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The best science fiction movies and TV shows transport us to other worlds and keep our imaginations fresh. 

It can be hard to keep up with the changing times. There are days where tech moves so fast that I get kind of melancholy I won’t be around to see where it goes in 100 years. But maybe I will. Who knows? 

If you can’t see the future or time travel, then all you can do is make predictions. 

Or you can write science fiction. 

There are magical worlds out there with advanced technology, aliens, robots, and time travel. These worlds exist out of the corner of your eye, on the fringes of reality. They’re part of what defines the science fiction genre, and they’re what we’re going to talk about in our post today. 

We’ll look into the best movies, some classic sci-fi titles, and even figure out what the first science fiction movie was. I want to really delve into the tropes, characteristics, and features of the science fiction genre, so that you can master it in your writing, directing, and producing. 

Let’s go back to the future.  

Deconstructing the Science Fiction Genre in Movies and TV

Deconstruction is a weird word. It means to take things apart and to see where they came from, and I think it fits what we’re going to do with the genre today. I want to pretend this is a T-800 and we’re Sarah Connor. Let’s take it apart piece by piece. 

What is science fiction? 

Science Fiction Genre Definition

This is a genre of film and television that deals with futuristic concepts or technology such as advanced science, the exploration of outer space, time travel, parallel dimensions, and alien life. Besides entertainment, it can also criticize present-day society, and is often said to inspire a “sense of wonder.”

According to American writer Isaac Asimov, “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.” The same goes for movies and television. 

Science Fiction Film Genre Characteristics

Now that you know what the term means, let’s talk about what to expect when watching it. Some characteristics of the genre are high-tech gear, utopias or dystopias of the future, robot characters, alien life forms, interstellar travel, and extensive worldbuilding

Another thing you can expect is the incorporation of other genres. Sci-fi goes well with horror, fantasy, adventure, action, drama, and many more. But we will get to those specific conversations later. 

The Kinds of Science Fiction Stories You Can Tell

There are lots of ways to prompt your storytelling capabilities. Here’s a quick list of science fiction story prompt plot points to get your creativity going. 

  •   Alien Invasion
  •   Alternate History 
  •   Alternate/Parallel Universe
  •   Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic
  •   Artificial Intelligence
  •   Colonization
  •   Cyberpunk
  •   Dying Earth
  •   Dystopia
  •   First Contact
  •   Galactic Empire
  •   Generation Ship
  •   Human Development
  •   Immortality
  •   Military
  •   Mind Uploading
  •   Mutants
  •   Nanotechnology
  •   Near-Future
  •   Pulp
  •   Robots/Androids
  •   Science-Fantasy
  •   Singularity
  •   Slipstream
  •   Space Exploration
  •   Space Opera
  •   Steampunk
  •   Terraforming
  •   Theological
  •   Time Travel
  •   Uplift
  •   Utopia
  •   Virtual Reality


‘Arrival’Credit: Paramount Pictures

60 Science Fiction Film Genre Conventions and Tropes 

There’s almost an endless supply of these kinds of story beats or plot devices within the genre. I wanted to make an extensive list of science fiction tropes and expectations here for you to explore. Check it out below!

  1. Oxygen leaks 
  2. Asteroids or meteors headed toward Earth 
  3. Time travel
  4. Evil robots
  5. Traveling faster than light
  6. Techno-babble in exposition
  7. Alternative universes want to invade our timeline
  8. Other dimensions have evil versions of you
  9. Alternative universes warn your universe of a devastating threat on its way
  10. Traveling to distant planets takes generations
  11. Cryosleep to explain time in space
  12. AI and robots watch the ship while the humans sleep
  13. Someone wakes up too early from cryosleep
  14. A ship is found adrift in space
  15. Signals are sent from another planet
  16. A lifeform gets in the ship and hides in humans
  17. We meet the last survivors of a crash 
  18. People meet themselves in an alternate timeline
  19. Time loops people cannot escape
  20. The search for infinite wisdom
  21. Aliens are allergic or vulnerable to water or germs
  22. Space travel requires a navigator to plot a course
  23. Ships travel through hyperspace which is another dimension
  24. Wormholes make travel faster
  25. Warp gates are left open by lost civilizations
  26. Aliens are kind, intelligent push-overs, and humans are destroying their worlds
  27. Aliens are evil, trying to enslave humans
  28. Aliens want to eat humans
  29. Aliens eat dogs or cats
  30. Aliens want to lay eggs in humans
  31. It turns out humans were the aliens all along
  32. It turns out humans were robots all along
  33. Humans use technology to ascend to a state of pure energy
  34. The super-computer had to do whatever the humans wanted it to do all along
  35. The super-computer was keeping them safe from aliens
  36. The super-computer was trying to kill the humans
  37. Two species of humans evolve and are at war
  38. One is technological and the other is super-religious
  39. Humans make aliens
  40. Aliens made humans
  41. Space is filled with aliens
  42. Aliens hide on Earth
  43. Turns out the humans are the real monsters
  44. Humans and aliens live together, drink together, and have children
  45. Humans are less advanced than other races and are treated like children
  46. Planet-jumping in no time at all
  47. Humans use nano-technology to make very small useful robots that can do anything
  48. Superpowers are given to humans through science
  49. Humans make copies of their minds
  50. Humans clone themselves
  51. Humans put their minds in the clones to live forever
  52. They need time travel to fix an impossible situation
  53. Evil scientists
  54. Tech billionaires
  55. Trying to talk with aliens
  56. They change the past and come back to a different…

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