Best Sci-fi Movies of the 90s


The 1990’s saw huge steps forward in the field of special effects which were put to great use by the science fiction genre. Filmmakers had brand new tools at their disposal to tell out of this world stories to make audiences think or simply to thrill them. This led to some game changing films of the science fiction genre which were released during the 1990’s. So let us look at the best sci-fi movies of the 90s.

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Jurassic Park: Given that nobody has seen a dinosaur in real life (or have they…..), movies have done their best to present these extinct reptiles in a way to be believable and blow the minds of audiences. For my money though, no movie has done that better than Stephen Spielberg’s 1993 masterpiece, Jurassic Park. Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, wealthy businessman John Hammond has invited a test group to be the first to see his new island theme park where through scientific advances he has cloned dinosaurs. While he is understandably proud of his accomplishments his guest; Alan Grant, Ellie Saddler, and Ian Malcolm are cautious about his playing God. As many of you know, their visit goes worse than they could imagine when the prehistoric creatures are released to wreak havoc on the island. It’s combination of thrills and likable characters with groundbreaking special effects and scientific concepts which seem believable, made Jurassic Park one of the most beloved films of all time spawning a blockbuster franchise which continues to this day.

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The Matrix: Though its reputation has become muddled thanks to years of parody and bad sequels, the original Matrix was still a mindblowing flick unlike anything before it. Keanu Reeves plays a hacker living an ordinary life, but he is drawn to an enigmatic man calling himself Morpheus. When the two finally meet, Morpheus shows him that the world he knows is a lie, a simulation known as the Matrix, created by our secretive computer overlords. More than that, he believes Reeves to be Neo, a prophesied hero who would liberate humanity. Not liking humans running amok in the Matrix, the Machines dispatch their Agents to stop Neo from fulfilling his destiny. The whole movie comes to a head with one of the best gun battles in movie history. As mentioned previously the goodwill the Matrix earned was ruined by two disappointing sequels, but the original is still an undeniable groundbreaking achievement.

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Total Recall: The perfect marriage of campy science fiction and director Paul Veerhoven’s trademark violence.  Hollywood icon Arnold Schwarzenegger comfortably carried Total Recall on his broad shoulders as it has become one of the best features in his filmography. Arnie plays, Douglas Quaid, a seemingly ordinary man who keeps having dreams about a life on Mars. Driven by this he visits Rekall Inc. and his memories of being a secret agent on a mission to save the Red Planet are awakened. Now that he knows the truth, agents working on behalf of Mars’ corrupt administrator Cohaggen are hunting him down. He finds his way back to Mars where he has to restore the planet’s oxygen breaking Cohaggen’s rule. Filled with all kinds of fun science fiction craziness Total Recall easily holds the rank of being a fan favorite.

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Stargate: Spawning numerous TV shows, comics, and a host of other properties, the Roland Emmerich 1994 movie, Stargate far exceeded what anyone expected. In the Egyptian desert, a ring adorned in Egyptain-esque hieroglyphs is discovered posing a mystery as to what it could be. An archeologist Daniel Jackson and an Air Force Officer Colonel Jack O’Neil become reluctant partners and discover this “Stargate” opens a wormhole to an Egyptian inspired civilization on another world. They learn the Egyptian deity, Ra is actually an extraterrestrial overlord who is using slaves to work for him. Ra sees the encroaching humans on his world as a chance to reestablish his power on earth, mainly through using the team’s nuclear weapon. Despite being ravaged by critics, Stargate won over fans and the story which began with the film continued on in a variety of media.

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Terminator 2: Judgement Day: In 1991, James Cameron finally gave audiences the long awaited sequel his groundbreaking masterpiece, the Terminator. While the 1984 original was a dark and gritty cat-and-mouse thriller, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, was a sci-fi/action epic which changed the game in blockbuster cinema. The iconic T-800 character was now on the side of the good guys sent to protect a Sara Connor as well as a young John Conner. Upping their game from the last film, the machines have sent T-1000 to complete the job they started, a being of liquid metal who has become one of the most memorable baddies in movie history thanks to dazzling FX and a great performance from Robert Patrick.  Terminator 2 fully cements Sarah Connor and T-800  as two of the most badass characters in film history, in a flick which shows James Cameron’s epic action-heavy style on full display.

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Starship Troopers: A film not understood by many upon its initial release; Starship Troopers provided director Paul Veerhoven a perfect venue to satirize fascism and nationalism in a war obsessed society. Even now 21 years later, this film is perhaps even more applicable than it ever was. Structured in the style of a wartime propaganda film, we meet three high school friends; Rico, Dizzy, and Carl, as they join different areas of the armed services to do their part to defend humanity from giant bugs. They are far too eager and enthusiastic to do their part, but once they find themselves engaged in violent combat it tests their resolve. The true brilliance of the flick comes from the subtle but undeniable clues Veerhoven has sprinkled through the movie showing that in reality humans are actually the bad guys in this war. Starship Troopers is a brilliant combination of biting satire and kick-ass action and still has a devoted cult following among genre fans.

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Mars Attacks!: Leave it to Tim Burton to take a collection of weird trading cards from the 60’s  and turn it into a darkly comedic flick about an alien invasion. Burton assembled a cast of A-list talent into a movie so weird that it worked. On the historic meeting between the people of earth and beings from Mars goes horribly as the promises of peace are vaporized just like a poorly-timed dove. Madness ensues as a fun cast of characters around the country; from the US President to a kid trying to rescue his grandmother, try to survive an attack from the Martians. Mars Attacks! Is a brilliant and hilarious take on classic Cold War science fiction in a way only Tim Burton in his prime could deliver.

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Ghost in the Shell:  One of the films responsible for expanding the global market for Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell is a perfect example of the futuristic coolness anime does so well. Set in the year 2029,the line between human and machine is blurrier than it has ever been. It is not uncommon for humans to move their consciousness or “ghost” into cybernetic bodies. A world like this is a playground for the hacker known as the Puppet Master who draws the attention of the new police force Section 9 and Major Motoko Kasunagi who herself is a ghost inside of a cybernetic “shell”. While the film is stunningly rendered through animation, it poses heavy questions about humanity and how far is too far when dealing with technology.

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Contact: 1996 saw Carl Sagan, one of the greatest minds of our time, pass away. But he left us with his own cerebral take on humanity’s first contact with beings beyond our world. In a subtle yet powerful performance, Jodie Foster plays Dr. Ellie Arroway, a scientist who stumbles upon a message being sent by a sentient race beyond our world. The discovery that aliens are trying to reach us naturally kicks the world into a frenzy with Ellie right in the middle of it all. All around her politicians, religious leaders, and media personalities all try to interpret the meaning of all this while constructing a mysterious device which would allow a single human to travel to the stars and meet with these mysterious beings. A more thought-provoking science fiction film, Contact tackles heavy issues like; sexism, religion, and family with a finesse rarely seen in genre movies.

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Event Horizon: An underrated film which warns us to be cautious as our technology advances and we reach further into the stars, because we may awaken something we do not understand. Genre favorite Sam Neil plays a man looking for a spaceship he built called the Event Horizon. This ship had the ability to bend space and time in order to travel great distances, but all contact has been lost and his wife onboard. Along with a crew led by Laurence Fishburne as Captain Miller they find the Event Horizon and discovered the ship has encountered an ancient evill. Blending science fiction with psychological horror, Event Horizon is an unnerving yet entertaining movie.

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Fifth Element: Famed director Luc Besson brought his take on over-the-top space operas to audiences with 1997’s Fifth Element. Featuring an all-star cast of: Bruce Willis, Mila Jovovich, Gary Oldman, and Chris Tucker the Fifth Element is set in the far flung future where every 5000 years a dangerous threat approaches. The only hope is to collect a series of stones representing different elements to save the day. But the fifth element has taken human form as Leeloo, and fallen into the care of a cab driver named Dallas. The two end up on a ship with the outlandish (but oh so fun) Ruby Rhod, during an attack from the evil Manglores. With this film, Besson continues to prove himself to be one of the most interesting filmmakers working right now and the Fifth Element stands as one his most beloved films.