Just as with the fantasy genre, many classic science fiction films released during the aughts. Some of them were originals, while others were continuations of classic franchises. The turn of the Millennium saw the rise of CGI, allowing these fantastic worlds to be rise on the screen. For those eager for to know, here are the top 10 sci-fi films of the 2000s.

10. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

In the history of sci-fi, there are few more underappreciated than Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. With its dry wit, satire, and classic British humour, the radio serial quickly became a classic. This film takes place after the Earth is destroyed for a hyperspace highway by the grouchy Vogon race. From there, Arthur Dent and his ally Ford Prefect are sent on a wild adventure across the galaxy.

With extensive use of practical effects, the film captures the original novelty of Adams’ work. Leading the film is a pre-Hobbit Martin Freeman, who captures Martin Dent’s character of a snarky POV lead. While this adaptation had a few critics, the original vision of the radio drama shines through in the end.

9. District 9 (2009), Sony Pictures

While Sci-fi has always been a tool for social commentary, District 9‘s symbolism is practically a massive UFO hanging over Johannesburg. District 9 follows Wikus, a South African government worker caught in the crosshairs of corrupt organizations and alien refugees. Director Niell Blomkamp took heavy inspiration from his own upbringing in creating the story.

The film’s action manages to combine sci-fi weapons with the grizzly world of gang warfare, creating a unique style. Despite how dark the film is, there is a genuine message at the center of it all about seeing past each other’s differences. While the film did end with a sequel hook that went unresolved, there have always been rumors about its return.

8. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), Paramount Pictures

Of all of the sub-genres of sci-fi, Dieselpunk is among the most underrated. Apart from this entry, it has been under-explored. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow pays homage to the style of classic adventure serials from the 40’s. As for the film’s plot, it is a fairly standard story. It centers on a mad scientist’s super-weapon, and good ‘ole American war hero Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan on a high-flying quest to stop him.

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The film’s effects were a labor of love from over a hundred VFX artists, and a production history spanning a decade. While the CGI is fairly dated, it fits in perfectly with the style of the film. Sky Captain became a cult classic for its campy story and acting, as well as the film’s homage to a former era.

7. Minority Report (2002), 20th Century Fox

In today’s world of mass surveillance, Spielberg’s Minority Report serves as a dire warning. Minority Report takes place in a world where psychics are able to see the future and preemptively stop crimes. However, after officer John Anderton is predicted to murder someone, he is forced on the run. On his journey, he learns the system isn’t as foolproof as one might think.

Along the way, the film asks several questions about fate, destiny, and whether its right to punish others for the potential crimes they might commit. As for the visuals, Spielberg once again shines in how he depicts a sleek, holographic world. As AI advances further every day, films like Minority Report don’t portray an outirght dystopia but instead ask us to think.

6. The Matrix: Revolutions (2003) Warner Bros.

The Matrix has always been a revolutionary sci-fi series with both its action and its themes, and Revolutions brings viewers the (original) conclusion. After the cliffhanger of Reloaded, Neo and his team must reunite to stop both the encroaching machines and Agent Smith’s conquest of the eponymous virtual world.

This time, the action gives us both grandiose, grim battles in the real world against armies of machines and physics defying duels in the Matrix. Lastly, the philosophical themes and religious symbolism have both been amped up from the previous films. Fortunately, they never bring the film to a complete halt like with the previous film, letting audiences take them in at a reasonable pace.

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5. Star Trek (2009), Paramount Pictures

There would be no avoiding an entry from this flagship sci-fi franchise. J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek brought the classic series into the modern day. At the very beginning, we see how this version created a new timeline, the Kelvin Timeline, allowing for a full-on reboot. This 2009 film tells the story of how Captain Kirk met Spock, rose to the rank of captain, and once again cemented his legacy.

Star Trek itself is a timeless story about exploration and diplomacy, and this film shows how it can be revived for a new era. With a fourth film supposedly on the way, Abrams’ addition to the series certainly helped the franchise live long and prosper.

4. Serenity (2005), 20th Century Fox

Firefly went down as one of the most tragic examples of a cancelled series in television history given its witty dialogue and engaging storytelling. However, through fan support the series got one more chapter; Serenity. Serenity continues the eponymous crew’s story as they must help the psychic River Tam flee. Now, they are pursued by a new villain, the stoic Operative played by Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Since the film has the same cast and crew as the original series, all of the magic has been maintained. Even if it wasn’t a second season, fans at least got a fitting conclusion for the crew of the Firefly. The dark horse victory of this film stands as a testament to how powerful fandoms can be in keeping franchises alive.

3. AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001), Warner Bros.

AI was a collaboration between Steven Spielberg and legendary director Stanley Kubric before the latter’s untimely passing. However, the film manages to combine the cold style of Kubric with the whimsy of Spielberg successfully. While panned upon release, audiences have since gone on to appreciate its deeper, emotional meaning.

AI retells the story of Pinocchio, now a robot trying to prove himself as a “real boy” in a cyberpunk world. While it starts out as a recognizable adaptation, it goes further and further off the rails as it progresses, delving into more far-fetched sci-fi ideas reminiscent of Kubric’s work.

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2. Avatar (2009), 20th Century Fox

While Avatar may not have immediately become the powerhouse franchise Fox thought it would be, its impact is undeniable. James Cameron’s space opera Avatar takes viewers to the world of Pandora, in all its glory. Despite the derivative plot, the real star of the film is the setting. Avatar revolutionized cinema in both its motion-capture technology and its vibrant, living world.

In the end, Avatar held the title of highest grossing film of all time for nearly a decade, a testament to a new era of cinema. With three more sequels coming, hopefully Cameron can revitalize the wonder of Pandora for a new era.

1. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), 20th Century Fox

As with The Lord of the Rings and fantasy, no other saga could top the list. Revenge of the Sith has become one of the most beloved films in the Star Wars saga, as fans look back more fondly on the prequels. Revenge of the Sith tells the story of the final chapters of the Clone Wars as Anakin completes his journey to becoming Darth Vader.

The conclusion features epic space battles, intergalactic action, and the single best lightsaber duel in the entire saga thus far. Later entries in Star Wars such as The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian take heavy influence from this film alone. Ultimately, Revenge of the Sith was the Star Wars saga at its height.

The 2020s are shaping up to be an interesting decade for the Science Fiction. For more on the films defining the genres present, check out out video reviews of Dune: Part Two and the latest Rebel Moon.

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