From the post-apocalyptic to the not-so-distant future, here are the ten best sci-fi movies of the decade (so far)!
Sci-fi is one of the most interesting and innovative genres because it poses a specific challenge. How do you show tomorrow while commenting on today? At least, that’s what good sci-fi tries to do. Look at Alien and its sexual politics or Children of Men and its now eerily commentary on xenophobia. Though they’re both formally wildly different, they both challenge certain pitfalls of our society by adding or subtracting an element — adding the Alien and subtracting children.
However, in my opinion, we’ve tapped into a new potential for the genre. We have the ability to go places where we never thought we could go before — the tesseract in Interstellar or the wasteland in Mad Max: Fury Road. That’s why I thought it’d be the perfect time to countdown the best sci-fi movies of the decade. For this list, I decided to mainly look at the sci-fi elements of the movie and how they affect into the narrative as a whole. So, just because it’s a great action movie, doesn’t mean it’s one of the best sci-fi movies. The other parameter I looked at was how its vision of tomorrow supported its commentary of today. Whether that’s thematically or technically. Here are the best sci-fi movies of the decade (so far)!
Honorable Mentions: Edge of Tomorrow, Prometheus, Monsters, Guardians of the Galaxy
10. Chronicle (2012)
The superhero genre is a hard one to do well. On top of that, found footage is even harder to pull off. However, Josh Trank infuses elements of both to create the wonderful and underrated Chronicle. Unlike other overstuffed, CGI-heavy blockbusters, Chronicle takes one element — telekinesis — and adds it to the everyday life of the three young protagonists. It sheds the concept of “hero” in the genre and the result is a compelling study of what happens when someone is given great power, but not great responsibility.
9. Coherence (2013)
Though the twists and turns in Coherence may pale in comparison to the big budgets of some of the other movies on this list, its virtue is its minimalism. It’s a small movie with big concepts. And it keeps itself grounded despite that. Playing on the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” Coherence is as much about the mistrust and paranoia as it is about the mysterious cosmic event at its center. Boiled down, it’s a social experiment that is entertaining to watch, but you’d never want to be a part of.
8. Gravity (2013)
By the time the nearly 17-minute one-shot opening sequence of Gravity concludes, you barely have time to breathe again before the next thrill begins. However, that’s not what makes it one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade. It’s almost impossible to describe the movie without using the word groundbreaking. That’s because Alfonso Cuarón gave us one of the most immersive trips into space to date. Even though it is narratively simple, the pure craft involved is enough to elevate the movie. We’ve seen man survive at sea and on a desert island. It’s about time we saw woman have a chance to show her strength.
7. The Martian (2015)
It’s hard to find a movie this decade that fits the term of cinematic comfort food as closely as Ridley Scott’s The Martian. He balances the genres of survival thriller, sci-fi, humanist drama, and yes, even comedy, to create one of the most satisfying sci-fi blockbusters of the decade. What lands it on its list, past its pure entertainment value, is its focus on collaboration and the human spirit. Going to Mars has always been something on the mind of everyone on this planet. But when we make it there, what if something goes wrong? Well, that’s what The Martian shows us. Is it idealistic? Yes. That doesn’t mean that it’s not riveting.
6. Snowpiercer (2013)
Sure. Maybe a constantly moving bullet train around the world isn’t the most efficient form of preservation during a post-apocalyptic ice age. But that element of Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer is simply the catalyst for the class struggle at the center of the film. The mythic title train provides the perfect setting for the assault on the class system that suppresses those at the back of the train. However, the real standout is the whimsical and nearly surreal world that the movie takes place in. It’s the type of place where you’d want to adventure again.