President Obama’s essential science fiction list is the pumpkin spice latte of the galaxy

President Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Cleveland on Oct. 14.
(Phil Long / Associated Press)

While plenty of movies and TV shows have made it onto various Internet “Best of” lists, not many can claim to have made a list curated by a president. Now films like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” can add that honor to their list of commendations.

Somehow between his day job as POTUS and campaigning for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama found time to guest-edit the November issue of Wired. Among his editing duties was listing off his essential genre films and television shows, and no real surprise here, a lot of sci-fi greatest hits made the list. But that’s OK, Obama’s still got plenty of nerd cred to go around.

“I love this stuff. Always have. It’s why my favorite movie of last year was ‘The Martian,’” wrote Obama in his essay for Wired.


“I’m a guy who grew up watching ‘Star Trek’ — and I’d be lying if I said that show didn’t have at least some small influence on my worldview,” continued Obama. “What I loved about it was its optimism, the fundamental belief at its core that the people on this planet, for all our varied backgrounds and outward differences, could come together to build a better tomorrow.”

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That the president is a “Star Trek” fan, of course, is not news — especially to those who have seen the photograph of him giving the Vulcan salute along with “Star Trek” actress Nichelle Nichols at the White House.

Here is President Obama’s complete list of essential sci-fi movies and TV shows to watch:

  • “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)
  • “Blade Runner” (1982)
  • “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)
  • “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” (1977)
  • “Star Trek” (1966-1969)
  • “The Martian” (2015)
  • “The Matrix” (1999)
  • “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage” (1980)

President Obama definitely stuck to the classics when curating his list, but it’s tough to argue against titles like “Blade Runner” and “A New Hope” that are already considered part of the established canon of great science fiction films.

As a president who has established his geek credentials by challenging the Mythbusters, courting the tech community at SXSW, meeting current Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan and even playing Spider-Man’s comic book sidekick, some might have expected Obama’s list to veer away from these safe “best of” list standards. But in the context of the president we have come to know, this is actually a very on-brand list for Obama.


Since his initial presidential campaign, Obama has been a figure of change and hope. He exemplifies the optimism and wonder that is at the core of titles such as “Star Trek” and “Close Encounters.” And while “Blade Runner” definitely does not present a rosy vision of the future, Obama’s interest in artificial intelligence does explain that pick.

Twitter: @tracycbrown