I found a list of the top 100 sci-fi films of all time. It's pretty comprehensive and made me appreciate how many of the these movies I've seen again and again. Click the link to see the entire 100, but here's my top 10 from their list (including Total SciFi Online's write-ups):
1) Aliens (1986)
James Cameron cleverly eschewed aping the original, and instead upped the alien quotient and delivered one of the most purely exciting films ever made. But this is no brainless actioner. Cameron waits almost an hour before the acid-blooded xenomorphs make an appearance, while the film transformed Ripley into a bona fide iconic action heroine. There’s also a memorable selection of supporting characters (Hicks, Hudson, Newt, Vasquez) and instantly quotable dialogue (“game over man!”).
2) Tron (1982)
Tron was ignored for many years, but is now widely accepted as a genre landmark, combining stunning – and unique – computer graphics in an effectively simple story of programmers battling inside an electronic world. The long-awaited sequel, Tron Legacy, is expected in 2010.
3) The Matrix (1999)
The Wachowski Brothers’ movie had it all: groundbreaking ‘flo-mo’ battles, ice cool characters, nods to spaghetti westerns and a large dose of cod philosophy, in an innovative, much-loved actioner. Even the lame sequels can’t detract from the film’s ingenuity.
4) Predator (1987)
A sci-fi spin on the slasher template, this sees an alien hunter stalk a bunch of commandos in the Central American jungle. But the extra-terrestrial menace doesn’t bank on dealing with the Austrian Oak… One of Arnie’s best 80s actioners, this is exciting stuff, tightly directed by John McTiernan. Plus you get some fine Arnie quips (“Knock knock!”) and the chance to have fun trying to spot Carl Weathers’ real arm tied behind his back as it’s blasted off.
5) Return of the Jedi (1983)
OK, so the Ewoks and abrupt death of Boba Fett continue to divide opinion, but ROTJ contains more memorable sequences than most movies could dream of: Luke’s battle against the Rancor monster; the Sarlacc’s pit; the speeder bike chase and a fitting conclusion.
6) Blade Runner (1982)
Like many of the movies on this list, Blade Runner was not a critical or commercial success on its initial release. Some critics at the time simply dismissed it as style over substance. Yet, along with its unforgettable depiction of a neon-lit LA that is essentially a mash-up of Western and Eastern cultures, Ridley Scott’s film is backed up by a real sense of sadness, fear and longing, and an often overlooked wry humour. As Deckard, Harrison Ford proved he could pull off a much darker hero than Han Solo, and Rutger Hauer gave the performance of his career as the psychotic, feral and ultimately tragic Roy Batty. A masterpiece.
7) Total Recall (1990)
Based (very) loosely on Philip K Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Total Recall has both brains and brawn. When Arnie discovers that his memories are fake, he heads to Mars to find the truth. Cue foul-mouthed robot taxi drivers, ultra-violence and a three-breasted woman.
8) Stargate (1994)
The movie that sparked off 10 years of SG-1, 5 seasons of Atlantis and the upcoming Stargate: Universe, Roland Emmerich’s movie scores due to a simple but clever concept and inventive effects. Like Emmerich’s later Independence Day, it’s corny at times, but it adds to the ‘B-movie with a budget’ charm.
9) Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior) (1981)
If the original was raw, energetic and brutal, the sequel took things to a whole new level as Max helps a community defend itself from crazed punks. Highlight: the boomerang sequence.
10) Escape from New York (1981)
Snake Plissken is one of cinema’s great action-hero, with Kurt Russell on top tough guy form. The plot, meanwhile, has influenced everything from District 13 to Doomsday, and it boasts John Carpenter’s best synth soundtracks.