The real world is pretty strange right now, and escaping from it, at least temporarily, is absolutely necessary. So why not pay a visit to an even stranger world with a good science fiction movie? Time travel, aliens, robots and more will take people away from politics, international relations and Russian intrigue — at least for a few hours. Read on to see the essential science fiction movies that everyone should watch at least once.
1. 12 Monkeys
Time travel is an endlessly fascinating subject for science fiction, as what might have been and what could be is explored. Twelve Monkeys, which stars Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis, shows these possibilities being explored through a prisoner of the state attempting to save the world to earn his freedom by traveling back in time and stopping a virus that wiped out much of humanity. But it's not as simple as it might sound.
Before the TV show, there was the movie, and the movie was decidedly creepy. Michael Crichton wrote the script and directed the film about a theme park of robots that depicts how one computer malfunction can result in a lot of damage.
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Widely considered a masterpiece and still shown in theaters today, Stanley Kubrick's film is ambitiously academic as well as an achievement of visual and technical effort depicting the knowledge and fear of life beyond Earth in unique ways.
This is no E.T. These aliens are aggressive and angry and ready to fight. But so is Sigourney Weaver, who was propelled to stardom by this movie, which is also the origin of one of Mel Brooks' silliest jokes in Spaceballs.
James Cameron's story of human colonization of a planet called Pandora inspires questions about humankind's treatment of nature and different cultures. It's also a masterpiece of artwork and digital achievement.
6. Children of Men
This film presents a grim, gray and gritty look at a future where women are unable to have babies and the human race will inevitably die out. As with all good sci-fi, it presents a conflicted antihero with a chance of redemption, and in this case it's Clive Owen who is called to save a woman who is miraculously pregnant.
7. Back to the Future
8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
A must-see for any sci-fi fan, this movie follows Roy Neary, an everyman hero whose life is changed forever when he comes into contact with a UFO and rapidly becomes obsessed with finding the truth about what might exist beyond Earth. Revered for its special effects and scenic accomplishments, the film also delivers on emotional poignancy.
This movie never gets old, and no one is ever too old to watch it. Steven Spielberg's film manages to be simultaneously heartwarming and just a little eerie as it tells the story of an alien who befriends a young boy.
10. Logan's Run
This movie depicts a futuristic society that, on the surface, appears to be perfect. But there is a catch, and it's a a big one. Everyone who reaches the age of 30 is killed and then "renewed" through the ritual of carousel. The story follows Logan 5, a "Sandman" who has terminated others who have attempted to escape death, and, now faced with termination himself, finds himself in uncharted territory.
11. District 9
District 9 features fictional interviews, news footage and video from surveillance cameras chronicling the corralling of insect-like aliens into the titular district where they are now being evicted. The film, which was inspired by events in District Six, Cape Town, during the apartheid era, was called "staggeringly original."
12. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Adapted from Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchers, this film chronicles the invasion of the human race by "pod people" who are completely lacking in humanity. Along with its supernatural elements, the film skillfully portrays the theme of dismissing truth-tellers as people suffering from hysteria or insanity.
13. Planet of the Apes
The film that inspired a franchise and a remake follows an astronaut crew who finds themselves on a strange planet where apes are able to talk and live as humans. With the apes having become the dominant species, a struggle between the humans and the aliens is inevitable.
14. The Terminator
The beginning of the seemingly never-ending franchise, and the genesis of the line, "I'll be back," stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg assassin who travels through time with the assignment of killing a woman whose son will help save the world from machines.
15. The War of the Worlds
Adapted from H.G. Wells' book, this 1953 movie — which scared Split star Betty Buckley so much she had to leave the movie theater — chronicles the invasion of Earth by creatures from Mars. Yes, it's an oldie, but it's definitely a goodie.
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