Mandatory Top 10 of the 2010s: Best Sci-Fi Action Movies of the Decade
The science fiction genre has been around since the dawn of cinema itself, but it wasn’t until the release of the original Star Wars that the science fiction action subgenre was born. In the decades since, the subgenre has grown in prominence within the marketplace. At the same time, it has also expanded in terms of the breadth, scope, and variety of films that are classified under the guise of the sci-fi action film. Here are our picks for the best sci-fi action movies of the 2010s!
Cover Photo: Lucasfilm
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10. 'Attack the Block'
One of the most underrated science fiction movies of the 2010s, Attack the Block is as much of a horror film as it is an action movie. Not only did the directorial debut of Joe Cornish introduce the world to John Boyega with a star-making performance, but it also proved to be a fun spin on genre tropes in both of the aforementioned categories. Although Attack the Block isn’t without its problems, it also happens to be the most stylishly entertaining genre mashups of the decade.
9. 'Source Code'
Source Code is essentially the sci-fi action equivalent of Groundhog Day, which also happens to make it one of the most structurally unique films of the decade. Set mainly within the confines of a passenger train that contains a hidden bomb, Duncan Jones’ sophomore directorial effort includes a hefty amount of action. Source Code also successfully functions as an intimate character drama that raises some interesting philosophical questions.
8. 'Edge of Tomorrow'
Speaking of Groundhog Day rip-offs, Edge of Tomorrow is another movie that apes on the structure of that film, albeit a bit more successfully than the previous entry. Although the science fiction action film starring Tom Cruise wasn’t the financial hit that it should have been, it also affirms how good the movie actually is. While the third act sill remains slightly problematic, there’s no doubt that Edge of Tomorrow is a smartly written action film that also features exciting direction and memorable performances from both Cruise and Emily Blunt.
As one of the best original science fiction movies of the decade, Rian Johnson’s Looper is as ambitious as it is daring. Even though the film leans more into the science fiction elements, it also offers a grounded, gritty approach to the action that is unique to Johnson’s sensibilities. Ultimately, Looper is a uniquely cerebral time travel story disguised as an action film that manages to deliver thoughtful commentary on the nature versus nurture debate.
6. 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens certainly isn’t an original movie, it’s also one of the most entertaining science fiction action movies of the 2010s. Whatever your thoughts on J.J. Abrams’ first foray into a galaxy far, far away might be, it’s hard to deny the fact that – for the most part – the director was able to successfully bring Star Wars to the forefront of the public consciousness in a big way. In the long run, The Force Awakens will be remembered for re-invigorating the franchise in a way that it needed.
Dredd is a massively underappreciated modern cult classic. Although the film was overshadowed due to its plot similarities with The Raid: Redemption, Karl Urban’s performance remains outstanding considering the limitations of the titular role. Combine this with a deceptively simple script from Alex Garland, and you get one of the tightest and most effective science fiction action movies of the decade.
4. 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
As perhaps the most prominent sci-fi action sleeper hit of the decade, Guardians of the Galaxy is also arguably the best film that Marvel Studios has produced to date. While The Avengers is certainly noteworthy for its crowd-pleasing action sequences, James Gunn’s film is far more subversive and specific. Ultimately, Guardians of the Galaxy is the rare type of movie that manages not only to be a great sci-fi action movie, but also a compelling character drama that happens to have excellent writing, direction, and acting.
Based on the acclaimed French graphic novel titled Le Transperceniege, the world of Snowpiercer is meticulously realized. Even though the most expensive Korean production of all time had well-documented battles between now-disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein and acclaimed director Bong Joon-Ho, this strife actually furthers the deep thematic resonance of the film. Ultimately, Snowpiercer is the type of experience that perfectly melds the best aspects of what a great sci-fi action film should contain: a thoughtful and engaging story that also happens to have unique and thrilling action sequences along the way.
2. 'Pacific Rim'
Although Pacific Rim underperformed at the box office, that doesn’t make it any less magnificent in terms of presenting epic sci-fi monster action. Especially after its lackluster sequel, Guillermo Del Toro’s science fiction epic is a masterfully crafted love letter to the kaiju and mecha genres, along with the medium of anime as a whole. Pacific Rim may not feature the best characterization or acting, but it completely delivers on the spectacle of its premise: giant robots fighting giant monsters.
1. 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a movie that no one really asked for, and yet Matt Reeves managed to make it one of the most compelling and dynamic sci-fi action movies of the 2010s. Not only is the film easily the best of the franchise, but it also happens to feature Andy Serkis’ most subtle and effective performance to date. There’s honestly no reason why Dawn of the Planet of the Apes should work, let alone the fact that it remains one of the best science fiction films of the decade, period.