1) 2001, A Space Odyssey (1968)
Perhaps the hardest to like in this list but undoubtedly the greatest sci-fi film of all time; in 2001 Stanley Kubrick goes, in two hours, from the birth of modern man to the creation of a new species. What occurs in-between is a gripping and awe inspiring adventure that is at once deeply personal yet oddly de-humanising through a near total absence of dialogue. Humanity delves into its past to open up the future, all the while observed by the cold, logical stare of HAL. Watch with an open mind and then re-watch it again, just in case it didn’t make sense the first time around…then maybe give it another go after that too.
2) Close Encounters of a Third Kind (1977)
Why Close Encounters over Steven Spielberg’s mega hit sci-fi film E.T.? As it came before everyone’s favourite extra-terrestrial, it introduced an astonished world to the ground-breaking notion that maybe not all aliens want to kill/enslave/eat us. Well, that and the mashed potato mountain. This is also more adult in its themes (for those of us who like that sort of thing) with the film not being about aliens but about obsession and pursuing your dreams no matter the cost. Truly riveting film making.
3) Aliens (1986)
This was a toss-up between Ridley Scott’s sublime, scary and intense first film and James Cameron’s shoot-‘em-up sequel, but the latter just about edges the contest through its gun-toting mayhem and explosive set pieces. Impossible to dislike, this is edge-of-your-seat film making; think intelligent and artistic Michael Bay and you are as close as you can get to Aliens, as a group of marines and Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley are sent to a distant planet to investigate a suspiciously silent colony. Being a mother figure has never been so badass.
4) Star Wars Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
World famous, endlessly quotable and a magnificent film to boot, the fifth (or second) Star Wars film is undoubtedly the best of the lot. Don’t believe me? Well watch the original three again (not the others) and tell me that the Cloud City sequence is not a masterpiece in drama and tension, that the two revelations at the end didn’t leave you gobsmacked when you first saw them and that you weren’t willing Luke to lift that X-wing from the swamp. Still not convinced? What about arguably the most famous moment in cinema, *obvious spoiler* “I am your father.”? Thought so.
5) Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s essay on what makes us human was a box office failure; but don’t let that stop you from seeing this magnificent film. Harrison Ford’s Deckard reluctantly stalks the streets of a dystopian Los Angeles, hunting a group of violent replicants (robots that look human) intent on escaping their inevitable death. Beautiful, poignant and eerily sad, (you look into those eyes and tell me they aren’t human) this film has rightly gone down as one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. A sequel is scheduled for an unknown date as sci-fi fans watch with apprehensively held breath.