Andy Naylor shares his picks of the best sci-fi films of the past decade…
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been a sci-fi geek. All my favourite movies, books, TV shows and video games are dominated by the genre, and I make no apology for this. It is just what I like. For the most part, it’s the imagination I appreciate. The future can be absolutely anything and getting to see another person’s vision of it is a wondrous experience, even more so when executed in just the right manner.
The following list is in chronological order; picking just 10 from an entire decade was tough enough, putting them in a preferred order is like trying to pick your favourite pet. I hope you enjoy and I will list a few close contenders at the end.
This movie was a passion project for director, Christopher Nolan, and he was allowed to make it after The Dark Knight made over $1 billion worldwide. With a budget of $160 million, that’s some reward, and an indication of their faith in the director, from Warner Bros.
With a cast led by the talented Leonardo DiCaprio, the story revolves around his character’s ability to slip into people’s dreams and steal secrets and the consequences that ability had had on his life and what it has cost him. However, the twist and the challenge for DiCaprio’s Cobb is to plant an idea is someone’s subconscious and offer him the redemption he seeks.
Inception is a crime caper with an inventive, unusual twist, and despite it’s intimidating reputation of being an intelligent film, it is easy to follow and has an ending that will leave your head in a spin.
I’m aware this isn’t on everyone’s list, hell, I’m aware this is the film the highest percentage of people reading this probably haven’t seen, but it’s my list and Dredd 3D gave Judge Dredd fans what they deserved after the woeful Sly Stallone abomination that won’t quite erase itself from my memory.
Karl Urban plays John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s incorruptible Judge Dredd, who is a mainstay of the British comic book 2000 A.D. A one man system of law; Judge, Jury and Executioner in the future dystopian city of Mega City One. Tasked with evaluating an unusual cadet, Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby), Dredd responds to a double murder in one of the city’s massive Mega Blocks and soon Dredd and Anderson find themselves trapped, being hunted by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her gang.
What follows is an engaging, violent and claustrophobic film that is true to its comic source but brings Dredd into the 21st century in a manner that will attract new fans to the character. One thing the film gets right, that Stallone’s 1995 calamity didn’t, is keeping Dredd’s recognisable helmet completely attached to the character for the duration of the movie.
It’s fun, non-stop, gritty and, clocking in at just 95 minutes, it is the shortest film to make this list. Sadly, thanks to a near lack of advertisement prior to release, the film was not a financial success and we are unlikely to Urban’s Dredd on the big screen again.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
If most casual comic fans were honest they would say they knew little to nothing about Guardians of the Galaxy, like me. In cinema’s era of Marvel this movie took most by surprise, in the most part because it didn’t feature any well known characters and it deviated from how Marvel made movies at the time. Most had a “Marvel feel” about them but Guardians had the lingering touch of a fun sci-fi movies, very much in the class of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and, follow up movie, Serenity.
Who would’ve guessed that a cast led by a, at the time, by an actor who was initially a small character from Parks and Recreation, a former wrestler, a talking trash panda voiced by Bradley Cooper, a walking tree voiced by Vin Diesel and Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, armed with a bucket full of humour and an amazing soundtrack would end up being one of the most popular films of Marvel’s phase 2 slate?
This breath of fresh air in the MCU is worthy of a place on this list and, if comic book films aren’t your thing, it also works beautifully as a sci-fi film that has nearly as good a sequel.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Say what you want about Tom Cruise the person, but Tom Cruise the actor makes good movies, for the most part at least. He’s dabbled in sci-fi over the years, making the very good Minority Report and the very average Oblivion. Edge of Tomorrow might be on the best films on this list.
Its Aliens meets Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day. Tom Cruise plays a smug, weasely Major that has never seen a minute of combat who is cursed to repeat the same day over and over again, eventually rising to the challenge to save Earth from an alien invasion with the help of Emily Blunt’s kick ass Rita.
If that wasn’t enough for you, it also features Bill Paxton in one of his last roles, and he is an absolute joy to behold. Edge of Tomorrow is an exciting, action packed sci-fi movie, that if you haven’t seen, you will wonder how you missed it. Live. Die. Repeat.
This slow-paced sci-fi movie is Alex Garland’s official directorial debut, and with writing credits such as Dredd, Sunshine and 28 Days Later to his name, this is what attracted me to this film in the first place. It explores the creation and implications of artificial intelligence when Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb wins a contest to visit his reclusive CEO’s country retreat, played by Oscar Isaac, and perform the Turing Test on Ava (Alicia Vikander).
What follows is an intriguing thriller that exploring the concept of consciousness and what constitutes life in the claustrophobic and inaccessible retreat and an ending that will have you reflecting upon it hours after you’ve finished watching it.
While everything else on this list so far contains a lot of action and a heavy dose of sci-fi, this is a near future event designed to make the viewer question their feelings on intelligence.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Remakes, prequels or sequels to 1970s/1980s classic movies have not exactly been riddled with success or quality. Just look at Ghostbusters, Robocop and Total Recall, poor to average if we are being kind. Mad Max: Fury Road filled me with the same fear and trepidation when I went to see it. What I got is one of my favourite films of the decade. A film that honours the soul of the original trilogy and excites and impresses on its own.
Stepping into Mel Gibson’s Mad Max shoes is Tom Hardy, captured and used as a blood donor, only to escape and aid Imperator Furiosa (played impressively by Charlize Theron) in an alliance of convenience as she tries to rescue a harem of wives from the clutches of Immortan Joe, a cracking and enjoyable villain.
The film is bonkers, mental, fun, fast-paced feature length chase containing some of the most exciting stunts I’ve seen for a long time and worth every minute of your time. We are still awaiting a sequel, but I can’t wait to see Tom Hardy’s Max Rockatansky again.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The “A Star Wars Story” films were on the wrong end of a cancellation after the average The Force Awakens and the fan-base-splitting The Last Jedi. Out of the new films, I rate Solo and Rogue One as the top 2, and it is not even close, but Rogue One is easily the better of the 2. Rogue One follows the story of how Princess Leia came to have the Death Star plans in A New Hope and follows the story of Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso as she tries to find her place in the galaxy, her father and a purpose.
This is the Star Wars film that recreates the feel of the original trilogy the most. The battles, the locations, the story of redemption, memorable characters, an epic soundtrack and a complete story, it all take you back to the original trilogy and the fondness we have in our hearts for it. It does it no harm either that it contains possibly the best scene featuring Darth Vader too.
It wasn’t that Star Wars fans were pummeled with a lot of Star Wars movies in a short amount of time, it was that we were given unsatisfying sequels to a beloved trilogy. I for one would love to see more Star Wars stories in the future if they are anywhere close to the quality of Rogue One.
Blade Runner: 2049 (2017)
It has been years since a film took the time to immerse me in its world, but that is exactly what the opening act of Blade Runner: 2049 does. It soaks you in the future without its 164 minute run time feeling excessive or bloated. It tells its story at its own pace and the audience can’t help but get carried along for the ride.
Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard but it is Ryan Gosling and his portrayal of Officer K that steals the show. If you want to see a masterclass in subtle and powerful performance, check out the difference between both his baseline scenes. He makes his android character the most human presence in the film and connects with the audience as we feel everything he does during his character arc.
Blade Runner: 2049 is a magnificent film in its own right and still managed to pay homage to the original. I can only describe it as a space opera taking place in a dystopian future on Earth. It is grand yet personal.
He may be part of the X-Men, but at his heart the Wolverine was always a solitary figure. Verging on an anti-hero who did what needed to be done. Based on the Old Man Logan comic, director James Mangold gives us the emotional send off that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine deserves.
In the near future, mutants numbers have dwindled and the X-Men have been obliterated by some accident involving Professor X, Logan has embraced alcohol to numb the pain as his healing abilities fade and he’s waiting to die. Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Jackman give arguably the performance of their careers as they reluctantly help a child in need as she’s hunted by menacing scientists with a dark agenda.
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has taken a misstep here and there over the years, X3 and Wolverine Origin movie, but what a way to finish. This movie will test the emotional restraint of the most stone-faced viewer, but if you watch one X-Men film in your lifetime, this should be it.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The threat of Thanos and the infinity stones finally emerges as the Avengers are scattered over the galaxy as they rush to face this cataclysmic threat posed by the Mad Titan.
Why not Endgame I hear you ask? Simple. This is the stronger movie. Endgame tied up 20 plus Marvel movies in a nice little bow, but Infinity War was the one that took our breath away. For the story it wanted to tell, it was near perfect. It gave us a villain who thought he was the hero, epic action sequences and an ending we will never forget.
There’s probably very few people who haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War, so everyone should know how impressive it is and how much of a fete Marvel pulled off by tying up so many films and characters into the first part of an epic long running saga. Surely that is worth anyone’s time?
This was an incredibly hard list to put together. This decade has seen some truly excellent science fiction movies. Some that just missed out on my list were:
X-Men: Days of Future Past
10 Cloverfield Lane
All of these are worth your time and and I suggest you check them all out.
But it isn’t just the big screen where science fiction is thriving, there are excellent TV shows currently out there; Doctor Who, The Expanse, Stranger Things, The Orville, Altered Carbon, Legion, Westworld, Love, Death and Robots and after a near 20 year absence, Star Trek has returned in the form of Discovery with The Next Generation sequel, Star Trek: Picard, due to debut this coming January. That is simply what is currently on, there’s plenty that has been on and had its run this decade. Whatever your sci-fi tastes, we are in a golden age of it.
What do you make of this list? What are you picks for the best sci-fi movies of the 2010s? Let us know in the comments below…