Sci-fi is one of my favorite movie genres. From when I was a little kid watching The Terminator for the first time, to growing older and exploring the beginnings of the genre by watching Metropolis, I have been captivated and enthralled by the ideas set up in these films. I think that’s why I love sci-fi: it’s a genre based on ideas, and the exploration of them. There are so many essential sci-fi films and I have yet to see them all, despite my love for the genre. However, I have seen a hell of a lot of sci-fi films, so I decided to organize them into a list. After hours of thought and many more of crying, I have come up with this. My top 10 sci-fi films of all time.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Dir. Stanley Kubrick
Nothing scares me more when it comes to writing about film than trying to write about 2001, but here goes. Based on a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey is shrouded in so many layers of significance that it’s almost become a requirement to like it. However, when you cut it right down to its soul, it’s a damn good film about what it means to be human and the future of humanity. Plus it’s entertaining to boot.
This film gave birth to one of the most iconic “villains” of all time: HAL-9000. With his deceivingly calm voice, he is a reminder to us to never completely trust machines. The monolith has remained an enigmatic symbol capable of being read in any number of ways. The Star Gate scene continues to mesmerise audiences worldwide and the ending still leaves people in awe, wondering what it could mean. As I mentioned earlier, sci-fi is a genre that is dedicated to making people think, and 2001 delivers this in spades.
2. Brazil (1985) Dir. Terry Gilliam.
Best described as Orwell’s 1984 with a sense of humor, Brazil is a comical view of an industrial world where routine, procedure and paperwork is second nature to the citizens. A major reason I love this film is due to Gilliam’s humor, which is completely obvious throughout. One or two jokes fall flat, but on the whole, it had me laughing (and thinking) throughout. One of the scariest (and most effective things about Brazil) is that much like 1984, the issues in the film strongly resemble actual issues in the world today. We are on the brink of falling, and there’s nobody there to catch us.
3. Blade Runner (1982) Dir. Ridley Scott
A neo-noire spectacle, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is somberly poetic. It paints a picture of a futuristic Los Angeles, where police operatives known as “Blade Runners” have to hunt down and find Replicants, who are living in hiding. Ridley Scott has described this film as one of his most “complete and personal”, and it certainly is both of those.
Deckard is a great, if troubled character, the score is one of my favorites of all time, and the script is written flawlessly (especially the “Tears in the Rain” soliloquy at the end). SPOILERS: There are many theories regarding Blade Runner, the most popular of which is that Deckard himself is a Replicant. This has not been, and never will be, proven or disproven. Rather, like any great sci-fi, it makes us think for ourselves. I love it and can rewatch it any number of times.
4. Metropolis (1927) Dir. Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang is one of my favorite directors, and when he makes a film from my favorite genre, it’s going to rank pretty damn high on a list like this. Metropolis is one of the most essential sci-fi’s that fans of the genre have to see. Lang’s pioneering film is set in the future city of Metropolis, where workers slave away underground to serve those above. A political message that is as applicable today as it was almost 100 years ago runs throughout. The amazing set design, huge production value and stellar direction and cinematography all combine into making Metropolis an un-missable masterpiece.
5. The Thing (1982) Dir. John Carpenter
An amalgamation of both sci-fi and horror. The Thing is one of the most well-known of Carpenter’s films, next to Halloween; and for good reason too. The Thing is a remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World and is one of the few examples where the remake is better than the original. The impressive practical effects, fantastic performances and intangibly tense atmosphere all combine to create one of the most suspenseful films of all time.
So there you have it folks, my top five sci-fi films. What do you think? What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments.