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