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5 Sci-Fi Films That Made 1982 a Really Special Year for the Genre

5 Sci-Fi Films That Made 1982 a Really Special Year for the Genre

Some of the most famous science-fiction movies were released during a prosperous period for the genre. From A New Hope in 1977 to The Force Awakens in 2015, films in the Star Wars franchise came out alongside other juggernauts of the genre, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Ex Machina, respectively. But those are just two examples of stacked years for sci-fi films — another is 1982, which arguably takes the cake.



There weren’t any Star Wars films released throughout this historic year, but there was an entry in another world-famous sci-fi series, as well as two movies that started franchises of their own. Made by some of the biggest and best directors of their respective regions and generations, these five science fiction films are all held in the highest of regards by film fans and critics alike as some of the best movies not just of the eighties, but even of all time.

All of these movies boast significant name value in a contemporary landscape, and they hold up just wonderfully more than forty years down the line. Because of their innovative tactics of filmmaking and iconic stories of outer space, they’ll likely remain classics of the genre for generations to come. That said, these are five science fiction films that made 1982 a really special year for the genre, ranked.

5 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

With Nicholas Meyer in the director’s chair, the screenplay for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was written by Jack B. Sowards. It’s the second entry in the feature-film franchise following Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), and without a doubt, The Wrath of Khan outshone its predecessor in terms of straight-up quality.

A Famous Sci-Fi Franchise

Taking place in 2285, this second entry in the Star Trek film franchise follows Admiral James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner) as he leads the Enterprise starship to combat Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically engineered tyrant who’s played by Ricardo Montalbán. Everyone among the cast reprises their role from the television show on which the film is based, including the famous Leonard Nimoy as Spock, captain of the Enterprise.

Although several Star Trek films have been released since, The Wrath of Khan remains among the most acclaimed of the bunch. It was also quite influential, going down as the first feature film to make use of computer graphics for an entire sequence therein. Even more techniques of behind-the-scenes filmmaking come into play when analyzing the production design, with the team of The Wrath of Khan using several cost-cutting methods to make the film for just $12 million.

Well worth it, as it accrued nearly $100 million in the end. Stream on Max.

4 Tron



Release Date
July 9, 1982


One of the most innovative and influential sci-fi movies ever made is Tron, written and directed by Steven Lisberger from a story by Bonnie MacBird. An actress, writer, and producer, she holds a co-script credit alongside Lisberger, with her plot following the escapades of a software engineer whose name is Kevin Flynn. He works for a corporation called ENCOM, and after coming to odds with his employer, Flynn is thrown into a digital world where he combats his personal antagonists and becomes a freedom fighter in the process.

Game-Changing Visuals

As engrossing as the plot may be, Tron is influential in the industry for being one of the earliest examples of a film relying heavily on computer-generated imagery. This was such an innovative title that the Academy even omitted Lisberger and his team from qualifying for the category of Best Visual Effects, essentially saying Tron was “cheating” in that regard due to its extensive utilization of CGI.

However, the film was still recognized at the association’s 55th ceremony, nominated for both Best Sound and Best Costume Design. It’s easy to see why.

Famous film critic Roger Ebert awarded Tron four stars out of four, and for the most part, his contemporaries agreed. Even at the worldwide box office, Tron was a massive hit, accruing $50 million against a $17 million budget. This success spawned a franchise, both a sequel called Tron: Legacy (2010), and a spin-off television show (upcoming) that’s subtitled Uprising. The future of Tron is bright, and in all likelihood, the original will remain the most fan-favorite entry for generations to come. Stream on Disney+.



Release Date
June 11, 1982

Steven Spielberg


The name value of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial should essentially speak for itself. Four wins out of nine nominations at the 55th Academy Awards, widespread praise from critics, and record-breaking numbers at the worldwide box office — from every perspective of success, E.T. proved to be an across-the-board hit. That can primarily be attributed to its status as a triumph of technical filmmaking. However, this is also a lighthearted tale that resonated with audiences, and given the prowess of the director at hand, it’s no wonder how E.T. was seen into such flawless fruition.

Steven Spielberg: The Master of Science Fiction

Directed by Steven Spielberg from Melissa Mathison’s script, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial homes in on Elliot, a young boy who’s played by Henry Thomas. The plot kicks off when he becomes acquainted with the eponymous alien, then recruits his friends and family to help return the extraterrestrial to his original home planet. It’s a famous story, and justifiably so thanks to an array of indelible characters who share engaging dynamics while exchanging well-written dialogue.

And none of that was to even touch on the sundry elements of behind-the-scenes filmmaking that rendered E.T. such a classic. Wonderful special effects and engaging shot value make it a feast for the eyes, and the sprawling score by composer John Williams has influenced filmmakers everywhere.

Confident leadership from Spielberg also plays a part — he’s perhaps the greatest director of science fiction that the medium has ever seen. That’s in large part thanks to his work on E.T., and regardless of genre, it’s also one of his all-time bests. Rent on Apple TV.

Related: Steven Spielberg: The Best Sci-Fi Movies From the Legendary Director

2 John Carpenter’s The Thing

Directed by John Carpenter from Bill Lancaster’s script, The Thing is often considered among the finest science fiction films ever. At least, in hindsight, and here’s the thing: it’s also perfectly representative of the sci-fi-horror subgenre, with The Thing going down among the scariest experiences in silver-screen history. But somehow, fans weren’t interested in the project upon release, which bombed at the worldwide box office. A seminal sci-fi joint, The Thing deserved far more love upon release, and in hindsight, audiences widely agree.

Defining the Phrase Cult Classic

Premiering in the same month as E.T. undoubtedly marred the excitement of The Thing by John Carpenter — against a $15 million budget, it accrued just over $19 in ticket sales. It was also released a few weeks after The Wrath of Khan, and on the exact same day as Blade Runner by Ridley Scott. That’s a lot of stiff competition, so it’s somewhat understandable that The Thing came up short. But to an extent, even critics were negative in their overall assessments.

In hindsight, thanks to some unforgettable plot points that were bolstered by beautiful special effects, film fans hold The Thing in the highest of regard. It’s considered a cult classic, and with good reason. As Kurt Russell leads a star-studded cast on a research undertaking in the infamous freeze of Antarctica, audiences will be shocked at the twists that unfold. Even today, more than three decades down the line, The Thing holds up just wonderfully. Stream for free on Tubi.

Related: The Best Ridley Scott Movies, Ranked

1 Blade Runner

Though not as lucrative as E.T. or as innovative as Tron, the neo-noir sci-fi thriller Blade Runner remains the cream of the crop of its year from a perspective of sheer quality. Based on Phillip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which he published in 1968, Blade Runner is among the most famous movies ever made, regardless of genre. Its script was adapted by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, while sitting in the director’s chair was one of the greatest to ever do it: Ridley Scott, a world-famous filmmaker and a master of science fiction.

A Crew of Sci-Fi Veterans

Fresh off of Alien (1979), director Ridley Scott established himself as an all-time great of science-fiction filmmaking thanks to his work on Blade Runner. Both endeavors were edited by Terry Rawlings, while even more recently, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth shot a horror hybrid called Altered States (1980). Nearly everyone working behind the scenes on Blade Runner had experience with science fiction, and that showed in the quality of the film’s seamless technique.

Then, there’s Harrison Ford, coming straight off two of the best sci-fi movies ever made. In both Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), he made a name for himself as the charismatic Han Solo. After playing Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, traversing a dystopian Los Angeles with an indelible atmosphere, Harrison Ford established himself as a juggernaut of the genre.

He led a legendary cast on a riveting expedition, and helped establish Blade Runner as essential sci-fi viewing. It even led to a follow-up a few decades down the line, and while Blade Runner: 2049 (2017) is as good as a sequel can get, nothing can ever top the original. Rent on Amazon Prime Video.

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