10 Best Sci-Fi Movies of The Decade (2010s)
10 Best Sci-Fi Movies of The 2010s: Science fiction is one if not the most influential genre of film. The reason being that it can be molded to whatever you please. It can be an action epic, a dystopian drama, a convoluted romance, a terrifying omen. In all of its forms, it permits us to tell incredible stories of humanity in heightened ways like no other genre. There might be a case among cinephiles, where they might believe that the genre is not what it used to be, but the genre has not perished. It has evolved into an inspiring field for all types of audiences to enjoy.
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Many new prospects have set foot on the genre to tell stories of oppression, love, grief, desire, happiness all blended into a single experience that could leave anyone in awe. Science fiction is a rare gem that can jump through mediums, from films to literature to radio shows. The 2010s were not different from previous decades when it comes to this genre. We will now explore 10 of the most impactful pieces that the new generation of filmmakers had to offer, proving again and again its lack of age and extraordinary connection to who we are and who we want to be.
10. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
The spiritual sequel to Matt Reeves’ found-footage monster film brings thrills and chills to a classic Hitchcockian mystery. Here, we follow Michelle, a wannabe fashion designer who gets into a car accident and wakes up in a doomsday bunker where a man claims that the world above has been destroyed by an airborne chemical attack. It will be up to her to decide whether she will stay inside with a dangerous conspiracy theorist or go outside and face a force beyond human comprehension. Leaving the found-footage trope behind, 10 Cloverfield Lane marked an interesting and exciting debut for youtuber turned filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg.
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Lane is the perfect blueprint for a directorial debut and a studio’s dream, low-budget, smart but accessible, a popular genre, little to no need for advertising, anchored by impressive directing, incredible performances and tied into a pre-existing franchise. John Goodman didn’t have to deliver one of the best performances of his career, but nonetheless he did. The outstanding writing keeps the suspense and pacing on par with each other, revealing the mystery in a slow, masterful way. A claustrophobic setting added to a little Spielberg spark will keep you on the edge of your seat through a journey of dread and desperation.
9. Looper (2012)
Despite the terrible prosthetic job, Looper is a stunning piece of electric sci-fi. Rian Johnson follows The Brothers Bloom and Brick with a western time travel thriller for the ages (literally). In Looper, time travel does not exist, but it will, and then it will become illegal and available only in the depths of the black market. To get rid of someone, you could send this person 30 years in the past, where a looper is waiting to complete the task. Joe is living the good life until one day his target is himself.
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The world-building is what makes Looper stand out from the crowd. Johnson brings a unique vision of a future that is not so different from the past. A future filled with corruption where the smartest thing to do is to look away, something that audiences will find very difficult once the film starts. Looper’s multiple layers from the outstanding writing benefit from multiple viewings where you invest yourself deeper and deeper into this world of supernatural action. Extremely entertaining, action-packed, moving at times and overall perfectly detailed, if you are looking for a fast, fun and smart watch look no further than Rian Johnson’s twisted sci-fi accomplishment.
Watch Looper on Hulu
8. Upstream Color (2013)
Now we move to what it’s probably one of the mind-boggling films ever made. Shane Carruth made a name for himself with 2004’s Primer, which has since become a cult classic due to its complex plot. Upstream Color has nothing to envy from Primer when it comes to complexity, but while Primer is like an octagonal rubik’s cube, Upstream Color is more of a Jackson Pollock painting. In true Carruth style, this story puts the sci-fi on the backseat while still being woven into its DNA. We meet Kris and Jeff, two people affected by a strange parasite that will make their lives fall apart, and it’s up to them to pick up the pieces of their fragmented identities.
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The narrative distances itself from straightforward storytelling and expands into a puzzling allegory. The real magic of this film is how light the plot feels, but at the end the plot is not important. Upstream Color is not an easy watch to be fair. It contains itself to a kaleidoscope of philosophical elements that may or may not lead somewhere. A beautiful romance under mysterious and somber circumstances, Upstream Color will hypnotize you and make you wonder who we really are in this vast global storyline.
7. Inception (2010)
Just to get it out of the way, this is the only Christopher Nolan film on this list. This 2010 sci-fi heist film is an ambitious and mind-bending masterpiece. Inception is an incredible journey from beginning to end, fast paced, action packed and meticulously crafted. Inception follows Dom Cobb, a corporate spy that uses classified military technology to enter other people’s subconscious. Cobb will receive an offer to recover his old life in exchange of planting an idea on someone else’s mind, a risky process known as Inception.
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Inception has been a cultural phenomenon since its premiere. It brought new life to the action genre, and showed what this genre is capable of. Hans Zimmer brings one of his best scores to date intertwined with innovative action sequences that will take your breath away with every single watch. With a behind the scenes team at the top of their game, Nolan takes one of the most convoluted concepts ever created into his most impressive directing feat to date. He might be criticized for the lack of emotions in his film, but he truly compensates by delivering a true cinematic experience like none other that will make several jaws drop with a cathartic bliss.
Watch Inception on Netflix
6. Her (2013)
A Spike Jonze love story. While the rest of the films on this list may borrow from previous works, Her is like nothing you have ever seen before. A transcendental look into the not so distant future where we find Theodore, a writer who purchases an operating system to meet all his needs, to his surprise a romance sparks between him and the operating system. Jonze blends the heights of romance with subtle science fiction on an exploration of love. Despite the odd premise, Her feels incredibly real. This strange love story is told without judgment and second guesses.
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In an era where most of us question how far technology should get and how it affects us negatively, Her provides the complete opposite view of this stance. What we get is a relationship blooming against all odds. Theodore is one of the most human characters written this decade, anchored by a courageous performance from Joaquin Phoenix. There’s a line in the film where Theodore’s ex wife Catherine, played by Rooney Mara, tells him “It makes me sad that you are not able to feel real emotion” which is ironic after the credits roll and you realize that his emotions were the most real throughout.
5. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic is a magnificent slow burn. Set 30 years after the first film, we focus on a new blade runner, Officer K, who stumbles upon a buried secret that could destroy the world as they know it. He then goes on a quest to find Rick Deckard, our original protagonist who has been missing for 30 years, to get some light on a mystery that risks Officer K’s identity and overall, his own origins. With 2049, we see a pattern when it comes to modern sci-fi, an exploration of the human condition and identity.
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2049 is about acceptance of who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s an elegant tragedy that will bring you to tears, due to the resonant message or the stunning visual effects and cinematography. The acting in this film is something very difficult to achieve since it requires a subtle performance, a quiet case that expresses a thousand emotions in a single scene. It is outstanding how beautiful 2049 looks despite the fact that it inhabits a grim world with no sunlight, just acid rain and a race on the brink of extinction terrified by the advancement of artificial intelligence.
Read The Complete Review of Blade Runner 2049 Here
4. The Lobster (2015)
Yorgos Lanthimos makes his English debut with a surreal dark comedy with sci-fi elements that will disturb and affect you in many ways. In a dystopian world, people who have failed to find a partner are sent to The Hotel, where within 45 days they must find a partner or they will be transformed into an animal of their choosing and will be released into the world, with hopes to finally find a partner as a new species. Pretty strange, right? You would be right making this assumption. Lanthimos’ works are always an enigma. From Dogtooth to The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Favourite, The Lobster still stands out as his best work to date.
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Lanthimos provides an absurdist satire that may have one of the best screenplays of the decade. Original, upsetting, hilarious and sad. The Lobster is a roller coaster of emotions that grabs you by the throat and does not let go. The insight into human relationship is the heart of this bizarre fable, which at times gets really stupid in the best possible way. It is ambiguous and has more questions than answers, but overall it’s a unique incredible experience that not many films provide.
Read The Complete Review of The Lobster Here
Watch The Lobster on Netflix
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The fourth installment of George Miller’s post-apocalyptic franchise is nothing short of spectacular. We live, we die and we live again throughout the 2 hours running time of what could be considered one of the biggest action masterpieces ever made. Despite having almost no dialogue and a simple plot, Fury Road is impactful due to its visual delight and overwhelming practical effects. Tom Hardy takes over the role from Mel Gibson, and he does a fine job, but this film truly belongs to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa. She brings her signature on-screen presence to a character that deserves to be placed up there to the list of best female characters ever written.
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Fury Road realizes Miller’s full potential and vision with breathtaking action sequences. You can feel the tension and hopelessness of these characters fighting to survive one day at a time. As general knowledge on the film, Miller and his team spent around 8 years coordinating stunts, building the cars from scratch, developing the story and trying to convince John Seale to come out of retirement to shoot it, so we could get a fuel-induced trip that will please both the casual viewer and the madman cinephile. Needles to say, a journey down the fury road needs to be taken at least once.
2. Ex Machina (2014)
Alex Garland has been around for a while, known for writing underrated gems such as 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Dredd, etc, but it was only until his directorial debut Ex Machina that he leveled up to auteur. We meet Caleb, a young coder working at the biggest search engine company on the planet. He wins a contest for a one week retreat to an isolated mansion belonging to the enigmatic CEO, here he realizes the true intentions of the contest. He was brought to take part in an experiment where he interacts with the most advanced artificial intelligence. The title comes from the greek phrase Deus Ex Machina meaning God from Machine.
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Ex Machina is a disturbing tour-de-force that brings a new revelation to the A.I. theories through classic film tropes. It is a breath of fresh air and a modern science fiction classic filled with religious allegory. Let’s not forget, of course, about the Oscar Isaac dance sequence they may play for laughs, but there is truly something sinister lurking in the shadows, just like Ava’s consciousness development. Ex Machina is a story about men playing gods, something we have seen countless times but never under this light.
Watch Ex Machina on Netflix
1. Arrival (2016)
Arrival is not only the best science fiction film of the decade, but the second best overall, just behind The Social Network. Denis Villeneuve’s alien drama is a religious experience. Taking place after the arrival of 12 UFOs on different places on the planet, an expert in linguistics is recruited to try to decipher their language and whether they are friends or foes. Based on the short story “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, Arrival is an unpredictable masterpiece that is perfect in every way. Villeneuve’s direction mixed with Bradford Young impeccable cinematography anchor one of the best screenplays ever written along with Amy Adams’ best performance to date.
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Arrival is an extraordinary piece of art that goes beyond entertainment. Films like this are not made very often, and they are the reason why cinema is such an inspiring medium. Right from the gut-wrenching open scene to the final shot, Arrival will have you sobbing with catharsis, and will make you wonder if perfection truly exists because you are looking right at it. There are days that define your story beyond your life, like the day Arrival premiered in theaters to inspire us all. It will leave you speechless with joy.