The decade is coming to a close, and it was a great one for sci-fi movies. Every year since 2010, fans have been treated to loads of impressive science-fiction films, as new technology has arguably made the genre greater than ever. But what were the absolute best of the decade? While it was certainly hard to whittle it down, we believe we’ve come up with a pretty good representation of the best sci-fi movies of the 2010s, so take a look below to find out what they are.
Disclaimer: For the list, movies must be science-fiction first above all other genres. Hence the exclusion of certain superhero movies and dystopian films that are light on traditional science-fiction elements.
1. Inception (2010)
Christopher Nolan kicked the decade off with a bang with this now-iconic mind-bender. A movie about altering people’s dreams, the film’s story and special effects were both about as out-there as you can get, which is what good science-fiction should be.
2. Looper (2012)
Before he directed the most divisive Star Wars movie ever, Rian Johnson helmed this stellar time-travel actioner. The film’s third act may be a little too much for some, but overall Looper is the type of daring and refreshingly original sci-fi movie that only comes around every so often.
3. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
An alien invasion movie with a timey-wimey twist makes this sci-fi epic a blast on practically every level. Combine its unique story with stellar action and two charismatic leads in Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, and you’ve got yourself one heckuva movie.
4. Ex-Machina (2014)
Alex Garland injected some philosophy and ethics into the sci-fi genre with this brilliant drama about artificial intelligence. The film is an example of science-fiction as high art, and it went a long way toward granting more critical recognition for the oft-overlooked genre.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
It may be under the Marvel banner, but Guardians of the Galaxy is no superhero movie. This is a grand space opera with the type of memorable characters, quotable lines, and strange creatures not seen since the original Star Wars. The soundtrack’s not half-bad, either.
6. Interstellar (2014)
Few sci-fi films in recent memory caused its viewers to think as much as this Nolan masterpiece. The film’s stunning special effects, impressive roster of Hollywood heavy-hitters at the top of their game, and its blending of hard sci-fi and spirituality all help to ensure that Interstellar will be a film that’s discussed for decades.
7. Snowpiercer (2014)
This post-apocalyptic thriller takes place entirely on a train that’s speeding across a frozen wasteland, and it’s amazing. The mono location works wonders for the plot, building tension in a way that most other sci-fi films, with their often expansive settings, just can’t match.
8. Arrival (2016)
In case it wasn’t obvious by now, this was the decade when sci-fi grew up and got serious (and possibly earned a philosophy degree). Denis Villeneuve’s drama, which was nominated for eight Oscars, tells an incredibly different kind of alien invasion story that goes to some wildly unexpected places. Good science-fiction should challenge its viewers, and that’s exactly what Arrival does.
9. Blade Runner: 2049 (2017)
The idea of a follow-up sequel to Blade Runner, a 35-year-old film that’s regarded as one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, seemed like a very bad idea. And yet, in the hands of Villeneuve, it ended up being one of the most intelligent and gorgeous films in recent memories. Some fans and critics even consider it better than the original, and while we wouldn’t go that far, it is still one impressive achievement.
10. Annihilation (2018)
As evidenced by this list, three directors dominated and reshaped science-fiction in the 2010s: Christopher Nolan, Denis Villeneuve, and the director of this film, Alex Garland. With Annihilation, Garland seemed to take everything he learned on Ex Machina and turned it up to eleven. The movie is more thought-provoking, more haunting, more thrilling, more visually stunning, and just more impressive overall.