10 Sci-Fi Movies That Are Rooted in Science!

If you’ve ever wondered how accurate the scientific aspects of many sci-fi movies are, look no further than our list of 10 rooted in science! 


Released in 1997, Robert Zemeckis’ Contact is an adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel about mankind communicating with aliens. Dr. Ellie Arroway, played by Jodie Foster, discovers an alien broadcast from the Vega star system, analyzing the message to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life.

The detection of a radio signal from an extraterrestrial technological civilization, is made by Ellie at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (NRAO) Very Large Array, a real research facility used by astronomers to receive cosmic radio waves to broadcast information on Earth.

While extraterrestrial life has never been proven to exist, this film follows the principles of the SETI Institute’s initiative to prove their existence!

Minority Report

Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report is a sci-fi action film, based on Philip K. Dick’s 1956 short story of the same name and with stunning ties to modern society’s use of surveillance. This cautionary tale focuses on precognitive humans or “precogs” with the ability to predict murders before they happen, as well as the Precrime unit, a device using this information to arrest people.

John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, is the chief of the Precrime unit until he is forced to go on the run, as the precogs foresee him murdering someone.

While the technology to predict a murder does not exist today, the now-accurate depiction of self-driving cars make for an enthralling action scene, with Tom Cruise jumping across rows of speeding, automated vehicles on a freeway.

The more telling depiction of technology in the film, comes in the form of surveillance drones from the robotic spiders that crawl through buildings and perform retinal scans on people inside! These fictional creepy crawlies possess the same facial recognition technology within our smartphones and cameras, making this on-screen depiction of surveillance that much more menacing!

2001: A Space Odyssey

Before man set foot on the moon, Stanley Kubrick took to the stars with his 1968 space epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey!

Beginning with the discovery of a monolith buried on the moon’s surface, the film picks up years later, when a crew of astronauts get sent on a trip to Jupiter. While on the mission, the ship’s AI system, HAL 9000, begins to act suspiciously and eventually becomes a threat toward the astronauts!

To say this film is rooted in science would be an understatement, as it accurately depicts zero sound in space, zero-gravity set pieces and a ship influenced by a set of NASA-funded studies done in 1962 called EMPIRE or “Early Manned Planetary-Interplanetary Round Trip Expeditions.”

Gattaca (1997)


If these last few films didn’t fill you with existential dread, then Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca is sure to do the trick! Released in 1997, the sci-fi flick comes to terms with the haunting reality of technology, used to play god by genetically monitoring children for birth defects and their potential as human beings!

The plot centers around Vincent Freeman, played by Ethan Hawke, seeking to travel the stars but who must stay on Earth, as he is genetically unfit “in-valid.” After successfully swapping out his DNA with Jerome Morrow’s, played by Jude Law, he is able to join the space program as a “valid.” 

What keeps this film grounded in reality, is the real life process of artificially fertilized embryos and screening of genetic defects, through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).


You may need to consult Duo Lingo for our next film, Arrival, revolving around the use of language between humans and an unknown, alien species.

Our story begins with linguist Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, who is recruited by the United States government to communicate with otherworldly visitors.

Even if we could prove the existence of extraterrestrials, our chances of shooting the breeze with them would be near impossible. However, the film is acclaimed for utilizing real concepts from linguistics, thanks in part to scientific advisers!


As artificial intelligence continues to evolve with tools like ChatGPT, Spike Jonze’s Her provides a glimpse into the technology’s potential capability as a digital love interest!

The film follows Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, a lonely man coming to terms with the disolvement of his marriage and who falls in love with the artificially intelligent operating system of his computer, named Samantha. Voiced by Scarlett Johansonn, the female voiced OS begins talking to Theo through his earpiece, making him laugh and fall in love with her.

Praised by computer scientists for framing AI as something that can and will adapt to human emotions, Her represents the possibility of artificial intelligence advancing to a state of building romantic relationships with lonely individuals.

The Martian

Is there life on Mars? Well, in Ridley Scott’s The Martian, astronaut Mark Whatney, played by Matt Damon, begrudgingly answers that question after being hit by debris during an evacuation mission and becoming stranded on the planet’s surface.

Being forced to survive the harsh climate and ever present loneliness on the desolate planet, Mark must learn to survive, using his wits and irregular communications with a NASA crew. And to survive he does–using his own feces to fertilize the planet’s soil to grow potatoes, in what is the only scientifically accurate plot point in the film.

Apollo 13

Directed by Ron Howard, Apollo 13 follows the real life events that took place between astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert, embarking on a planned third human landing on the moon. On their voyage to the lunar surface, their vessel is rocked by an oxygen tank explosion that puts the three astronauts’ lives in danger, as they navigate their way back to Earth.

Deemed “the most realistic of all the space movies,” from an interview with retired astronaut Chris Hadfield, the film’s depiction of the explosion and exposure to carbon dioxide were accurate to what actually happened, during the failed lunar mission.

About the Author

Avatar photo
Gregory Karp

Gregory S. Karp Jr. is a third-year multimedia journalism student at Cal Poly Pomona, with a passion for writing news, sports and culture articles.