We live in a world in which sci-fi has gone mainstream and superhero movies have become attractive vehicles for established actors. Given this, it’s hard to name any well-known star who hasn’t at least dabbled in a fantastical franchise. Let’s highlight some recognizable names that have done more than dabble. Here are the top ten stars who have made sci-fi films the genre that defines them.
The first great zombie comedy, ‘Shaun of the Dead’, made Simon Pegg a household name, which only grew throughout the rest of his so-called ‘Cornetto trilogy’. When he came on to ‘Mission: Impossible’, it was with fan-favorite director J.J. Abrams, who hired him for the role of Scotty in the ‘Star Trek’ reboot. This even got him a small part in ‘Star Wars, The Force Awakens.’ Through it all, Pegg has walked the geek walk talking up pop culture and lets his enthusiasm for it show.
Along with actor Bill Paxton, Lance is the only person to be killed by a Terminator, a Predator, and an Alien. He has appeared on ‘The Black List’, ‘Hannibal’, and ‘The X-Files‘. His talent has touched most icons of geek culture. He has played both Marvel and DC characters, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Super Mario Bros., and TRON. To top it off, he has voiced a ton of video games, most notably the very popular ‘Mass Effect’ series.
It helps kick off a geek-centric career if your first major role is ‘Firefly‘. In one of the most beloved single-seasons of sci-fi TV, Baccarin’s character of Inara propelled her into roles on ‘Stargate SG-1’, ‘Numb3rs’, ‘Medium’ and eventually landing a staring part on the 2009 reboot of alien drama ‘V’. Then there’s her contribution to superhero media. She has voiced a variety of Batman and Justice League animated characters, scored a recurring role on ‘The Flash’ and became the love interest in ‘Gotham’. Oh, and she was in the massively successful ‘Deadpool’ too.
Sam Jackson isn’t in most science fiction movies, he is in most movies period. Today he is a staple of Tarantino flicks and is perhaps the most significant cameo of the Marvel cinematic universe as the guy who started it all, Nick Fury. He’s been to both Jurassic Park and the Jedi Council. He’s Mr. Glass and Frozone. He’s Sam motherf#!%king Jackson.
6. Tom Cruise
Cruise doesn’t come off as someone who should have a lot of sci-fi cred. He doesn’t exude nearly any fandom in interviews. He isn’t involved in the biggest sci-fi franchises around. Yet he is the main man of ‘Mission: Impossible’, a spy series with some tech that is at home in proper sci-fi films. Cruise was in ‘Edge of Tomorrow‘, ‘Oblivion‘, ‘War of the Worlds’, and is currently making ‘Luna Park‘. He was the leading man in one of the most influential Philip K. Dick film adaptations, ‘Minority Report’, which was both a great movie and a marker for the technology that’s been developed ever since. Hell, he even lives science fiction as a believer in a religion founded by a sci-fi author and is somewhat based on aliens.
In 2009, Zoe was everywhere. She was in two sci-fi blockbusters–‘Avatar’ and the J.J.Abrams ‘Star Trek’ reboot–both of which went on to become entire series of movies (even though we haven’t seen any of the ‘Avatar’ follow-ups just yet.) ‘Avatar’ is especially interesting because she played a lead character who not only was an alien, but she looked like an alien. Now she has picked up another alien role as Gamora who will also give Saldana sci-fi work into the next decade between ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ sequels and being a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Best known as the Tenth Doctor in the BBC series ‘Doctor Who,’ Tennant has also worked with dragons, Jedi, wizards, and Ninja Turtles. He is considered one of the Marvel universe’s most compelling villains with his portrayal of Kilgrave on Netflix’s ‘Jessica Jones‘. He’s even appearing along with a food psychic in the animated adaptation of the great comic book series ‘Chew’. These are all nerdy roles that he seems to completely embrace. Expect to see him appear at comic cons into retirement.
She’s Ripley. Enough said? No? Weaver was a big part of two of the greatest sci-fi comedies of all time, ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Galaxy Quest’. She has self-perpetuating credibility at this point. Weaver is known to be in good science fiction which entices studios to cast her in more sci-fi films which then further her credibility. Her ‘Avatar’ and ‘Cabin In The Woods‘ roles seem to have been a product of this. Same goes for ‘Paul’ and ‘Chappie‘…but those may have actually hurt her reputation a tad, let’s be honest.
If you didn’t know his history, you might be skeptical that such a Shakespearean actor would be linked so closely to a fantastical genre, but Stewart is the core of two great sci-fi franchises. He won the hearts of enough Trekkies to enter into the “who’s the best captain” debate. Then he took those leadership skills to the X-Men as the Professor X James McAvoy strives to be. The best part is that he is a great sport about his role in pop culture. Stewart has appeared on ‘Robot Chicken,’ ‘Family Guy,’ ‘American Dad,’ ‘Futurama,’ and ‘The Simpsons’ often self-referentially.
He was in ‘Cowboys and Aliens’, ‘Ender’s Game‘ and–actually, check this out. Harrison Ford kicked off the 80s starring as Han Solo in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, returned to theaters in ’81 with ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, followed that the following year with ‘Blade Runner‘, then headlined ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ in 1982 and 1983. Granted, Indiana Jones isn’t sci-fi, but no one has had a stronger four years, the rest is gravy.
So what do you think? Is there someone you think belongs in the top 10? Someone who doesn’t? Sound off in the comments below!