The Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 1990s

The 90s was a popular decade especially since it helped shape modern pop culture. Everything from boy bands to prequels of popular film franchises began in that decade. Science fiction is no different. But many argue that sci-fi began in the 80s, and even if that is true, then do know that the genre continued to flourish with the generation that followed.

The 1990s was a time when the film industry sought more technological advancements in terms of filmmaking. With that being said, impressive visuals were introduced as well as high concept ideas and unique aesthetics. This resulted in quality sci-fi movies that immediately gained box-office success and built a legacy that stands up to today.

ExploreTalent has put together sci-fi films of the 90s that pushed the boundaries of the genre by featuring unique protagonists, thought-provoking themes, and attained a considerable amount of success:

1. Contact (1997)

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This Robert Zemeckis film was adapted from the famous novel by Carl Sagan. It follows the story of a young astronomer named Dr. Ellie Arroway (played by Jodi Foster) who receives a signal from outer space. Arroway is then tasked to establish contact, but her efforts are naturally burdened by several deterrents around her.

Zemeckis does have a tendency to insert sentimental themes in his movies, as evidenced by the Tom Hanks classic Forrest Gump. But while Contact has its poignant moments, the whole movie is enough to satisfy the needs of every sci-fi enthusiast out there. There are aliens, a strong female lead, and a stunning discovery by the end of the movie. While it might be a little slow-paced, no one can deny that the movie does build up to quite an interesting climax.

2. Total Recall (1990)

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Total Recall is not just one of the most memorable sci-fi films of the 90s, it also happens to be the most iconic one of the said genre. Loosely adapted from the novel We Can Remember It for You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick, Total Recall has proven to be a fun ride from the start to the very end. This satire-type film comes complete with quirky one-liners, extreme violence, profanity, and stars the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid, a construction worker from Earth in the year 2048. After being haunted by memories involving his alternate life in Mars, Quiad uncovers a conspiracy theory that is set to change his world forever.

Even if the movie is stretched out to the point of absurdity, one can’t deny the fact that the visuals are quite impressive. Everything from the post-punk production design to the sultry three-breasted alien prostitute makes Total Recall quite the amusing ride.

3. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

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If you happen to be a fan of the cyberpunk, then go see Ghost in the Shell if you have not already. It is one of the critically acclaimed animated films in the world. The story is set in the year 2029, where humankind is managed by an electronic network where consciousness is given shape through custom cybersuits, thus giving birth to the film’s title.

The movie’s main protagonist is Motoko Kusanagi, who is fitted with this full-body prosthesis after an accident as a child. Using her skills as a computer hacker, Kusanagi is able to move from host to host using her cyberbrain. Amid the hi-tech imagery and dystopian society is a mind-blowing spectacle that will impress even non-anime fans. Modern fans will be in for a treat as well, since production has officially begun the production of the movie’s live-action remake starring Rupert Sanders and Scarlett Johansson coming this 2017.

4. Jurassic Park (1993)

JURASSIC PARK, 1993. ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Stevel Spielberg‘s sci-fi theme park thriller is one of the most outstanding films that have ever come out of the 90s. Now you may ask where the sci-fi aspect actually comes into the movie. Do recall that the only reason the titular park has acquired such a massive collection of dinosaurs was because a scientific research group had brought them back to life.

The film would have easily been a B-rated movie, if it weren’t for the great cast or Spielberg’s exceptional directing. Visuals did play a great part as well, especially with the terrifying T-Rex and velociraptors that creep up on the screen every now and then.

5. The Matrix (1999)

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This won’t be a sci-fi list without mentioning The Matrix. Filled with dystopian themes, existential crisis, and cyber-action, it is safe to say this is by far the greatest creation by the Wachowski Siblings.

Keanu Reeves stars as the protagonist Neo, a computer programmer in Metacortex corporation who moonlights as a hacker. He later discovers the truth behind the existence of humanity by realizing that the whole world is being dictated by nothing but a simulated reality. Throw in a couple of mind-blowing action scenes that seemingly gave birth to those “slow-moving bullet” sequences along with a spectacular cast that included Laurence Fisburne‘s Morpheus and the ultimate femme fatale Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, then you’ve got yourself one of the greatest sci-fi movies released right before the new millennium.

The Matrix spawned a series of sequels, video games, and comic books due to its popularity. To this day, the movie is regarded as a fan favorite for those who enjoy the genre.