Ranking All the Sci-Fi Best Picture Nominees of the Last Decade

Saturday, 27 February 2016 - 3:03PM
The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road
Saturday, 27 February 2016 - 3:03PM
Ranking All the Sci-Fi Best Picture Nominees of the Last Decade
< >
The 2015 Oscars have been very kind to science fiction, as two of the eight Best Picture nominees are unabashedly sci-fi. But how do films like The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road stack up against other sci-fi Oscar nominees over the years? Here's our definitive ranking of all the futuristic, apocalyptic, and space-bound Best Picture contenders over the last ten years (or really the last six years, since the Academy only started rewarding genre films after that egregious Dark Knight snub):

11.) The Tree of Life - 2011

Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life gets points for ambition, and at times the experimental format achieved the status of visual poetry, but ultimately its reach exceeded its grasp. It's worth watching, and admirable simply for trying something bold and innovative, but it's difficult to say that it actually succeeded.

10.) Gravity - 2013

There's no faulting Gravity's visual effects, which were both beautiful and terrifying, and Sandra Bullock and George Clooney's performances were likable and engaging. But the script was corny to the point of being cringe-worthy, especially when Bullock's character started talking about her dead daughter. (Because OF COURSE she has a dead daughter. Why else would someone want to stay alive while stranded in space?)

9.) Inception - 2010

Inception had a clever premise, some great visuals, and a pleasingly ambiguous ending, but overall it's incredibly overrated. The script had some serious issues, especially the writing of Ellen Page's character, who was basically given the thankless task of spewing exposition the whole time, and while the idea of a "dream within a dream" is interesting, it's hardly groundbreaking, especially in a post-Matrix cinematic landscape.

8.) Hugo - 2011

It's difficult to compare a movie like Hugo to Inception or Avatar, but it was a beautifully shot, well-acted children's movie with an emotional, impactful story. Plus, it gets points for its shout-out to A Trip to the Moon, the first-ever science fiction movie that came out in 1902. 

7.) Avatar - 2009

Avatar gets some credit for its groundbreaking visuals and use of 3-D technology, but its story was fairly simplistic, as it was basically just a borderline offensive Pocahontas rip-off with some didactic anti-war machine rhetoric sprinkled here and there. 

6.) Mad Max: Fury Road - 2015

George Miller deserves all of the credit for elevating Mad Max: Fury Road, as his direction was visually spectacular, innovative, and occasionally genius. But the plot was non-existent, the much-touted "feminist" bent was even more non-existent, and the pacing of the film was completely off-kilter; it was all climax and no rising action, which is the bare minimum an entertainingly dumb action movie needs. Read our full review here.

5.) The Martian - 2015

The Martian was the perfect sci-fi blockbuster. It was endlessly entertaining, intelligent, and surprisingly funny, featuring a flawless starring turn from Matt Damon and lots of love for NASA. It also doesn't hurt that it was one of the most scientifically accurate sci-fi movies of all time

4.) Up - 2009

Up just barely qualifies as science fiction, but gadgets like that dog collar tipped the scales in its favor, and it definitely qualifies as one of the best Pixar movies of all time. Who didn't cry at that first scene with Carl and Ellie?

3.) Beasts of the Southern Wild - 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild was a beautifully intimate, mythical journey, portraying the apocalypse on the small scale with unbelievably natural actors (who weren't actually actors), especially five-year-old revelation Quvenzhané Wallis. 

2.) District 9 - 2009

District 9 was a nearly perfect allegory for xenophobia and oppression, specifically apartheid, and sent director Neill Blomkamp rocketing up the Hollywood hierarchy. He hasn't been able to recapture the magic of his first feature quite yet, but even Chappie couldn't tarnish our memory of this thoughtful, moving film.

1.) Her - 2013

Most films about AI feature robots who want to kill us, but Her took a different approach to a dystopian future, using futuristic technologies to illustrate poignant truths about modern-day relationships and existential loneliness. Her was visionary in its depiction of the future, and perfectly acted by Joaquin Phoenix and a disembodied Scarlett Johansson, but it's most remarkable for taking its unconventional premise and turning it into a lovely, affecting romance.
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi Movies
The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road