Top 10: 90s Action Sci-Fi Films
List by Aaron Haughton
The 80s may forever be remembered as the golden era of the action film, but the action films of the 90s and their massive budgets give the previous era a good run for their money. Due to better practical effects and heightened by the dawn of computer generated imagery, the 90s action films could do something the 80s couldn't do quite as effectively: blur the lines between action and science fiction.
Without further adieu, here's our list of the best sci-fi action films the 90s has to offer!
- 10: Tremors (1990)
One of the earlier films on the list, Tremors succeeds in combining a myriad of different practical effects methods into one cohesive and engaging piece of sci-fi action cinema. Its ever escalating plot and scenarios make for some tense moments and entertaining scenes, and the film's diverse cast and cutting humor make it a delight to witness. It's a lock schlock and smoking barrel good B-movie that they just don't make anymore.
- 9: Total Recall (1990)
Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up to deliver a mind-bending action film full of delectable sci-fi oddity. Before Terminator 2, this marked another high water mark for both Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger that stood out a bit from its peers thanks to Philip K. Dick's paranoid drenched source material, which the film is largely true to. It's an extremely brutal cartoonish adventure that hasn't aged entirely well, but that only adds to the charm, right?
- 8: The Fifth Element (1997)
Have your multipass ready because The Fifth Element is a wildly absurd and comedic trip into sci-fi action glory! The film took Besson's level of vision and stylish artistry to a whole new level of scope that he didn't really return back to until last year's massive flop, Valerian. Perhaps a little too much on the long side, this futuristic romp still manages to be a quirky, funny, delightfully odd and an exciting good time.
- 7: Men In Black (1997)
Another gem from 1997, Men in Black is a majorly satisfying summer blockbuster that, even after all these years, delivers on spectacle and laughs A smart script, ripe with spectacular set pieces, and the hot and cold dynamic of the film's lead actors make it a film worth watching. Its playfully odd, yet dark and sometimes ominiously heavy; the performances are as charismatic as they come, and Vincent D'Onofrio is still comically nightmarish as the bugged out villain.
- 6: Face/Off (1997)
Face/Off takes the age old premise of good guy versus bad guy and flips it on its ear, while turning the dial all the way up to over-the-top insanity and adding a dollop of sci-fi. It's a fun cat-and-mouse thrill ride, which is made all the more enjoyable through Cage and Travolta's plays upon one another and John Woo's penchant for exaggerated, albeit poetical violence. It's silly, slick, sick and sybaritic popcorn-munching fare.
- 5: The Matrix (1999)
A late 90s staple, The Matrix is a hyper-violent, often preposterous, technological stunner that succeeds in delivering dazzling thrills with brazenly chic flourishes. The film has become so embedded within pop culture that it would take a hacker to delete the experience from our memories. The Matrix still has one of the most badass shootouts ever committed to cinema and remains to be one of the most influential action film of its generation. When asked to choose, always take the red pill.
- 4: Jurassic Park (1993)
Cue the epic John Williams score! Jurassic Park is a monster of a monster movie that injects a heavy dose of science fiction with its heart palpitating thrills. The film is a glorious mix of practical effects and CGI that ushered in the dawn of a new computer generated era with its prehistoric epic. Better yet, the film still manages to be as breathtaking and immersive as it was upon its release. Jurassic Park remains one of Spielberg's best films, and one of the best monster movies ever made. It took a bite out of our childhood and continues to devour the wonderment of generations that follow.
- 3: Ghost in the Shell (1995)
With gorgeous animation, an evocative soundtrack and a shot of mind-altering bizarro sci-fi, Ghost in the Shell is hard to beat. Even James Cameron cites this as a source of influence, going so far as to call it "The first truly adult animation film to reach a level of literary and visual excellence." That's no small praise, and even the 90s staple The Matrix rips a few pages straight from Ghost in the Shell's book. It's an anime masterpiece that more deserving of a better live-action adaptation, but that's another story...
- 2: The Iron Giant (1999)
Tender, moving, and all around excellent, The Iron Giant, is a sci-fi film with exciting action that will appease kids and adults alike with its ever flowing wit and wisdom. Potent with allegory about power, politics, fear of the unknown, and the potential of imagination course lovingly through this late 90s gem.
Before we get to the number 1 pick, here's a few sci-fi actioners that just missed the cut:
- Starship Troopers
- Independence Day
- Demolition Man
- The Rocketeer
- Mars Attacks!
And the number 1 action film of the 90s is...
- 1: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Made almost 30 years ago, nothing feels dated about this James Cameron sci-fi action masterpiece. Cameron bests himself in every way, and crafts a film with more humanity and moral concern, creating a rounded portrait of its human and cyborg characters. It's dripping with thrills, cutting edge special effects, catchy one-liners, and top-class action, which are largely unparalleled and uncontested.
What do you think? Do you agree with our list? Did we leave off your favorite 90s action sci-fi film? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!