Entertainment

The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies 

looksharp
Updated April 1, 2020 46k votes 2.3k voters 38.2k views 171 items

List Rules Movies which are more than just action. Please don't include superhero movies or The Matrix series, Star Wars series, Star Trek series, or the Terminator series.

Cerebral sci-fi is sci-fi that cares as much about ideas as explosions. I like Star Wars, Star Trek, and superhero movies. But how many more space battles can I watch without getting bored?

Sometimes cerebral sci-fi is weird  but not for the sake of being weird. How many people understand the ending of 2001, a fine example of cerebral sci-fi? These kinds of movies keep your mind occupied rather than force you to sit on the couch passively for two hours. My favorites include Gattaca, 12 Monkeys, Moon, and Contact.

This list contains movies I like, movies I dislike, and some I haven't seen. You can help the rest of us decide what to see by voting for your favorites and voting down the ones you disliked. You can also add movies to the list. Movies which are more than just action. Please don't include superhero movies or The Matrix series, Star Wars series, Star Trek series, or the Terminator series.

list ordered by
1
Blade Runner is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Released: 1982

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Blade Runner is a 1982 American neo-noir dystopian science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, and Edward James Olmos. The screenplay, ...more
2
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Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe

Released: 1995

Directed by: Terry Gilliam

12 Monkeys, also known as Twelve Monkeys, is a 1995 American science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam, inspired by Chris Marker's 1962 short film La Jetée, and starring Bruce ...more
3
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Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, Douglas Rain

Released: 1968

Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was partially inspired by ...more
4
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JohnWa added Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion

Released: 2005

Directed by: Joss Whedon

Serenity is a 2005 American space western film written and directed by Joss Whedon. It is a continuation of Whedon's short-lived 2002 Fox science fiction television series Firefly and stars the ...more
5
Inception is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Released: 2010

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Inception is a 2010 science fiction thriller film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars a large ensemble cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph ...more
6
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Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James

Released: 2009

Directed by: Neill Blomkamp

District 9 is a 2009 science fiction film directed by Neill Blomkamp, released August 13, 2009. It takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa. District 9 is based on Alive in Joburg, a short film ...more
7
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Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Carl Weathers

Released: 1977

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a 1977 science fiction film, written and directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, ...more
8
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Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Chris Elliott

Released: 1989

Directed by: James Cameron

The Abyss is a 1989 American science fiction-adventure film written and directed by James Cameron, starring Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Michael Biehn. When an American submarine ...more
9
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Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Released: 2014

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Interstellar is a British-American 2014 science fiction epic film directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine. The film ...more
10
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Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, Uma Thurman

Released: 1997

Directed by: Andrew Niccol

Gattaca is a 1997 American science fiction film written and directed by Andrew Niccol. It stars Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, with Jude Law, Loren Dean, Ernest Borgnine, Gore Vidal, and Alan ...more
11
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Matthew McConaughey, Jodie Foster, Tom Skerritt

Released: 1997

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Contact is a 1997 American science fiction drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis. It is a film adaptation of Carl Sagan's 1985 novel of the same name; Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan wrote the ...more
12
The Martian is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig

Released: 2015

Directed by: Ridley Scott

The Martian is a 2015 science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott, based on the novel by Andy Weir. An astronaut (Matt Damon) becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him gone, and must ...more
13
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JohnWa added Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson

Released: 1985

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Back to the Future is a 1985 American science fiction film directed by Robert Zemeckis. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent thirty years into ...more
14
Groundhog Day is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott

Released: 1993

Directed by: Harold Ramis

Groundhog Day is a 1993 American fantasy comedy film directed by Harold Ramis. A derisive weatherman (Bill Murray) finds himself reliving the same day over and over again after reporting a small ...more
15
Ex Machina is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac

Released: 2015

Directed by: Alex Garland

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Ex Machina is a 2015 independent science fiction psychological thriller film directed by Alex Garland. A young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is selected to participate in a ground-breaking ...more
16
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Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett, Jr.

Released: 1985

Directed by: Wolfgang Petersen

Enemy Mine is a 1985 science fiction drama film directed by Wolfgang Petersen based on the story of the same name by Barry B. Longyear. It starred Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. as a human ...more
17
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Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright

Released: 2000

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Unbreakable is a 2000 American superhero drama film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. The film tells the story of ...more
18
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Drew Barrymore, Ashley Tisdale, Jake Gyllenhaal

Released: 2001

Directed by: Richard Kelly

Donnie Darko is a 2001 American supernatural drama film written and directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Jena ...more
19
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CarlSwart added Charlton Heston, Linda Harrison, James Whitmore

Released: 1968

Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner

Planet of the Apes is a 1968 American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and starring Charlton Heston. Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, and James ...more
20
Edge of Tomorrow/Live.Di... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Edge of Tomorrow/Live.Die.Repeat Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt

Released: 2014

21
Dark City is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Jennifer Connelly, Kiefer Sutherland, Melissa George

Released: 1998

Directed by: Alex Proyas

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Dark City is a 1998 neo-noir science fiction film directed by Alex Proyas. The screenplay was written by Proyas, Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer. The film stars Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, ...more
22
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Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow

Released: 2002

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Minority Report is a 2002 American neo-noir science fiction mystery-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and loosely based on the short story of the same name by Philip K. Dick. It is set ...more
23
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Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Released: 2012

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Looper is a 2012 American science fiction action thriller film directed by Rian Johnson. In dystopian 2074, a hired gun spends his day's assassinating criminals sent from the future until one ...more
24
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Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Thomas Haden Church

Released: 2006

Directed by: Mike Judge

Idiocracy is a 2006 American satirical science fiction comedy film directed by Mike Judge and starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, and Terry Crews. The film tells the story of two ...more
25
Children of Men is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
CarlSwart added Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Michael Caine

Released: 2006

Directed by: Alfonso CuarĂ³n

Children of Men is a 2006 science fiction thriller film directed and co-written by Alfonso Cuarón. The screenplay, based on P. D. James's 1992 novel of the same name, was credited to five ...more