Science Fiction Movies

I love reading; I especially love reading science fiction. And I love movies. So here’s a list of science fiction movies. Note: This is a work in progress.

I have mixed feelings about what to include in this list. It’s mostly a list of SF films I have seen and enjoyed — or at least find worth mentioning (not necessarily in a positive way).

As a general rule (with exceptions), I’m excluding most monster movies (vampires, zombies, werewolves, creatures from space and so forth). To me, those are a different genre. I’m also excluding most comic book movies. I don’t find most of them very good, plus I see those as a different genre. And I’m generally excluding animated films as motion picture comics.

Finally, I’m going to avoid most fantasy films. Magic, ghosts, and mythical tales in general are yet another genre. (Besides: the list is huge enough without them!)

All-Time Favorites

I’m not claiming these are necessarily the greatest science fiction films ever made, although I think they’re all excellent films. They are the SF films I’ve watched repeatedly and continued to love after many viewings. A sad fact is that nearly all of these are from the last millennium! I can’t think of a movie in the last 15 years that’s really blown me away (except for the first entry). There have been some pretty good ones, and even some really good ones, but none on par (for me, anyway) with the ones listed below.

Watchmen (2009) Director Zack Snyder did such a great job on the film version of the 1986 gnovel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that this entry not only breaks the “no comics” rule here, but earns a spot on the Top Five. The source material is rich and complex, but Snyder honored — and even enriched — it.

Galaxy Quest (1999) Very possibly the best SF comedy ever made. The movie works on three levels: It’s an excellent SF comedy all on it’s own; it’s a loving, funny, accurate, pointed parody of the Star Trek franchise — particularly the actors; and it’s a delightful present for SF fans (who find out it’s all real and save the day).

The Sixth Sense (1999) M. Night Shyamalan‘s first big movie, and what a monster hit it was! “I see dead people,” is a well-known cultural meme. One of the fun things is how Shyamalan rubs your nose in it throughout the movie. ‘Look here!’ he says, ‘Isn’t that odd?’ It’s one of those movies that becomes another movie after you’ve seen it; you’ll never see that first movie again! (You might think a ghost movie doesn’t belong on a list of SF movies — especially when vampires and zombies are excluded — but as with Watchmen, this movie is so good that it’s earned a spot.)

Fifth Element (1997) Directed and (mostly) written by Luc Besson (Nikita, The Professional, Transporter, District 13, Revolver, and many others). Stars Bruce Willis as a former special forces commando and current (flying) taxi driver who gets involved in a plot involving the survival of Earth. Also stars Milla Jovovich (in one of her earlier film appearances) and the wonderful Gary Oldman. The film involved the participation and design work of French comics artist, Mœbius (Jean Giraud).

Contact (1997) Directed by Robert Zemeckis and based on the 1985 Carl Sagan novel with the same name (which is also a favorite of mine). Jodie Foster stars as Dr. Ellie Arroway, a SETI scientist searching for — and finding! signals of alien life among the stars. (My favorite part of the book, the secret in pi, didn’t make it into the film.) Despite the dates, the film actually came first. Sagan and his wife, Ann Druyan, initially wrote a screenplay in 1979. When development of the film bogged down, Sagan converted the story into a novel.

Groundhog Day (1993). Directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray. This, to me, is another grand slam of a movie, perfect in almost all regards. An excellent concept used in an excellent story, and — despite the lack of obvious SF elements — is clearly in the SF realm (being, essentially, a sort of time-travel story).

Zardoz (1974) Written and directed by John Boorman. Some might feel this one belongs in the “Guilty Favorites” section, but this truly is one of my all-time favorite SF films. I think it’s an almost perfect example of British “high/low tech” (also part of Doctor Who‘s charm).

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) A masterwork by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. This film is a work of art and is significant enough to have introduced a number of cultural memes. Many people have some notion of who HAL is, and his evil red eye is widely recognized. Some of the dialog (“Open the pod bay doors, HAL!”) has also endured these 45+ years. [I wrote about it here. And you might enjoy this.]

Noteworthy SF Films (IMO)

I love good science fiction; I love good movies. Therefore I love good science fiction movies. These are all “favorites” in virtue of being good SF movies. They don’t quite make the Top Five list, but are all runners up.

Looper (2012) Starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this is one of the best time-travel movies I’ve ever seen! This little gem was written and directed by Rian Johnson, who’s done… very little, actually. He did write and direct Brick, which is an outstanding “hard-boiled” detective film (also starring Gordon-Levitt). Both films are critically acclaimed and must see for any fan of the respective genres. (I’d say they’re must-see for any fan of movies!)

Moon (2009) Directed by Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell. A wonderful SF film where the science is extremely accurate. A nice bit of mystery and complexity makes it worth seeing more than once.

District 9 (2009) An alien “invasion” (if you could call it that) film that examines apartheid. Absolutely worth seeing!

Sunshine (2007) Directed by Danny Boyle. Earth’s sun is going out. Yes, it’s scientific nonsense, but it’s the gimme that drives the story. One special spaceship was sent to try to “re-start” the sun, but it was lost and never heard from. The movie concerns what happens with the second ship they build and send.

A Scanner Darkly (2006) Directed by Richard Linklater (Waking Life, the Before… trilogy and other noteworthy films). Based on Philip K. Dick‘s 1977 novel with the same name. Notable for the source material and the rotoscope technique (which Linklater also used in Waking Life). One of several SF films in which Keanu Reeves is well-cast (also has Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey, Jr. and Winona Ryder.

Serenity (2005) Joss Whedon‘s continuation of the delightful — but ill-fated — 2002 Firefly TV series (a western science fiction film… in space). Many fans consider what happened with Firefly a tragedy and a travesty, and I couldn’t agree more!

Code 46 (2003) A social commentary film with Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton. Another dytopic future, the film is sort of a blend of 1984 and Gattaca (see below).

Minority Report (2002) Notable to me for being a rare Steven Spielberg movie that I not only like, but really liked. Even more notable, it has Tom Cruise, which I often find to be a distraction.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) A tour de force of 3D computer-animation, it was the first feature-length photo-realistic 3D computer animation ever made. Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who also created the video game. The film featured extremely life-like human characters and some very cool monsters.

Dark City (1998) Outstanding, moody and stylish SF film by Alex Proyas (The Crow and see Knowing below). I’m forever in Roger Ebert‘s debt for bringing this wonderful SF film to my attention (he compared it favorably to Metropolis and 2001). Currently considered a cult classic, it’s a must-see for any true SF fan.

Gattaca (1997) With Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. A examination of reproductive technology with a strong focus on genetic manipulation and discrimination. As with so many of the really good SF films, it didn’t do well at the box office, but did become something of a touchstone for those debating the use of genetics in society. (Once again illustrating SF’s strong connection to social mores.)

Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1997) A damned odd SF film based on an even odder SF novel. Strange and moody, yet compelling.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) Directed by Robert Zemeckis (the Back to the Future movies and see Contact above). Based on the fairly obscure 1981 SF novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, by Gary K. Wolf. I loved the book, and I loved the movie. And for once, the critics and public agree; many consider it one of the best films of 1988. Roger Ebert gave it four stars. The movie is a wonderful take on cartoon reality, and features some ground-breaking special effects work.

Guilty Favorites

There are films that I love because they are just plain fun (whatever else you can say about them). For me, one key seems to be not taking yourself too seriously.

Resident Evil (2002) Kicks off (and I do mean kicks) the series by Paul W. S. Anderson. Milla Jovovich kicking zombie ass with the help of Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory and Ali Larter. What’s not to like? New episodes came out in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2012. At least one more is anticipated in 2015.

Ghosts of Mars (2001) A zombie-ghost horror film… on Mars! Total cheese, but how can you resist a John Carpenter film starring Natasha Henstridge, Pam Grier (!), Jason Statham, Joanna Cassidy, Ice Cube and Clea DuVall?

Pitch Black (2000) The first film in the Riddick series by David Twohy. Vin Diesel is perfect as Riddick, and the whole thing is wonderfully over-the-top. A sequel came out in 2004, an animated film also came out 2004, and new sequel came out in 2013.

Sphere (1998) Based on Michael Crichton‘s 1987 novel with the same name. While not a great film (mostly for being cliched and pedestrian), it has an odd charm to me that gets me to watch it any time it airs (in large part due to the great cast: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson and more). [One of these days, I’m going to have to figure out which author has more stories turned into SF films, Crichton or Philip Dick.]

Waterworld (1995) Everyone seems to hate this film, but I love it (that seems to happen a lot). I do like Kevin Costner and Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Dennis Hopper is always a pleasure. David Twohy worked on the story.

Johnny Mnumonic (1995) Based on a short story by William Gibson who also wrote the screenplay. Directed by Robert Longo, a painter, sculpter. This is another film that everyone seems to hate, but which I really like. This is one of those weird roles where Keanu Reeves is perfectly cast.

Judge Dredd (1995) Another huge flop with the critics and the public! Being based on a comic series it should be excluded from this list, but I like Stallone (and Diane Lane and Rob Schneider), and I liked this one enough to buy it. I. Am. The Law!

Demolition Man (1993) Sylvester Stallone takes on very Bad Guy Wesley Snipes, but after being frozen and then thawed out in a “utopian” future that has removed violence (and salt and sex). Sandra Bullock is the innocent future cop (with an “unhealthy” interest in the violent past — she has a Lethal Weapon poster in her cube) becomes his partner.

Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) Some very silly musical fun with Geena Davis (valley girl), Jim Carrey (alien), Damon Wayans (alien), Jeff Goldblum (alien) and Julie Brown (gal pal). Geena Davis in a very tiny bikini is — I admit — part of the pleasure, but three comic talents as (initially) colorfully hair aliens held their own.

The Classics

Some of these seem too recent to actually be “classics,” but these are the films that led to the modern era of science fiction films.

Men in Black (1997) Based on a comic with the same name, the film is a huge hit with critics and audiences. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family and sequel, Get Shorty), who also directed the sequels in 2002 and 2012 (both of which are quite good). Wonderful chemistry between Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith is just part of what makes these films delightful. There was also an animated series on WB that ran for four seasons.

12 Monkeys (1995) Another Terry Gilliam film (see Brazil, below), this one stars Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeleine Stowe. Scientists in Gilliam’s dystopic, duct-work, cobbled-together future send Willis back to find out what made the world collapse.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) James Cameron and Arnold back for a kinder, gentler T-800 going up against the new, improved T-1000 model. A very good sequel to a real classic. There are third (2003) and fourth (2009) entries to the series, but they go progressively downhill. There’s a reboot planned for 2015 and the franchise also includes a TV series.

The Abyss (1989) James Cameron just kept cranking them out!

Predator (1987) Arnold Schwarzenegger squares off against an alien hunter seeking human prey. An outstanding and scary film that spawned a 1990 sequel and then merged with the Alien franchise for Alien vs Predator (2004) — reifying a debate fans had been having since the first two movies of each came out. Then came Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) and finally Predators (2010).

RoboCop (1987) The beginning of another franchise. The first one was followed by RoboCop 2 (1990) and RoboCop 3 (1993). There’s also a remake in 2014. There was also some television versions (both live-action and animated), and a host of books and comics — a genuine franchise! I liked the first one a lot, but the rest didn’t do a whole lot for me.

Aliens (1986) James Cameron’s entry into the Alien series.

Brazil (1985) Think George Orwell’s 1984, but as told by the Monty Python! It’s a fantasy, satire, dark-comedy, surreal film directed by Terry Gilliam. The script is by Gilliam, Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown, if that tells you anything (like: it’s excellent and funny and very weird).

Back to the Future (1985) The first of three delightfully fun SF time-travel comedies starring Michael J. Fox and the wonderful Christopher Lloyd. Directed by Robert Zemeckis who also did the sequels in 1989 and 1990. You can’t not like these!

Terminator (1984) James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger scare the crap out of us all!

Blade Runner (1982) Ridley Scott’s film based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick (who has had a surprising number of his stories made into films).

Tron (1982) It seems a bit quaint now, but in many ways it was the first of its kind — “its kind” being movies about people or personalities inside the virtual world of computers. It also used a ground-breaking special effect involving reflective tape. And the light cycle game is really cool! (Made into an adequate remake in 2010.)

Alien (1979) The Ridley Scott classic! I’m not normally a fan of horror movies, but SF horror movies can be a lot of fun.

Planet of the Apes (1968) Based on the 1963 Pierre Boulle novel, this film spawned sequels in 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973. (They really cranked them out!) It also spawned a remake in 2001 and a new movie in 2011 (with another slated to be released in 2014). The two new ones are prequels involving how the apes rose. The franchise also includes two television shows, video games, comics and novels.

Fantastic Voyage (1966) A special team of people and their small submarine are shrunk down to miniscule size and injected into a scientist so they can deal deal with a life-threatening brain clot. Stars Raquel Welch (and some other people).

Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) The Ed Wood, Jr. classic often called “the worst movie ever made!”  I tend to agree, although it’s so hysterically awful as to be strangely compelling (especially if you’ve seen Tim Burton’s film, Ed Wood).

Forbidden Planet (1956) Of all the classics, this is one of the classics! It’s also a really great film! Stars Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis (Honey West!), Leslie Nielsen (before we knew how funny he was), and introduces one of the most famous robots of all time: Robby! If you haven’t seen this, don’t even pretend to call yourself a science fiction film fan.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Directed by Robert Wise (!) and based on the short story, Farewell to the Master, by Harry Bates. This is another of the classics that you have to have seen to be considered a fan of SF films. The 2008 remake (starring Keanu Reeves, who was again well-cast) was mostly disappointing and unmemorable. Klaatu barada nikto!

The Thing from Another World (1951) Directed by Christian Nyby with a screenplay by Charles Lederer and Howard Hawks. Often referred to as The Thing, this is another true classic SF film. Based on the John W. Campbell, Jr., novella, Who Goes There? (see The Thing (1982) below).

Metropolis (1927) Directed by Fritz Lang, this bizarre silent-era classic is truly unique and is the first feature-length SF film ever made. Featuring a dystopic future and robots, it’s hard to underestimate the film’s influence. It’s been recently restored (with “lost” footage included) and released on DVD, so you can own this true classic.

Other SF Films

The good, bad and ugly. I’m having mixed feelings about how many films from the last decade or so to include. SF films have become so common that trying to include all the recent ones would bloat the list and make it harder to maintain. For now, I’m just including the recent films I consider most worth mentioning…

Ender’s Game (2013) Based on the Orson Scott Card classic from 1985, I expected this film to be the usual awful and shallow modern pop SF. Instead, I have to admit that, for a film version of a complex, nuanced classic, it… doesn’t suck. In fact, I’d have to say it’s fairly good. It’s a pale imitation of the source, but as a stand-alone film for those not familiar with the novel, it ain’t bad.

Prometheus (2012) Ridley Scott continuing the Alien series. I really liked it! Given how bad many modern SF films are, it’s really quite good and a fine addition to the Alien canon. I do hope Ridley Scott is able to make the obvious sequel!

Source Code (2011) Directed by Duncan Jones, who also did Moon (see above). This one was okay (yes, just okay). Unlike Moon, the science is a bit dicey on this one, but there are some interesting similarities in terms of what it means to experience reality.

Inception (2010) Christopher Nolan’s film about getting inside dreams. I usually like Nolan’s work, and I liked this one a lot!

Avatar (2009) James Cameron’s SF version of Dances With Wolves. A visually beautiful, but stupid, movie (and a waste of Michelle Rodriguez).

Knowing (2009) Directed by Alex Proyas (see Dark City above) and starring Nicolas Cage. The plot involves a set of numbers from a 50-year-old time capsule opened by an elementary school class. Cage’s son is in that class, and Cage notices that the numbers are dates of past major disasters. Some dates are in the future, and when a major airplane crash occurs on one of those dates, Cage realizes the numbers are real. Worth seeing for the airplane crash, which is extremely well done.

Pandorum (2009) Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (the man behind the Resident Evil series; he also did AVP). It’s a horror movie and a mystery movie (in space). Not a particularly great film, it didn’t do well with critics or fans and wasn’t even interesting enough to become a cult favorite. Only worth seeing if you’re an Anderson fan and/or a dedicated SF horror fan.

Next (2007) Nicolas Cage plays a man who can see two minutes into his own future. FBI agent, Julianne Moore, wants to use him to help find a nuclear bomb in the hands of terrorists. Also has Jessica Biel as the love interest and a brief appearance by Peter Falk. Based on The Golden Man, by Philip K. Dick (it’s amazing how many of his stories have been turned into movies).

Renaissance (2006) A French black and white animated SF film that takes place in the future. Extremely interesting for the way they used motion capture and CGI to create the film.

Dreamcatcher (2003) Directed by Lawrence Kasdan (who directed one of my all-time favorite films: Grand Canyon). It’s based on the novel by Stephen King. Properly speaking, it’s a monster movie, but since it involves aliens and telepathy (and is really very watchable), it earns a spot on this list. Has a great cast: Morgan Freeman, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore and others.

Vanilla Sky (2001) Written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire, writer of Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Also has Jason Lee and Penélope Cruz. It’s based on a 1997 Spanish SF film, Open Your Eyes, written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar. (I’ve never seen it, but it’s highly acclaimed critically and sounds excellent.)

Supernova (2000) A Walter Hill (who produced all four Alien movies) film starring James Spader, Angela Bassett, Robin Tunney, Lou Diamond Phillips and Robert Forster. Basically a horror film (in space), the plot revolves around an alien artifact they never should have brought on board. The film was a bomb (disowned by Hill who appears as “Thomas Lee” in the credits), but is surprisingly watchable (I thought).

Happy Accidents (2000) Directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist, lots of TV, including many episodes of Fringe) and starring Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’Onofrio. The film is mainly a romantic comedy in which D’Onofrio is a time-traveler from 2470 come back to save Tomei’s life. Enjoyable for the two leads and well-regarded by critics and audiences.

13th Floor (1999) Stars Craig Bierko. Another film that explores what it means to “experience reality.” It’s not a great film, but it does have an interesting twist. I enjoyed it mostly for being about virtual reality and because I figured out what was going on about halfway through it (which almost never happens for me).

Event Horizon (1997) Another one by Paul W.S. Anderson (see Pandorum above).  This space horror film stars Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan and Joely Richardson (and an entire evil dimension). A box office and critical flop when released, it has gained popularity since and is considered a cult film now. I didn’t like it much when I first saw it, but later decided I did like it enough to buy the DVD (admittedly, because it was in the $5.99 bin, but still).

Cube (1997) A very unique SF horror film and well worth seeing. Some people wake up in “The Cube” — a giant cube containing 26 cubes per side (for over 17,000 total). The inner cubes are rooms measuring about 15 in each direction. All six walls of each cube have doors leading to adjacent cubes. Many of the cubes have deadly traps, plus sometimes the cubes shift position within the main cube. The film spawned two others: a  higher-tech sequel, Cube 2: Hypercube, and a prequel, Cube Zero.

Independence Day (1996) Generally speaking, I’m not a Roland Emmerich (Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012) fan (see Stargate below), because I think he makes crappy SF films. I think they pander to the groundlings while leaving true SF fans shaking their heads. Mostly he makes disaster films featuring massive destruction (which I find ultimately dull). That said, once I get past all the (really) dumb stuff, I have to admit that ID4 is fairly watchable (in large part thanks to its cast).

Stargate (1994) I loved hating this SF film by Roland Emmerich. Back then I wrote a long foaming at the mouth rant describing in great detail what a piece of crap I thought it was. Critics seem to be about 50/50 on it, and the public rather liked it (which just goes to show). It actually won some awards and spawned a TV series. I take heart in that Roger Ebert kept it on his “most hated films” list and even invoked the name of Ed Wood! As I said above: not a fan of Emmerich’s work.

They Live (1988) A cult classic from John Carpenter. The plot involves aliens who’ve disguised themselves and live among us controlling the world via subliminal messages in advertising. Special sunglasses allow the hero to see through the disguises and hidden messages. A must see classic for true SF fans. (The film contains the longest, least productive fist fight ever filmed.)

Short Circuit (1986) A science fiction romantic comedy with an intelligent robot who wants to avoid being “disassembled”. Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg are the inevitable love interests. It’s a very cute bit of fluff, and the robot — Number 5 — is pretty funny.

Howard the Duck (1986) Unquestionably one of the worst SF films ever made. Spare yourself and avoid at all cost! You know how some films are so bad they’re good? This is goes beyond that to being truly, utterly awful and unwatchable.

2010 (1984) The sequel to 2001. It’s not bad — definitely worth seeing if you haven’t — but it’s more a basic space movie than the visual work of art that 2001 was. It is based on the Arthur Clarke book, which may account for much of its watchability. Directed by Peter Hyams, who also directed Outland (see below).

Repo Man (1984) It’s tempting to put this in The Classics section, but it’s really only a cult classic. It is, however, a film any science fiction fan must see at some point if for no other reason than Harry Dean Stanton’s performance. (“You don’t want to look in the trunk!”)

Dune (1984) The David Lynch version of the Frank Herbert classic novel. Some of the first parts aren’t too bad, but the latter half is pretty unwatchable (except for laughs). In particular regard the “weirdling voice” and its explosive power!

The Thing (1982) Directed by John Carpenter (see several other entries here) and a very faithful version of John W. Campbell, Jr.‘s 1938 novella, Who Goes There? Not to be confused with 1951 version, The Thing from Another World or the 2011 prequel, The Thing. Ironically, while I wouldn’t consider this film a classic, both the original story and the 1951 film are (although the film is a classic on its own merits).

Liquid Sky (1982) A rare entry on this list in that I’ve never seen it, but it sounds fascinating and it highly rated by critics and the public (at least the ones that have actually seen it). Recommended by a friend (see comment section below).

Outland (1981) Sean Connery is great to watch, but… yikes! The film is basically a space version of the classic western, High Noon.

Altered States (1980) Directed by Ken Russell (Women in Love, The Devils, Tommy) and starring William Hurt (with Blair Brown, Drew Barrymore’s film debut and an appearance by John Larroquette). A psychological SF horror film involving sensory deprivation and hallucinogenic drugs. Well-regarded and well worth seeing.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) To be honest, I kind of hate most Steven Spielberg movies (I just don’t react well to his overly blatant tugging of the heart strings). I’ve refused to ever watch ET. (I don’t mind his Indiana Jones movies, although I didn’t much care for the last one.) It was the idiotic “mashed potato” scene that turned me completely against the movie. In fact, mashed potato scene is a phrase I use to describe idiotically obsessed behavior in movies.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) An odd film by an odd director (Nicolas Roeg). It stars David Bowie (yes, that David Bowie) as a Martian who comes to Earth seeking water for his parched planet. A rather surreal film; Bowie’s first acting role (and he’s perfectly cast, I thought).

Dark Star (1974) One of the stranger entries on this list, the film is a cult classic featuring intelligent planet-busting bombs (who discuss philosophy) and a weird alien that looks exactly like the beachball with claws it is. A very low budget movie that you really have to see at least once if you’re an SF fan. Most people have the reaction of loving it the first X times and then, suddenly, realizing what a silly movie it is and cringing.

Soylent Green (1973) Soylent Green is people!

Silent Running (1972) Directed by Doublas Trumbull (who did the special effects for 2001 and others). The film features Bruce Dern in a giant spaceship trying to preserve the last of Earth’s trees. He has the assistance of three very cute drones and some touching music performed by Joan Baez and written by Peter Schickele.

The Andromeda Strain (1971) Robert Wise‘s film version of the Michael Crichton 1969 novel about a deadly virus from space. (This one might actually belong in The Classics section.) The A&E network made a mini-series version in 2008. The odd thing about the mini-series is that the first half is outstanding — very faithful to the book. But in the second half it becomes an unwatchable travesty that goes far off book and makes no sense whatsoever.

THX 1138 (1971) George Lucas’ first film features a dystopic future filled with robot cops and a drugged populace. This one should be a classic (and it is to SF fans), but it’s not well enough known outside fan circles to really qualify.

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) Based on a 1966 novel, Colossus, by Dennis Feltham, this is one of the first “intelligent computer taking over the world” stories. It seems terribly dated now, but at the time it was a gripper!

Barbarella (1968) A goofy, sexy cult classic starring Jane Fonda.

Star Wars and Trek

I’m old enough to remember having seen previews for this new science fiction movie that looked really cool (robots and space battles!), to have waited in anticipation for it to come out, and to have seen it the first night it opened. Considering that the only decent space movie we science fiction fans had up to then was 2001 (1968), so Star Wars (1977) really blew our minds! The shine starts to come off already with the next two, and the other three… Well, in my book they don’t exist. Lucas only ever made three Star Wars movies, okay? Only three! There are only three movies!

As for the Star Trek movies, probably the less said the better. [But you can read more here] Father Roddenberry did declare the movies canonical, but he went to Star Trek heaven after only six of them. I wonder what he would have thought of the later ones, especially the most recent two.

As far as I’m concerned, J.J. Abrams has killed Star Trek. “It’s dead, Jim!” You need look no further than that the same man is now tasked with directing both Star Trek and Star Wars.Two singular visions cannot fit inside the same head, so both are reduced to the same forgettable shallow crap audiences consume like popcorn.

Think of it: the man who wrote Armageddon (which is on Roger Ebert’s “Most Hated Films” list), who produced Cloverfield, and who gave us Lost, is now at the helm of two of science fiction’s great, enduring visions. A man who’s said he hated Star Trek (because it wasn’t glitzy enough) is now making Star Trek movies.

Plus: The new Kirk (Chris Pine) is a typical modern dickhead hero and the new Scotty (Simon Pegg — who I otherwise really like) is some sort of joke casting. Classic Kirk was driven, passionate and a true commander, but he had class, and he was never a dickhead. On the other hand, the new Spock (Zachary Quinto) isn’t bad (although I keep seeing Sylar).


4 responses to “Science Fiction Movies

  • Kim Burris

    Europa Report is a new film I saw on dvd; I like it. Some others that I would suggest are Contact, Altered States. A Scanner Darkly & a very off beat film called Liquid Sky.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      D’oh! How did I manage to forget Contact? It’s one of my favorites (both the book and the film)! I have been meaning to add A Scanner Darkly (yet another Philip K. Dick film!), but the title kept eluding me (and I can’t find my DVD copy). It’s rare that I hear about an SF film I’ve never heard of, but I’ve never heard of Liquid Sky! Sounds like one to keep an eye out for! Great suggestions, thanks!!

      (I’m still trying to decide how many really current SF films to include… there are so many these days that the list could become huge and weighted heavily on films from the last decade. Three other Moderns I’m on the fence with are Elysium, Oblivion and After Earth. I think I have to include Ender’s Game, since it’s based on a classic novel.)

  • Kim Burris

    Just thought of one other J. C.’s The Thing with Kurt Russell Follows the short story quite well. The 50’s original still is a fun watch I think but has little to do with the short story

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Another great suggestion! I’m kind of excluding monster films, except in special cases such as the Alien movies, and the remake of The Thing definitely qualifies as a special case, both for being a classic and for being based on a written SF work.

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