District 9

A thoroughly unique science fiction/action picture that purports that sometime in the 1980s – perhaps not coincidentally during the final days of Apartheid – a gigantic alien mothership appeared in the skies above Johannesburg, South Africa, and hasn't budged since. Investigators discovered over a million starving alien drones on board, then promptly evacuated them to filthy shanty towns on the outskirts of the city.

In 2010, after the aliens, nicknamed "prawns" for their shellfish-like faces (though they have insectoid bodies), start rioting over their poor conditions, the government, in league with a shady multinational corporation, decides to relocate them far away from the city into what appear to be concentration camps. A nebbishy bureaucrat with the corporation (first-time actor Sharlto Copley, turning in an impressive performance) is chosen to spearhead the operation, and he winds up getting more – much more – than he bargained for.

Everything about District 9 feels fresh and modern, even as its story borrows elements from seemingly every major science fiction movie of the last three decades, from Starship Troopers to Cloverfield to Alien Nation to Transformers to The Fly. Yet its unique setting, cast of unknowns, and no-nonsense political allegory make it stand out as a true original. This is essentially a flawless film. It satisfies on so many levels: as sci fi, as an action picture, as human drama, and as social commentary. It's what they call an "instant classic". Go see it.