20 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die

Don't even think about dropping dead until you've seen these.

The first thing we all probably think of when we hear the word sci-fi is "the future." Dystopian worlds made up of neon-clad towers, robots so advanced that they pass for human beings, monstrous alien creatures, huge ships, laser beams, memory implants, time travel... these are just some of the tropes that mark sci-fi out as one of the most exciting and innovative of all movie genres. Indeed, we tend to think of science-fiction as the "intelligent genre." It's often thought that the best science-fiction movies pose the question: "What does it mean to be human?" After all, this is the question that many of the best and most acclaimed science-fiction pictures attempt to find answers to - be it by way of comparison the human being against smart, artificial lifeforms, probing our innate tendency to explore and create and destroy, or in our will to understand why we're even here on Earth in the first place. Join us, then, as we countdown our picks for those 20 sci-fi movies that you must see before you die: the pictures that we feel tap into what it means to really make a great science-fiction movie that absolutely everybody should watch at least once before their time up is. Every film included on this list will enrich your life experience in at least one way: they'll give you something to think about, to appreciate, to shoot for; they will open you mind. There were just a few qualifications that the movies included here had to meet in order to be considered: sci-fi/fantasy hybrids weren't considered (no Star Wars, then), we leaned towards "harder" science-fiction movies as opposed to more comically-inclined ones (no Back to the Future, unfortunately), and there aren't any comic book adaptations on the list, either. That said, then, strap your jetpacks on, set tasers to stun, and let's start the countdown...

Sam Hill is an ardent cinephile and has been writing about film professionally since 2008. He harbours a particular fondness for western and sci-fi movies.