The 50 Best Moments in Sci-Fi History

These are all the moments that made our favorite films truly memorable.

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We've written about our favorite films of all time, but they'd be nothing without these memorable moments that make them worth watching again...and again... and again.

Warning: Some of the clips feature intense violence, mild nudity, or EXTREME spoilers, so proceed with caution.

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50. "Nuclear Wessels" (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

This won't be the only time we see Star Trek on this list, but this moment in Star Trek: The Voyage Home—with the crew of the Enterprise trying to navigate the "alien" world of 1980s San Francisco—is wonderfully lighthearted and incredibly fun to watch. After some dramatica entries with The Wrath of Khan and The Search of Spock, this moment personifies what makes The Voyage Home such a breath of fresh air.

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49. "Draw." (Westworld)

The original 1973 film is quickly becoming the overshadowed by the HBO megahit TV show, but this scene is Westworld is the exact moment when all is lost. As the programmers of this future adult playground try to shut down the park, The Gunslinger (played by Yul Brynner) claims his first victim. It's a great and shocking moment.

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48. Ava Escapes (Ex Machina)

Ex Machina was an incredible debut for director Alex Garland. While the film has many memorable moments, the most cathartic is when robot Ava escapes the prison of her creator's making and joins seamlessly with humanity. It's a complex ending that challenges thoughts on agency and human life. It's a stunning conclusion to an equally stunning film.

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47. The Mirror Shot (Contact)

In the grand scheme of Contact, written by Carl Sagan, this scene is a quiet moment. In fact, it's so quiet you might not even notice how strange it is. In the scene, a young Ellie Arroway runs to a bathroom cabinet to retrieve medicine after her father collapses. However, the camera work—at least as it appears on screen—should be physically impossible as what the audience is seeing is actually a reflection in the mirror. Although this scene using incredibly impressive special effects for 1997, it still remains one of the movie's best moments.

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46. ED-209 Malfunctions (Robocop)

An early scene in the film, the ED-209 malfunction is so devastatingly violent that it sets the tone for what follows. The bookended emotions in this short four-minute scene—one of arrogant confidence to horrific violence—is an intense range of emotions that can't help but leave an impact on the viewer.

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45. "You're One Ugly Motherf***er." (Predator)

This was surprisingly tough choice since Arnold Schwarzenegger's catchphrase generation is turned to max in The Predator, but the moment when we finally see the alien's disgusting visage—and Dutch's perfect delivery of the audience's own thoughts—makes this scene one of sci-fi's greatest.

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44. Entering the Heptapod's Spaceship (Arrival)

Arrival is a fascinating movie for many reasons, but its the film's depiction of meeting alien beings so unlike ourselves that stands out as its strongest theme. So it make sense that when Arrival's heroine, Louise Banks, meets the hetptapods remains seared in our minds. It also helps that the other two hours of the film are equally as great.

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43. "Two Weeks" (Total Recall)

While "Get Your Ass to Mars" and Johnny Cab are beloved moments in 1990's Total Recall, the most bizarre is Douglas Quaid's plan for infiltrating the Mars base. In short, he dresses up in a middle-aged woman suit, deactivates the robot suit, and throws its head at a guard that then subsequently explodes. Like...what? It's so great.

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42. The Tesseract (Interstellar)

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is one of the most ambitious sci-fi epics in the past 10 years. While it doesn't quite reach the upper echelons of films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, it did attempt to probe into the feasibility of deep space travel. It's at the film's end—when Joseph Cooper communicates with his daughter Murphy while inside the Tesseract—that turns the emotion to 11, leaving behind a conclusion that's hard to shake from your mind.

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41. The Creation of Leeloo (The Fifth Element)

The Fifth Element owes a lot to classic sci-fi anime and Franco-Belgian comics like The Incal, but the scene of Leeloo's birth quite literally manufactures the main protagonist and plot device right in front of our eyes. Some of the visual effects work hasn't aged very gracefully, but it's a great moment filled with sci-fi weirdness.

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40. Head Explosion (Scanners)

David Cronenberg's Scanners is memorable for many reasons, chief among them its immense uneasiness and weirdness. This feeling culminates within the film's first 15 minutes when a ConSec exec, who tries to demonstrate the power of Scanners, meets more than his match, causing his head to explode into a gory display. It's an image you won't soon forget.

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39. Zero Gravity Fighting (Inception)

Christopher Nolan's Inception is a mesmerizing film for its interweaving plot and subversion of audience expectations. But its playful use of set pieces, perfectly encapsulated in this zero-gravity fight sequence, uses the film's strange "story within a story" plot to amazing effect.

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38. "Soylent Green Is People!" (Soylent Green)

In Soylent Green, protagonist Frank Thorn's investigation into the Soylent Corporation ends in one horrifying truth: "Soylent green is people!" His words die away as the film ends, leaving it torturously ambiguous if Thorn's startling discovery will ever come to light.

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37. "Klaatu Barada Nikto" (The Day the Earth Stood Still)

Sharing the early sci-fi pedestal with Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still's famous phrase "Klaatu Barada Nikto," uttered by the film's heroine Helen Benson, saves Earth from complete destruction. It's a tense moment in a film filled with tense moments.

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36. Holographic Sex Scene (Blade Runner 2049)

Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 was a sequel the original Blade Runner deserved. It didn't rehash old plot lines and it explored the world originally created in 1982. However, this moment between K and Joi is amazingly creative and blends some hard science fiction with some actual tech that makes you think that such a world isn't so far away—a perfect homage to one of the greats.

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35. Vader's Redemption (The Return of the Jedi)

The conclusion of Vader's character arc—not to mention the King Joffrey-esque shadenfreude of watching Palpatine get thrown down an endless pit—makes this scene the most memorable in The Return of the Jedi. It's a testament to how real human stories, like a father's love for his son, can overcome even the most evil being in the galaxy.

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34. To My Friends (A Scanner Darkly)

A Scanner Darkly's visual style is its most arresting feature, but it closes with a real tear-jerker. Bob Arcter (Keanu Reeves) finally reaches the New-Path farm where they raise the deadly blue flower for Substance D, a dangerous drug. He tucks the flower in his pocket for safekeeping but leaves the audience guessing if his mission eventually succeeds. The touching tribute before the end credits—with author Philip K. Dick placing his name among his "friends"—clinches a place among the best.

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33. Snoke's Throne Room (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)

No Star Wars film was quite as contentious as The Last Jedi. Determined to subvert expectations, director Rian Johnson made bold (and maybe questionable) decisions for the beloved franchise. But when Kylo Ren and Rey team-up in Snoke's Throne Room, it creates the most memorable scene in the modern Star Wars era. Johnson some how taps into the emotion of the original series' lightsaber battles with the ferocity of the prequel's highly stylized duels to make something new and unforgettable.

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32. Destruction of the NCC-1701 (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)

So many memories—gone in an instant. When James T. Kirk, along with the crew of the Enterprise, initiate the self-destruct sequence for the NCC-1701, it feels like a nightmare to which you hope there is an end. But you never wake up, and you realize that a sci-fi icon—in a blaze of glory—is gone forever.

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31. "Meet me in Montauk" (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

A different kind of sci-fi film on this list, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is another film that uses its plot construction to amazingly artistic ends. In a world where people can erase entire memories from their mind, Joel tries to prevent this from happening to him as he tries to hide his ex-girlfriend Clementine in the ever-collapsing corners of his memory. This final moment at a beach house in Montauk only drives home the despair that Joel feels in that moment.

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30. The Sandstorm (Mad Max: Fury Road)

What a ride. When Mad Max: Fury Road hit theaters in 2015, it marked the return of George Miller to a long neglected franchise—it was worth the wait. Fury Road is two hours of pure adrenaline that doesn't let up until the credits roll, but its the scene when Max and Furiosa enter the sandstorm that you really begin to understand that you're watching an absolute masterclass in sci-fi action filmmaking. It's incredible.

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29. Space Dance (Wall-E)

Who knew a romance between robots could be so compelling, and one of its loveliest moments comes when Wall-E and Eva dance in outer space. Not much else happens, just dancing, but many films can't capture even an ounce of beauty that in this one simple scene.

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28. Monster from the Id (Forbidden Planet)

Forbidden Planet is THE science fiction film of the pre-2001 era. It left a lasting impression on sci-fi creators, including Gene Roddenberry who would go on to create Star Trek. In the film, Robby the Robot might be its most famous figure but it's the climax of the Monster of Id's appearance, which is excellent built up to, that makes our list of sci-fi favorites.

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27. White House Attack (Independence Day)

Ka-boom! The scale of destruction in Independence Day was unprecedented. While the filmmaking itself is just so-so, the scene of the alien's destructive firepower—and its immediate ability to convey humanity's slim chances against such destruction—is the spark that carries Independence Day forward until its inevitable conclusion.

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26. The Tainted Blood Sample (The Thing)

If you've seen The Thing, you'll never forget it, but its best scene is when R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russel) tests the blood of other personnel at the remote Antarctic station to see who might be a monster in disguise. It's horrifically gory and completely gratuitous., but John Carpenter shows that he's a master at building tension.

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25. The Lighthouse (Annihilation)

Annihilation is a good—if not great—sci-fi film, but it's the conclusion that is absolutely amazing. The film builds up to an unforgettable confrontation at a lighthouse in an alien landscape that is slowly swallowing the Earth. Its depiction of this otherworldly presence is incredibly convincing because in a galaxy as vast as ours, alien life will be completely unlike us.

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24. Ripley in the Power Loader (Aliens)

In a startling conclusion to Aliens, Ripley levels the playing field against the Alien queen and shows her who's boss. The arguments against what's a better film—Alien or Aliens—will likely rage forever, but this scene is an undeniable classic.

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23. "Superman" (The Iron Giant)

Lay down...try not to cry...cry a lot. It's amazing that a film can make you care so, so much for what is supposed to be a world-ending destructo-bot. For an American cartoon, it's a surprising deep tale filled with complex themes of loyalty and identity. But it is just simply impossible to not lose it at this scene.

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22. Maria's Transformation (Metropolis)

One of the world's first sci-fi films still remains one of its greatest. Directed by Fritz Lang in 1927, Metropolis is a silent film unlike any other and the moment of Maria's transformation remains one of its most iconic moments.

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21. "KHAAAAAAN!" (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

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