10 Best Science Fiction Movies
A rundown of the best science fiction movies. From space travel to futuristic cities, these are some of the most realistic portrayals of science fiction on the silver screen.
1) Midnight Special (dir. Jeff Nichols)
Many fans claim that Starman (1984) is one of the best alien sci-fi movies ever made, so it’s no surprise that director Jeff Nichols was inspired by it when creating his own take on extraterrestrial life in Midnight Special. Even though Spielberg’s classic wasn’t mentioned by name in interviews, you can see many nods that return to Carpenter’s warm-hearted family drama. The highlight is Michael Shannon as Roy Tomlin, a religious fanatic who has visions of an angelic being he refers to as his ‘son’.
Nichols evokes great sympathy for the broken Tomlin, who is simply trying to keep his child safe from the authorities. Jeff Nichols has already proven himself one of America’s most talented young directors, and Midnight Special could be a breakout role for him – it was received with high praise at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
2) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (dir. Gareth Edwards)
The first anthology film in the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One takes place before the events of 1977’s Star Wars, focusing on resistance fighters stealing plans to destroy Death Star. It also features two fan-favorite characters; Alan Tudyk providing motion capture as droid K-2SO, and the late great British actor Peter Cushing reprising his Grand Moff Tarkin role from A New Hope.
You might assume that reviving old characters using CGI is nothing more than a cash-grab on the part of Disney, but director Gareth Edwards managed to create some brilliant moments for Rogue One, breathing new life into both fan favorites.
3) The Lobster (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
With surrealist films like Dogtooth and Alps, Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has proven himself one of the most original voices in cinema today. His latest film, The Lobster, takes place in a dystopian near future where society forces people to find partners or be turned into animals of their choosing.
In a time where social anxiety and fear of loneliness are at an all-time high, this black comedy gives us a clever metaphor to explain our own anxieties over finding love.
4) Ghostbusters (dir. Paul Feig)
The new Ghostbusters movie has been mired in controversy since it was announced, but the final product makes you wonder why there was such vitriol directed towards it from certain corners of the internet. There was nothing sexist about the way its characters behaved – they were just as immature as your typical teenagers who happen to be scientists on summer break.
Instead of being laughless or dreary, director Paul Feig injected his film with humor and excitement that had been largely missing from recent blockbuster comedies. The result is a reboot that has plenty of similarities to its 80s predecessor but still manages to be fresh by taking the material in new directions.
5) 10 Cloverfield Lane (dir. Dan Trachtenberg)
The secretive marketing campaign surrounding this mystery box thriller paid off in spades for fans of J.J Abrams’ Bad Robot productions. Producer Bryan Burk developed this project alongside Trachtenberg, starting out as an original screenplay called The Cellar.
Writer Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken were hired, later on, crafting a script that deliberately kept audiences guessing about whether or not it was tied into the broader Alien franchise – which Abrams ultimately decided not to explore further. Instead, he turned the finished product into a spiritual successor to the 2008 film Cloverfield, and we were all better for it.
6) The Invitation (dir. Karyn Kusama)
This tense thriller follows Will (Logan Marshall-Green), as he joins his ex-wife and her new boyfriend for dinner at their house after not having seen each other for two years. When one of those invitees doesn’t show, Will begins suspecting that something is amiss – particularly once they start playing word games designed to make him feel like an outsider.
That sense of dread builds steadily, up until a shocking final scene that will leave you absolutely breathless. The performances are great too, particularly from Marshall-Green who has demonstrated his skill in this kind of paranoid subgenre before with his turn in the equally impressive Prometheus.
7) A Monster Calls (dir. J.A. Bayona)
The directorial debut from commercially successful Spanish filmmaker JA Bayona was an adaptation of a fantastic children’s novel and certainly belongs to the year’s best films for young audiences. When Conor (Lewis MacDougall), a bullied child who is forced to move between homes, must deal with bullying both at school and at home while dealing with the terminal illness of his mother (Sigourney Weaver).
It manages to be simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, focusing on themes like grief and coping mechanisms that work very well indeed. The monstrous tree creature that visits him provides catharsis and an opportunity for Conor to vent his woes, portrayed by Liam Neeson with the appropriate blend of wonder and terror.
8) The Fits (dir. Anna Rose Holmer)
Toni (Royalty Hightower), a young girl living in Cincinnati’s West End boxing gym, becomes fascinated by an all-girl drill team called “The Lionesses.” When Toni notices that one of them has stopped showing up, she begins getting closer to her new friends – much to the chagrin of her older brother who doesn’t want her hanging out with girls like that.
As Toni gets drawn deeper into The Lionesses’ world, strange things start happening around the gym – which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that a new neighborhood swimming pool has opened up. The Fits is a stunning character study of a young girl who gets caught up in an extraordinary situation, all told through beautiful camerawork and fluid editing.
9) Green Room (dir. Jeremy Saulnier)
A young punk band finds themselves on the wrong side of some Neo-Nazi skinheads when they play at a party thrown by those same baddies – all of whom are connected to a gangster named Darcy (Patrick Stewart). Rather than being content with robbing them blindly after their gig, these Nazis throw them out into the cold where they have nothing on them but a few pieces of equipment and some cash.
When they aren’t allowed back to retrieve their gear, they hatch a plan to break back into the club and get it back without getting killed. But as any moviegoer will tell you, those kinds of plots never work out well for anyone involved… This is another tense thriller from the director of Blue Ruin, containing some fantastic performances (particularly Anton Yelchin’s turn as the band’s guitarist) and violent fight scenes.
10) The Invitation (dir. Karyn Kusama)
A night out at dinner turns extremely awkward for Will (Logan Marshall-Green) when he realizes that his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) invited him there with her new boyfriend David (Michielisman) – after not having spoken to her for two years.
Not only that, but it appears as if Will is the only guest not in on whatever weird party game is being played – or worse, he’s actually been brought there to be sacrificed at some kind of human sacrifice cult ritual. Or something like that. A wonderfully tense thriller with a strong cast and an absolutely fantastic twist ending, The Invitation is one of 2015’s very best films.
11) Mistress America (dir. Noah Baumbach)
After having read the titular “Mistress America” column in Interview magazine many times over, college freshman Tracy (Lola Kirke) strikes up a phone friendship with its author Brooke (Greta Gerwig). When she ends up in New York for her first day of orientation, Tracy calls Brooke and is told to “come over for dinner” – which she does. The only problem?
Brooke has no idea who Tracy is… But when she discovers that Tracy’s dad (Michael Chernus) is the man who will be funding her upcoming play, she warms up to her pretty quickly. It’s a sharp-witted film with incredible chemistry between its two leads (which would make it the perfect material for a TV show adaptation), but never once resorts to cheap tricks or tired cliches in getting there.
12) Maggie (dir. Henry Hobson)
While zombie movies certainly saw something of a resurgence this year, one of the best examples of the genre came from an unexpected place. In Maggie, sweet sixteen-year-old Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is bitten by a zombie and slowly starts to transform into one herself. Her father Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) takes her out of town in hopes of finding a cure, but everyone they meet tells them that she’s going to turn for sure – meaning that he has to kill his own daughter.
What sounds like a typical “zombie movie” on paper actually becomes so much more thanks to Arnold’s amazing performance as a father trying everything he can not only to save his daughter’s life, but also her soul. It’s an incredibly moving film with some truly heartbreaking moments. And it might just be Schwarzenegger’s best performance in years.