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Editorials

The Best Sci-Fi Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

December 23, 2019
Best Sci-Fi Films of the Decade

‘Dredd’, dir. Pete Travis (2012)

Dredd (hollywoodreporter.com)

As with some of the other films on this list, Dredd deserved to be a massive hit. It is a brilliant, intense and brutal film that dealt with one of the most unappealing comic book “heroes” there ever was – Judge Dredd. I think part of the reason of Dredd’s lack of success is it came out around the same time as The Raid and both films had a similar plot, that being you’re the police trapped in a building and surrounded by enemies. Karl Urban is sensational as Dredd especially as he never removes his helmet and many actors might understandably not want to do this. As brutal as Dredd is he also comes across as very fair, which is important to broadly staying on his side. This has to be one of the films of this decade that I have rewatched the most.


‘Arrival’, dir. Denis Villeneuve (2016)

Arrival (credit: Paramount Pictures)

Denis Villeneuve is on something of a roll and there’s no sign of it stopping any time soon. This film starts off with the premise of Independence Day, big alien spaceships arrive hanging over Earth but that’s where all similarity ends. Whereas Roland Emmerich just wanted to blow stuff up Arrival is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful and emotional science-fiction films ever made. Most of the drama is around learning how to communicate with the aliens who not only have a very different life and understanding of the universe but perceive it in a completely different way. Amy Adams stars as an expert linguist in what is the performance of her career in my opinion, where she deals with the entire gamut of human emotion and experience.


‘Rogue One’, dir. Gareth Edwards (2016)

The cast of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (source: www.beckett.com)

This is the only Star Wars film to make the list and I feel this is easily the strongest of the new films. Rogue One neatly dealt with the biggest plot hole in Star Wars, namely, why did the Death Star have such a weakness. It had a great cast with Ben Mendelsohn on superb villain form and even bringing in actors of such calibre as Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker for what are quite small roles. As we get into the final quarter of the film it becomes pretty apparent what is going to happen to virtually every character in the film and yet it is not a downer ending. The end of the film directly matching up with the beginning of A New Hope was a brilliant idea.


‘Ex Machina’, dir. Alex Garland (2014)

Ex Machina (mashable.com)

Amazingly despite a long Hollywood career, this is Alex Garland’s directorial debut. A film about the creation of artificial intelligence which leads to the viewer asking themselves all sorts of questions about what it means to be alive. A very small cast of Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander, Domnhail Gleeson and Sonoyo Mizuno, all of whom are superb but especially Vikander and Mizuno. The film is essentially an example of the Turing Test, Alan Turing’s thought experiment about how you could judge if a computer had become intelligent. The scene of Isaac and Mizuno dancing was at once entertaining and deeply unsettling and is one of the most memorable scenes of the decade. There is a lot of mystery in this film with questions being asked about exactly what, and who, is being tested. The 2010s have been a very good decade for Oscar Isaac, starting with a small part in Drive to starring in the Star Wars trilogy.


‘Blade Runner 2049’, dir. Denis Villeneuve (2017)

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 (credit: Warner Bros.)

This is what Denis Villeneuve did after Arrival, creating a sequel to possibly the most influential sci-fi film ever, and in my opinion, he pulled it off. Blade Runner 2049 is a great film in its own right as well as a suitable continuation of The Blade Runner story. Whereas the original had Harrison Ford playing someone who hunts replicants, Gosling is a replicant who hunts replicants. Not surprisingly this brings up mixed feelings in Gosling’s character over the course of the film. The film brings in it’s own original ideas like Gosling’s holographic girlfriend Joi and the prospect of an evolution in replicant, and human, life.


‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, dir. James Gunn (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (credit: Disney)

I had a long think about what, if any, superhero films should be on the list. I normally consider most superhero films a sub-genre of sci-fi but I decided to exclude most of them, one of the two exceptions being Guardians of the Galaxy, as this felt far more like a space-adventure Sci-Fi film than a superhero one. This film was a wonderful surprise, it was not a comic I was at all familiar with and when I saw a trailer with a talking raccoon and walking tree I admit to not being terribly enthusiastic. My reservations were blown away from Peter Quill’s scene dancing across an alien landscape. All of the other “guardians” made their mark from the literal-minded Drax to even verbally challenged Groot. As well as being action-filled there was a surprising amount of emotion.


‘The World’s End’, dir. Edgar Wright (2013)

The World’s End (source: rogersmovienation.com)

The partnership between Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg must surely be one of the greatest between director and writer. The World’s End is the last of the so-called Cornetto Trilogy – Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, and while this is the weakest of the three it is still an amazing movie. In a film about robots duplicating people and trying to take over the world it could be argued the film is more about friendship and trying to deal with life. Pegg plays the often very unsympathetic character of Gary King who has never really gotten over his life as a teenager, still chasing that feeling. King reunites his old school friends for a pub crawl which includes emotional moments about bullying, alcoholism and the meaning of life with pulling the heads off robots.


‘Edge of Tomorrow’ dir. Doug Liman (2014)

Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live. Die. Repeat) (credit: Warner Bros.)

This is a truly sensational film and in any sensible universe would have been one of the biggest hits of the decade. Based around the very clever idea of time resetting itself whenever the protagonist died everything in the film is practically perfect – Tom Cruise’s smarmy advertising executive who slowly becomes the hero, Emily Blunt as outright badass and the wonderful playing around with time, death and causality. The “jacket” – the slightly over the top metal exoskeleton leads to some of the best action scenes of the decade with Cruise and Blunt having enormous fun exploring just what these jackets can do. Like I said, it’s a practically perfect film, if this passed you by watch it.


‘Inception’, dir. Christopher Nolan (2010)

Christopher Nolan - Inception
The cast of Inception (credit: Warner Bros.)

I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan who I think is one of the most important and talented filmmakers of the 21st century, equally adept at intricate and unusual films like Memento and The Prestige to huge blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Dunkirk. Inception was made coming off the high of The Dark Knight and it was a worthy followup. A film about entering dreams to steal knowledge or even implant ideas – inception – it handles dealing with numerous different levels of reality deftly while creating stunning and groundbreaking special effects. The gravity distorting fight scene between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and various bad guys is truly exceptional. And then we start thinking about the clever games Nolan played with the soundtrack and trying to distinguish what is reality just elevates it to an even higher level. It’s hard to imagine another director taking on this project and being commercially and critically successful.


‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, dir George Miller (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road ( source: nytimes.com)

To me, this is not only the best sci-fi film of the decade but the best film. A film that had dazzling non-CGI special effects, spectacular action scenes and unforgettable cinematography that also had an unbelievable amount of heart and great characterisation. The instant the film finished I knew I had to see it again as soon as possible and that it was already one of my favourite ever films. Charlize Theron and George Martin deserved Oscars for this film and credit is due to Tom Hardy in being able to accept being the supporting player in a film with his character’s name in the title. If there is any doubt about the fact that it is Theron’s Furiosa who is the central character those are blown apart when Furiosa literally uses Max as a gun rest. Often when asked the question of what is my favourite film ever/of the year/of the decade I go down a long road to weighing up many different great films but not for this list- Mad Max; Fury Road was always going to be first.

Also Read: The Best Action Films of the Decade.

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Richard Norton
Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.