The best science fiction movies include Alien, Interstellar, 2001: A Space Odyssey and more.
There are the ones that are fun and include fantastical elements perhaps never seen before. And there are others where a lot of thought is needed to try to decipher what is going on; the good ones will still keep you hooked.
So, we have come up with the 10 Most Mind-Bending Science Fiction Movies of All Time. Take a look at the list and give us your take on it.
10 MOST MIND-BENDING SCIENCE FICTION MOVIES OF ALL TIME
The film that really started it all for director Ridley Scott is the mind-blowing, or shall we say chest-bursting, film Alien. It’s a simple story, really but it ends up at the top of the best science fiction movies for a reason. The crew, led by Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, of the spaceship Nostromo, land on an alien planet after they come across a signal that brings them to the planet.
When they arrive, a group of astronauts embark on an expedition to find where the signal is coming from. What they find is an alien ship harboring a species they were never prepared to handle. The alien species attaches itself to one of the crew members and once they return to their ship, the alien makes its presence well-known in a bloody, gory fashion.
Ripley becomes the hero she was meant to be as crew members are picked off, one at a time, forcing Ripley into a life-or-death duel with one of the greatest, mind-bending creatures ever to grace the big screen.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
When it comes to mind-bending science fiction movies, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey leads the way, it simply has to. A film that has no dialogue, not only in the first 20 minutes, but also the last 20 minutes, and sandwiched in between another 10-minute stretch of zero dialogue, has to include some mind-bending visuals to keep audiences engaged. Kubrick’s film does just that.
2001: A Space Odyssey can be called one of the 10 Most Mind-Bending Science Fiction Movies of All Time because in 1968, films were not built the way Kubrick crafted this one. It told the story of astronaut Dave, played by Keir Dullea, who is sent on a mission with a few fellow astronauts, to investigate an alien monolith. “Helping” them on their trek to Jupiter is HAL, a sentient supercomputer who begins to start thinking for himself.
For a film produced in 1968 and special effects, the way they were back in the day, Kubrick and company pull off the visuals in a fantastic way. The 20-minute mind-bending journey Dave takes at the end of the film through the Star Gate was one that Kubrick himself finally tried to explain in a 1980 interview saying:
“The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by godlike entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. … [W]hen they get finished with him… he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made some kind of superman. We have to only guess what happens when he goes back.” Mind-bending stuff.
There are Christopher Nolan fans and then there aren’t. Some feel him way too pretentious while others find his works the bomb, even his mind-bending science fiction movie fare. Inception is one of Nolan’s truly mind-bending films that stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Ellen (now Elliot) Page.
DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a professional thief but not in the way normal thieves work. Instead of taking physical items, Cobb is able to infiltrate the subconscious of people to steal information. Cobb is given the chance to completely erase his criminal history if he can get into his target’s subconscious and plant another person’s idea.
Nolan had been considering making this film for years, but as he was conceptualizing it, he realized it needed more thought. It eventually took him 9-10 years to complete the script, finally able to crack the story when he began to wonder what it would be like if people could share the same dream. The result is a mind-bending experience like no other. If you are a Nolan fan, this one works for you.
The Matrix (1999)
The Wachowski’s put together one of the most impressive, mind-bending science fiction movie experiences one could have in a movie theater. And they’ve done it time and time again with this franchise.
The Matrix stars Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson, who becomes known as Neo, as a man who slowly discovers that the world he is living inside simulated reality called the Matrix, and the machines running it are using human bodies as an energy source.
The film holds many mind-bending scenes, especially the fight sequences between Reeves’ Neo and Hugo Weaving, who rocks as Agent Smith, a sentient agent whose sole purpose was to stop humans from escaping the Matrix.
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)
Everything Everywhere All at Once is the surprise science fiction movie hit of 2022. It stars Academy Award-winning Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Quan Wang, a Chinese American immigrant who runs a laundromat with her husband, Waymond, played by another Oscar-winner, Ke Huy Quan.
During an audit appointment with IRS agent Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Best Supporting Actress winner Jamie Lee Curtis), Evelyn discovers that there are parallel universes and to prevent the destruction of the multiverse, she must connect with the other versions of herself to stop it.
The science fiction movie is wildly entertaining as Yeoh jumps from one mind-bending scenario to another, fighting her way through it all. Quan also shines as not only her husband but as different versions of himself, trying to help Evelyn accomplish her goal. The film is a visual feast and at the heart of it a love story between Evelyn and Waymond, as well as a great mother-daughter story.
Blade Runner (1982)
You are going to see the name Ridley Scott again on this science fiction movies list and with good, mind-blowing reasons. Scott knows his way around a good sci-fi story and with Blade Runner, he has tapped into good sci-fi again. The film stars Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a Replicant Hunter, who is forced to track down and eliminate four escaped Replicants.
The film is based on the 1968 Phillip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and is set in a mind-bending dystopian future. Scott’s visuals play well and Ford’s relationship with Rachael (Sean Young) shows just how close to humans these Replicants can become.
Sam Rockwell delivers a stellar, mind-bending performance as Astronaut Sam Bell in Moon. It tells the story of Bell, who is coming to the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he lives with GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), an artificially intelligent computer who provides Bell’s only comfort.
Things begin to “bend” for Bell shortly before he is scheduled to return to Earth and his family. He starts to hallucinate, seeing a teenage girl and a man, which causes him to crash his lunar rover. When he wakes, he finds himself in the infirmary having lost his memory of the accident.
Although Sam is ordered to stay on the base by his Earth bosses, he convinces GERTY to let him out. When he arrives at his crash site, he sees himself laying there unconscious.
Alex Garland wrote and directed Annihilation, a mind-bending science fiction horror film that stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, and Oscar Isaac.
Annihilation tells the story of Lena, an Army veteran and biology professor, who loses her husband Kane (Isaac), a special forces soldier in the Army, while on a mission.
While Lena is grieving her dead husband, he suddenly reappears, but he is unable to tell her where he has been. Kane starts to feel sick and then starts bleeding. As the ambulance begins to take them to the hospital, government baddies force them to a secret facility.
When they arrive, Lena finds out that her husband was the only survivor of the Shimmer, an area that surrounds a meteor that has crashed into Earth. Lena decides to go with a new expedition into the Shimmer to see what exactly is inside. What they discover has mind-bending consequences.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that we have another Christopher Nolan film on this list of 10 Most Mind-Blowing Science Fiction Movies of All Time. This one, which arrived four years after Inception, stars Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon, and Michael Caine as a group of astronauts who are searching for a new home for Earth’s mankind.
Nolan’s film deals with time as the astronauts must travel through a wormhole investigating three planets in order to determine which would be best for human inhabitation.
When they get to their first planet, Cooper (McConaughey) and Amelia (Hathaway) must wait it out as their probe’s engine becomes filled with water. After it dries out, they return to the main ship to discover that 23 years have passed.
Nolan does Nolan things with Interstellar, toying with time and space, time travel, and humanity. The end result is another mind-bending science fiction story.
Here comes that name again, Ridley Scott. The original idea of Prometheus was to be the fifth film in the Alien franchise, but as time went on and because of the Alien vs. Predator film, Prometheus was put on hold and ended up becoming a sort of sequel to the original Alien film.
Prometheus tells the story of the crew of the spaceship Prometheus, who find themselves traveling across space as it follows a star map that could lead them to the origins of Earth and humanity in general. When the crew lands on a distant planet, they discover a threat that not only could wipe them out, but if it were to get to Earth, it could wipe out the entire human species.
- GFR Score calculated using averages of audience and critical reactions across multiple platforms.