Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of the 1980s



Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of the 1980s

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Nick Spake.

It was a decade when some of our finest filmmakers let their imaginations run wild and science fiction blockbusters peaked. In this video, counts down our picks for the top 10 sci-fi movies of the 1980s. For this list, we're taking a look at the films that changed the way we looked at sci-fi and defined why we go to see movies of that genre in the first place.

Special thanks to our users jkellis, mojoo, Andrew A. Dennison for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest.
Script written by Nick Spake.

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of the 1980s

It was a decade when some of our finest filmmakers let their imaginations run wild and science fiction blockbusters peaked. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 science fiction movies of the 1980s.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the films that changed the way we looked at sci-fi and defined why we go to see movies of that genre in the first place. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades of sci-fi flicks from the 1950s to the 2000s.

#10: “Predator” (1987)

A cigar-chewing Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a team of commandos to hunt down an extra-terrestrial. As the title suggests, the tables are turned as they become the prey while the alien becomes the predator. How could a movie with a premise like that not be entertaining as hell? Taking a page from “Jaws,” “Predator” slowly builds tension by keeping its chameleon-like creature incognito. Then when the ugly motherf!@#er does surface, it doesn’t disappoint. With plenty of applause-worthy kills and macho dialogue, “Predator” will satisfy anyone’s lust for carnage.

#9: “RoboCop” (1987)

Remember the good old days when blockbusters weren’t afraid to go for a hard R rating? So do we. “RoboCop” comes complete with all the gleeful violence and profanity a kid could ever desire. As over-the-top as “RoboCop” might be, the film also manages to be more than just senseless action. In the midst of all the shootouts, “RoboCop” works in a fair deal of satire, inventiveness, and charm. Even its title character is surprisingly compelling and likable, despite not having much of a personality on the surface.

#8: “Ghostbusters” (1984)

Usually whenever comedy and flashy effects collide, it’s a recipe for disaster. The Academy Award-nominated effects in “Ghostbusters” are an afterthought, however, when considering the film’s one-liners, playful creativity, and the catchiest damn theme song of all time. The Ghostbusters themselves play a huge part in the film’s appeal, fashioning the finest comedic team this side of the Marx Brothers. Many films since have tried to capture the same ingenious blend of comedy and visual spectacle, but few have done it better than this bad boy.

#7: “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982)

After the first motion picture kind of fell short of expectations, it looked like maybe “Star Trek” should have ended with the TV series. “The Wrath of Khan” proved, however, that this franchise’s perennial lifespan was just starting to prosper. Talk about a serious upgrade with one of the most menacing villains in all science fiction, strong character development, and a genuine sense of peril. Not to give too much away, but every character’s fate hangs in the balance here. It’s the riskiest “Star Trek” ever made and arguably the best.

#6: “Blade Runner” (1982)

While it was overlooked by audiences and dismissed by most critics when it first came out, this slick sci-fi flick eventually achieved a deserved cult following on video. “Blade Runner” wasn’t the first film to mix science fiction with neo-noir, but no movie has done a better job unifying the two. Every frame is a work of stylish art, envisioning the most vibrant futuristic city in all film. Throw in a complex, ambiguous story that people still discuss today and you have a movie that was destined for classic status.

#5: “The Terminator” (1984)

James Cameron established himself as one of our best action/sci-fi directors with “The Abyss” and another film coming up in this countdown. It was the original “Terminator,” however, that put the future king of the box office on the map. Much like “RoboCop,” this could have been nothing more than gratuitous violence without purpose. Bloodshed aside, though, “The Terminator” tells a real story with soul, romance, and a grim preview of the future. Plus there’s the always-entertaining Arnold, who might make a couple more appearances on our ‘90s sci-fi list.

#4: “Back to the Future” (1985)

This is another sci-fi tale with a comedic edge, but what elevates “Back to the Future” to another level of greatness is the film’s heart. Although it looks like a movie about time travel, “Back to the Future” is really about the power of love. Not just romantic love, but the love between a parent and child, student and mentor, and friends. It’s the affection we feel for these characters that keeps us invested in the exceptionally plotted story, particularly in one of the most enthralling climaxes you’ll ever see.

#3: “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982)

“E.T.” is the epitome of movie magic. Sometimes it’s hilarious, like when the naïve E.T. helps himself to a beer in Elliot’s fridge. Other times, the film is devastating, like when it appears the lovable alien has met his end. All of the time, “E.T.” is an enchanting miracle that will resonate with anybody who possesses an imagination. The film embodies everything that makes Steven Spielberg one of the primary creative minds of any generation, being both a revelation of visual effects and a triumph of original, heartfelt storytelling.

#2: “Aliens” (1986)

The “s” at the end of its title is the first indication to how much grander “Aliens” is compared to “Alien.” Where Ridley Scott’s original was a confined monster movie, James Cameron’s follow-up is an all-out war between an army of aliens and an unlikely band of heroes. The MVP of the bunch remains Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, cinema’s definitive action heroine. What a kickass and, in a strange way, liberating film. Let’s just pretend the other sequels never happened and Ripley went out on a high note.

Before we go home to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Brazil” (1985)
- “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” (1981)
- “They Live” (1988)
- “The Thing” (1982)
- “The Last Starfighter” (1984)

#1: “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

“Star Wars” became the highest-grossing movie of its time and won six Oscars. How do you top something that’s earned more universal success than any other film in existence? You make “The Empire Strikes Back,” that’s how. Often considered the trilogy’s best entry, “Empire Strikes Back” gets it just right by delving deeper into Lucas’ boundless universe, pairing different characters together, changing the entire game in the film’s final act, and not wrapping things up with the happiest ending. In short, it’s the textbook example of how to do a sequel – and how to get people salivating for the next instalment.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite sci-fi movie from the 1980s? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to
Why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why is Blade Runner only number six?!?!?!