Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Top 10 Science Fiction Movies

As I crawled into bed late last night, I saw Dune was on HBO. It got me thinking about my personal top 10 Science Fiction movies of all-time. While it's subject to change and I'm going to exclude anything related to superheroes, here is my current list:

10. Dune - I used to hate when I was a kid, and my dad would watch this movie. Until college, I couldn't sit through it, yet slowly, I gained an appreciation for the actors and cinemotography: the Baron is creepy, I love the imagery when Alia celebrates killing him, and for 1984, the effects with the worms aren't bad. While I usually can't stand voiceovers, this movie is packed with them, delivering the characters' thoughts rather than telling the story, and they tend to offer some of the most memorable lines.

9. Donnie Darko - Thought-provoking and dark, this a movie that's as much about how people's choices effect the world around them as it is about traveling through time. The soundtrack really added to this film, and when I saw this in college, one of the girls in the room left because of the bunny suit. Though the scenes with Drew Barrymore make my skin crawl--her scream at the end is terrible--there are enough good performances and classic lines to make this one of my favorites.

8. Twelve Monkeys - As a fan of Terry Gilliam, especially Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I don't think I'll ever tire of watching this movie about time travel and a global-killing plague. Brad Pitt, in the role that changed my opinion of him, is brilliant. I even gained more respect for Bruce Willis, when I learned he took a huge pay cut (for an A-list actor), which he didn't receive until after Twelve Monkeys was released because he was so interested in doing the project. A wise decision, if I say so myself. This is an underrated classic.

7. A Clockwork Orange - Set in a dystopian future, the story of Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his droogs is arguably one of the most disturbing adaptations ever to bless the big screen. This is one of the films I felt Kubrick was born to make, as I doubt there is anyone that could have captured the terror of the Ludovico Technique, a form of aversion therapy, so perfectly, and that includes Kubrick's use of music. Can anyone see this and not think differently when they hear "Singing in the Rain?"

6. Dark City - People usually love or hate this movie, and from what I've experienced, the haters tend to be those that saw the Matrix prior to Dark City. Having seen both in the theater, I was more impressed with Dark City and its noir mash-up of history--the Strangers intrigued me right away. I liked the way they dressed, how they talked, their powers, and their scientific mischief, and, other than Sutherland's annoying stutter, I enjoyed the performances as well. As a fan of Fringe, I've often wondered if the Observers were inspired by the Strangers.

5. The Fifth Element - While the plot isn't complicated, the special effects are fun to watch, and there's a lot of humor, all of which is set in a comic book-style universe. Time and again, I enjoy watching Milla Jovovich take out a room full of armed Mangalores to the tune of a techno-opera, Gary Oldman's role as Zorg, and Bruce Willis' delivery of, "I am a meat popsicle."

4. Alien - I could probably write an essay on what I like about this film. There's a slow build-up to its compelling story that modern movies, especially horror movies, seem to have forgotten, and when the xenomorph first burst from Kane's chest, I leaped from the couch with a scream. Setting, soundtrack, and a perfect cast only added to the splendid "haunted house" in space.

3. Blade Runner - Loosely based on Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," this, in my opinion, is Ridley Scott's crowning achievement. Harrison Ford as Deckard, the scenery, the dialogue, and the complexity of its themes captivate me every time the Final Cut goes into my Xbox. It has influenced the genre in countless ways, and the day I borrowed it from my brother, over a decade ago, my view of Science Fiction expanded profoundly.

2. Jurassic Park - Like most boys, I was obsessed with dinosaurs growing up, and this story tapped into a long-running fantasy. I was twelve when I saw this in the theater, and I can still remember grinning ear to ear; I had even read the book prior to its release, after a teacher saw me drawing a T. Rex and made a recommendation. Spielberg always had a knack for building tension in scenes, and Jurassic Park is filled with some of his best work. Laughs, fear, rich characters, wonderful effects and scenery, this movie had it all. Oh, and there isn't a bad performance in it either. Twenty years later, I get as much enjoyment out of seeing Jurassic Park as I did the first time.

1. Star Wars - For nostalgic reasons alone, this ranks at the top. No film or franchise has so drastically captivated me as much as Star Wars, from childhood to present day. Han Solo, back when he fired first and never let Greedo get off a shot, introduced me to the anti-hero, a witty, charming one at that, and I'll take the anti-hero over a goody two-shoes any day, especially when I write my own fiction. By the time I was old enough to Trick or Treat, I was dressed as Yoda, my brother as Darth Vader, and my sister as Leia--on the road to the geek I am today.

Honorable Mentions

Akira, Stargate, Brazil, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Slither, The Terminator (1 & 2), Phantoms, Serenity, Flatliners, Predator, Fire in the Sky, Planet of the Apes, The Fly, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Equilibrium, The Matrix, Back to the Future, Mad Max, Total Recall (original), Moon, Critters, Screamers, Robocop

Feel free to agree or disagree.


  1. The first (or 4th- feh) Star Wars movie - nothing has excited me as much, even if the subsequent movies are better.

  2. You wrote about movies to I'm compelled to comment. Though I do not read sci-fi, I do enjoy sci-fi flix. The ones that come to mind when I think Sci-Fi Movies I Enjoy are: Explorers (who doesn't love a young River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke and I always saw an eerie resemblance between the father alien's belly and my own dad's beer belly), Back to the Future series, District 9, Star Wars Episodes 4-6, T2 Judgment Day, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (does that one count? that's more post-apocalypse but I'm throwing it in anyway), and Jurassic Park (I totally get the same chills I got when it first came out. And I was super excited to play the music in 8th grade band until someone lost their music which caused the director to cut the entire piece. I still have mine in my trumpet case...hmmm)and what's the one where Arnold has to take the tracer ball out of his nose? I always liked that one for someone reason. Running Man? Total Recall? Heck just add em both.
    2001 was creeepppyyyy and I liked it a lot.

  3. Total Recall - take out Running Man.

  4. I had thought about putting Running Man in the honorable mentions, which is based off a Stephen King story, but I haven't been able to sit through it since I was kid. Just doesn't do it for me anymore. Total Recall I didn't want to add because it might have been confused with the remake...that I hated. Post-apocalyptic movies count; I'll add Mad Max. Pretty soon the Honorable mentions will be a mile long.

  5. You know, I haven't seen Explorers. I'll see if I can find it on Netflix.

  6. I saw the Explorers in a double feature with the Goonies, god I am old... Great list, I would put Event Horizon on my honorables.