25 Most Mind
Science fiction has allowed us to see impossible worlds. These are the sci-fi movies that completely opened our minds to new ideas and visions.
If there's a theatrical experience that people are apt to remember vividly, it probably has to do with watching a sci-fi film on the big screen. Whether it's Star Wars, Avatar, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or E.T., the first sci-fi films that young people watch, especially if it's on a huge screen, bring to life ideas that, up to that point, only existed in the imagination. Whether the film was thrilling, calm, emotional, or just scary, chances are that moment became part of a collection of experiences that people are able to tell over and over without missing details.
Sci-fi is responsible for such an effect. It's the materialization of unimaginable worlds that are only possible through story arcs that are well-suited for cinema. With its ability to dramatize fantastical scenarios, sci-fi is specifically suited to explore complex, bold, and mind-broadening ideas. That and the constant evolution of technology makes sci-fi much more realistic in modern cinema.
These are the most mind-blowing sci-fi films in history so far.
In director Guillermo del Toro's superb homage to yet another corner of his mind, he goes for full-scale battles between massive robots and equally destructive sea creatures. It's definitely an underrated film that's unlike any other del Toro joint. That doesn't mean it doesn't fit well into his career. Try to imagine a robot using an oil tanker ship as a sword, and that's Pacific Rim. It's a radical envisioning of classic Japanese kaiju movies, combined with the exponential growth of modern technology, and the result is a literally towering film that makes the Transformers films feel small.
In Christopher Nolan's film about dreams, Inception, a series of criminals are able to plant a seed in your mind. How? Dreams are built like layers and people are able to explore them, voluntarily traveling between each. But there's a catch, which you will have to see for yourself in Nolan's sci-fi masterpiece, a mainstream extravaganza that mimics art films in a fascinating way. Nobody in the film industry (or really any other industry) had been able to precisely and perfectly portray how dreams work, but Nolan gets about as close as possible here, making a great attempt that's still mind-bending to this day.
Alex Garland's slow-burn thriller about our relationship with AI is insanely interesting. It tells the story of a programmer who's commissioned to perform a Turing test on a robot designed by a wealthy visionary. Things don't turn out for the best in a bleak film about the near future and our perception of another intelligent being whose only objective is being able to feel. After watching Ex Machina, you will think again before chatting with robots about your feelings. If anything, this is the perfect nightmare for anyone paranoid about ChatGPT and other AI.
Related: Best Movies About Sentient Artificial Intelligence
In Denis Villeneuve's Dune, an adventure just begins. The novel by Frank Herbert was thought to be impossible to shoot, and we all know what happened with Jodorowsky and Lynch's attempts at Dune. However, the sci-fi epic by one of modern cinema's indispensable filmmakers proved the impossible to be possible. It's about scope, of course, but it's also about following the narrative logic of a story that has just begun.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by Michel Gondry is a mind-bending romantic film that goes to weird places in order to make its point. It tells the story of a man who decided to get their memory erased in order to help with a bad break-up and a broken heart. It may sound silly, but the result is a visually stunning journey across the oceans of synapses, regret, and memories being formed and instantly lost. You have never seen one like this.
Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey is an enigma that you can interpret any way you want, and we guarantee the answer will vary from what the person next to you will come up with. It's personal, existential, and stunning, and however you explain 2001: A Great Odyssey, the experience of watching it is unforgettable.
It's no wonder it's considered a rule-changer in the history of films when it portrayed non-existent technology being able to dance in the skies, hypnotizing viewers into thinking the future was possible — but is it any good? A machine named HAL 9000 will make you change your mind about communicating with ChatGPT today.
Danny Boyle's Sunshine is a curious case of genres shifting without causing chaos in the story. In it, a group of astronauts is responsible for literally keeping the world illuminated, when the mission is disrupted by accidents, isolation, and more we won't reveal. It still looks and sounds great to this day, even when the story enters horror territory and confidently stays there and makes us think perhaps space journeys aren't as ideal as we thought.
In Nolan's Interstellar, the concept of time is explored with a complex script that's never too oblique to decrypt; that's the beauty of Nolan's films (except, perhaps, Tenet). In the midst of inevitable confusion, you feel like you're part of something bigger. His films aren't usually emotional, but this one is loaded with an existential tone that's greatly helped by impeccable performances. And those CGI effects? Truly amazing.
Related: 11 Great Foreign Sci-Fi Movies Worth Checking Out
In The Fountain, one of Darren Aronofsky's lesser-known films, love and fate are the essence of three storylines portraying characters played by the same actors. Is it a take on immortality? Or reincarnation? We won't spoil it further, as this underrated film by one of modern cinema's most interesting filmmakers is one you have to see for yourselves (and features perhaps Hugh Jackman's most underrated performance).
The Matrix is more of an action thriller today if we think about it, but in the essence of its story, we are talking about dirty, aggressive, and intellectual science fiction.
Simulation is huge as a theme, but let's not forget those jarring sequences where we see our future: huge robotic machines that use us as batteries for their own fueling systems so that they keep dominating us. The future was never this bleak. Sure, mind-blowing, but bleak all the same.
Cult followers have turned Coherence into a widely known film years after it was released. There's a chance you've actually seen some images online without knowing they are from an outstanding sci-fi film that you just have to see to believe.
It tells the story of a dinner party that turns into a journey for solving a mystery of time loops and doppelgängers that materialize during the course of the night. It's an unbelievably small film that's way more important than you think because of where it dares to go with its bold story.
In this low-concept existential film by Claire Denis, criminals are sent to space and experimented upon when getting closer to black holes. There's not much of a structure in the film's narrative but the nightmare-like setting where the film takes place is appropriate, to say the least, and the disturbing performances from everyone involved (including a wonderful Robert Pattinson) are haunting.
The film by one of France's most interesting directors is on its way to becoming a cult classic. Just give High Life a few more years, and you'll see what we mean.
Stalker is considered by many to be the greatest sci-fi ever made, and there is a reason. This existentialism-based film by Andrei Tarkovsky is a mystery itself.
From lost footage to unexplained decisions by its director, the film is shrouded under a veil of mystery that only gets more interesting with the plot. It tells the story of a rural area in which desires can come true and men decide to explore. This is an essential film that everyone should watch at some point in their life.
The best film by Alex Proyas is a sci-fi noir that reveals its most powerful resource very early in the film, but it never loses steam. Dark City tells the story of an alien society that has the capacity to change our world, reset our minds, and control us in every aspect until one man goes too far in uncovering something much bigger about our existence. It has one of the greatest twist endings of all time and a visual atmosphere that gets better each time you watch it.
Panos Cosmatos' Beyond the Black Rainbow is a film you will never forget. It's visually burdening, and it's filled with imagery and sounds that will have an effect on you contrary to the usual ones. This is much more of a hypnosis session than it is a movie about a mad scientist who goes all the way to prove a point. When it comes to mind-blowing films, this is one that always shows up on these lists.
Solaris by Tarkovsky is an interesting take on existentialism within a romantic story set in outer space. But this isn't the romance you're used to, as an astronaut questions his own mind when his spouse appears on his spaceship against all odds and an emotional crisis ensues. It's beautifully acted, and it's got that identity so typical of Tarkovsky sci-fi dramas. Steven Soderbergh's much shorter version with George Clooney plays well alongside this one, and its visuals and score are also outstanding.
Related: Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time, Ranked
Alex Garland's Annihilation, a group of scientists must come up with a solution for an enigma about a place in the forest where physics and logic are non-existent, mutations have occurred, and alien intelligence is suspected. It's a vague explanation for what is actually happening in this place called "the Shimmer." Natalie Portman stars in the underrated film that has gained a cult following throughout the years. Never has a bear been as menacing and scary as it was in this one.
Gravity is all about scale and the audience's involvement in the immersive experience that's insanely better with a huge screen. Alfonso Cuarón's sci-fi thriller doesn't pull any cheap moves with an astronaut's journey to survive being stranded in lonely outer space. It's a visual triumph by all means, and it will make you think you're out there. Some of us will never forget watching this one for the very first time, but it's probably because we saw it in 3-D on IMAX, right? Avatar aside, Gravity is possibly the greatest 3-D film ever made.
The Daniels were responsible for creating multiple worlds in 2022's Everything Everywhere All at Once, a heavy trip of a movie that confirmed anything's possible with clever filmmaking and the confidence of production studios who can give you a go against all odds. It tells the story of a woman who finds out she may be the most important player in a battle for dominating multiple dimensions in which yes, she exists as entirely different... things. This is one you have to see to believe, and you will probably have to dig in obscure movie catalogs to find one as important as this in regard to creative freedom.
Ridley Scott's Blade Runner allowed us to live in a future that's bleak and menacing. You definitely won't want to live in this one where robots and humans have to find some way to come to an agreement. Nevertheless, it's a violent story about annihilation in every possible way. The world created by Scott was only seen in its surface, and we didn't see what goes on below, but in Blade Runner 2049, a new vision allowed us to go deeper. They're two films that go extremely well with each other, despite what some fans say.
Related: 11 Other Planets in Sci-Fi Movies That Would Be Better to Live on Than Earth
Federico is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic, OFCS member, and a horror film buff who writes about films whenever he isn't watching them,sci-fi MOVIEWEB VIDEO OF THE DAY SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT Pacific Rim Inception Ex Machina Dune Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 2001: A Space Odyssey Sunshine Interstellar The Fountain The Matrix Coherence High Life Stalker Dark City Beyond the Black Rainbow Solaris Annihilation Gravity Everything Everywhere All at Once Blade Runner