The Top 20 Science Fiction Action Movies of All-Time

Have you ever wondered what it is about science fiction movies that makes them so popular? People that don’t even consider themselves science fiction aficionados have at least a handful of movies that they really like that turn out to be in the same genre. Perhaps at least part of it is because this particular genre covers such a wide range. You can have movies about almost any subject and turn them into something that would be considered science fiction. If you’re thinking that it has to be something about space or aliens, that isn’t necessarily the case. That might be a good start, but the reality of the situation is that science fiction movies are often made with absolutely nothing to do with aliens or space.

You see, science fiction is all about taking something that isn’t quite yet a reality and then telling a story about it. It could be about anything. It might be about some type of technology that we haven’t quite tapped into yet or even about being capable of eradicating a certain disease that still exists in reality today. There are all kinds of different ways that you can take a story and turn it into science fiction. Some of the stories that are on this list do indeed involve aliens or space travel but there are also those movies that involve things we don’t normally consider science fiction. Think about being able to travel through time or even through different dimensions or in some cases, you might be surprised to learn that some of your favorite horror classics are in fact science fiction movies.

Of course, it’s not always easy to tell at first glance exactly which genre a particular film actually falls into. After all, a lot of them seem to fit many different categories all at the same time. For all intents and purposes, it doesn’t even matter. If you’re like most people, you just know that you like what you like and that’s enough for you. Maybe you really don’t like to classify things because you don’t like to feel like you are being painted into a corner because of those classifications. Whatever the issue might be, there’s not a person alive that doesn’t enjoy sitting down and watching a good movie, at least every once in awhile. More importantly, there’s a better than average chance that you have enjoyed at least one or two science fiction films, maybe without even realizing it.

Every once in awhile, a science fiction film will come along that explores some of humanity’s worst fears. At other times, the movies are far more hopeful. Much of the time, they even manage to transport us to an entirely different realm of existence so that we can get away from whatever might be going on in real life at the time.

Below is a list of 20 of the most popular science fiction movies that have ever been made. As you can see, there are YouTube that clips to go along with each one so if it isn’t a movie that you’re familiar with, you can get an idea of what that particular film is all about. If you’re looking for some new movies to watch, you might find a few on this list. There’s no doubt that you’ve seen at least a few of them, and in all likelihood, you’ve probably seen most of the films that show up here because these are among the most popular films in history. If there’s one you haven’t seen before, don’t hesitate to check it out.

1. Star Wars (1977)

It would be hard to find anybody in the general public hasn’t seen this movie. It was easily one of the most popular films of the 1970s. In reality, it’s one of the most popular films of any genre of all time. Star Wars was a movie that was completely different than anything that had ever been seen before. In fact, it was considered to have state-of-the-art special effects for the time during which it was made. Even today, in the world of computer-generated graphics and special effects that are just beyond anything that you could even imagine, this is a movie that you can still sit down and watch and be completely lost in. The special effects are still good and of course, the story is second to none. If you just happen to be one of the very small percentage of individuals that has not managed to see the Star Wars series of movies, you really don’t know what you’re missing. If you’re like most people and you have seen it multiple times in the past, don’t hesitate to sit down and watch it again. There’s certainly nothing wrong with revisiting an old favorite.

2. Return of the Jedi (1983)

This is the third film in the original Star Wars trilogy. Released six years after the original, this was the one that people of that particular generation considered to be the movie that is designed to tie up the rest of the story. Of course, since that time, there has been an entire series of prequels that was released several years ago. More recently, several sequels were released that were designed to take place after Return of the Jedi. Most people will argue about which trilogy is actually the best but there is no doubt that many individuals consider the original trilogy to be superior to anything that has ever been made since that time. Return of the Jedi carries the story that began in the original movie. It’s a good movie that is certainly capable of standing on its own, but it’s even better when all three movies are viewed together, as it allows you to see the full breadth of the story.

3. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

This movie was a sensational hit during its day. As a matter of fact, many people actually consider it to be far superior to the original movie of the same name. While neither one is anything to sneeze at, this particular film has a lot of things going for it. First and foremost, it incorporated special effects that were practically unheard of at the time the movie was made. As a result, a lot of people didn’t really know what to make of it because it was so far superior to anything they had seen in the past. To a certain extent, it carries on with the story about aliens, but it isn’t necessarily in the traditional sense that you might think. Instead, it’s more about a battle of wills, not to mention the age-old battle between good and evil. Of course, it also incorporates some outstanding action scenes that truly can’t be ignored. That alone makes it worth seeing.

4. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

This is one of the most heartwarming stories on the list. If you’re not familiar with it, it involves an alien, a very young one, that gets inadvertently left by his parents, so to speak, when they visit Earth. The next thing you know, he’s making friends with a little boy that lives in the area and the boy takes him in. The two become extremely close, even to the point of knowing what the other is thinking and feeling each other’s feelings. When the alien starts to get sick because the planet is toxic to him, the boy gets sick as well. Of course, you also have the subplot that involves a bunch of government officials looking for this alien, and they eventually storm the house in search of him. It all culminates into a very exciting and heartwarming end that will have you reaching for a box of tissues in no time.

5. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Anybody that grew up watching Star Trek on television was excited when Star Trek: The Next Generation became a popular TV show. After the show ended, there were several movies that were made that featured the cast of the latter television show. This was one of them and it was arguably one of the best. It has more than enough action to keep you interested, whether you consider yourself a science-fiction fan or not. The truth is, if you like Star Trek, you need to see this movie. If you’ve never considered yourself a Star Trek fan in the past, this one just might turn things around for you.

6. Alien (1979)

By all accounts, this is supposed to be a science fiction movie and not a horror film. Despite that fact, many people were so terrified by the story that was told that the movie is often mistakenly classified as a horror flick. As the name implies, it involves an alien and it’s definitely not one of the friendly little guys that you think of when you think of movies like E.T. Instead, this is an alien that is out for blood. The entire movie has a sense of suspense about it that keeps you on your toes from beginning to end. Although other movies were made as sequels to this one, none of them seem to equal or even come close to comparing to the original.

7. Star Trek: Generations (1994)

For true Star Trek fans, this was like a gift straight down from Heaven. Imagine having the main cast members of the original Star Trek series and of Star Trek: The Next Generation, all in one movie. That is exactly what this movie provided. If you haven’t seen the movie, here is a major spoiler alert. This movie also involves the death of the beloved Captain Kirk. The torch is literally passed from one Captain to the next. If you love Star Trek, the story doesn’t get any more poignant than that.

8. The Terminator (1984)

This is the movie that started it all for the Terminator series. By 1984 standards, the special effects wear outstanding but the more important thing is that the story is one worth telling. You can imagine the confusion that occurred when the sequel was released several years later, as the very character that is central to the movie, the Terminator himself, was actually the bad guy in this particular film. In the sequel, things are reversed and he winds up being the hero. If you really want to get a sense of what the story is all about, watch both movies back-to-back and it will all be easier to understand.

9. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This movie is part of the original Star Wars trilogy. Without a doubt, it is the darkest of the first three films. Most of it deals with struggling in order to find one’s own way and that never ending battle between good and evil. As a matter of fact, many people even consider the idea that the evil side has won by the time the film ends, even if it is only temporarily. One thing is certain, this movie really makes you think about your own life and the choices you make. It’s very easy to take all of the information provided to the characters in the film and put that to your own sense of values. How many times have you struggled with a decision as you tried to do the right thing? Have you ever felt like the decision simply wasn’t clear, even to the point like you felt like you were purposefully being led down the wrong path? For any person that’s ever struggled with their spirituality, this movie will definitely hit home. Hopefully, it might even help you sort a few things out.

10. The Faculty (1998)

Some people might argue that this is not a movie that deserves to be on any list of bests anywhere. With that being said, everybody has their own opinion. The truth is, this is a really fun movie that doesn’t make you stop and think about anything too deep, nor does it even really matter if you have to leave the room for a few minutes. It’s simply enjoyable to watch. It feels almost like watching a horror movie, but it’s not quite as scary. If you want a good time and you have a couple of hours to kill, this is a great way to do it.

11. The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix is one of those movies that people either have a tendency to love or hate. Not very many people seem to fall in the middle when it comes to this one. It’s an incredibly well thought out movie that is well written. It’s also rather complicated, requiring you to pay close attention to the film in order to keep up. This is definitely not one of those movies where you can take a quick trip to the bathroom or go refill your popcorn and come back because you’ll be confused from that point forward. With that being said, it really does tell a good story if you’re willing to take the time to sit down and give it your undivided attention.

12. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

This is a movie that many people think of as a benchmark when it comes to science fiction films. Just as the name implies, it’s about aliens visiting Earth, which is interesting enough in and of itself. However, this is just the plot that is on the surface. Once you really start paying attention to the film, you’ll notice that there are a number of subplots. Two of the more interesting ones include an individual that has been struggling throughout life to make sense of it all and in fact, to make his life matter. Once he witnesses aliens coming to Earth, he starts to feel like he’s finally found his place in this world. Isn’t it ironic that it comes from something that is completely out of this world? Another sub plot involves family relationships and how a person’s choices affect other individuals in their lives. This movie perfectly intertwines all of these different stories, which is good, because the movie is about three hours long.

13. Looper (2012)

This is definitely one of the more interesting films on this list. It’s a Bruce Willis movie, which is enough to get most people interested to begin with. However, the story is completely capable of standing on its own merit. It is a story of an individual that is capable of traveling through time and space in order to right the wrongs of other individuals. Ultimately, he’s trying to track down an individual who, in his society, must be killed for his crimes. The thing is, this man is trying to get his life straight and do the right thing. You might consider this as movie about the gray areas between right and wrong, with a little interdimensional bounty hunter excitement thrown in for good measure.

14. Maximum Overdrive (1986)

This is another movie that a lot of people consider a horror film, but it really falls more into the realm of science fiction. Perhaps the reason it is so closely associated with horror movies is because it comes from the mind of Stephen King. In the movie, machines start taking over the world. People rely on them so heavily for everything and they start becoming self-aware. Moreover, these machines don’t really appreciate being used to further the advancements of human life so they start acting out against it. Despite the fact that this movie was made so long ago, it’s one of the better ones out there and it’s worth giving a try.

15. Blade Runner (1982)

This Harrison Ford classic is a favorite among most individuals. Basically, it’s like a cop movie that’s set in a futuristic dystopian society. In the movie, Ford is tracking down beings that are referred to as replicants. They look and act like humans, yet they’re not. One of the more interesting plot twists is something that’s been debated for years. You see, the end of the movie is not entirely clear when it comes to its meaning. Many people have debated that Ford’s character is actually a replicant, the very thing that he spent his entire life tracking down and eliminating.

16. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

As you can see from the date this film was released, science fiction has always been an interest among many individuals. This movie is one of the better films about the subject that was ever released, as evidenced by the fact that it’s still popular today. More than 60 years after it was initially released, people are still interested in seeing it. Obviously, they must have done something right when they made this movie.

17. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

There aren’t too many things more disturbing than the idea that some being from outer space could come down and essentially take over the body of a person that you know, maybe even someone you love. Imagine knowing someone your entire life and being extremely close to that individual, only to discover one day that they suddenly don’t act like themselves anymore. Now imagine finding out it’s because they aren’t themselves, and despite the fact that they’re standing right there next to you, the person that you knew is gone forever.

18. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This was a very futuristic film for its time. Back in the 1960s, everybody seemed to think that by the year 2001, many of society’s problems would be behind us and we might even be living in colonies on another planet. As you can see, much of this has not happened but it doesn’t stop people from dreaming about it. It might be funny to go back and look at this movie now, but when it was made, it was considered quite the groundbreaking achievement.

19. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

This is one of the strangest movies on this list. It makes you wonder if the person that wrote the movie was on some type of acid trip when they created it. In fact, it’s sort of hard to tell what the movie is supposed to be about. The entire thing just has a weird vibe about it. With that being said, it was one of the most popular movies of the 1970s and it is still considered a valuable work of art today.

20. The China Syndrome (1979)

Some people might argue that this is not entirely a science fiction film, but the truth is, it’s a film that spoke to the fears of individuals who lived during that time. Nuclear power plants were becoming more and more popular, and as more of them came online, the fears of what could happen if something went wrong grew exponentially. This film is about exactly that type of situation, along with how far some people might be willing to go in order to cover up such an incident.

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