Sci-fi and tech movies have been around for a surprisingly long time. They frequently tackle similar themes of exploring consciousness or over-dependence on technology which almost every time leads to disastrous results. But, which movies are the essential ones to watch?
You might be asking "What is your selection criteria?". Well, that is a good question. We may not be able to give you a definitive answer for each movie but for most of the list; it is self-evident. On the whole, we have looked at the movies that show the telltale signs of cinematic excellence.
We wanted to try and cover all genres across the ages and represent as many different types of movies as possible. We also tried to include movies with original concepts or the ones that are the first of their kind in one way or the other. We also took the liberty of including some of our personal favorites as well.
Though, primarily, this collection offers a "must watch" list for the new audience members or any Sci-Fi initiate. It goes without saying that this list is far from definitive and we apologize if your favorite movie has been omitted. There is a slight bias to more modern movies, well post 1970's, as they are fresher in our minds.
Anyway, let's stop messing around and get stuck in. Here is our list of 50 movies every scientist and engineer should watch. We've tried to keep them in chronological order for you.
1. Metropolis, 1927
Practically a work of art and a formative piece of Sci-Fi, its imagery remains potent almost 90 years later. Incredible.
2. Frankenstein, 1931
Not the first adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel but certainly the most iconic. A must watch for anyone really.
3. The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951
I honestly believe I was born 30 years too late. The 1950s was an era of sensational movies. Although it's been remade recently, the original one is still the best version. Klaatu’s visit and the warning he delivers still resonates today.
4. Godzilla, 1954
This movie goes to show you don’t need sophisticated modern special effects to make a compelling movie. A massive monster wreaking havoc, what more do you need?
5. Forbidden Planet, 1956
Said to be the first movie set on another planet in deep space, it’s often said it's inspired by The Tempest. The movie explores our tendency for self-destruction.
6. Doctor Strangelove, 1964
Created during the Cold War, this classic movie gives insight into the hysteria and paranoia of the age.
7. Planet Of The Apes, 1968
As well as introducing a whole new genre, this movie flips our perception of what "separates" us from our primate cousins.
8. 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968
When you mix Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, the result is awesome. If you’ve been living in a cave and haven't seen this movie yet, we suggest you watch it as soon as possible! We refuse to give any more spoilers. You’re welcome.
9. Silent Running, 1972
After all botanical life ends on Earth, ecologist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) maintains a greenhouse on a space station to preserve various plants for future generations. This movie allows you to have an absolutely magnificent and emotion-driven watching experience. Also, we defy you not to fall in love with his robot companions.
10. Westworld, 1973
Now rebooted as a highly regarded series on HBO, this classic Sci-Fi movie tells the story of advanced robots run amok. A gripping and terrifying visual experience that comes highly recommended.
11. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977
This movie captures the mystery and wonder of encountering an advanced race. For years, this movie shaped how people imagined meeting more advanced extraterrestrial beings would be like.
12. Alien/Aliens 1979/1986
We couldn’t decide between them, so we included both. What? Merging space opera, Westerns and horror, these movies are an absolute must-watch. They launched a whole genre of movies that terrify and inspire in equal measure.
13. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, 1980
Officially the best Star Wars movie, no arguments! Picking up the mantle from A New Hope, Empire takes the series to a new level and sets up all that follows.
14. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, 1981
Although Mad Max is awesome too, Mad Max 2 resonates the most with its post-apocalyptic setting.
15. Blade Runner, 1982
Another Ridley Scott classic, this movie explores what it means to be human. A truly epic and enjoyable journey.
16. E.T., 1982
Flipping the narrative from Spielberg’s Close Encounters completely, E.T. (love it or hate it), is a really compelling and thought-provoking tale.
17. Tron, 1982
I know 1982 was a good year, I might be a bit biased being born in that year. Tron completely changed the Sci-Fi genre. It is arguably the best of the first CGI movies and a cinematic legend.
18. War Games, 1983
This movie tells the story of an advanced AI capable of controlling every system it interacts with which ends up risking the start of a nuclear war.
19. Back To The Future, 1985
Dispensing with the fear of controversy, Back to the Future jumps feet first into the tempestuous waters of time-travel. Humorous, thought-provoking and entertaining, this movie is a must-watch for all.
20. Enemy Mine, 1985
Dennis Quaid is crash-landed on a planet with an alien (portrayed by Louis Gosset Jr.). Enemy Mine is a tender and beautiful tale of teamwork which tackles undertones of xenophobia.
21. Transformers: The Movie, 1986
An absolute must-watch if you are 80's or 90's kid. If you haven't seen it hang your head in shame! Forget the modern reboots, watch the glory and the beauty of the original characters.
22. RoboCop, 1987
Merging man with machine, RoboCop explores how technology changes or even negates humanity. A surreal blend of cyberpunk, Frankenstein and action movie, this movie remains as the greatest statement of Verhoeven.
23. Predator, 1987
Tapping into our inner fears, this movie is one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. Face and challenge your primeval brain.
24. The Running Man, 1987
In a world of reality TV, this movie is probably more relevant today than when it was originally released. The movie shows convicted criminals, mostly wrongly, sentenced to death in a "gladiator" style entertainment show.
25. They Live, 1988
Fed up of that viral video on Facebook with the guy with mullet-wearing “reality revealing” sunglasses? Don’t be, watch the full movie. We’ll not spoil the rest of it.
26. Akira, 1988
Set in 2019 Tokyo, this anime classic is set in the post World War 3 apocalyptic wasteland of Japan. Kaneda, the main character, attempts to prevent the devastation from happening again. We almost included Ghost in the Shell as well.
27. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991
Do you remember the bit where John Connor switches the Terminator's head from read-only to read/write? Great! That means you were paying attention. This movie, well series, confronts us with questions about the ethics of AI. It is more relevant to us today than over 20 years ago.
28. Sneakers, 1992
Set in 1969 with two rookie computer hackers, Sneaker sees our "heroes" breaching systems and distributing funds they steal. Big ideas in this tech movie include cyber security and financial technology. The modern version would probably have something to do with Bitcoin.
29. Jurassic Park, 1993
Honestly, this isn’t a Spielberg fan spam. Jurassic Park completely changed how movies used digital effects after its release. Based on Michael Crichton’s remarkable novel (We suggest you read it, it’s actually much better than the movie), JP questions our manipulation of the powers of nature.
30. Twelve Monkeys, 1995
Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python fame, hits hard when it comes to Sci-Fi movies. We almost included Time Bandits as well but that is arguably more fantasy than Sci-Fi. Based on the French time-travel story Le Jetee, this is a perfect work of fatalism.
31. Gattaca, 1997
This dystopian movie takes a thought-provoking look at the implications of gene splicing which is even more relevant today.
32. The Fifth Element, 1997
This is a joyously silly and bizarre space opera that’s full of beautiful set pieces and incredible production design. A really enjoyable watching experience whichever way you look at it.
33. The Matrix, 1999
And only the original, we don't talk about the sequels! Set in a dystopian future where mankind is enslaved by machines this movie explores the meaning of reality. Will you take the red or the blue pill?
34. Minority Report, 2002
Courtesy of Philip K Dick and Steven Spielberg, this movie presents a chilling vision of the future in which “Pre-Crime” detectives can find and apprehend offenders before they commit crimes.
35. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, 2004
Would you erase some of your memories if you could? This movie works on many levels and is an incredibly clever science fiction movie that is also romantic. Its story is both surreal and believable at the same time.
36. Children Of Men, 2006
This movie is set in a future where humans can no longer procreate and society collapses. It quickly turns into a metaphor for issues such as xenophobia and immigration. Children Of Men sets the standard for gritty science fiction action movies.
37. Wall-E, 2008
Is it that old? Wow. Anyway, Wall-E is a stunning, charming and an emotional movie set in a post-apocalyptic future. The story revolves around a lonely garbage disposal robot left alone on Earth. The movie quickly turns into a love story for Wall-E.
38. Moon, 2009
This movie takes the theme of corporate evil and the nature of selfhood and makes it its own.
39. District 9, 2009
A quasi-documentary that explores mankind living side by side with alien "immigrants". It exposes men's tribal nature while telling a story of one of them turning into something unrecognizable.
40. Avatar, 2009
Written and directed by James Cameron, Avatar takes place in the near future where humankind is colonizing another planet for extraterrestrial mining.
41. Inception, 2010
Inception examines the nature of consciousness in a clever way that does make sense, in the end. Its story revolves around a brilliantly inventive new technology.
42. Ender’s Game, 2013
A great depiction of a fantastic Sci-Fi book series, Ender's Game plunges our hero, Ender into a futuristic military academy. Ender and his friends undergo a simulated training program that has very real-life consequences. A truly fantastic movie.
43. Her, 2013
This movie is about our ever-growing dependence on technology and virtual assistance. The story is disturbingly relevant to today's society.
44. Snowpiercer, 2013
In a world where civilization has collapsed, one group of survivors spend their entire existence on a train. In the movie, the class system within the confined space is overemphasized. Eventually, a violent revolt with a mind-blowing revelation takes place.
45. Gravity, 2013
Disaster, desperation, isolation, and survival with limited air and options. In this movie, Sandra Bullock's character faces challenges after challenge from the beginning to the end.
46. Elysium, 2013
Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed “District 9″. It is a must-see if you like movies tech movies full of powered armor, hacking, orbital space stations, advanced robotics, and more.
47. Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014
A bit of comedy relief is needed on our list. Guardians of the Galaxy is a great space movie in its own right. It revolves around a “group of misfits who have to band together to stop a cosmic threat” in a thrilling, and heartbreaking fashion.
48. Big Hero Six, 2014
This story takes a teenage genius inventor Hiro on a journey of self-discovery, invention, and revenge. It's filled with comedy, action, and emotion and we challenge you not to cry at the end.
49. Interstellar, 2014
This movie is set in a dystopian future where specialists try to find a habitable planet to be the new home for humanity.
50. Ex Machina, 2015
This movie cleverly challenges our understanding of consciousness. A must watch if you are interested in Artificial Intelligence.
Some honorary mentions
With many great films on the list, it was tough to choose them over some other fantastic films out there. With that in mind here are some honorable mentions that didn't quite make it. Sorry guys.
Star Trek: Wrath of Khan
The Thirteenth Floor
Good Will Hunting
The Social Network
The Man in the White Suit
The Lathe of Heaven
Ghost in the Shell
So there you go. Do you agree with our choices? Clearly, this list isn't exhaustive and we'd love to hear your suggestions. Once again such lists can be an emotive topic and we haven't left any out to spite you.