The Sci-Fi genre has always worked well in bringing thrilling, tension filled moments to the screen. While some have kept us on the edge of our seats due to a villainous alien threat lurking over our hero, the common trait for all the best heart stopping moments has been the strong characterisation of our protagonists.
Be it an anti-hero finally undertaking a positive action, a family battle coming to its epic conclusion or two astronauts working together to stay alive, the ability for the film to establish or develop character dynamics is crucial. Even when the common sci-fi trope of an alien threat is used to build up the suspense and keep us on the edge of our seats, it is our connection to the characters that is a key determinator for a scene's success.
There are several entries on this list that are from solid if not spectacular films, but are all worthy entries here due to perfectly nailing some key moments. The strong use of Mise En Scene combined with an eery sound score and backing track are present in each of these entries, while the acting is generally first-rate too.
So sit down and relax and try to ignore the strange noise from behind your couch, as we reflect on the 12 most heart-stopping moments in Sci-Fi history.
12. Final Battle Scene - Pitch Black
This 2000 sleeper hit starring Vin Diesel had more than its fair share of heart stopping moments, but none more so than its epic finale. The events leading up to this event sees Diesel's anti-hero Riddick help guide passengers from a crashed spaceship back to safety, his modified eyes that can see in the dark helping avoid the alien threat.
While Riddick is in a constant dilemma as how much he should help his fellow passengers out his dynamic with Captain Carolyn Fry proves to bring the best out of him. This relationship a key focus of the film, the initial dislike and distrust for each other gradually transforming to a mutual respect.
The final scene sees Riddick cornered by the beasts, with Captain Fry about to take off in the spaceship with the two passengers who remain alive. Hearing screams in the distance, Fry decides to assist Riddick, attempting to drag his fallen body back to the spaceship.
Despite being surrounded by the creatures and darkness enveloping them, it looks like the two will survive- until we hear the sickening noise of a creature spearing one of them to death. The scene is perfectly shot and edited, a brief use of slow motion as the camera cuts between our two protagonists, not giving away which is the victim. The moment only lasts a few seconds, but feels like an eternity as we wait in shocked anticipation for who won't survive.
As to which character dies, well you'll just have to see the film...