There are some science fiction scenes so iconic and influential that you can’t help but replay them in your head after simply hearing the movie title said out loud.
But iconic scenes come in many different shapes and forms; sometimes it’s a quote that jogs your memory, but other times it’s the stunning cinematography that needs to be celebrated. Some of our favorite science fiction movie scenes are capable of doing both, and we’re here to talk about it.
So let’s get into six of our favorite science fiction scenes that we can’t imagine life without.
First Time Travel Scene – Back to the Future (1985)
We can all remember the first time that we’ve seen Back to the Future and were introduced to Marty McFly and Doc Brown. Before Marty traveled back to 1955 with Doc’s DeLorean, they first had to perform a test run to make sure the flux capacitor-infused sports car was actually safe.
In his infinite wisdom, Doc Brown straps in his sheepdog, Einstein into the front seat for the maiden voyage.
Before pushing the DeLorean into high gear, Doc proudly proclaims, “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious sh*t!”
It’s at this moment that we see Einstein disappear in a flash of light, only to appear a minute later completely unharmed.
Blue Pill or Red Pill – The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix was an immediate commercial success upon its release, and for very good reason. In our minds, The Matrix was the first film to successfully pull off the “What if we are actually living in a simulation” plot line in way that wasn’t patronizing.
It’s crazy to think that in 2023, philosophers actually think this theory holds some weight, but Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom laid out a pretty compelling case a few years after The Matrix debuted in theaters. And his theories have been extrapolated on ever since.
In the 1999 film, Neo was presented with two choices in regard to the simulation he was living in: a blue pill, and a red pill presented to him by Morpheus. The former would allow him to continue living in the allusion that he was familiar with, and the latter would allow him to “stay in Wonderland,” and see “how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
And if you want to know what kind of staying power this scene has, it’s worth noting that the upcoming Barbie movie playfully calls back to The Matrix when Barbie is presented with two pairs of shoes: a pair of high heels that represent the blue pill, and a pair of sandals that represent the red pill.
T-Rex Attack – Jurassic Park (1993)
If you were born in the late 80s or early 90s, the threat of a T-Rex attack was a very real fear that occupied your mind after watching Jurassic Park for the first time.
Say what you want about the skepticism that Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm had in this legendary film, but at the end of the day, he was right. As apprehensive as he was about what science “could do” versus what it “should do,” it’s safe to say that Malcolm wanted to be on the right side of history.
That is to say, the second that Ian Malcolm saw that Lex and Tim were in danger, he busted out the road flares with Dr. Alan Grant without hesitation and was able to lure the T-Rex away. Every aspect of this entire sequence is iconic and will go down in history as one of the greatest scenes ever made, science fiction, or otherwise.
From the ripples in the cup of water to the rain on the electric fence, to the T-Rex smashing through the roof of the tour vehicles, the T-Rex attack from Jurassic was, and still is the stuff of nightmares.
I’ll Be Back – The Terminator (1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger was well on his way to becoming a household name by the time 1984’s The Terminator came out, and his expert use of one-liners helped seal the deal.
When the T-800 walks into the West Highland Police Station to track down Sarah Connor, he is turned away by the officer manning the front desk. He quickly surveys his surroundings, and says “I’ll be back,” before leaving the police station.
Seconds later, and keeping true to his promise, Schwarzenegger drives his car through the front of the police station, and goes on a rampage that ends up killing 17 police officers.
And here’s a fun fact about this iconic scene: Schwarzenegger famously argued with James Cameron about the line delivery when they were filming this scene.
He felt uncomfortable delivering the line, and wanted to say “I will be back” instead. Luckily for us, James Cameron gave Schwarzenegger a pep-talk, and he recited the line as it was written in the script, and we still talk about it today.
Arrival of the Mothership – Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
After trying to communicate with an alien life form through a series of mathematical semitones, we finally see the Mothership arrive in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Upon witnessing this scene for the first time, we were as awestruck as the scientists who saw it in the film when it rose up from behind the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.
But perhaps the most amazing thing to think about is the fact that the model that was used in the film is quite small, and can be seen at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in all of its glory.
Through the brilliant use of force perspective, the model looks like it’s over a thousand feet wide, even though the model itself is only a few feet in diameter.
I Am Your Father – Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
At this point in time, it’s safe to say that everybody reading this article knows about this particular reveal. But at the same time, it’s hard to truly understand the impact that this Star Wars scene had upon its theatrical debut and continues to have to this day.
Darth Vader revealing to Luke Skywalker that he’s actually his father has been parodied countless times, and even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, we’d venture to guess that you’ve indirectly enjoyed this scene in some way, shape, or form.
One of the best gags that comes to mind can be found in 1994’s Tommy Boy, when Chris Farley’s Tommy is approached by David Spade’s Richard. Tommy is highly amused by an oscillating fan in his office, and he can’t help but say “la, la, la, la Lukeeeeeeee, I am your father!”
Years after Tommy Boy was released, director Peter Segal publicly apologized for misquoting the line, which isn’t “Luke, I am your father,” but rather “No, I am your father.”
In other words, a 1994 comedy about a struggling brake pad salesman is one of the primary reasons this iconic line was misquoted so much, and that’s a badge of honor in and of itself.