraterrestrials.... [More]
Directed By: Joe Cornish

#104

Upgrade (2018)
88%

#104
Adjusted Score: 99394%
Critics Consensus: Like its augmented protagonist, Upgrade's old-fashioned innards get a high-tech boost -- one made even more powerful thanks to sharp humor and a solidly well-told story.
Synopsis: A brutal mugging leaves Grey Trace paralyzed in the hospital and his beloved wife dead. A billionaire inventor soon offers... [More]
Directed By: Leigh Whannell

#103
#103
Adjusted Score: 94419%
Critics Consensus: While fans of the series will surely appreciate it, First Contact is exciting, engaging, and visually appealing enough to entertain Star Trek novices.
Synopsis: The Enterprise and its crew follow a Borg ship through a time warp to prevent the Borg from taking over... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Frakes

#102

The World's End (2013)
89%

#102
Adjusted Score: 98152%
Critics Consensus: Madcap and heartfelt, Edgar Wright's apocalypse comedy The World's End benefits from the typically hilarious Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, with a plethora of supporting players.
Synopsis: Gary King (Simon Pegg) is an immature 40-year-old who's dying to take another stab at an epic pub-crawl that he... [More]
Directed By: Edgar Wright

#101
Adjusted Score: 97055%
Critics Consensus: Employing gritty camerawork and evocative sound effects, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a powerful remake that expands upon themes and ideas only lightly explored in the original.
Synopsis: This remake of the classic horror film is set in San Francisco. Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) assumes that when a... [More]
Directed By: Philip Kaufman

#100

The Host (2006)
93%

#100
Adjusted Score: 98416%
Critics Consensus: As populace pleasing as it is intellectually satisfying, The Host combines scares, laughs, and satire into a riveting, monster movie.
Synopsis: Careless American military personnel dump chemicals into South Korea's Han River. Several years later, a creature emerges from the tainted... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon-ho

#99

A Quiet Place (2018)
96%

#99
Adjusted Score: 118868%
Critics Consensus: A Quiet Place artfully plays on elemental fears with a ruthlessly intelligent creature feature that's as original as it is scary -- and establishes director John Krasinski as a rising talent.
Synopsis: If they hear you, they hunt you. A family must live in silence to avoid mysterious creatures that hunt by... [More]
Directed By: John Krasinski

#98
Adjusted Score: 110988%
Critics Consensus: Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series' former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.
Synopsis: Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the galaxy faces a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren... [More]
Directed By: J.J. Abrams

#97

Repo Man (1984)
98%

#97
Adjusted Score: 100370%
Critics Consensus: Repo Man is many things: an alien-invasion film, a punk-rock musical, a send-up of consumerism. One thing it isn't is boring.
Synopsis: After being fired from his job, Los Angeles slacker and punk rocker Otto (Emilio Estevez) lands a gig working for... [More]
Directed By: Alex Cox

#96
#96
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In the distant future, the Earth is at war with a race of giant alien insects. Little is known about... [More]
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

#95
#95
Adjusted Score: 74084%
Critics Consensus: Visually inventive and gleefully over the top, Luc Besson's The Fifth Element is a fantastic piece of pop sci-fi that never takes itself too seriously.
Synopsis: In the 23rd century, a New York City cabbie, Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), finds the fate of the world in... [More]
Directed By: Luc Besson

#94

V for Vendetta (2006)
73%

#94
Adjusted Score: 85203%
Critics Consensus: Visually stunning and thought-provoking, V For Vendetta's political pronouncements may rile some, but its story and impressive set pieces will nevertheless entertain.
Synopsis: Following world war, London is a police state occupied by a fascist government, and a vigilante known only as V... [More]
Directed By: James McTeigue

#93

Dredd (2012)
79%

#93
Adjusted Score: 85911%
Critics Consensus: Fueled by bombastic violence and impressive special effects, rooted in self-satire and deadpan humor, Dredd 3D does a remarkable job of capturing its source material's gritty spirit.
Synopsis: Mega City One is a vast, violent metropolis where felons rule the streets. The only law lies with cops called... [More]
Directed By: Pete Travis

#92
Adjusted Score: 90660%
Critics Consensus: Featuring director John Sayles trademark humanity and an expressive performance from Joe Morton, The Brother from Another Planet is an observant, dryly comic sci-fi gem.
Synopsis: "The Brother" (Joe Morton) is an alien and escaped slave on the run from his home planet. After he lands... [More]
Directed By: John Sayles

#91
Adjusted Score: 70895%
Critics Consensus: Sci-fi parodies like these usually struggle to work, but Buckaroo Banzai succeeds through total devotion to its own lunacy.
Synopsis: Buckaroo Banzai is caught with his trusted allies, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, in a battle to the death between evil... [More]
Directed By: W.D. Richter

#90

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#90

#89

Dark City (1998)
76%

#89
Adjusted Score: 80497%
Critics Consensus: Stylishly gloomy, Dark City offers a polarizing whirl of arresting visuals and noirish action.
Synopsis: John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakens alone in a strange hotel to find that he is wanted for a series of... [More]
Directed By: Alex Proyas

#88

Under the Skin (2013)
84%

#88
Adjusted Score: 95071%
Critics Consensus: Its message may prove elusive for some, but with absorbing imagery and a mesmerizing performance from Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin is a haunting viewing experience.
Synopsis: Disguising herself as a human female, an extraterrestrial (Scarlett Johansson) drives around Scotland and tries to lure unsuspecting men into... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Glazer

#87
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) is an alien who has come to Earth in search of water to save his... [More]
Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

#86

The Fly (1986)
93%

#86
Adjusted Score: 99669%
Critics Consensus: David Cronenberg combines his trademark affinity for gore and horror with strongly developed characters, making The Fly a surprisingly affecting tragedy.
Synopsis: When scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) completes his teleportation device, he decides to test its abilities on himself. Unbeknownst to... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#85

Cloverfield (2008)
78%

#85
Adjusted Score: 85550%
Critics Consensus: A sort of Blair Witch Project crossed with Godzilla, Cloverfield is economically paced, stylistically clever, and filled with scares.
Synopsis: As a group of New Yorkers (Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman) enjoy a going-away party, little do they know... [More]
Directed By: Matt Reeves

#84

Men in Black (1997)
92%

#84
Adjusted Score: 97654%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a smart script, spectacular set pieces, and charismatic performances from its leads, Men in Black is an entirely satisfying summer blockbuster hit.
Synopsis: They are the best-kept secret in the universe. Working for a highly funded yet unofficial government agency, Kay (Tommy Lee... [More]
Directed By: Barry Sonnenfeld

#83

Tron (1982)
71%

#83
Adjusted Score: 76692%
Critics Consensus: Though perhaps not as strong dramatically as it is technologically, TRON is an original and visually stunning piece of science fiction that represents a landmark work in the history of computer animation.
Synopsis: When talented computer engineer Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) finds out that Ed Dillinger (David Warner), an executive at his company,... [More]
Directed By: Steven Lisberger

#82

Bumblebee (2018)
90%

#82
Adjusted Score: 105115%
Critics Consensus: Bumblebee proves it's possible to bring fun and a sense of wonder back to a bloated blockbuster franchise -- and sets up its own slate of sequels in the bargain.
Synopsis: On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee the Autobot seeks refuge in a junkyard in a small California beach... [More]
Directed By: Travis Knight

#81

Independence Day (1996)
68%

#81
Adjusted Score: 71582%
Critics Consensus: The plot is thin and so is character development, but as a thrilling, spectacle-filled summer movie, Independence Day delivers.
Synopsis: In the epic adventure film "Independence Day," strange phenomena surface around the globe. The skies ignite. Terror races through the... [More]
Directed By: Roland Emmerich

#80

Barbarella (1968)
74%

#80
Adjusted Score: 79987%
Critics Consensus: Unevenly paced and thoroughly cheesy, Barbarella is nonetheless full of humor, entertaining visuals, and Jane Fonda's sex appeal.
Synopsis: Barbarella (Jane Fonda) roams 41st-century space with her blind guardian angel, Pygar (John Phillip Law).... [More]
Directed By: Roger Vadim

#79

Donnie Darko (2001)

#79
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In a funny, moving and distinctly mind-bending journey through suburban America, one extraordinary but disenchanted teenager is about to take... [More]
Directed By: Richard Kelly

#78

Pacific Rim (2013)
72%

#78
Adjusted Score: 84303%
Critics Consensus: It may sport more style than substance, but Pacific Rim is a solid modern creature feature bolstered by fantastical imagery and an irresistible sense of fun.
Synopsis: Long ago, legions of monstrous creatures called Kaiju arose from the sea, bringing with them all-consuming war. To fight the... [More]
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

#77

Idiocracy (2006)
73%

#77
Adjusted Score: 73430%
Critics Consensus: Frustratingly uneven yet enjoyable overall, Idiocracy skewers society's devolution with an amiably goofy yet deceptively barbed wit.
Synopsis: In 2005, average in every way private Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson) is selected to take part in a secret military... [More]
Directed By: Mike Judge

#76
#76
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Adaptation of the Ray Bradbury novel about a future society that has banned all reading material and the job of... [More]
Directed By: François Truffaut

#75
#75
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: With innocent victims caught in the crossfire in Los Angeles' intensifying war on crime, both cop John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone)... [More]
Directed By: Marco Brambilla

#74

A Scanner Darkly (2006)
68%

#74
Adjusted Score: 75006%
Critics Consensus: A faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel, A Scanner Darkly takes the viewer on a visual and mind-blowing journey into the author's conception of a drug-addled and politically unstable world.
Synopsis: In the near future, as America virtually loses the war on drugs, Robert Arctor, a narcotics cop in Orange County,... [More]
Directed By: Richard Linklater

#73

Source Code (2011)

#73
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is part of a top-secret military operation that enables him to experience the last... [More]
Directed By: Duncan Jones

#72

The Abyss (1989)
87%

#72
Adjusted Score: 90558%
Critics Consensus: The utterly gorgeous special effects frequently overshadow the fact that The Abyss is also a totally gripping, claustrophobic thriller, complete with an interesting crew of characters.
Synopsis: Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some issues to work out. They... [More]
Directed By: James Cameron

#71
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Will Rodman (James Franco), a scientist in San Francisco, is experimenting with a drug that he hopes will cure his... [More]
Directed By: Rupert Wyatt

#70

Altered States (1980)
85%

#70
Adjusted Score: 89027%
Critics Consensus: Extraordinarily daring for a Hollywood film, Altered States attacks the viewer with its inventive, aggressive mix of muddled sound effects and visual pyrotechnics.
Synopsis: Respected scientist and psychology professor Edward Jessup (William Hurt) decides to combine his experiments in sensory deprivation tanks with powerful... [More]
Directed By: Ken Russell

#69

Predestination (2014)
84%

#69
Adjusted Score: 86972%
Critics Consensus: Fun genre fare with uncommon intelligence, Predestination serves as a better-than-average sci-fi adventure -- and offers a starmaking turn from Sarah Snook.
Synopsis: A temporal agent (Ethan Hawke) embarks on a final time-traveling assignment to prevent an elusive criminal from launching an attack... [More]

#68

They Live (1988)

#68
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Nada (Roddy Piper), a wanderer without meaning in his life, discovers a pair of sunglasses capable of showing the world... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#67

Seconds (1966)
78%

#67
Adjusted Score: 84362%
Critics Consensus: Featuring dazzling, disorienting cinematography from the great James Wong Howe and a strong lead performance by Rock Hudson, Seconds is a compellingly paranoid take on the legend of Faust.
Synopsis: Banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) gets a call one day from a friend he thought was dead. It turns out... [More]
Directed By: John Frankenheimer

#66

Soylent Green (1973)
69%

#66
Adjusted Score: 72323%
Critics Consensus: While admittedly melodramatic and uneven in spots, Soylent Green ultimately succeeds with its dark, plausible vision of a dystopian future.
Synopsis: In a densely overpopulated, starving New York City of the future, NYPD detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) investigates the murder... [More]
Directed By: Richard Fleischer

#65
Adjusted Score: 91339%
Critics Consensus: One of Disney's finest live-action adventures, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea brings Jules Verne's classic sci-fi tale to vivid life, and features an awesome giant squid.
Synopsis: In 1866, Professor Pierre M. Aronnax (Paul Lukas) and his assistant Conseil (Peter Lorre), stranded in San Francisco by reports... [More]
Directed By: Richard Fleischer

#64
#64
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In what was once North America, the Capitol of Panem maintains its hold on its 12 districts by forcing them... [More]
Directed By: Gary Ross

#63

Avatar (2009)
82%

#63
Adjusted Score: 97487%
Critics Consensus: It might be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling, but Avatar reaffirms James Cameron's singular gift for imaginative, absorbing filmmaking.
Synopsis: On the lush alien world of Pandora live the Na'vi, beings who appear primitive but are highly evolved. Because the... [More]
Directed By: James Cameron

#62

Minority Report (2002)
90%

#62
Adjusted Score: 97592%
Critics Consensus: Thought-provoking and visceral, Steven Spielberg successfully combines high concept ideas and high octane action in this fast and febrile sci-fi thriller.
Synopsis: Based on a story by famed science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, "Minority Report" is an action-detective thriller set in... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#61
Adjusted Score: 97198%
Critics Consensus: While Alphaville is by no means a conventional sci-fi film, Jean-Luc Godard creates a witty, noir-ish future all his own.
Synopsis: Government agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) is dispatched on a secret mission to Alphaville, a dystopian metropolis in a distant... [More]
Directed By: Jean-Luc Godard

#60

Them! (1954)
93%

#60
Adjusted Score: 98111%
Critics Consensus: One of the best creature features of the early atomic age, Them! features effectively menacing special effects and avoids the self-parody that would taint later monster movies.
Synopsis: While investigating a series of mysterious deaths, Sergeant Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) finds a young girl (Sandy Descher) who is... [More]
Directed By: Gordon Douglas

#59

Videodrome (1983)

#59
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: As the president of a trashy TV channel, Max Renn (James Woods) is desperate for new programming to attract viewers.... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#58

Snowpiercer (2013)
94%

#58
Adjusted Score: 104212%
Critics Consensus: Snowpiercer offers an audaciously ambitious action spectacular for filmgoers numb to effects-driven blockbusters.
Synopsis: A post-apocalyptic ice age forces humanity's last survivors aboard a globe-spanning supertrain. One man (Chris Evans) will risk everything to... [More]
Directed By: Bong Joon-ho

#57
Adjusted Score: 103694%
Critics Consensus: One of the best political allegories of the 1950s, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an efficient, chilling blend of sci-fi and horror.
Synopsis: In Santa Mira, California, Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) is baffled when all his patients come to him with the... [More]
Directed By: Don Siegel

#56

Predator (1987)
82%

#56
Adjusted Score: 84703%
Critics Consensus: Predator: Part sci-fi, part horror, part action -- all muscle.
Synopsis: Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a soldier of fortune, is hired by the U.S. government to secretly rescue a group of politicians... [More]
Directed By: John McTiernan

#55
#55
Adjusted Score: 92781%
Critics Consensus: Planet of the Apes raises thought-provoking questions about our culture without letting social commentary get in the way of the drama and action.
Synopsis: Complex sociological themes run through this science-fiction classic about three astronauts marooned on a futuristic planet where apes rule and... [More]
Directed By: Franklin J. Schaffner

#54

Mad Max 2 (1981)
94%

#54
Adjusted Score: 98175%
Critics Consensus: The Road Warrior is everything a bigger-budgeted Mad Max sequel with should be: bigger, faster, louder, but definitely not dumber.
Synopsis: After avenging the death of his wife and young son at the hands of a vicious gang leader, Max (Mel... [More]
Directed By: George Miller

#53

Star Trek (2009)
94%

#53
Adjusted Score: 109157%
Critics Consensus: Star Trek reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story, and brilliant visuals, and will please traditional Trekkies and new fans alike.
Synopsis: Aboard the USS Enterprise, the most-sophisticated starship ever built, a novice crew embarks on its maiden voyage. Their path takes... [More]
Directed By: J.J. Abrams

#52
#52
Adjusted Score: 91310%
Critics Consensus: Featuring an atmospherically grimy futuristic metropolis, Escape from New York is a strange, entertaining jumble of thrilling action and oddball weirdness.
Synopsis: In 1997, a major war between the United States and the Soviet Union is concluding, and the entire island of... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#51
#51
Adjusted Score: 91191%
Critics Consensus: Though it's dated in spots, The War of the Worlds retains an unnerving power, updating H.G. Wells' classic sci-fi tale to the Cold War era and featuring some of the best special effects of any 1950s film.
Synopsis: Scientist Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) and Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) are the first to arrive at the site of... [More]
Directed By: Byron Haskin

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 120779%
Critics Consensus: Visually stunning and narratively satisfying, Blade Runner 2049 deepens and expands its predecessor's story while standing as an impressive filmmaking achievement in its own right.
Synopsis: Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a long-buried secret that has... [More]
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve

#49

Galaxy Quest (1999)
90%

#49
Adjusted Score: 94479%
Critics Consensus: Intelligent and humorous satire with an excellent cast -- no previous Trekkie knowledge needed to enjoy this one.
Synopsis: The stars of a 1970s sci-fi show - now scraping a living through re-runs and sci-fi conventions - are beamed... [More]
Directed By: Dean Parisot

#48

Fantastic Voyage (1966)
91%

#48
Adjusted Score: 93661%
Critics Consensus: The special effects may be a bit dated today, but Fantastic Voyage still holds up well as an imaginative journey into the human body.
Synopsis: The brilliant scientist Jan Benes (Jean Del Val) develops a way to shrink humans, and other objects, for brief periods... [More]
Directed By: Richard Fleischer

#47

Solaris (1972)
92%

#47
Adjusted Score: 98837%
Critics Consensus: Solaris is a haunting, meditative film that uses sci-fi to raise complex questions about humanity and existence.
Synopsis: A psychologist is sent to a space station orbiting a planet called Solaris to investigate the death of a doctor... [More]
Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky

#46

Her (2013)
94%

#46
Adjusted Score: 105281%
Critics Consensus: Sweet, soulful, and smart, Spike Jonze's Her uses its just-barely-sci-fi scenario to impart wryly funny wisdom about the state of modern human relationships.
Synopsis: A sensitive and soulful man earns a living by writing personal letters for other people. Left heartbroken after his marriage... [More]
Directed By: Spike Jonze

#45

The Iron Giant (1999)
96%

#45
Adjusted Score: 101301%
Critics Consensus: The endearing Iron Giant tackles ambitious topics and complex human relationships with a steady hand and beautifully animated direction from Brad Bird.
Synopsis: In this animated adaptation of Ted Hughes' Cold War fable, a giant alien robot (Vin Diesel) crash-lands near the small... [More]
Directed By: Brad Bird

#44

Fantastic Planet (1973)
91%

#44
Adjusted Score: 92911%
Critics Consensus: Fantastic Planet is an animated epic that is by turns surreal and lovely, fantastic and graceful.
Synopsis: This animated tale follows the relationship between the small human-like Oms and their much larger blue-skinned oppressors, the Draags, who... [More]
Directed By: René Laloux

#43

Total Recall (1990)
82%

#43
Adjusted Score: 87434%
Critics Consensus: Under Paul Verhoeven's frenetic direction, Total Recall is a fast-paced rush of violence, gore, and humor that never slacks.
Synopsis: Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a bored construction worker in the year 2084 who dreams of visiting the colonized Mars.... [More]
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

#42

Moon (2009)
90%

#42
Adjusted Score: 98657%
Critics Consensus: Boosted by Sam Rockwell's intense performance, Moon is a compelling work of science-fiction, and a promising debut from director Duncan Jones.
Synopsis: Astronaut Sam Bell's (Sam Rockwell) three-year shift at a lunar mine is finally coming to an end, and he's looking... [More]
Directed By: Duncan Jones

#41

The Martian (2015)
91%

#41
Adjusted Score: 107214%
Critics Consensus: Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny, The Martian offers a faithful adaptation of the bestselling book that brings out the best in leading man Matt Damon and director Ridley Scott.
Synopsis: When astronauts blast off from the planet Mars, they leave behind Mark Watney (Matt Damon), presumed dead after a fierce... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#40

Gravity (2013)
96%

#40
Adjusted Score: 110246%
Critics Consensus: Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity is an eerie, tense sci-fi thriller that's masterfully directed and visually stunning.
Synopsis: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission. Her commander is veteran astronaut Matt... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

#39

Interstellar (2014)
72%

#39
Adjusted Score: 88274%
Critics Consensus: Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent filmmaking moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.
Synopsis: In Earth's future, a global crop blight and second Dust Bowl are slowly rendering the planet uninhabitable. Professor Brand (Michael... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

#38
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After a painful breakup, Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a procedure to erase memories of her former boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey)... [More]
Directed By: Michel Gondry

#37

Looper (2012)
93%

#37
Adjusted Score: 104700%
Critics Consensus: As thought-provoking as it is thrilling, Looper delivers an uncommonly smart, bravely original blend of futuristic sci-fi and good old-fashioned action.
Synopsis: In a future society, time-travel exists, but it's only available to those with the means to pay for it on... [More]
Directed By: Rian Johnson

#36
Adjusted Score: 99250%
Critics Consensus: Close Encounters of the Third Kind is deeply humane sci-fi exploring male obsession, cosmic mysticism, and music.
Synopsis: Science fiction adventure about a group of people who attempt to contact alien intelligence. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) witnesses an... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#35

Arrival (2016)

#35
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations... [More]
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve

#34

Ex Machina (2014)
92%

#34
Adjusted Score: 103686%
Critics Consensus: Ex Machina leans heavier on ideas than effects, but it's still a visually polished piece of work -- and an uncommonly engaging sci-fi feature.
Synopsis: Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) a programmer at a huge Internet company, wins a contest that enables him to spend a... [More]
Directed By: Alex Garland

#33

WALL-E (2008)

#33
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: WALL-E, short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class, is the last robot left on Earth. He spends his days tidying... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Stanton

#32
Adjusted Score: 110789%
Critics Consensus: Playing as both an exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood, Steven Spielberg's touching tale of a homesick alien remains a piece of movie magic for young and old.
Synopsis: After a gentle alien becomes stranded on Earth, the being is discovered and befriended by a young boy named Elliott... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#31

Godzilla (1954)
93%

#31
Adjusted Score: 100824%
Critics Consensus: More than straight monster-movie fare, Gojira offers potent, sobering postwar commentary.
Synopsis: A fire-breathing behemoth terrorizes Japan after an atomic bomb awakens it from its centuries-old sleep.... [More]
Directed By: Ishirô Honda

#30

Forbidden Planet (1956)
96%

#30
Adjusted Score: 99424%
Critics Consensus: Shakespeare gets the deluxe space treatment in Forbidden Planet, an adaptation of The Tempest with impressive sets and seamless special effects.
Synopsis: In this sci-fi classic, a spacecraft travels to the distant planet Altair IV to discover the fate of a group... [More]
Directed By: Fred McLeod Wilcox

#29

12 Monkeys (1995)
89%

#29
Adjusted Score: 93669%
Critics Consensus: The plot's a bit of a jumble, but excellent performances and mind-blowing plot twists make 12 Monkeys a kooky, effective experience.
Synopsis: Traveling back in time isn't simple, as James Cole (Bruce Willis) learns the hard way. Imprisoned in the 2030s, James... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#28

Jurassic Park (1993)
92%

#28
Adjusted Score: 104075%
Critics Consensus: Jurassic Park is a spectacle of special effects and life-like animatronics, with some of Spielberg's best sequences of sustained awe and sheer terror since Jaws.
Synopsis: In Steven Spielberg's massive blockbuster, paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#27

Primer (2004)
73%

#27
Adjusted Score: 76416%
Critics Consensus: Dense, obtuse, but stimulating, Primer is a film for viewers ready for a cerebral challenge.
Synopsis: Intellectual engineers Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) build and sell error-checking technology with the help of their friends... [More]
Directed By: Shane Carruth

#26

Stalker (1979)

#26
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In an unnamed country at an unspecified time, there is a fiercely protected post-apocalyptic wasteland known as The Zone. An... [More]
Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky

#25

Gattaca (1997)
83%

#25
Adjusted Score: 85785%
Critics Consensus: Intelligent and scientifically provocative, Gattaca is an absorbing sci fi drama that poses important interesting ethical questions about the nature of science.
Synopsis: Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) has always fantasized about traveling into outer space, but is grounded by his status as a... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Niccol

#24
#24
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this Japanese animation, cyborg federal agent Maj. Motoko Kusanagi (Mimi Woods) trails "The Puppet Master" (Abe Lasser), who illegally... [More]
Directed By: Mamoru Oshii

#23

Brazil (1985)

#23
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Low-level bureaucrat Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) escapes the monotony of his day-to-day life through a recurring daydream of himself as... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam

#22
Adjusted Score: 91702%
Critics Consensus: Considered by many fans to be the best of the Star Trek movies, Khan features a strong plot, increased tension, and a sharp supporting performance from Ricardo Montalban.
Synopsis: As Adm. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Capt. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) monitor trainees at Starfleet Academy, another vessel from... [More]
Directed By: Nicholas Meyer

#21

District 9 (2009)
90%

#21
Adjusted Score: 105132%
Critics Consensus: Technically brilliant and emotionally wrenching, District 9 has action, imagination, and all the elements of a thoroughly entertaining science-fiction classic.
Synopsis: Thirty years ago, aliens arrive on Earth -- not to conquer or give aid, but -- to find refuge from... [More]
Directed By: Neill Blomkamp

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 95654%
Critics Consensus: Disturbing and thought-provoking, A Clockwork Orange is a cold, dystopian nightmare with a very dark sense of humor.
Synopsis: In an England of the future, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his "Droogs" spend their nights getting high at the Korova... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#19

RoboCop (1987)
90%

#19
Adjusted Score: 95719%
Critics Consensus: While over-the-top and gory, Robocop is also a surprisingly smart sci-fi flick that uses ultraviolence to disguise its satire of American culture.
Synopsis: In a violent, near-apocalyptic Detroit, evil corporation Omni Consumer Products wins a contract from the city government to privatize the... [More]
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

#18
Adjusted Score: 102472%
Critics Consensus: Socially minded yet entertaining, The Day the Earth Stood Still imparts its moral of peace and understanding without didacticism.
Synopsis: When a UFO lands in Washington, D.C., bearing a message for Earth's leaders, all of humanity stands still. Klaatu (Michael... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wise

#17

Akira (1988)
90%

#17
Adjusted Score: 93945%
Critics Consensus: Akira is strikingly bloody and violent, but its phenomenal animation and sheer kinetic energy helped set the standard for modern anime.
Synopsis: In 1988 the Japanese government drops an atomic bomb on Tokyo after ESP experiments on children go awry. In 2019,... [More]
Directed By: Katsuhiro Ôtomo

#16

Children of Men (2006)
92%

#16
Adjusted Score: 101478%
Critics Consensus: Children of Men works on every level: as a violent chase thriller, a fantastical cautionary tale, and a sophisticated human drama about societies struggling to live.
Synopsis: When infertility threatens mankind with extinction and the last child born has perished, a disillusioned bureaucrat (Clive Owen) becomes the... [More]
Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

#15

The Terminator (1984)
100%

#15
Adjusted Score: 105715%
Critics Consensus: With its impressive action sequences, taut economic direction, and relentlessly fast pace, it's clear why The Terminator continues to be an influence on sci-fi and action flicks.
Synopsis: Disguised as a human, a cyborg assassin known as a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) travels from 2029 to 1984 to kill... [More]
Directed By: James Cameron

#14

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
91%

#14
Adjusted Score: 104400%
Critics Consensus: Gripping, well-acted, funny, and clever, Edge of Tomorrow offers entertaining proof that Tom Cruise is still more than capable of shouldering the weight of a blockbuster action thriller.
Synopsis: When Earth falls under attack from invincible aliens, no military unit in the world is able to beat them. Maj.... [More]
Directed By: Doug Liman

#13

Aliens (1986)

#13
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley's (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team.... [More]
Directed By: James Cameron

#12
Adjusted Score: 104208%
Critics Consensus: Dark, sinister, but ultimately even more involving than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back defies viewer expectations and takes the series to heightened emotional levels.
Synopsis: The adventure continues in this "Star Wars" sequel. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher)... [More]
Directed By: Irvin Kershner

#11

The Thing (1982)
82%

#11
Adjusted Score: 89261%
Critics Consensus: Grimmer and more terrifying than the 1950s take, John Carpenter's The Thing is a tense sci-fi thriller rife with compelling tension and some remarkable make-up effects.
Synopsis: In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 114455%
Critics Consensus: With exhilarating action and a surprising amount of narrative heft, Mad Max: Fury Road brings George Miller's post-apocalyptic franchise roaring vigorously back to life.
Synopsis: Years after the collapse of civilization, the tyrannical Immortan Joe enslaves apocalypse survivors inside the desert fortress the Citadel. When... [More]
Directed By: George Miller

#9

Alien (1979)
98%

#9
Adjusted Score: 108924%
Critics Consensus: A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole.
Synopsis: In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#8
Adjusted Score: 98520%
Critics Consensus: T2 features thrilling action sequences and eye-popping visual effects, but what takes this sci-fi/ action landmark to the next level is the depth of the human (and cyborg) characters.
Synopsis: In this sequel set eleven years after "The Terminator," young John Connor (Edward Furlong), the key to civilization's victory over... [More]
Directed By: James Cameron

#7

Inception (2010)

#7
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a thief with the rare ability to enter people's dreams and steal their secrets from... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

#6

The Matrix (1999)
88%

#6
Adjusted Score: 95175%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to the Wachowskis' imaginative vision, The Matrix is a smartly crafted combination of spectacular action and groundbreaking special effects.
Synopsis: Neo (Keanu Reeves) believes that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can... [More]

#5
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Imperial Forces -- under orders from cruel Darth Vader (David Prowse) -- hold Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hostage, in... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#4

Metropolis (1927)
97%

#4
Adjusted Score: 110464%
Critics Consensus: A visually awe-inspiring science fiction classic from the silent era.
Synopsis: This influential German science-fiction film presents a highly stylized futuristic city where a beautiful and cultured utopia exists above a... [More]
Directed By: Fritz Lang

#3

Blade Runner (1982)
89%

#3
Adjusted Score: 99674%
Critics Consensus: Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Ridley Scott's mysterious, neo-noir Blade Runner has deepened with time. A visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece.
Synopsis: Deckard (Harrison Ford) is forced by the police Boss (M. Emmet Walsh) to continue his old job as Replicant Hunter.... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In this 1980s sci-fi classic, small-town California teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is thrown back into the '50s when... [More]
Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

#1
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An imposing black structure provides a connection between the past and the future in this enigmatic adaptation of a short... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

This week on home video, we’ve got an interesting mix of choices, and at least a couple of them may be a bit controversial. As for items we won’t be discussing at length: there are new Blu-rays for films like The Three Amigos, Rushmore (the existing Criterion edition), and ESPN’s 30 for 30 series (which we covered when it first arrived on DVD). The big titles this week are J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi treat, an update on a classic fantasy hero, and the latest of Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids films. Then we’ve got a French drama centered on the Holocaust experience, a unique look at the Hussein family, a controversial silent film, and a bona fide courtroom classic. See below for the full list!



Super 8

J.J. Abrams has been known to keep his projects super secret, whether it was a major plot point in his hit television show LOST or the unveiling of the monster in Cloverfield, which he produced. It was no different with his latest directorial effort, Super 8; the first trailer released thrillingly depicted a collision between a pickup truck and a freight train carrying something ominously powerful, but not much else. As it turned out, the film follows a group of kids making a home movie with a super 8 camera who happen to be present when the aforementioned collision takes place, and their camera inadvertently captures something they never expected to film. When strange things begin occurring in town, the children take it upon themselves to solve the mystery. Many agree that Super 8 is an earnest throwback to the kid-friendly sci-fi adventures of the 1980s, and with Steven Spielberg producing, it’s no wonder. With plenty of thrills, visual dazzle, and emotional depth, Super 8 is Certified Fresh at 82% and a pretty good choice if you’re looking for some good, old-fashioned, nostalgic fun.



Conan the Barbarian

It’s been almost three decades since the last big screen portrayal of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, and most will remember that he was famously played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. How, then, would a remake fare, with a new story and a new Conan? Not very well, actually. This time around, Jason Momoa (of recent Game of Thrones fame) plays the titular warrior, who is born in the heat of battle and trained as a warrior until his entire family is slaughtered by an evil warlord named Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang) in search of pieces to a mystical mask. Conan escapes the onslaught and lives on as a pirate until a chance meeting provides him with a new lead to seek vengeance for his clan’s extermination. Co-starring Rose Mcgowan, Rachel Nichols, and Ron Perlman in small role as Conan’s father, Conan the Barbarian failed to impress critics, who felt the film lacked any good characterization, worthy dialogue, or competent acting. It’s gory and over the top, so if you’re looking for a mindless action flick with those credentials, have at it; if you’re looking for anything more, search elsewhere.



Spy Kids: All the Time in the World 4D

As with plenty of franchises before it, the Spy Kids movies may be running low on creative juice, but that doesn’t mean they know when to pack it in. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D, the latest entry in Robert Rodriguez’s venerable kiddie adventure series, wasn’t exactly greeted fondly by critics, who haven’t enjoyed a Spy Kids movie en masse since Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. Jessica Alba stars as a retired spy who’s lured back into action when a maniacal supervillain threatens the free world. She’s joined in her mission by some newly recruited spy kids. The pundits said the movie will probably appeal to the little ones, and there are moments of visual inventiveness, but for the most part adults may be less than charmed this time out. For all you Spy-hards out there, the new Blu-ray has plenty of cool extras, including an interview with Rodriguez by an intrepid kid reporter, behind-the-scenes footage, and deleted scenes.



Sarah’s Key

72%

The first thing one might be inclined to say about Sarah’s Key after hearing its premise is, “Oh, another Holocaust movie?” While this is true, most critics will tell you that this one is certainly worth watching. Somewhat of a two-part film, the first half of Sarah’s Key focuses on the titular Sarah (Melusine Mayance), a young Jewish girl living in France who falls victim to the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in 1942, wherein French police in German-occupied Paris rounded up Jewish families to be shipped off to Auschwitz; Sarah is able to escape, but not in time to save her little brother, and this haunts her until her death as an adult. In the present day, an American journalist (Kristin Scott-Thomas) learns that her French husband has inherited the same apartment where young Sarah once lived, and she begins an investigation into the apartment’s past that uncovers Sarah’s history. Critics found the film absorbing and impeccably acted all around, even if it had a few minor plot issues. Certified Fresh at 75%, Sarah’s Key may not be the definitive Holocaust film, but it’s one that will engage you until the credits roll.



The Devil’s Double

Much has been made of Saddam Hussein’s multiple doppelgangers, who the notorious dictator used to stay one step ahead of those who might capture — or kill — him. Based on factual events, The Devil’s Double focuses on the same phenomenon as it applied to one of Hussein’s sons, Uday Hussein. Dominic Cooper here plays dual roles as both Latif Yahia, the Iraqi lieutenant chosen as Uday’s double, and Uday himself; as Latif discovers the depths of Uday’s dark and psychotic behavior, he must come to terms with what he’s been asked to do in Uday’s name. Critics were fairly split about The Devil’s Double, thought most praised Cooper’s dedication to the role. Directed by Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day) and co-starring Ludivine Sagnier, Philip Quast, and (surprise!) Latif Yahia himself in a supporting role, The Devil’s Double earned a 53% on the Tomatometer, with many critics balking at the graphic portrayal of Uday Hussein’s cruel and sadistic nature, but willing to recognize the strength of Cooper’s performance.



The Birth of a Nation – Special Edition Blu-Ray

We’re stuck with The Birth of a Nation. Few would deny its profound influence on movie history, but fewer still can watch its loathsome treatment of African Americans with anything less than disgust. For as much as D.W. Griffith’s epic helped codify the modern language of filmmaking (utilizing the most sophisticated editing techniques and camerawork that cinema had yet seen), its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan as heroes of the Reconstruction era was pretty controversial even upon its release in 1915. Griffith was a man of his time, and a not particularly ideological one at that (he was surprised at the negative backlash the movie generated) and yet his masterwork was so skillfully made that it remains a flashpoint of film scholarship — is it possible to admire, or even enjoy, a film with such an odious message? Kino’s lavish three-disc The Birth of a Nation – Special Edition will certainly add to the conversation; in addition to a new transfer of the film, the set features a number of Griffith’s short films and plenty of bonus featurettes and documents about the making of the movie and the controversy it caused.



12 Angry Men – Criterion Collection

100%

Cinema history is loaded with courtroom dramas, but 12 Angry Men remains the most influential — and one of the most perpetually watchable — of the bunch. Directed with verve and urgency by Sidney Lumet, 12 Angry Men is the tale of a jury tasked with deciding the fate of an impoverished murder suspect; as the jurors examine the evidence, they come to realize that perhaps the case wasn’t as open-and-shut as it first appeared. Sure, it’s a “message movie,” but with electric performances from the likes of Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, and Jack Klugman, it never feels preachy. A new Criterion edition of the film features a fresh transfer of the movie, new and archival interviews with Lumet and other crew members, and an earlier, made-for-television version of 12 Angry Men.

Exceeding expectations, the new kid-driven monster movie Super 8 shot straight to number one at the North American box office while fellow newcomer Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer failed to make a dent with a weak debut in seventh place. Most holdovers fared well as the overall marketplace fell from last year’s numbers, but only by a small margin.

Paramount scored a hit with its 1979-set sci-fi action-drama Super 8 which opened impressively with an estimated $37M this weekend from 3,379 theaters for a solid $10,950 average. The PG-13 film about a group of middle school kids trying to solve the mystery behind a train crash that unleashes a creature in their small town had no starpower and instead relied on the brand names of director J.J. Abrams and producer Steven Spielberg who both worked overtime promoting the $50M production. The studio opened the film one day early in over 300 theaters on Thursday, including all 239 IMAX sites, and grossed an estimated $1M that day giving Super 8 a cume of $38M. IMAX accounted for 12% of the gross, or about $4.5M and a sparkling $19,000 average.

Reviews were mostly positive and the marketing campaign purposely held back much about the film so audiences would be intrigued and then experience all the excitement inside the theater. It was a risky move in today’s world of information overload, but it paid off. Opening day audiences gave the creature feature a B+ grade which was good, but not exceptional. But Saturday sales rose 15% from $12.2M to $14M. Even for an original film with no real built-in audience, it indicates a promising road ahead.

Super 8 played much older than most other films in the marketplace. The audience was 71% over 25 and 56% male which was similar to the crowd for the well-reviewed summer action entry Thor which played 72% over 25. The Abrams film did better with cross-gender appeal as Thor was 63% male. Older moviegoers do not rush out on the first weekend as much as younger ones do and with an original non-franchise film like Super 8, there could be substantial sales still to come.

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The opening of Super 8 was very close to the $37.4M debut of another recent one-word-one-number summer monster movie – 2009’s District 9. Though it was rated R, took place in another country, and was centered on adult characters, the Sony film won praise from critics with an original story about regular people coping with odd beasts in their town. That film fell 51% in the second weekend before ending its run with a terrific $115.6M – a little more than three times its opening.

Overseas, Super 8 had a limited bow in just nine markets with Australia being the only major one. The estimate was $6.7M and next weekend will see the first major overseas showing with numerous marketing opening including Russia and Korea.

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Dropping from number one in its second weekend was the super hero reboot X-Men: First Class which fell by an understandable 55% to an estimated $25M giving Fox $98.9M in ten days. The PG-13 origin flick earned good reviews and positive buzz which helped it hold up relatively well for this type of film. Plus it had a competing sci-fi film also playing to adult men to deal with. It was a smaller drop than the 60% fall that Universal witnessed in June 2008 with its Marvel reboot The Incredible Hulk and beat out the 59% slide that Fantastic Four suffered in July 2005. However it was larger than the 47% dip that Thor experienced last month in its sophomore session. That pic introduced a brand new character to the screen and did not have a major action film opening against it in the second weekend. Look for the domestic total to end with around $140M. The overseas weekend brought in an estimated $42.2M, down just 33%, for a $124.2M cume and $223.1M worldwide tally.

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The Bangkok mayhem of The Hangover Part II attracted an estimated $18.5M worth of business for a reasonable 41% fall in the third session. Warner Bros. smashed the $200M mark on Friday after just 16 days setting a new speed record for live-action comedies. The old record of 19 days was held by 2004’s Meet the Fockers. The new Hangover pic has now reached an impressive $216.6M in 18 days and could be headed past $260M. Global audiences are also having fun with the hungover boys as holdover markets overseas dropped by just 37%. The weekend brought an estimated $38.3M pushing the international take past the double century mark as well to $215.5M. Worldwide, The Hangover Part II has grossed $432.1M. While the film’s domestic final may end a bit short of its predecessor’s, the international figure has already zoomed past the $191.6M of the first Hangover.

Despite facing two new films with kids as their lead characters, the animated comedy Kung Fu Panda 2 held up very well dropping only 30% to an estimated $16.6M in its third weekend. The Paramount/DreamWorks title has now banked $126.9M in 18 days and could be headed past the $170M mark. Panda opened at number one in 17 international territories fueling a strong $56.5M offshore frame lifting the overseas gross to $205M and the global take to $331.9M. Top spot bows this weekend in the U.K., Mexico, and Brazil helped keep the global roll-out going and an amazing hold in China has propelled the local total to a stellar $71.2M. The Panda sequel debuts in a number of European markets next weekend including France and Germany. Adding foreign to domestic, Kung Fu Panda 2 was the world’s most popular film this weekend.

Dropping 40% to fifth place was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with an estimated $10.8M boosting Disney’s take to $208.8M. The latest Johnny Depp adventure is the second biggest domestic grosser of the year behind the Wolf Pack, however overseas business remained red hot with the film collecting an estimated $41.1M boosting the international haul to an eye-popping $678M. That makes Tides the sixth biggest blockbuster of all-time overseas. By the end of the week, the Fountain of Youth pic will sail past the $690.1M of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and the $690.2M of Depp’s own Alice in Wonderland to take the number four spot trailing only the third Lord of the Rings and a pair of James Cameron megahits. The new Pirates now stands at a towering $886.8M worldwide with a steep 77% coming from overseas and the one billion mark likely within reach. Top international markets are Japan ($74.5M), Germany ($66.7M), China ($65.2M), Russia ($60.7M), and the United Kingdom ($48M).

For the fourth straight weekend, Bridesmaids posted the lowest decline in the top ten slipping a mere 16% to an estimated $10.2M. If the estimate holds, the Kristin Wiig hit will become the only film of 2011 to gross over $10M for five weekends. With $123.9M, the Universal sleeper hit is cashing in on great word-of-mouth as more audiences continue to discover the raunchy wedding comedy. Bridesmaids should have no problem breaking the $150M mark now and may even reach the $164M of The Proposal from two summers ago which was PG-13.


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Stumbling into seventh place with an estimated $6.3M in its opening weekend was the tween girl comedy Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer which didn’t excite too many kids. The PG-rated film starring Jordana Beatty and Heather Graham averaged a weak $2,483 from 2,524 theaters and could not carve out a big audience despite being based on a popular series of books. The budget was under $20M with producer Smokewood Entertainment paying that plus the marketing tab. Relativity distributed the critically-panned film in the U.S. for a fee. The overall CinemaScore grade was a B+ and females made up 78% of the audience. Playing mostly to moms and daughters, Judy generated 88% of its business from children under 12 plus their parents.

After three sizzling weeks in limited release, Woody Allen’s new hit comedy Midnight in Paris accelerated its expansion plan and went nationwide this weekend taking in an estimated $6.1M from 944 locations for a good $6,511 average. Sony Classics has taken in $14.2M to date and could have a lot more to go as it positions the Owen Wilson starrer as an alternative choice for mature adults in a marketplace dominated by sci-fi actioners, sequels, and kidpics. Critics have been singing praises so the PG-13 film could enjoy good legs in the weeks ahead as buzz spreads and the long Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches.

Rounding out the top ten were the summer kickoff films that went head-to-head around the world. The 3D comic book pic Thor fell 44% to an estimated $2.4M for $173.6M to date for Paramount with $434M worldwide. Universal’s bigger hit Fast Five grossed an estimated $1.7M, off 46%, putting the domestic cume at $205.1M and the worldwide tally at a muscular $583.4M. The Vin Diesel vehicle is now the third biggest domestic grosser of the year but second highest globally behind only the Pirates sequel.

Top-tier specialty films continued to perform well as they expanded to more markets. Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn went from 20 to 47 theaters and grossed an estimated $875,000 for a solid $18,617 average for Fox Searchlight. Focus widened its Ewan McGregor pic Beginners from five to 19 playdates and collected an estimated $255,000 for a $13,421 average. Totals stand at $2.4M and $465,000, respectively.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $134.6M which was off 4% from last year when The Karate Kid opened in the top spot with $55.7M; but up 4% from 2009 when The Hangover remained at number one with $32.8M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, Box Office Guru!

This week at the movies, we’ve got a close encounter (Super 8, starring Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning), a quest for fun (Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, starring Jordana Beatty and Heather Graham), and a Gallic nostalgia trip (Midnight in Paris, starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams). What do the critics have to say?



Super 8

With films like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg altered the cinematic landscape by combining B-movie thrills with sophistication and emotional heft. Now, with Spielberg producing, J.J. Abrams tries something similar with Super 8, and critics say it’s a both an expert homage to old-school 1970s proto-blockbusters and an exciting, heartfelt thrill-ride in its own right. Super 8 is the tale of a group of youngsters who, while filming a homemade movie, witness a horrific train crash. When the citizens of their small town become unnerved by a series of unexplained disappearances, the kids begin to suspect the crash might not have been an accident — and it may have unleashed something unworldly upon their sleepy community. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Super 8 pulls off the neat trick of being both suspenseful and poignant, with strong performances and an uncanny sense of the story-driven power of Spielberg’s early classics. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Spielberg’s best productions.)



Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer

21%

It’s an old adage, but it’s one that bears repeating: sometimes, what works on the page falls flat on the screen. Take Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer, for example: critics say this kiddie comedy — based upon the bestselling books by Megan McDonald — is an exercise in overblown whimsy that’s so manic it never slows down long enough to charm. Judy Moody is the tale of a precocious eight-year-old (played by Jordana Beatty) forced to spend the summer with her eccentric Aunt Opal (Heather Graham) when her parents and best friends leave town. But Judy’s got a plan, in the form of a checklist of adventures that, if achieved, count for “thrill points.” The pundits say that little kids might find some laughs in Judy Moody, but their parents and older siblings probably won’t; despite the good efforts of a game cast, the movie is hyper and noisy, with a plot that’s more a series of zany vignettes than a cohesive story.



Midnight in Paris

Even at this late stage of his career, Woody Allen is capable of wringing a few surprises out of his trademark formula. Critics say Midnight in Paris is a treat for Allen’s fans and romantics alike, a comedy about wish fulfillment that’s magical and touching. Owen Wilson stars as an aspiring novelist who, on a trip to Paris with his fiancée, is transported back to the city’s Jazz Age, sharing drinks with Salvador Dali, getting advice from Ernest Hemingway, and finding romance with a beautiful scenester (Marion Cotillard). But is our hero’s idealized 1920s Paris all that it’s cracked up to be? And is his fantasy incompatible with the real world? The critics say the Certified Fresh Midnight in Paris is a delight, with terrific performances from an all-star cast (particularly Wilson as Allen’s onscreen surrogate) and a dreamy sweetness that’s both funny and lovely.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • One Lucky Elephant, a documentary about a man’s attempt to move an adult circus pachyderm to a more natural environment, is at 100 percent.
  • The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in a largely improvised comedy about a pair of foodies on a jaunt across the English countryside, is at 85 percent.
  • Viva Riva!, a Congolese crime drama about a small-time hustler looking to make a big score without running afoul of the underworld, is at 83 percent.
  • Bride Flight, a drama about three Dutch women immigrating to New Zealand whose lives intersect with a fellow immigrant, is at 80 percent.
  • TrollHunter, a horror/comedy about a group of Norwegian film students who discover a terrifying mythic beast, is at 77 percent.
  • Road To Nowhere, a drama about a woman cast in a true crime film that shares many similarities with the victim she’s portraying, is at 71 percent.
  • Just Like Us, doc about a Middle Eastern tour of a group standup comedians, is at 67 percent.
  • Reversion, a meditative sci-fi drama about a woman with a mutation that doesn’t allow her to process time, is at 43 percent.

Much has been made of the fact that Steven Spielberg produced J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 — and rightly so, given how strongly it seems to evoke memories of Spielberg’s classic past. But even though we think of Spielberg as a director first, he’s also had a very busy (and fairly distinguished) career as a producer — and to show you what we mean, we decided to dedicate this week’s Total Recall to films he didn’t direct. We ended up with a varied list that includes some huge hits, a handful of modern classics, and maybe even a few surprises. Read on!


1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) 97%

(Photo by Buena Vista Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

In the early 1980s, when Spielberg and George Lucas were looking for someone to write them a big check for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Paramount chief Michael Eisner didn’t blink — so when Eisner moved to Disney later in the decade and needed help getting a long-gestating live-action/animated noir project off the ground, Spielberg was happy to return the favor. The result was one of the decade’s defining films, a smash hit that blended cutting-edge technology with a well-written script and old-school slapstick — not to mention blink-and-you-missed-’em cameos from dozens of cartoon celebrities. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is, in the words of the Washington Post’s Rita Kempley, “as cunning as Wile E. Coyote and chipper as a flock of cartoon bluebirds.”


2. Back to the Future (1985)

(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Even before they worked together on the Back to the Future trilogy, Spielberg had a long history with the writing duo of Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale — but until they put Marty McFly behind the wheel of that fateful DeLorean, their partnership was a study in box office futility, producing the commercial duds I Wanna Hold Your Hand1941, and Used Cars. Not wanting to sully their association with Spielberg, Zemeckis and Gale resisted bringing him a serious pitch for Back to the Future — until they finally hit paydirt with Romancing the Stone. Suddenly, executives who’d rejected Future were eager to be a part of it, but Zemeckis and Gale gave first dibs to their old friend, and thus was a franchise born — as well as the film that Slant’s Eric Henderson called “one of the rare big-budget entertainments that’s improved with time.”


3. True Grit (2010) 95%

(Photo by Lorey Sebastian/Paramount Pictures)

When the marriage between DreamWorks and Paramount ended in 2008, the studios had to divvy up hundreds of projects in development — and when the dust settled, the Coen brothers’ True Grit remake stayed at Paramount, with Spielberg retaining an executive producer credit. A few Coens fans raised their eyebrows (or freaked out on their favorite Internet film forum) when they spotted Spielberg’s name in the IMDb credits, but ultimately True Grit remained, as cinematographer Roger Deakins promised one concerned commenter, “very much the Coens’ film and nothing else” — in other words, the 10-time Academy Award nominee that MSN’s Glenn Kenny called a “visually and sonically beautiful movie that uses space, distance and time to immerse you in a very particular world of mystery, awe and brutality.”


4. Men in Black (1997) 92%

It seems laughable now, but Men in Black spent a fair amount of time in development hell — until, that is, Spielberg hired writer-producer Walter F. Parkes and his wife, Laurie MacDonald, to head production at Amblin. Parkes, who had been struggling to gain traction with Men in Black at Columbia, saw his new gig as a golden opportunity to jump-start the picture — and he was right. With Spielberg’s name attached, Black found a clear path from the studio lot to the big screen, where the sci-fi buddy comedy racked up nearly $590 million in grosses and raves from critics like David Edelstein, who called it “The smartest, funniest, and best-looking sci-fi comedy since the movies learned to morph.”


5. Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) 91%

(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)

When Spielberg decided not to direct Flags of Our Fathers and handed the reins to Clint Eastwood, he wasn’t just altering the course of one World War II drama — he was setting in motion the chain of events that would produce its companion piece. Inspired by his pre-production research, Eastwood came up with the idea to make a film that would present the Japanese side of the battle, and decided to shoot the two projects back-to-back. Letters from Iwo Jima ultimately suffered roughly the same middling commercial fate that befell Flags of Our Fathers, but was far and away the greater critical success, notching three Academy Award nominations and earning the admiration of writers like Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post, who called it “a work of whetted craft and judgment, tempered by Eastwood’s years of life, moviemaking and the potent tango of the two. It is the work of a mature filmmaker willing to entertain the true power of the cinema.”


6. Arachnophobia (1990) 93%

Spielberg’s longtime production partner (and co-founder of Amblin Entertainment) Frank Marshall made his directorial debut with this affectionate, cheerfully creepy tribute to classic Hollywood creature features, in which a deadly breed of spider terrorizes a small town whose residents include a lunatic exterminator (John Goodman) and, of course, a doctor with the titular phobia (Jeff Daniels). “That sound you hear in the background is the ‘ugh!’ heard round the world,” chuckled Janet Maslin of the New York Times, adding, “luckily, Arachnophobia will also be generating its share of boisterous, nervous laughter.”


7. Poltergeist (1982) 87%

(Photo by MGM courtesy Everett Collection)

Unlike a lot of the movies on this list, which benefited from his participation on a more or less ancillary level, Poltergeist was very much a Steven Spielberg production — starting with the script, which he co-wrote, and ending with his almost daily presence on the set, which sparked a DGA investigation and years of rumors about whether the credited director, Tobe Hooper, was merely a stand-in to help Spielberg wriggle out of a contractual agreement that prevented him from helming a film that would end up in direct competition with E.T. Whatever really happened behind the cameras, the result was a huge hit that spawned a franchise and won the unqualified praise of critics like Moviehole’s Clint Morris, who called it “One of the best horror flicks ever…bar none.”


8. Gremlins (1984)

(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)

It earned nearly $150 million at the box office, marked Chris Columbus as a young screenwriter to watch, and resuscitated director Joe Dante’s ailing career — but Gremlins was also part of one of 1984’s biggest Hollywood controversies, sparking concern that the MPAA was giving PG ratings to films that were too intense for a younger audience (such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Spielberg suggested that an overhaul of the ratings system might be in order, and roughly a month after Gremlins‘ release, the PG-13 was born. Parental concerns over gremlin-related violence aside, the film was also a solid critical winner, earning praise from the likes of Roger Ebert, who wrote, “At the level of Serious Film Criticism, it’s a meditation on the myths in our movies: Christmas, families, monsters, retail stores, movies, boogeymen. At the level of Pop Moviegoing, it’s a sophisticated, witty B movie.”


9. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) 90%

(Photo by Universal Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Somewhat appropriately for a film inspired by the Beatles’ first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, this wacky 1978 comedy was a film of debuts — for Robert Zemeckis, notching his first feature-length directorial credit, and for Spielberg, who produced for the first time (under the watchful eye of Universal, who made him promise he’d step in and direct if Zemeckis faltered). Despite the lack of experience, it was smooth sailing for I Wanna Hold Your Hand — at least until the film reached audiences, who ignored it so completely that it couldn’t even earn back its $2.8 million budget. As far as critics were concerned, however, it was the audience’s loss: “I Wanna Hold Your Hand re-creates precisely the excitement the Beatles let loose 14 years ago,” wrote Time’s Frank Rich, adding that “it transports the audience back to the eye of a phenomenal social hurricane.”


10. The Mask of Zorro (1998) 83%

(Photo by Columbia Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

As executive producer of Martin Campbell’s swashbuckling Zorro reboot, Spielberg may not have had to take much of an active role in the day-to-day development of the film, but he was responsible for at least one key element: the casting of Catherine Zeta-Jones, who caught his eye with her performance in the CBS miniseries The Titanic. It proved a starmaking turn for Zeta-Jones, who upstaged Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins in the film that Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called “A lively, old-fashioned adventure yarn with just a twist of modern attitude” and “the kind of pleasant entertainment that allows the paying customers to have as much fun as the people on screen.”

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