8 Sci-Fi Classics That Are Also Oscar Winners

Genre movies like science fiction and fantasy rarely get their due at the Oscars. While movies that show us the impossible tend to be among the most popular at the box office, that popularity rarely translates to the most prestigious awards. It can be argued that many sci-fi movies deserved Best Picture nominations, but few have received such recognition, and only a couple of very recent films have actually won the Best Picture Oscar: The Shape of Water and Everything Everywhere All At Once. Wins in other major categories have been even more rare over the years.

Though it’s a bit early to call those recent winners “classics” yet, it seems likely they will earn that title as they continue to stand the test of time. But, that’s not to say that some of the greats of the genre, and undeniable classics, haven’t won Oscars over the years. While most of the Academy Awards won by science fiction movies have been limited to visual and sound effects, some have taken home even more significant awards. Here are just a few of the classics that were so good even the Academy couldn’t ignore them.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

(Image credit: WB)

 Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde – Best Actor 

It’s perhaps a bit of a surprise, but what’s widely regarded as the first science fiction movie to win an Oscar at all happened to win one of the most prestigious awards of the night. The 1931 adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde won Fredric March the Best Actor Oscar. It’s still the only time the award has gone to a performance in a sci-fi movie. 

Ned Land fighting a giant octopus in 20,000 leagues under the sea

(Image credit: Disney)

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea – Art Direction/Set Decoration And Special Effects 

Disney’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was notable for a few reasons. Its win in the Art Decoration category (now known as Production Design) made it the first science fiction movie to win that particular Oscar. It was also the first live-action Disney feature to win any competitive Oscars outside of the music categories. To be fair, the giant octopus alone is worthy of an award.   

Keir Dullea in 2001: A Space Odyssey

(Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

2001: A Space Odyssey – Best Special Effects 

2001: A Space Odyssey is the best sci-fi movie ever made. It’s generally regarded as one of the best films ever created, period. If there was one science fiction movie that you would think would have won all of the awards, it’s this one. And yet, that didn’t happen. 2001 was only nominated for four awards, and, in perhaps an all-time Oscars snub, Best Picture wasn’t even one of them. Its biggest nominations were for Stanley Kubrick as director and for the screenplay, written by Kubrick and original novelist Arthur C. Clarke. It only took home a single award for its special effects.  

Star Wars: A New Hope Darth Vader vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: A New Hope – Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing

Star Wars is, quite simply, one of the most important movies ever made. It became the highest-grossing film of all time upon its release, and launched one of the most successful franchises in film history and has influenced countless fans and filmmakers alike. The success was matched at the next Academy Awards when it was nominated for a remarkable 10 awards (though two other films received 11 noms), of which it took home six, along with a seventh honorary Oscar, making it by far the most awarded film of the night.

Henry Thomas in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial surpassed Star Wars as the highest-grossing movie of all time when it was released in theaters in 1982. It was also a significant contender at the Academy Awards the next year, being nominated for nine awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Steven Spielberg, and Best Original Screenplay. It unfortunately did not win any of those, losing all three to Gandhi but it did take home four Oscars, including John Williams’ fourth Academy Award for Best Original Score. 

Aliens by James Cameron

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Aliens – Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing

Ridley Scott’s Alien was a groundbreaking genre film. It’s not only one of the best sci-fi movies but one of the best horror films as well. The original movie did win an Oscar of its own, for Best Visual Effects, off of two nominations. But the sequel directed by James Cameron did even better. The film was nominated for seven awards, including a Best Actress Oscar for Sigourney Weaver. It took home the award for Best Visual Effects as its predecessor did, but also added the award for Best Sound Editing.

A terminator in T2: Judgment Day

(Image credit: Tri-Star Pictures)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Best Sound Editing, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup

James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of the best movies of the ’90s, and it became so while breaking new ground in digital effects when it came to the morphing effects that created Robert Patrick as the T-1000. So, it’s probably not a shock that the movie came away with the award for Best Visual Effects, as well as the two awards that genre movies also tend to win, for Sound Editing and Mixing. However, T2 also did a lot of its impressive effects through traditional makeup, which allowed it to pick up that award as well. Considering the original Terminator received no nominations, the sequel was a huge success.

T-Rex in Jurassic Park

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Jurassic Park – Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing 

Jurassic Park is one of the most iconic and influential movies ever made. It certainly made its mark at the Academy Awards, taking home three awards. Not only did the groundbreaking, and still impressive, visual effects win the Oscar, but both Sound Editing and Sound Mixing Awards went to the movie as well. It wasn’t a massive night for the film, but Jurassic Park won every award it was nominated for.

The more recent success of science fiction movies at the Oscars has indicated that maybe the Academy Awards are ready to give sci-fi movies a real chance. Everything Everywhere All At Once alone became the first sci-fi movie to win in several categories. Perhaps we’ll see more science fiction movies win Oscars going forward.  

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