The most widely admired science-fiction film to come out of the 1980s, Blade Runner reimagined the nocturnal, seductive, and pessimistic qualities of film noir and its ’70s derivative, neo-noir, for the paranoid cityscape of the future: a dark, rainy, multi-lingual Los Angeles where a detective in a trench coat trails a gang of biomechanical replicants who escaped from an off-world colony. Released during a rich period for sci-fi, fantasy, and special-effects filmmaking—the same weekend as the sci-fi horror classic The Thing, just two weeks after E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, with Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Conan The Barbarian, and Poltergeist still in theaters—it was not initially a hit. But over the last 35 years and across multiple reedited re-releases, Blade Runner has grown exponentially in stature and influence, and and now looms over the genre, second only to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
With a belated sequel, Blade Runner 2049, opening in theaters this Friday, we at The A.V. Club couldn’t help but ask: What are the best sci-fi movies to come out since the original theatrical release of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece? Of course, some parameters had to be created, because the question of what is and isn’t sci-fi can become very tricky. Some movies are grandfathered in by venerable sci-fi tropes like time machines, space travel, artificial intelligence, dystopian societies, or extraterrestrial and extra-dimensional life. But is a story that revolves around pseudo-scientific gobbledygook any different from a story about magic? And why not include superhero movies, which more often than not involve sci-fi elements?