As with horror and fantasy, science fiction has always been an incredibly popular genre, especially in the cinematic medium. Heck, one of the first major film productions was sci-fi, namely Georges Méliès’ Voyage dans la Lune, or A Trip to the Moon, based off the works of the godfather of science fiction himself, Jules Verne. But while sci-fi fandom is arguably the most sincere in the history of genre fiction, it has had difficulties finding acceptance among mainstream awards: in the history of the Academy Awards not a single science fiction movie has won Best Picture, though several—Inception and Gravity chief among them—have received the nomination.
Yet though these films might not win over the Academy voters as a whole, one cannot deny how well they have been received by the critical community at large. The following films are the most critically successful in the history of the sci-fi genre, as per aggregate movie review site Rotten Tomatoes.
(NOTE: percentages denote how many reviews have been positive, and while it seems that the higher the percentage is, the higher-ranked the film would be, RT also factors in the number of reviews for a given film. So while Alien and Gravity have the same percentage of positive reviews, Gravity is ranked higher because it draws from a larger sample size. Statistics!)
10 Forbidden Planet, Fred M. Wilcox, 1956 – 98%
9 Aliens, James Cameron, 1986 – 98%
8 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Irvin Kershner, 1980 – 96%
7 The Terminator, James Cameron, 1984 – 100%
6 WALL-E, Andrew Stanton, 2008 – 96%
5 Star Trek, J.J. Abrams, 2009 – 95%
4 Alien, Ridley Scott, 1979 – 97%
3 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Steven Spielberg, 1982 – 98%
2 Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón, 2013 – 97%
1 Metropolis, Fritz Lang, 1927 – 100%
Rotten Tomatoes’ highest-rated sci-fi film was a masterpiece of the early silent era, depicting classism in a sprawling dystopian city. Among its many distinctions, Metropolis features one of the first depictions of a robot in fiction and also utilized miniatures to depict the sweeping urban centre.
Though it received a mixed reception upon its release, even from sci-fi giant H.G. Wells, it is now considered one of the most ground breaking films in all of cinema, with the late Roger Ebert arguing that its social message is more powerful today than it was for contemporary society.
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