The 27 Best Science Fiction Movies of the 1990s

Developments in film technology and computer animation have changed everything in recent decades. The advances in special effects and computer-generated effects in the 1990s had a major impact on the science fiction genre and led to a series of memorable films. Many of the science fiction blockbusters of the 1990s have become enduring masterpieces, serving as inspiration for future works of the genre.

1. The Matrix (1999)

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 88%

The year 1999 produced a number of excellent films, and The Matrix is a shining example of this. The Wachowski twins’ action masterpiece permanently changed cinema with cutting-edge effects technology and created an entirely new film medium. The Wachowskis combined American action clichés (especially gunfights) with fantastic martial arts fighting methods, ensuring that viewers were literally out of their seats thanks to the “bullet time” effect, for example.

The film’s plot touches on concerns about the approaching digital age, which is a nice touch. If you compare “The Matrix” to other “web-centric” thrillers, you’ll be amazed at how well the sci-fi film still works today. Even if the sequels weren’t as well-received, The Matrix has established itself as one of the best sci-fi films of all time established.

2. Total Recall (1990)

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%

Ultra-masculine hero Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a lowly construction worker on Earth in 2048 with strange memories of Mars. After an ill-advised session at Rekall – a company that cheerfully provides memory implants to its clients – Quaid finds repressed memories that reveal a grand conspiracy plot involving Mars.

The shots of Verhoeven’s films are breathtaking, especially when it comes to his depictions of alien landscapes and futuristic cities. Experiments with altered memories and implanted Martian vacation memories call Arnold Schwarzenegger’s entire existence into question in this sci-fi thriller. Verhoeven’s vision of an oppressed civilization on Mars and his use of innovative techniques and effects made the film a classic.

3. Jurassic Park (1993)

IMDb Rating: 8.2/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 92%

Since no human has had the opportunity to see a dinosaur up close, the filmmakers had to do their best to make these prehistoric beasts seem real while also engaging the audience. In our opinion, no film has done this better than Jurassic Park, Stephen Spielberg’s 1993 masterpiece.

In Michael Crichton’s novel, a wealthy businessman named John Hammond invites a test group to his new island theme park, where he has cloned dinosaurs thanks to technological advances. His guests Alan Grant, Ellie Saddler, and Ian Malcolm are rightly suspicious that he is playing God. As many of you know, their stay doesn’t unfold according to plan when the dinosaurs are unleashed and wreak havoc on the island. The mix of suspense, sympathetic characters, groundbreaking spectacular effects, and seemingly plausible scientific ideas made Jurassic Park one of the greatest films of all time.

4. Starship Troopers (1997)

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 66%

Starship Troopers, director Paul Verhoeven’s satirical take on fascism and nationalism, did not go over well with audiences upon its initial release. Decades later, the film is perhaps more relevant than ever before. We follow Rico, Dizzy, and Carl, three high school buddies who decide to enlist in the military to save the world from giant insects.

The story is set up like a wartime propaganda film. In the beginning, the men are eager and full of drive, but their determination is tested once they get involved in a brutal battle. The film’s greatest genius lies in Veerhoven’s subtle but irrefutable clues that show humans are actually the bad guys in this fight. Although Starship Troopers was released in 1997, the sci-fi film still enjoys great popularity among lovers of the sci-fi genre.

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5. Terminator 2 (1991)

IMDb rating: 8.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%

The 1990s saw several groundbreaking science fiction films, but the introduction of the liquid metal Terminator in Terminator 2 was a major first for the industry. Not surprisingly, James Cameron was the first director to experiment with using computer-generated imagery (CGI) for characters instead of sets, and the results were stunning. Of course, none of this matters if the story is bad, but Terminator 2 is one of the best sequels ever produced.

By making Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator an ally instead of an enemy, the film makes Sarah Connor a real heroine. Thanks to the talents of Linda Hamilton as the wounded heroine and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, the film is really fun to watch. The film sidesteps the problems associated with time travel and instead delivers a thrilling, rollicking thrill ride that offers heart, comedy, and spectacle in equal measure.

6. 12 Monkeys (1995)

IMDb Rating: 8/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%

This nifty sci-fi action film makes the most of tragicomic scenes and stunning visuals, blending genre conventions and turning creative turmoil into a tremendous cinematic spectacle.

It’s about James Cole, a petty criminal from the year 2035 who receives an offer to travel back in time where he can investigate the causes of a mysterious disease that has decimated the world. Brad Pitt’s Oscar-nominated performance as environmental terrorist Jeffrey Goines and Madeleine Stowe’s brilliant performance as Dr. Kathryn Railly, desperate to help James, deserve special mention.

Gilliam’s future may be bleak, but the relentless thrills, eerie rush, and heartbreaking ending make 12 Monkeys a special sci-fi adventure.

7. Stargate (1994)

IMDb Rating: 7/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 53%

Stargate, a 1994 film by Roland Emmerich, spawned several television shows and comic books. A ring with Egyptian-style hieroglyphics is unearthed in the Egyptian desert, raising questions about what it might mean. When archaeologist Daniel Jackson and Air Force officer Colonel Jack O’Neil discovers that this “Stargate” connects to an Egyptian-inspired society in another world, they become reluctant collaborators.

They discover that Ra, the Egyptian God, is actually an alien tyrant who uses slaves. Ra sees the invading humans in his world as an opportunity to regain Earth’s control, especially through nuclear weapons.

Despite the negative reviews, Stargate gained a large fan base, and the story that began there continued in various mediums.

8. Men in Black (1997)

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%

Men in Black is one of the most unexpected and sympathetic successes of the ’90s, proving that science fiction and humor can coexist. To prevent an alien threat in New York City, Agent J (Will Smith) teams up with Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). The self-awareness of MIB, the connection between Smith and Jones, and the authentic behavior of the characters were refreshing. Moreover, the alien characters of the movie are likable and charming, which makes the whole film even more interesting.

Men in Black was one of the most talked-about movies of the decade and did pretty well at the box office too. Men in Black is one of the few science fiction comedies that successfully combines a complex theme with wit, levity, and a star-studded cast. And, of course, the music is still fantastic.

9. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%

First Contact is a great Star Trek movie. The film is propulsive and intriguing, with a mix of subtle comedy and strong emotion, thanks to a fantastic ensemble cast.

Star Trek: First Contact tells the story of the fall of humanity in the Star Trek universe. The Borg, a group of genetically altered beings, ruled by computer intelligence, have traveled through time to conquer Earth at its most vulnerable moment (immediately after World War III). Some of their heroes from human history may not be as useful in the fight against the Borg as they had hoped, as the crew of the Starship Enterprise finds out upon their return to Earth.

10. Contact (1997)

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 67%

Carl Sagan was one of the brightest thinkers of our time and died in 1996. However, he left us with his own unique perspective on humanity’s early encounters with extraterrestrial life. Jodie Foster impersonates Dr. Ellie Arroway, a scientist who discovers a message from a sentient civilization outside our universe. Ellie gets caught in the middle of a riot when it turns out that aliens are trying to contact humanity.

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Many people are trying to decipher the meaning of it all, including politicians, religious leaders, and media figures. Meanwhile, Ellie builds a device that allows a person to fly into space and meet the mysterious aliens.

Contact is a thoughtful science fiction film that tackles difficult issues like sexism, religion, and family with a sophistication rarely seen in genre films.

11. The Fifth Element (1997)

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 70%

In Luc Besson’s 1997 film The Fifth Element, Bruce Willis plays a cab driver with military experience who becomes involved in the search for an ancient weapon against a cosmic threat that threatens to wipe out the universe. Milla Jovovich stars as an alien messenger who must navigate the cyberpunk streets of the future to ensure humanity’s survival.

The chemistry carries the film between Willis and Jovovich. Still, Gary Oldman and Chris Tucker also contribute strong performances to bring the fantastic world of The Fifth Element to life on the big screen.

12. Event Horizon – At the Edge of the Universe (1997)

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 29%

This misjudged sci-fi film is a cautionary tale about the dangers of technological advancement and expanding our horizons in space. Sam Neil, a fan favorite of the science fiction genre, plays a man searching for a spaceship he built, the Event Horizon.

Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill) and a team of military scientists investigate a distress signal in space. By creating black holes that shorten the distance between places in space-time, Weir’s spaceship enables rapid interstellar travel. Like any good science fiction-Horror Movie, the mastery of nature has unintended consequences, and the rescue team finds itself in the same horrific situation as its predecessors in this one.

Event Horizon may not be an homage to other films, but the horror it evokes and the well-staged moments of blood and violence that punctuate it all comes from the natural middle ground between science fiction and horror. This science-fiction film has a creepy and eerie quality that is hard to resist.

13. Independence Day (1996)

IMDb Rating: 7/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 67%

Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith, and Bill Pullman play the survivors of an attack on Earth on Independence Day, which tells the story of their efforts to protect Earth from an alien invasion. Roland Emmerich directed Independence Day, which is known for its stunning effects depicting the destruction of Earth by aliens.

Air forces and superior alien invader spaceships face off in an epic dogfight.

14. Mars Attacks! (1996)

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 55%

Tim Burton’s idea was to turn a collection of strange trading cards from the 1960s into a darkly humorous film about an alien invasion. Burton assembled a top-notch ensemble for a film so bizarre it works. The historic encounter between humans from Earth and creatures from Mars goes tragically wrong, and the promise of peace disappears. As a wide variety of people, from the U.S. president to a young boy trying to save his grandma, try to escape the Martian attack, chaos erupts.

Mars Attacks! Is a clever and humorous take on the classic Cold War science fiction film, as only Tim Burton could deliver in his prime.

15. Dark City (1998)

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%

Compared to some of the other titles on our list, Dark City is a very unremarkable film that nonetheless leaves a lasting impression. This genre mash-up film mixes noir mystery with bizarre sci-fi with interesting and exciting effects…

Unable to remember his own identity, the protagonist of this film finds himself in a city unknown to him. During his journey, he discovers a secret organization of creatures that control the city’s people. Dark City is a creepy, suspenseful film that will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

16. Galaxy Quest (1999)

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%

Galaxy Quest is one of the best comedies of the ’90s and one of the best science fiction films of the decade, thanks to David Howard and Rob Gordon’s witty script, some smart casting choices, and a story that both pokes fun at Star Trek and celebrates the charm of trashy sci-fi television.

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The plot revolves around a group of aged actors who used to be stars of a canceled Star Trek-style television series and now only play a role at fan conventions. A species of aliens who watch the show’s broadcasts believe that the cast is real heroes fighting interstellar enemies. As a result, the aliens invite the actors to their spaceship, where they are to defend the aliens against an evil tormentor. Let the actors reveal their secrets.

Fortunately, director Parisot takes full advantage of the situation and delivers a witty, original comedy that is also often exciting with some well-staged action scenes.

17. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

IMDb rating: 7.9/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%

Ghost in the Shell is one of the films responsible for expanding the worldwide market for Japanese anime and is a perfect example of the futuristic cool that anime can portray so well. The year is 2029, and the line between man and machine is blurrier than ever. Humans often transfer their consciousness or “mind” to machines. Such a world is a playground for the hacker Puppet Master, who attracts the attention of the new police unit Section 9 and Major Motoko Kasunagi, herself a ghost in a cybernetic “shell.”

While the film is stunningly animated, it also raises the question of how far humanity should go when dealing with technology.

18. eXistenZ (1999)

IMDb Rating: 6.8/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 74%

EXistenZ may be the least known sci-fi film on our list, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy of inclusion. Cronenberg’s 1999 film is about an ambitious computer game developer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who, upon announcing a new virtual reality program, becomes the target of an assassination attempt that leads her into the cyber world of her own creation.

What follows is a psychological and twisted experience with crazy graphics, black humor, and a subtle critique of materialism and the dangers of stimulation. Besides Cronenberg’s masterful use of narrative twists, the performances of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law make this film a thrilling experience. There are no clear heroes or villains in eXistenZ, making the film a fascinating experience.

19. Gattaca (1997)

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 81%

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world where the impossible is made possible, this is the place to be! Gattaca has managed to focus on a smaller but still effective plot, while science fiction films have become more and more expansive.

Ethan Hawke plays a second-class citizen in a society where genetically gifted people have greater privileges than others. His goal is space travel, so he trades places with an upper-class citizen—a fascinating and thought-provoking examination of inequality in a utopian society.

20. Strange Days (1995)

IMDb Rating: 7.1/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 66%

The grass is always greener, the saying goes, but what happens to a society when everyone is animated by a desire to be someone they are not? As a society, we have become increasingly dependent on technology to escape the reality of our everyday lives. When do you have to give up your own reality to participate in someone else’s? Strange Days, an overlooked treasure of the 90s, asks these questions.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by James Cameron and Jay Cocks, Strange Days is set in late 1999 in Los Angeles, where riots and street fights have broken out following the death of a well-known, politically engaged rapper. At the same time, Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), our everyday hero is a former cop who has taken up a more profitable profession: He sells virtual reality data disks of criminal experiences. But when he receives a disk containing rape and murder, he and his girlfriend Mace (Angela Bassett) are drawn into a murder plot.

Strange Days presents a dirty, grimy picture of a technology-driven society of the future, a pre-millennial misery of excessive vice and prophetic racial conflict. It’s about the far more danger of our infatuation with technological progress taking over our lives than the fear of our technological creations rising and taking over the globe. You shouldn’t fear technology so much as the people who use it.

21. Screamers (1995)

IMDb Rating: 6.3/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 29%

22. Faculty (1998)

IMDb Rating: 6.5/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 55%

23. Escape from LA (1996)

IMDb rating: 5.7/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 52%

24. The Giant from Space (1999)

IMDb rating: 8.1/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%

25. Bicentennial Man (1999)

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10 | Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 36%

26. Delicatessen (1991)

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 89%

27. Back to the Future III (1990)

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10 | Rotten Tomatoes rating: 80%

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