Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
Need somewhere to go after you visit that galaxy far, far away? Or is your kid not quite ready for lightsaber duels and blaster battles? We've picked a few of our sci-fi favorites for adventure lovers of all stripes and ages; each has something that makes it a little bit different from the Star Wars saga. Just remember to check out detailed movie reviews to look for potential content issues before you push play.
Less violent: E.T., ages 7 and older:
Not only is this 80s favorite a sci-fi adventure with unforgettable images, it's also a touching family drama and a beautiful exploration of a unique friendship. And though there's plenty of suspense and peril, there's not much in the way of heavier violence.
Friendlier aliens: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ages 8 and older:
Steven Spielberg's thrilling, thoughtful first-contact story unfolds with extraordinary power. And the plot is so different from many other alien movies: It says not only is "something" out there but it's something wonderful. Still, watch out for some scary and spooky moments.
For classic movie fans: The Day the Earth Stood Still, ages 9 and older:
One of the finest science-fiction movies of the 1950s, this classic about a charismatic alien retains its impact and dignity. Yes, it's old-fashioned, but the message of non-violence could spur good family discussions about the importance of world peace.
More time travel: Back to the Future, ages 10 and older:
This fun, fast-paced start to Michael J. Fox's beloved time-travel trilogy brims with lighthearted energy (and might teach today's kids a thing or two about the 80s). Watch out for some strong language and scenes with characters in jeopardy.
Trekkier: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, ages 10 and older:
If your family is more U.S.S. Enterprise than Millennium Falcon, this is widely considered the best of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock's adventures. Both thrilling and philosophical, it has scary and violent moments (and a very sad death) but can still spark meaningful conversations.
Spoofier: Spaceballs, ages 11 and older:
This sci-fi spoof isn't subtle. But funny? Absolutely, if you like your comedy broad, crass, and silly. Even those who haven't seen the Star Wars movies it pokes fun at will get a kick out of Mel Brooks' popular parody.
Real science: The Martian, ages 12 and older:
Lots of sci-fi movies are far more "fiction" than "science" -- but not this one. It's a smart, action-packed, all-around perfect adventure for families with curious, science-loving teens and older tweens.
More off the wall: Men in Black, ages 12 and older:
Part comedy, part science-fiction parody, and part action film, this creature feature/buddy flick just keeps throwing elements into the pot. Older kids will love the combination of irreverent humor, great chase sequences, and gross-out special effects.
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.