The best sci-fi movies to win an Oscar include Jurassic Park, The Incredibles, and The Matrix.
Sci-fi movies have been a staple of cinema since the inception of moving pictures, with dozens upon dozens of Oscar awards racked up to prove it. The genre comes in all shapes and sizes, from science fiction comedies to pulp fiction tales of alien invasion, often shifting the public conscience in regard to modern issues. Whether these films have taken home the gold for their sound design, incredible writing, or powerful performances, here are the 10 greatest sci-fi movies that have won an Oscar.
10. Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park hit theaters in 1993, leaving a massive mark on cinema as well as pushing the science of paleontology forward through its incredible studio funding. The sci-fi movie’s iconic score, combined with its uncanny visual effects, made for a moving and impactful cinematic experience, so it’s no wonder Steven Spielberg took home Oscars for Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects.
The Sam Neil and Laura Dern-led movie would go on to influence several future films as well as video games, spawning a host of sequels, most recently with the nostalgia-fueled 2022 outing Jurassic World: Dominion
9. The Incredibles (2004)
Brad Bird’s Disney Pixar film The Incredibles broke records as one of the best films of 2004, animated or otherwise. The sci-fi adventure movie won Oscar awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Sound Editing. The music truly lives up to the film’s name, composed by Michael Giacchino, who went on to compose for films such as Ratatouille, Up, and even the 2022 Matt Reeves-directed The Batman.
The film centers around a super-powered family of modern suburbanites and features themes regarding the American dream, as well as hero envy, in a display far ahead of its time. Arriving on the scene several years before the Marvel Cinematic Universe made superhero films the hottest item in Hollywood, The Incredibles still goes down as one of the most successful and impactful hero outings, despite being an original work not based on any comic book source material.
8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Close Encounters of the Third Kind arrived in movie theaters in 1977, winning the Oscar award for Best Cinematography by a wide margin due to its incredible use of framing and blocking, as well as its timeless lighting techniques. The Steven Spielberg-directed film follows a group of ordinary people as they attempt to make contact with alien life, making the film one of many Spielberg sci-fi movies to win an Oscar.
With a staggering 94 percent certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes score, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is widely regarded as a highlight of Spielberg’s early career, second only to the iconic shark thriller Jaws.
7. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
What more needs to be said about the original 1977 Star Wars? The classic space Western launched one of the most prolific and successful film franchises of all time, continuing today in the form of many Disney+ films and series such as The Mandalorian.
A New Hope could be considered the greatest sci-fi movie of all time, ultimately taking home more than half a dozen Oscar awards, including Best Art Direction, Best Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound, and Best Visual Effects. The film launched the careers of its stars, including now-household names like Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher.
6. Gravity (2013)
Getting into the more recent side of things, we have Gravity, the Sandra Bullock-led sci-fi movie which took home a staggering seven Oscar awards after hitting theaters in 2013. In the film, Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone becomes untethered in the vacuum of space, forced to find her way back to Earth without the support of her team or her ground communication experts.
Also featuring George Clooney, Gravity didn’t bring home any awards for acting, but of the seven awards, it did get Best Director, Best Visual Effects, and Best Cinematography. In 2013, no sci-fi movie was more worth a trip to the IMAX theater than this OScar winner.
5. The Matrix (1999)
Another sci-fi movie that swept the Oscars and spawned a series of sequels that continue into the modern day is 1999’s The Matrix, which starred Keanu Reeves, and launched the careers of sibling director duo Lilly and Lana Wachowski.
The film held major stylistic influence over Hollywood for decades following its release, even being parodied by the first Shrek movie in 2004, with ripple effects from the visual storytelling still being felt in modern cinema today. The Matrix took home all four of the Oscar awards it had been nominated for, including Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects, and Best Sound.
4. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Tied for the most modern entry on this list, 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 follows Ryan Gosling’s Officer K as he unearths hidden secrets with the potential to send all of human society into the depths of pure chaos. With Harrison Ford reprising his role as Rick Deckard from the 1982 original Blade Runner film, 2049 was marked as a massive blockbuster, inspiring its unique visual aesthetic within the cyberpunk niche.
The excellent sci-fi movie won Oscar awards for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects and was nominated for Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Production Design.
3. E.T. the Extraterrestrial (1982)
The best sci-fi movie to come from Steven Spielberg, and the one film that the Oscar-winning director considers to be “perfect,” is E.T. the Extraterrestrial. Winning the Oscar for Best Original Score and Best Sound, the tale of Elliot and his Reese Pieces’ loving friend is another successful collaboration between Spielberg and composer John Williams.
Also featuring the on-screen debut of Drew Barrymore, the family-friendly flick is one of the greatest summer blockbusters ever made, and it’s a shame that it only won two of the most prestigious awards in Hollywood.
2. The Shape of Water (2017)
Another 2017 entry, The Shape of Water, stars Sally Hawkins as Elisa, an isolated woman who lacks the ability to speak, working as a cleaning lady in a high-security government lab. Elisa discovers and subsequently creates a bond with a mysterious creature who inhabits a giant water tank within the facility, eventually uncovering carefully obfuscated secrets about the creature’s whereabouts and her government employers.
The cerebral sci-fi movie shocked audiences with its intricate creature design, a calling card of director Guillermo del Toro, eventually taking home Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Often referred to as one of the greatest sci-fi movies in cinema history, 2001: A Space Odyssey has left its mark on the planet as a surrealist Stanley Kubrick masterpiece whose behind-the-scenes stories are as harrowing as they are scientifically complex.
The film displays an ethereal connection between the human experience and the scientific data of the past, present, and future in an adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s short story of the same name. Despite its status as one of the most revered films of the 20th century, 2001: A Space Odyssey only took home one Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
- GFR Score calculated using averages of audience and critical reactions across multiple platforms.