2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The most spectacular vision of the future. Eerily accurate and wild with suspense. One of my favorites simply because of its oblique nature, undeniable coolness, and spectacular special effects and production design. But add explosive bolts? Forget it. The greatest.
The textbook example for How to Make a Sequel: Change the genre. No, Aliens didn’t alter the essence of the brilliant Ridley Scott original, but it made the franchise an action adventure. For all she went through in the first outing, who knew Ripley was such a massively badass action heroine? Beyond great.
Blade Runner (1982)
Rarely does sci-fi make you feel as transported as this Ridley Scott film. The mood, texture, and eeriness — plus the soundtrack, visual effects (yay, real miniatures!), and photography — make this story of replicants and humans (or is it replicants and replicants?) one of the best.
The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg made fringe science sexy in this wildly emotional remake of the 1950s classic. The love story at the core of this movie is so beautiful and tragic and funny and crackling that your heart breaks when things turn Brundlefly.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
The epic scope of this film coexists perfectly with believable human drama. The pain of a mother losing her son — or a husband’s apparent insanity dissolving his marriage — is as powerful as the mothership. A remarkable movie that, on paper, shouldn’t work: How are we supposed to relate to a man going mad and abandoning his wife and children — and planet? And yet we do. Forget sci-fi, this is one of my all-time favorite films of any genre.