Determining the most popular science fiction films is a matter of some debate. Analysts can look at the “numbers” and see which science fiction films have made the most money. Unfortunately, not all sci fi films that make money are considered “the best” by legions of fans. For example, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith, both made more money than the original Star Wars. If you look at lists of “best science fiction films,” The original Star Wars always ranks as a far better film, and many critics have panned the second trilogy of Star Wars movies.
Another example would be the second Matrix film, which had a higher box office performance than the original Matrix movie. Again, the first film is often considered far superior to its sequels. Further, science fiction films that were made earlier than the 1970s made less money, but many critics and fans consider them to be essential viewing.
Thus the matter of determining the most popular science fiction films is a highly subjective one. What you can look at is the frequency in which the films occur on listings by critics, in hope of finding some of the “best” to view, or review. This and, of course, personal taste, can help the individual determine the most popular science fiction films.
In no particular order, these science fiction films tend to show up on a number of “best” lists:
- Star Wars
- The Empire Strikes Back
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Matrix
- The War of The Worlds (1950s version)
- Terminator 2
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Some people also incorporate horror films or monster movies into the science fiction genre. Popular films still considered “science fiction” under this category would include The Thing directed by John Carpenter, Jurassic Park, the 1931 Frankenstein, and the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Others feel monster films and horror films with elements of science fiction films deserve their own genre.
A critical minority would also like to include science fiction television series in their lists of most popular. Clearly, the first and second Star Trek series, the X-files, the recent 4400 and Smallville represent some standout science fiction work. Others praise Babylon 5 and the series Jericho, not to mention Lost as excellent science fiction. They are not films, though, so they do not make the list of most popular science fiction films. For science fiction fans, many of these series are just as fun as popular science fiction movies.