This weekend marks the return of Vin Diesel as “Riddick” to the big screen in the sci-fi sequel aptly named Riddick. As we prepare to see if this third outing will do better or worse than its predecessors, let’s take a look at some of the best sci-fi has had to offer us in recent years.
10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Though it doesn’t have the same mind-bending reveal as the original film, this prequel (that isn’t really a prequel) impressed both critics and audiences with its fantastic special effects and writing. The sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is due out in 2014.
9. Avatar (2009)
Avatar may not be the most original sci-fi film on this list, but it’s easily one of the prettiest, boasting visuals and scenery that impresses almost 4 years later. Three more movies will be coming to theaters, starting with Avatar 2 in 2016.
8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Though more of a sub-genre of science fiction, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was an incredibly risky jaunt in an alternate world where reality and video games are one in the same. Though it was lauded by critics for its originality and sharp writing, the film didn’t make a splash with general audiences.
7. Star Trek (2009)
Handling the delicate property of the Star Trek franchise is no easy task, but J.J. Abrams managed to please just about every type of moviegoer who went to see this reboot. Star Trek was filled with enough exciting action and time travel to cement itself within a new generation of sci-fi lovers.
6. Children of Men (2006)
This sleeper UK hit reminded all of us just how inventive sc-fi can be in the right hands. One of the few dystopian movies on this list, Children of Men explored a world where infertility is a disease, and the last hope for humanity is something we consider inhuman (the unborn child).
5. Minority Report (2002)
Another inventive sci-fi film, Minority Report combined sci-fi with police noir, which was received very well with critics and audiences. The movie presented a near-future world where crimes can be predicted and regulated to great efficiency. What gave this story much merit was its fearless application of philosophical themes, such as free will and determinism.
4. WALL-E (2008)
It should be no surprise that the one animated film to make this list would come from Pixar. WALL-E is quite the accomplishment in storytelling and an almost preachy depiction of the future. This movie is easily one of the best animated sci-fi films of all time, if only because it manages to balance great characters and a superb story with almost no dialogue or human characters.
3. The Matrix (1999)
Because it’s just barely out of reach in terms of this past decade, The Matrix only makes the #3 spot, though it is generally considered to be one of sci-fi’s all-time best movies. Integrating philosophy with a mind-bending premise, this movie blew audiences away 14 years ago, and it was one of the first sci-fi films to thoroughly invade pop culture. There are few other sci-fi movies that would’ve sent us into the 21st Century with such finesse.
2. District 9 (2009)
In a summer when audiences were pummeled with the lackluster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson gave us a robots and alien movie that truly delivered. Balancing the themes of apartheid and high-octane action, District 9 cleverly took a gimmicky premise (what if aliens were sectioned off in South Africa?) and layered it with gritty, jaw-dropping storytelling that traded predictability for big ideas.
1. Inception (2010)
One of the most ambitious movies of the last decade (period), Inception seizes the top spot for its ability to be a smart movie for casual and hardcore moviegoers. The former experienced a confusing movie that was still thoroughly entertaining thanks to top-notch special effects and a fantastic cast. The more careful moviegoers experienced a movie that was written with so much subtext and hidden meanings, even the brightest of us ended up scratching our heads. Inception took a fun idea (a “dream within a dream” heist) and blew it out of the park with mind-bending rules and an interesting new world for us to fall in love with. Its superb storytelling, exciting action and attention to detail make it my pick for best sci-fi movie of the last decade.