Top 20 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies of the Past 20 Years

A genre that can go from outer space to Middle Earth, we selected these 20 science fiction and fantasy movies based on importance, influence, and popularity. In the case of franchises, we went with our favorite in the series -- but do note that "Top" does not necessarily mean "Best".
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1.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
A meek Hobbit and eight companions set out on a journey to destroy the One Ring and the Dark Lord Sauron. (178 mins.)
Director: Peter Jackson
“ Peter Jackson brought J.R.R. Tolkein's world of hobbits to stunning life with the three-part LOTR series. Though Return of the King won Best Picture, the first flick remains our sentimental favorite. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
2.
Avatar (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home. (162 mins.)
Director: James Cameron
“ And you thought James Cameron didn't have anything to surprise you with after the mega-success of Titanic! Talk about a game-changer... film as a whole will never be the same. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
3.
Inception (2010)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.8/10 X  
A thief, who steals corporate secrets through use of dream-sharing technology, is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a CEO. (148 mins.)
“ Christopher Nolan bent minds and images (and probably a few actors) in this aggressively 2-D, thoroughly imaginative film about layers and layers of dreams. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
4.
The Matrix (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers. (136 mins.)
“ Never mind those two sequels -- this Wachowski-helmed flick remains a landmark in stunning sci-fi filmmaking. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
5.
Until the End of the World (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
In 1999, Claire's life is forever changed after she survives a car crash. She rescues Sam and starts traveling around the world with him. Writer Eugene follows them and writes their story, as a way of recording dreams is being invented. (158 mins.)
Director: Wim Wenders
“ Things we take for granted now -- GPS systems, digital-everything, cutting-edge computer systems, global culture racing to catch up with technology -- were first envisioned in this Wim Wenders flick. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
6.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
It's Harry's third year at Hogwarts; not only does he have a new "Defense Against the Dark Arts" teacher, but there is also trouble brewing. Convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards' Prison and is coming after Harry. (142 mins.)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
“ Harry Potter was the dominant cultural phenomenon of the past 20 years, and this Alfonso Cuaron-helmed installment remains our personal favorite. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
7.
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
During the near end of the clone wars, Darth Sidious has revealed himself and is ready to execute the last part of his plan to rule the Galaxy... (140 mins.)
Director: George Lucas
“ Were there any films more anticipated than the Star Wars prequel trilogy? And were there any films more disappointing? This third one managed to redeem some of the damage the first two did. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
8.
Jurassic Park (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok. (127 mins.)
“ What hath DNA cloning wrought? Steven Spielberg gleefully ran back into thriller territory with this adaptation of the Michael Crichton dinosaur-park book. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
9.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A cyborg, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor, must now protect her young son, John Connor, from a more advanced cyborg, made out of liquid metal. (137 mins.)
Director: James Cameron
“ James Cameron's sequel to his scrappy action movie of the 80s created a whole new mythology centered around Skynet - and one centered around Linda Hamilton's arms as well! ” - IMDb-Editors
 
10.
Men in Black (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A police officer joins a secret organization that polices and monitors extraterrestrial interactions on Earth. (98 mins.)
“ Who says sci-fi can't be funny? Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones tackled aliens with wit and finesse. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
11.
District 9 (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology. (112 mins.)
Director: Neill Blomkamp
“ Breathtaking filmmaking and special effects, as well as an eerily prescient story, earned this movie a Best Picture Oscar nomination. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
12.
X2 (2003)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
The X-Men band together to find a mutant assassin who has made an attempt on the President's life, while the Mutant Academy is attacked by military forces. (134 mins.)
Director: Bryan Singer
“ Mutants galore! Wolverine and the rest of the team hit it out of the park with this second X-Men flick. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
13.
Independence Day (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind's best weapon is the will to survive. (145 mins.)
Director: Roland Emmerich
“ Boom! Disaster was rarely bigger or better than in this in this alien invasion movie. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
14.
WALL·E (2008)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
In the distant future, a small waste-collecting robot inadvertently embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind. (98 mins.)
Director: Andrew Stanton
“ Our only animated entry on the list became one of Pixar's biggest commercial and critical successes. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
15.
Star Trek (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
The brash James T. Kirk tries to live up to his father's legacy with Commander Spock keeping him in check as a vengeful, time-traveling Romulan creates black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time. (127 mins.)
Director: J.J. Abrams
“ A franchise was reborn with this time-bending story of the early days of Captain Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the Enterprise. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
16.
Contact (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Dr. Ellie Arroway, after years of searching, finds conclusive radio proof of intelligent aliens, who send plans for a mysterious machine. (150 mins.)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
“ Science and theology met in this fictional adaptation of the Carl Sagan book. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
17.
Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world. (118 mins.)
“ Guillermo del Toro's fantastical vision gave this sad and touching story an unforgettable look and atmosphere. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
18.
Donnie Darko (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit that manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after narrowly escaping a bizarre accident. (113 mins.)
Director: Richard Kelly
“ A cult favorite that's still resonant almost 10 years later. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
19.
The Fifth Element (1997)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
In the colorful future, a cab driver unwittingly becomes the central figure in the search for a legendary cosmic weapon to keep Evil and Mr Zorg at bay. (126 mins.)
Director: Luc Besson
“ Luc Besson's trippy trip into outer space still remains one heck of a ride. ” - IMDb-Editors
 
20.
Moon (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems. (97 mins.)
Director: Duncan Jones
“ Sam Rockwell is a rattled astronaut trying to find his way back to Earth. ” - IMDb-Editors