Sunday, August 17, 2008

Top 30 Sci-Fi Films of All Time.

Yahoo has a genuinely idiotic list of the top 30 Sci-Fi movies of all time today. First of all, half the movies on the list are superhero enjoyable genre but emphatically NOT science fiction. Just because Peter Parker used science to become Spider Man and Superman is from another planet does not make those guys science fiction characters.
Now I'll grant you, it's not easy to define the genre.

Some films are clearly Sci-Fi like Star Wars. Being set in some hi-tech future almost guarantees inclusion but what about films set in the present or the past that add wildly unhistorical technology or characters? Is H.G. Wells The Time Machine Sci-Fi? If so, why isn't Mary Shelly's Frankenstein? Or is it? Clearly this is something reasonable nerds can disagree about.

For my money, the "monster movie" genre is separate and distinct too. That means no King Kong, Godzilla, Cloverfield etc. If you disagree, I'd like to hear your arguments.

Anyway rather than just complain, here's my alternative list.
Aside from the parameters I mentioned above, I decided that I have to have actually seen each and every movie in question. That means Serenity doesn't make the cut despite it's excellent reputation. Also, most sequels aren't here because they tend to cover familiar ground while trying to squeeze a buck out of a dying franchise. To be considered, a sequel has to bring something radically new to the table. Finally, there are lots of very popular movies that I left off the list simply because I don't like them that much. I'm not going to dispute that Close Encounters of the Third Kind is both "better" and more "important" than some of the films on this list. It just didn't connect with me.

I invite comments.

30) I Robot (2004). Startlingly good, even if it doesn't exactly follow the story by Isaac Asimov.

29) The Mysterious Island (1929) Surviving copies are incomplete. When it was released the entire movie was in Technicolor, with talking sequences, sound effects and synchronized music. Now all that's left is a black and white version. It stared Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life).

Update: Aparrently part of the color sequences survive in the UCLA film archive.

28) Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Am I the only one who thought the Borg Queen was sexy? Looking back on it...yeah I probably was the only one.

27) Soylent Green (1973) It's people!

26) Dark Star (1974) Set in the 22nd Century, the crew of the ship Dark Star roam the galaxy demolishing planets that are a hazard to navigation or colonization. Unfortunately the "smart" bombs they use in this process are...well...really smart and sometimes it's difficult to convince them to do their job.

25) Forbidden Planet (1956) Based on Shakespeare's The Tempest it stars a young Leslie Neilsen in a non-comedy role.

24) Mad Max (1979) The film that made Mel Gibson a star.

23) Running Man (1987) A loose adaptation of a Stephen King story about a world in which criminals are put in an American Gladiators type setting and made to fight for their lives on national television. Staring the current Governor of California, the former Governor of Minnesota and Richard Dawson as the evil game-show host.

22) Heavy Metal (1981) The only animated film on the list. Lots of topless girls and a fantastic score.

21) Return of the Jedi (1983) Could have been ranked higher but it loses points for having Ewoks. Good space battle though.

20) Outland (1981) Sean Connery stars as the sheriff on a mining colony. Faced with hired killers out to get him, he finds himself alone with nobody to turn to. If that sounds familiar it is. It's essentially a remake of High Noon (staring Gary Cooper 1952) and Rio Bravo (staring John Wayne 1959).

19) Predator (1987) Like Running Man this stars a couple of future Governors. This time in the role of commandos in the Central American jungle, they find themselves being hunted by an alien looking for trophies.

18) Logan's Run (1976) Set in the 23rd century, the threat of overpopulation has forced society to take drastic measures-everyone is killed when they reached age 30. Logan is a Sandman, that is he puts people "to sleep". Unfortunately for him, he's got a big birthday coming he decides to make a run for it. Also staring the delicious Jenny Agutter.

17) Independence Day (1996) I almost forgot this one. It doesn't seem to be on television much anymore. I wonder why. It was one heck of a blockbuster.

16) Metropolis (1927) Its the movie that taught us that girl robots are sexy.

15) Alien (1979) In space no one can hear you scream.

14) RoboCop (1987) A Detroit cop is killed in the line of duty. Do you A) give him a decent burial, or B) take whats left of him, graft it on to a crime fighting robot and turn him loose on the city? If you chose A you have no future in science fiction writing.

13) Starship Troopers (1997) Now I'll grant you, it doesn't really have the charm of the book on which it is loosely based and a fair amount of it really doesn't make any sense. I mean really we're fighting bugs who stab people...why don't we just use tanks and artillery? That's still incredibly bad-ass.

12) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) If the plot made any sense this would rank higher. It's cultural significance is huge.

11) Planet of the Apes (1968) "You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

10) Demolition Man (1993) Set in an orderly but bland future where this is (virtually) no crime. Unfortunately a "real" criminal (Wesley Sinpes) from an earlier more violent age (the present) has escaped from the "cryoprison" — which keeps its prisoners cryonically frozen in suspended animation. How do you catch him? How about unfreezing a disgraced cop (Sylvester Stallone) who's also in the deep freeze. With nice performances by Denis Leary and Sandra Bullock.

9) Aliens (1986) One of the few sequels that is actually better that the original movie.

8) The Empire Strikes Back (1980) There's a lot of great stuff in this movie but I still prefer the original.

7) The Terminator (1984) Really an amazing movie.

6) Star Wars (1977) I expect this to be controversial. Episodes I-III don't even make the list and to rank the originals this low is bound to ruffle a few feathers. Don't get me wrong-I love the original movies...and for what it's worth I genuinely like the the more recent prequels...but there are five movies that I think are better.

5) Total Recall (1990) Douglas Quaid (Governor of California Again) is a lowly construction worker who is inexplicably married to a young Sharon Stone. Lately he's been having some very strange dreams.

4) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) A considerable development and expansion of the premise of the original film. At the time of the movie's release the special effects were considered jaw-dropping. Literally nothing like it had ever been done before.

3) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982) Unquestionably the best Star Trek movie ever made.

2) The Matrix (1999) An unusually smart film. I mean how easy it it to persuade an audience that the entire world we live in is an illusion?

1) Blade Runner (1982) Futuristic film noir meets Frankenstein. There are amazingly seven different versions of this movie...which speaks volumes about how troubled production was. I may be the only person alive who prefers the original theatrical release.

Well there you have it. That's my list. It's very heavy on movies I grew up with (mostly '70's and '80's) but I think they stand up pretty well.


Greg said...

What, no Ice Pirates?

I agree with you on Bladerunner. I think it may have pretty high place on my al time list for movies, not just sci-fi. I also like the theatrical release the best. The directors cut I saw seemed to just needlessly linger over impressive visuals. What is even more interesting is that most of the actors in the films are, well, not very good. Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Darryl Hannah? Larry from Newhart? Not The list of people I would start with to make a good movie.

Empire Strikes back is my favorite Star Wars film. I like its dark gritty quality. I also like the prominence of Han Solo. (As side note, one of the things that the prequels were missing was a Solo. I though he was the heart and soul of the originals)

By the way, Independence Day is on one of the Encore channels almost everyday (at least it seems like it).

Also, I would have put Men in Black in my top 30.

Greg said...

One further note on Empire.

I saw it before I saw Star Wars.(it was one of the first movies I saw in the theater) Imagine being five years old, and seeing a movie for the first time on the big screen. Then imagine how I felt at the end. Bad guys win, good guys get frozen, lose hands, kidnapped etc... I still like downer films to this day.


Melody Perkins said...

I agree with Blade Runner as the number 1 choice, but The Matrix above 2001? I don't think so. Terminator 2 above the original?? I don't think so. Star Trek 2 above Planet of the Apes???? And no spot in the top 30 for Silent Running even though the likes of I Robot and Independence Day make the cut...

Apart from the placing of Blade Runner at the top this list is just as bizarre as the Yahoo one.

Wahrheit said...

Your list is more thoughtful, more cogent, and as you say is mostly science fiction rather than a mishmash of fantasy, comic books and "other."

A few comments:
30) Yeah, a pretty good flick but I do hate it when Hollywood uses somebody's title and changed the story this much.

28) The Borg Queen did have a certain sexy quality--hey, she made Data's arm hairs stand on end...

24) Mad Max is awesome but I don't think it's sci-fi.

18) Jenny Agutter, "delicious," oh my yes.

13) As a dedicated Heinlein fan, one of my pet peeves of movie history! The director set out to make fun of the story, patriotism and "militarism" and succeeded in making a total piece of crap! I must absolutely disagree with you that it was badass; during the whole first half I was wondering where the powered exoskeletons that were such an important part of the premise were...indeed, haven't they got past M-16s in a world with interstellar travel? If there have been 999 sci-fi movies made this deserves to be no. 1000.

Interesting that your 5) and 1) are both based on Phillip K. Dick's work, which I really like. Hollywood seems to be able to translate him to the screen pretty well, probably because the writers are as high while adapting it as he was when he wrote it...

I saw Space Chimps with my three-year-old a couple of weeks ago...don't think it's a threat to crack the list. :)

josh said...


How about Superman (I or II), The Last Starfighter (ok that is a personal favorite), Highlander, Blade, Deep Imact or any of the Lord of the Rings (unless you are counting them as fantasy)?