The Best Science Fiction Movies of 1988, Ranked – MovieWeb

These awesome science fiction films are celebrating their 35th anniversaries. Did any of your favorites make the list?
35 years later, these 1988 science fiction movies are still fresh in sci-fi lovers' minds. It is interesting to look back at the influence of these films that have withstood the test of time. These are the best science fiction movies of 1988. Where does your favorite movie end up in the rankings?
Many science fiction movies from the late 1980s incorporate a more comedic tone. The first entry on this list, Earth Girls are Easy, uses Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans, and Jeff Goldblum as comedic furry aliens. These three aliens are traveling the galaxy when their shop crash lands into Geena Davis’ pool.
Geena Davis has just found out her fiancé was cheating with a nurse and is heartbroken by the experience. Little did she know that she needed three furry aliens in her life. After an initial awkwardness through the language barrier, the aliens get a makeover and turn into athletic, attractive guys. Their long alien tongues also make them popular with the local women.
Despite the raunchy setup of the movie, it has a wholesome and fresh feeling. It has the right amount of 80s camp combined with fish-out-of-water humor. The movie contains dance numbers, musical numbers, bright colors, and a sappy romantic ending.
Short Circuit 2 continues the adventures of the lovable Johnny 5 robot. In keeping with typical sequels of the time, Short Circuit 2 finds our cast going to the big city to step up the humor and the mayhem. We get to see Johnny 5 meet his creator and adapt to become more street-smart then he was before. Many science fiction movies on this list try to utilize cute or sympathetic science fiction characters to create empathy in their audiences. Johnny 5, despite being a robot, possesses many human traits that someone can identify with. He portrays feelings and excitement and can even pull on your heartstrings at moments.
Many people may find Johnny 5 too wacky or annoying, but his use of body language and expressions will eventually win you over. Johnny 5 bears a striking resemblance to the robot from the popular 2008 movie, Wall-E. While Wall-E creator Andrew Stanton flatly denies that his robot took inspiration from Short Circuit, it is hard to deny that the one didn’t influence the other.
Related: Original Short Circuit House to Become Bed & Breakfast Toy Museum Complete with Johnny 5
Despite the somewhat silly premise, this monster movie gem is a surprisingly good film. In Killer Klowns from Outer Space, a group of extra-terrestrial clowns decide to move into the small town of Crescent Cove. This movie is one of the major reasons the scary clown trope emerges prominently in popular culture. In 2016, many people were frightened by a similar phenomenon of real-life clowns coming to their towns. It turned out to mostly be a hoax, but it is definitely eerily familiar to the plot of Killer Klowns from Outer Space. In the film, the locals band together to stop this invasion of clowns, much like what happened in the 2016 incident.
The movie takes a surprisingly deliberate approach to its horror, making each scene wholly original. It would have been easy to lean into the absurdity of the premise and make something very silly, but the film takes itself more seriously than that. A lot of care went into making each clown unique and memorable.
Critters have had to live in the shadows of the more familiar movie, Gremlins. While Gremlins takes a more balanced approach to its horror, science-fiction, and comedic elements, the Critters movies revel in their silliness and status as genre parodies.
Critters 2as a sequel, follows the conventions common of sequels, where it tries to do the same story again but bigger. The bounty hunters are back in the same town to hunt more critters all over again. While this movie didn’t do too well at the box office, it became a cult classic film that achieved some recognition by refusing to take anything seriously. The puppet effects were improved over the original movie, allowing truly outrageous moments like the formation of a giant critter ball. Despite possessing immense intelligence and interstellar flight capability, the critter’s motivation is very simple. They want to eat and satisfy their hunger, and will do anything to accomplish their goal.
This entry on the list starts out as a sappy romantic comedy but quickly becomes a serious science-fiction thriller. Besides the different tones in the film, another notable aspect is that the events take place over only a single day. The movie also takes place in near real-time, which adds more tension to the impending threat of nuclear attacks.
Our main characters are Harry, (Anthony Edwards) and Julie (Mare Winningham). These two meet and start a whirlwind romance after only meeting once. However, fate interrupts the two by making Harry miss their date and instead receive a phone call about the incoming war. The movie becomes a frantic mission to get the word out about the disaster and to get Harry and Julie out of harm’s way. A big component of the film is wondering whether or not the threat is real and only realizing it is real when it is too late. Steve De Jarnatt, the director, said his intention was to wake people up and get them thinking about the possibility of real nuclear war.
Mac and Me has to be the cutest entry on this list. In the wake of E.T.’s success in 1982, it inspired many feel-good kid-meets-alien movies. The film follows a family of aliens that are struggling to survive on a desert plane that is low on water. The aliens get transported back to Earth through the intervention of NASA, where they escape from custody with their electrical powers. Of course, the aliens are found by young boys who stick up for their new companions.
The film features an infamous dance number at the local McDonald’s, where the alien Mac dances in a teddy bear suit to distract the FBI agents who seek to capture them. You will find many examples of extreme product placement in the movie. In another scene, they have to revive Mac’s family with the power of Coca-Cola. People will find the movie entertaining and heartwarming. It carries on the theme of friendship in a wholesome way. People looking for cheese will find some wonderful B-movie moments that will entertain them.
Related: Paul Rudd Crashs Conan to Pull One Final Mac & Me Prank
This remake of a sci-fi classic takes a solid B-movie monster concept and fleshes it out (no pun intended) into a proper horror sci-fi experience. In the movie, a high school Steve McQueen finds a parasitic blob organism from outer space that is going around eating people. The town has been constantly beset by teenage pranks, and doesn’t take the threat seriously until it's too late. What’s more, is that the blob leaves no trace of any evidence behind its murders.
While the premise and the effects of the movie are cheap by the standards of the time, the movie manages to grip you with the suspense and terror of an alien creature in 1980s America. The movie ups the gross factor in the sequel, with it benefiting from the upgrades in special effects technology since the original was released in the 1950s. The monster in The Blob evokes feelings of terror and comes across as a true threat, despite its silly nature. The film delivers hilarious comedy and grisly horror in one package, making it a satisfying watch. Many consider The Blob to be one of the best horror remakes ever.
In 1988, Earth finally made its first contact with an alien civilization. In Alien Nation, the plot follows the integration of these aliens, who are called newcomers, into human society. Alien Nation proves why sci-fi is such an important and beloved genre. It is able to explore the complex topics that affect our modern life through a different lens than normally possible. The film explores themes of racism from the perspective of science fiction alien immigrants to earth and puts into perspective the tribal nature of the humans living there. The movie follows police detective Matthew Sykes, who is dealing with the recent loss of his partner. He has to work together with a newcomer partner to investigate a string of murders. Alien Nation features fun chase scenes and intense action.
This entry is a cult classic movie that toys with some interesting ideas and delivers them in a surreal science fiction package. Many people consider They Live to be John Carpenter’s greatest work, though that title is very competitive. The movie's premise finds humanity has been subverted by aliens controlling human society through media images and news reports. It contains themes of anti-consumerism and rejecting propaganda. Interestingly, the studio did not want the aliens to be capitalists.
In the film, a street-smart wanderer, played by Roddy Piper, finds a pair of sunglasses that let him see the subliminal messages that are part of every piece of media in America. He is also able to see the true faces of the aliens who have taken over society. These themes serve as something for the audience to chew on while they enjoy great action scenes and special effects.
Though it was released in 1989 in America, Akira was originally released in 1988 for the first time. This ground-breaking movie completely changed how the movie system in America looked at animated movies. Before Akira, these kinds of movies were seen as made for children, but the gritty and mature themes resonated with more adult audiences in a big way. In the far-distant future of 2019, Tokyo is in a dystopic state where the military controls the new Tokyo. 31 years ago, experiments on ESP went south, so the government of Japan drops a nuke to stop the experiments. The story follows the leader of a biker gang who makes his way through Tokyo, uncovering the plot behind the military's control.

Alex is someone who is passionate about writing and language learning. He likes films and shows that have strong characters and complex worlds. As a writer he enjoys creative projects as well as exploring complicated topics. Alex has a B.A. in Journalism.


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