In all of film, the science fiction is a beast unto itself. Not only is the genre beholden to the traditional elements that make a good story worth watching, but science fiction is also tasked with a challenge wholly its own. In addition to crafting an exciting story and complex characters, to be truly successful, a sci-fi movie must do two things well. First, it’s got to engage the viewer’s imagination. Rather than simply plaster fantastical images across the screen with little relevance (ahem, Michael Bay), a good science fiction movie must play a “tip of the iceberg” game in which their stories hint at extensive worlds lying just beyond the wondrous confines of the story. Good sci-fi movies of the last century, like Star Wars, ignited their viewers imagination to the extent that countless writers and artists have dreamed up their own little corners of a galaxy far, far away. The second thing a good science fiction movie needs to do is to get the public thinking about the unimaginable in realistic terms. Before you laugh, just think about all the cool electronics and futuristic doodads that surround us on a daily basis. Those were all thought of by fans of Star Trek. Okay, not really, but good science fiction presents a world that bridges the gap between our day-to-day and something beautiful (or terrible, depending). Unlike regular old drama, or a humdrum action flick, or even a detail-oriented costume drama, science fiction must engage its audience and show them a view of the possible future while showing humanity a glimpse of the everyday. As special effects improve and auteurs become more adventurous, sci-fi is ascending to never-before-seen heights. Here, for your consideration, are some of the best of the new millennium.
10. Gravity (2013)
Without a doubt, director Alfonso Cuarón has created some of the most inventive science fiction films of the new millennium (he also directed the best Harry Potter movie, too). In 2013, Cuarón did the impossible by lending real critical (and award season) legitimacy to a science fiction film when he stranded Sandra Bullock in space. In Gravity, Cuarón uses amazing long takes and real world technology to spin an adventure story that sees that girl from the bus try to find her way home in the wake of a (gorgeously shot) disaster in space.