Total Nerd The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies  

looksharp
44.8k votes 2.2k voters 34.9k views 164 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.

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

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Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe 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

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JohnWa added Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion 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

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Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, Douglas Rain 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

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Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Carl Weathers 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

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Inception is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt Inception is a 2010 science fiction heist thriller film written, produced, and directed by Christopher Nolan. The film stars a large ensemble cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, ...more

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Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Chris Elliott 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

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Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James 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

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Ex Machina is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
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

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The Martian is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig 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 dead, and must ...more

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CarlSwart added Charlton Heston, Linda Harrison, James Whitmore 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

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Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, Uma Thurman 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

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Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett, Jr. 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

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JohnWa added Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson Back to the Future is a 1985 American comic science fiction film. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, produced by Steven Spielberg, and stars Michael J. Fox, ...more

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Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain 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

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Matthew McConaughey, Jodie Foster, Tom Skerritt 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

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Drew Barrymore, Ashley Tisdale, Jake Gyllenhaal 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

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Groundhog Day is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott Groundhog Day is a 1993 American fantasy comedy film directed by Harold Ramis, starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, and Chris Elliott. It was written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, based on a story ...more

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Edge of Tomorrow/Live.Die.Repe... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Edge of Tomorrow/Live.Die.Repeat Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt

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Dark City is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Jennifer Connelly, Kiefer Sutherland, Melissa George 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

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Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright 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

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Children of Men is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
CarlSwart added Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Michael Caine 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

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Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow 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

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StevenHess added Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, Michael Hayes Highlander is a 1986 British-American cult fantasy film directed by Russell Mulcahy and based on a story by Gregory Widen. It stars Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown, and Roxanne ...more

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Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Thomas Haden Church 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

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Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt Looper is a 2012 American science fiction action thriller film written and directed by Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. In the film, time travel is ...more

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Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Kaya Scodelario Moon is a 2009 British science fiction drama film co-written and directed by Duncan Jones. The film follows Sam Bell, a man who experiences a personal crisis as he nears the end of a three-year ...more

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Jurassic Park is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough Jurassic Park is a 1993 American science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. It is the first installment of the Jurassic Park franchise. It is based on the 1990 novel of the ...more

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Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, Hugh Jackman The Prestige is a 2006 mystery drama film directed by Christopher Nolan, from a screenplay adapted by him and his brother Jonathan Nolan from Christopher Priest's 1995 World Fantasy ...more

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JohnWa added Zooey Deschanel, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a 2005 British-American comic science fiction film directed by Garth Jennings, based upon previous works in the media franchise of the same name, created ...more

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The Fly is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
stubb added Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, David Cronenberg Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial The Fly is a 1986 American science fiction horror film directed and co-written by David Cronenberg. Produced by Brooksfilms and distributed by 20th Century Fox, the film stars Jeff Goldblum, ...more

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Jim Carrey, Paul Giamatti, Ed Harris The Truman Show is a 1998 American satirical social science fiction comedy-drama film directed by Peter Weir and written by Andrew Niccol. The cast includes Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, Laura ...more

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JohnWa added Will Smith, Shia LaBeouf, Bridget Moynahan I, Robot is a 2004 American dystopian science fiction action film directed by Alex Proyas. The screenplay was written by Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman, and is inspired by Isaac Asimov's ...more

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Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman Outbreak is a 1995 American medical disaster film directed by Wolfgang Petersen and based on Richard Preston's non-fiction book The Hot Zone. The film stars Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and ...more

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Independence Day is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
JohnWa added Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Vivica A. Fox Independence Day is a 1996 American science fiction disaster film co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich. The film stars Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, ...more

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Elysium is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga Elysium is a 2013 American dystopian science fiction action thriller film written, directed, and co-produced by Neill Blomkamp, and starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga and Sharlto ...more

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Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Bruce Lee Limitless is a 2011 American thriller film directed by Neil Burger and starring Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, and Robert De Niro. It is based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn.

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Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack, Oskar Werner Fahrenheit 451 is a 1966 British Dystopian science fiction drama film directed by François Truffaut and starring Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, and Cyril Cusack. Based on the 1953 novel of ...more

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Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland Flatliners is a 1990 American sci-fi horror thriller film directed by Joel Schumacher, starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt. Five medical ...more

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Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, M. C. Gainey Starman is a 1984 American romantic science fiction film, directed by John Carpenter, that tells the story of an alien who has come to Earth in response to the invitation found on the gold ...more

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Kacy Cagle Phillips added Roddy Piper, Keith David, Tommy Morrison They Live is a 1988 American science fiction film written and directed by John Carpenter. The film stars Roddy Piper, Keith David, and Meg Foster. It follows a nameless drifter referred to as ...more

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JohnWa added Christian Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs Equilibrium is a 2002 American dystopian science fiction film written and directed by Kurt Wimmer and starring Christian Bale, Emily Watson, and Taye Diggs. The film follows John Preston, an ...more

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CarlSwart added Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Theodor Loos Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist epic science fiction drama film directed by Fritz Lang. The film was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou, and starred Brigitte Helm, Gustav ...more

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Steve Guttenberg, Clint Howard, Brian Dennehy Cocoon is a 1985 science fiction film directed by Ron Howard about a group of elderly people rejuvenated by aliens. The movie stars Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Brian Dennehy, Jack ...more

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotle... is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Cerebral Sci-Fi Movies
Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Carrey Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 American romantic science-fiction comedy-drama film about an estranged couple who have each other erased from their memories, written by Charlie ...more

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Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Michael Palin Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Brazil is a 1985 British film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Tom Stoppard. British National Cinema by Sarah Street describes the film as a ...more

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James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow Rise of the Apes is in pre-production as of May 2010. This origin story for a new franchise takes place in modern day San Francisco and will star James Franco. It is currently scheduled for a ...more

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Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Logan Lerman The Butterfly Effect is a 2004 American psychological thriller film that was written and directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, starring Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart. The title refers to ...more

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JohnWa added Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Charlie Sheen Being John Malkovich is a 1999 American fantasy comedy film written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze. It stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener, with John Malkovich ...more

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MatthewGill added Yul Brynner, James Brolin, Dick Van Patten Westworld is a 1973 science fiction western-thriller film written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton and produced by Paul Lazarus III about amusement park robots that become evil after a ...more