The 50 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Movies of the Decade

We’ve ranked the very best of speculative fiction films from the 2010s.
Decade Rewind Scifi
By  · Published on November 26th, 2019

40. The One I Love (2014)

The One I Love

Indie darlings Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss star in Charlie McDowell’s debut feature about the crumbling relationship between a husband and wife who seek solace and conflict resolution in the form of a vacation getaway. You know, vacation getaways that definitely aren’t ticking time bombs, where all relationship problems miraculously dissolve into the ether and both parties are totally at peace and not growing exponentially cruel toward one another or writhing on the inside about their partner’s every tick with the fury of a supervillain or readying themselves to explode at any moment due to the sour madness of silence and uneventfulness. No, but for real: it’s a disaster and a strange one at that. I won’t give away the sci-fi element that lands it on this list, but I will say that the poster gives a little hint. Note: it’s probably best to watch this one with a partner when you’re in an especially healthy phase. No one wants to dredge up bitter conflict on movie tonight. (Luke Hicks)

39. Trollhunter (2010)


Similar to Gareth Edwards’ Monsters, this Norwegian mockumentary achieves grand spectacle on a relatively small scale, indicating that we’re in a new era for ambitious sci-fi and fantasy at a lower cost. Written and directed by André Øvredal, Trollhunter takes the found-footage approach that Edwards once intended then abandoned with his own film. Indeed, it’s a style that was already overused in 2010, especially for stories like this involving an investigation into myths and monsters. This movie works in spite of that familiarity by being foreign, not just because of its distinct locations and type of creatures, which are significant to the area and its culture, but also thanks to its particularly offbeat Scandinavian sense of humor. When a film is this richly steeped in historical and cultural inspiration and also just a lot of fun, the format and style should never be a deterrent and won’t ever be a distraction. I’d watch many more documentary-style films like it exploring the worlds of other fantasy creatures if they were this enjoyable. (Christopher Campbell)

38. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Film Review The Force Awakens

A lot of franchises have been criticized this decade for going for the legacy-sequel approach. That’s the idea of resurrecting an IP and rather than completely rebooting the story by recasting the characters and rehashing the plot, they do a bit of the latter but introduce new (albeit often analogous) characters with a plan to pass the torch. Often, audiences reject the newcomers, as in the cases of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and recently Terminator: Dark Fate. Sometimes the bestowal works, a la Creed. But nothing else following the trend has been anything at all like the Star Wars sequel trilogy and its first episode, The Force Awakens. Fans knew they wanted to see Han Solo and Chewbacca back on the Millennium Falcon. They didn’t realize they’d instantly fall for a new ensemble of players in the galaxy far, far away in the form of Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and the adorable droid BB-8, plus the love-to-hate-him villain Kylo Ren. The adventure here is a little too much of a copy of A New Hope, but there are enough fresh ideas and flashy setpieces and undeniable wit courtesy of J.J. Abrams that, coupled with the absolutely perfect add-on cast, make us believe in this saga anew. (Christopher Campbell)

37. Dredd (2012)


Pete TravisDredd, as scripted by Alex Garland, is everything the 1995 Judge Dredd is not, and yes that’s for worse sometimes (very rarely, actually) as much as it’s for better. This punk-inspired version of the 2000 AD comic is leaner and meaner, and while it lacks some of the staple characters and satirical edge from the source material, those elements could have been brought in later. Dredd (aka Dredd 3D) is a simple single-location action movie in which there’s not much to know other than Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) needs to get to the top of a high-rise housing project to deal with a drug dealer (Lena Headey) on the top level. Why does Hollywood tend to make such convoluted genre films when they can be this bare, plotwise? The fact that Dredd and Indonesian action movie sensation The Raid came out about the same time and are so similar in premise and structure yet nothing alike in terms of individual characters or scenes or themes goes to show that some stories just need a basic foundation and then deliver the real goods, like vibrant drug-induced action and the should-have-been star-making support from Olivia Thirlby as Judge Dredd’s psychic apprentice sidekick. I’m still upset there was no sequel. (Christopher Campbell)

36. Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus Sci Fi
Twentieth Century Fox

Do y’all remember that alarm trailer? Holy shit. Ridley Scott’s long-awaited follow-up to his Alien franchise is not what most people saw coming, and as a result, it ended up occupying an unfortunately polarizing place in the pop culture sphere during its release. But age will see Prometheus to the finish line when it’s said and done. Maybe in the age of dull, lifeless reboots, sequels, and live action remakes audiences hoped for thematic recreation of the first or second Alien. Or maybe no one wanted an addition to the Alien franchise, who’s to say? But for those open to its tangential narrative, it is an all-consuming thrill ride. Scott’s exploration of theological territory through the age-old question “Where did we come from?” finds a disturbing home in its answers while refraining from providing too much clarity in the vein of giving the unknown a little credit. (Luke Hicks)

35. The Double (2013)

The Double Sci Fi

Why Richard Ayoade hasn’t written or directed a feature since his breathtaking adaptation of the seminal Dostoevsky novel of the same name is beyond anyone with a pulse. Ayoade came out swinging with back to back indie gems in Submarine and The Double, the latter of which was so unlike the former that no one could’ve guessed it originated in Ayoade’s mind. But it turned out to be a clinically insane sci-fi trip built on timid romance, identity confusion, and very dark rooms sprinkled with fluorescence. Jesse Eisenberg does his nerdy, insecure, quick-talking bit and Mia Wasikowska performs her painfully cute and even more painfully unaware routine right in front of his twitchy face. All it takes is a physical manifestation of the polar opposite version of himself to realize something’s wrong! (Luke Hicks)

34. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

War Of The Planet Of The Apes Sci Fi
Twentieth Century Fox

There are a number of franchises on this list only represented by a single title, especially if those franchises have been homogenous. Only the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy gave me anxiety deciding which installment was more deserving than the other two. Even though they’re a fairly consistent bunch in their merits, each has its own pros and cons. I actually am pretty partial to the first movie, Ruper Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes as an origin story for Caesar and his eventual army of chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, etc., but Matt Reeves has expanded upon that so well, even keeping this a visually driven series as the apes began to talk. Reeves’ second entry, War for the Planet of the Apes, does offer a sublime culmination of stunning state of the art performance capture effects (strengthened by Michael Seresin‘s marvelous cinematography)and a more well-contained war-movie plot. And with both Woody Harrelson‘s complex villain and Amiah Miller‘s voiceless child, there are also memorable human characters for the first time. If it’s the end, it’s a good peak to leave off on. (Christopher Campbell)

33. Midnight Special (2016)

Midnight Special Sci Fi
Warner Bros.

Why did Midnight Special fail at the box office, and why has it still not been universally revered in subsequent years? I blame the nostalgia machines in Hollywood churning out what people think they want based on what they loved from their childhoods. Midnight Special, a sci-fi road trip about a father escorting his gifted son to an unknown destination while government and other nefarious parties follow in pursuit, is the kind of original content we should be seeing more of and appreciating more regularly while Stranger Things should be viewed as little more than cheap pastiche. Writer/director Jeff Nichols is obviously influenced by movies of the 1980s, including the supposed “Amblin” type, but nothing is an obvious homage. This is the way artists should be turning their inspirations into works of their own. Nichols had the best and the worst year in 2016 with his brilliant duo of this and Loving, neither of which made much of a mark at the box office. Take Shelter remains his one masterpiece, but he’s been making better than average films since then that audiences need to stop sleeping on. (Christopher Campbell)

32. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Last Jedi Sci Fi

Well, where to begin? Should I lavish heaps of praise onto Rian Johnson for subverting the narrative and tone of the most popular franchise of all-time? Or should I point said praise toward the deeply satisfying implosion of the toxic fanbase that followed? They can’t be divorced from each other at this point. What Johnson did to Star Wars is much like what Christopher Nolan did to Batman in the sense that he turned a straightforward sci-fi fantasy epic on its head. The main differences lie in the fact that Nolan did it much better (no offense to Johnson who was under the scrupulous attention of Disney executives) with much more creative control at his fingertips and without the looming death threats from a shit ton of dudes who prize the idea of rehashed mediocrity over evolution. Nonetheless, Johnson achieved an impressive end in his playful and tasteful subversion of the classic sci-fi saga that, in reality, didn’t shake the narrative up too much. (Luke Hicks)

31. Okja (2017)


Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival are somewhere between cordial party friends on opposite ends of the political spectrum and bitter enemies, and while it’s hard to tell where exactly they stand in that vast range, it’s not hard to tell why. Bong Joon-Ho’s (yes, that Bong) Okja played to mass controversy at Cannes in 2017, where it became the first Netflix-produced film to compete in competition alongside Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), both of which ended up being the last (for now) since Cannes changed its rules afterward. It’s a shame, though, because Okja is damn-near a masterpiece, and the conversation around it was more centered on the Cannes controversy than it was the film’s enigmatic portrayal of a little girl’s love for her genetically altered pet superpig and the wild chase that unfolds as the result of a mass conglomerate trying to mine it for the most efficient meat production possible. Among two Tilda Swintons (what else do we need?), the film sports a batshit mad scientist Jake Gyllenhaal, a ski-masked anti-establishment group made up of Paul Dano, Lily Collins, and Steven Yeun, and rousing commentary on the state of the food industry in relation to environmental ethics. (Luke Hicks)

Next Page

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

Related Topics: , , , ,

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.