For many years, I’ve used the IMDb Top 250 as a guide for determining which movies are most worthy of my viewing time. Lately, however, it seems as though a great deal of mediocre new releases have been receiving high marks on the IMDb rating system, leaving little room for classic films on the Top 250 list. As a science fiction fan, I thought I should cover at least ten influential sci-fi/horror offerings that belong in the IMDb Top 250 (more selections will follow in the upcoming weeks).
10) Predator (1987)
While completing a rescue mission, a Special Forces team encounters an alien hunter in South America. Combining action movie tropes with a claustrophobic jungle setting, Predator deserves a place among similar films on the IMDb Top 250 list. In addition to its original and captivating premise, this offering contains some of the most iconic dialogue ever spoken by Arnold Schwarzenegger—another factor that establishes Predator as a more memorable, entertaining, and quotable sci-fi/action film than any sequels or spin-offs to date.
See also: Predator 2, Alien vs. Predator, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, and Predators
9) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
After the underwhelming box office performance of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, director Nicholas Meyer managed to redeem the Star Trek movie franchise by returning to the original series for inspiration. Featuring the death of Spock, a cunning villain, and a powerful lesson on accepting old age with grace and dignity, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan earns a higher rating than the 7.7/10 currently listed on IMDb. (For comparison, J. J. Abrams’ uneven Star Trek reboot holds an 8/10 rating on IMDb and maintained a spot on the Top 250 list until 2014.)
See also: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
8) Frankenstein (1931)
Though more gothic horror than hard science fiction, James Whale’s Frankenstein offers a profound but subtle commentary on the dangers of “playing God” with the forces of nature—a message that few monster movies have since explored with such haunting effect. Showcasing creepy castles, cadaverous make-up appliances, and the chilling mannerisms of a gaunt Boris Karloff, this Universal Monster classic should be requisite viewing for sci-fi/horror fans of all ages.
See also: Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
7) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Upon ingesting a potion, the charitable Henry Jekyll transforms into a cruel, simian creature known as Edward Hyde. Similar to Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fails to explore the scientific aspects of its central plot device. However, by retaining Robert Louis Stevenson’s original themes concerning the duality of man, this film employs science fiction as a vehicle for examining human nature—a hallmark of every classic sci-fi/horror movie.
See also: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), and The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
6) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
In San Francisco, alien lifeforms begin replacing the human population with a race of “pod people.” Abandoning the small-town setting of the original classic, the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake provides a chilling look into urban isolation, modern social disconnectedness, and the paranoid undercurrents of present-day society. Also expanding on the body-horror themes of its 1956 progenitor, this quintessential sci-fi/horror crossover film deserves a position on the IMDb Top 250 list.
See also: The Thing (1982), Body Snatchers, and The Invasion
5) The War of the Worlds (1953)
Despite forgoing the iconic tripods and first-person narration of the H. G. Wells novel, George Pal’s The War of the Worlds offers plenty of rousing action sequences, vibrant special effects, and creepy one-on-one encounters with the Martian invaders—all of which compensate for a lack of faithfulness to the original story. Concluding with an inspirational twist on the source ending, this classic science fiction film should have at least an 8/10 on IMDb—much in contrast to the mediocre 7.1/10 score that it currently maintains.
See also: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, When Worlds Collide, and War of the Worlds (2005)
4) The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Famous for its terrifying battle between a “giant” spider and the protagonist, this thrilling adaptation of Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man follows the extraordinary adventures of Scott Carey—a businessman who begins losing body mass after exposure to a rare combination of chemicals. Though praised for its surreal and high-quality special effects, The Incredible Shrinking Man also contains a profound message on overcoming impossible odds, conquering the unknown with a spirit of courage and persistence, and learning to appreciate those whom society would condemn as freaks of nature. Maintaining an effective impact after sixty years, this offering earns a place on the IMDb Top 250 list.
See also: Tarantula, The Amazing Colossal Man, and The Incredible Melting Man
3) Forbidden Planet (1956)
Arriving on Altair IV, the crew members of C-57D make a horrifying discovery about the eccentric Dr. Morbius—the lone survivor of a giant, invisible monster who resides on the planet. Employing science fiction to explore the human psyche, Forbidden Planet demonstrates how demons of the mind can wreak havoc when left unchecked. This classic movie also deserves recognition for its futuristic designs and groundbreaking space travel aspects, which would influence the science fiction genre for decades to come.
See also: The Invisible Boy, This Island Earth, and Planet of the Vampires
2) The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Accompanied by a giant robot named Gort, the humanoid Klaatu arrives on Earth to warn of an impending disaster. Providing a sci-fi twist on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, The Day the Earth Stood Still combines religious undertones with commentary on the Cold War. Also outstanding is the performance of Michael Rennie, who elevates this offering to the status of a true science fiction classic.
See also: Arrival, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Plan 9 from Outer Space
1) Planet of the Apes (1968)
Crash-landing on a planet in the year 3978, an astronaut named Taylor encounters a civilization where mute, primitive humans are dominated by intelligent apes. Covering then controversial topics in a futuristic setting, Planet of the Apes deserves its standing as the greatest science fiction film of the 1960s. Especially haunting is Charlton Heston’s encounter with the Statue of Liberty ruins, which, even after fifty years, remains the most iconic twist ending of all time.
See also: Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes
What other science fiction films belong in the IMDb Top 250? Share your own selections in the comment section.
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