The Most Popular Science Fiction Films of All Time

Starting with A Trip to the Moon, science fiction has always been one of the most popular genres of film making. In fact, most of the top grossing films of all time have been science fiction films. In this article, I will discuss the five most popular science fiction films of all time, and comment on what made them great (or in one case, very popular):

#5 Spider-Man (2002): Having its box-office potential ruined for thirty years by the cheesy cartoon of the 1970s didn’t stop Spider-Man from being one of the most popular science fiction films of all time. Director Sam Raimi played with the Spider-Man mythology, taking most of his plot points from the Green Goblin stories of the early 1970s. However, instead of using Gwen Stacey, he used Kirsten Dunst in the role of Mary Jane Watson. This added some tension for the dedicated Spider-Man fan as, in those stories, the girl dies at the end.

#4 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999): Yes, the movie was terrible (though not quite as terrible as Episode II). However, the movie was so highly anticipated, it shattered many box office records. The story followed a young Anakin Skywalker through his discovery of his powers and his introduction to Padme, the mother of Luke and Leia. Despite poor reviews, the film was fun and light, and only occasionally hinted at the darkness that lay ahead for these characters.

#3 E.T. (1982): On top of being a science fiction film, E.T. was also one of the most beloved family films of all time. The move followed the relationship between lonely boy Elliott and his new friend, an alien from another planet whom he named E.T. The move was alternatively touching and scary, and was a central point of many children’s film lives. It also gave us product placement in cinema, lifting Reese’s Pieces from obscurity to one of the most popular candies.

#2 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977): At the time, this film was just known as Star Wars, and it completely revolutionized the movie industry. Before this film, no one had ever heard of the “blockbuster.” Afterwards, every summer dozens of movies were made in the hopes of being the film of the summer. Aside from E.T., none of the other films on this list could have existed without Star Wars. It was a also a grand, beautiful vision of a future world, where monks and technology interacted in a battle for the future (or rather, for the past “long, long ago”)

#1 Avatar (2009): For over a decade, no film had been able to dethrone James Cameron’s Titanic as the top-grossing film of all time until James Cameron came along and decided to do it again. Avatar is a fascinating science fiction film, in which computers are used to control other bodies, aliens exist and an entire planet seems to be a single organism. The special effects are absolutely breathtaking, and we find ourselves switching sides as the film goes on.

As you can see, many of the top films of the last thirty years have been science fiction films, most of them made possible by Star Wars and its vision of the science fiction blockbuster.