Sunday, 14 March 2010

Top Twenty Science Fiction Films

I am a bit of a geek therefore I am a huge fan of science fiction – or so those who believe in stereotypes suggest.

In this instance, however, certainly as far as I am concerned, they are right. I love science fiction novels, TV series and movies.

There are so many fabulous science fiction films that I am going to give you my top 20.

Please feel free to let me know your favourites – who knows – I may not even have seen it (but I doubt it).

Also, let me know if you disagree with me. I’d be happy to know why.

(20) Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back

I was never really a huge fan of the Star Wars saga. I don’t really know why. Perhaps it is because the distinction between good and evil is just that little bit too obvious. Darth Vader himself had a lot of potential as an evil villain but he never quite realised it for me, I’m afraid. Sadly, I do actually like Star Wars III – The Revenge of the Sith and it was touch and go whether that made the top twenty instead of this one. In the end, I opted for The Empire Strikes Back simply because I was as shocked as everybody when it was revealed that Darth Vader was in fact Luke Skywalker’s father.

I apologise to Star Wars purists but I much prefer Star Trek to be honest (as you will see later).

(19) Galaxy Quest

Once of the reasons I love Galaxy Quest is because it is a science fiction remake of another great film, The Three Amigos. A bunch of washed up actors being mistaken for intergalactic heroes and the aliens in the film is a wonderful idea. There are so many great comedy moments in the film; nothing escapes including sci-fi conventions where goons dress up as the characters and believe it is real and Star Trek itself including the one unknown character who always gets bumped off when the crew lands on an alien planet. Tim Allen is excellent as the captain but the best character in the movie is Alan Rickman’s reluctant alien.

Never give up – never surrender.

(18) Starship Troopers

I hope you don’t think of the tacky I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper that was a crappy little single in the seventies. Starship Troopers is a very violent, very scary and very political movie that makes me shudder when I watch it. Why? Because I loathe creepy-crawlies and the monsters in this film are basically huge insects that rip men to pieces. My one criticism is that the characters are a little shallow. However, that fades into insignificance when you consider giant fire breathing beetles, monstrous insects with razor sharp claws that can slice off a man’s limbs and, worst of all, the horrific species we meet at the end that suck out human brains. Revolting yet utterly compelling.

(17) Total Recall

Unlike most of Arnie’s mindless movies, Total Recall has a fairly convoluted plot that makes it that much better than most of his action films. The story is intelligent and has lots of nice twists, particularly for Arnie’s character. I can accept the fact that he has to flex his muscles and beat the crap out of bad guys but the intricacies of the plot adds that extra portion of enjoyment.

(16) The Time Machine

H.G. Wells is my favourite classic author and I have read most of his books. The Time Machine is one of the best and I am going to take a liberty and include both the original film and the recent remake at the same time. The original movie starring Rod Taylor is a fabulous adaptation of the book and, despite being fifty years old, it is still very enjoyable today. Moreover, the 2002 remake starring Guy Pearce, although panned by some, is also very enjoyable. I particularly like the idea that you simply cannot go back in time to “fix” things. The Morlocks in the remake are also particularly nasty but both movies stimulate my imagination.

Also, if you like the H.G.Wells story, check out the “official” sequel written by Stephen Baxter called The Time Ships. It will blow your mind as you try to get your head around the complicated concepts of time travel. I have to say that if somebody dared to make a movie of that it would be an absolute blockbuster.

(15) Blade Runner

I love dark films and, as far as science fiction is concerned, you can’t get much darker than Blade Runner. I particularly like Rutger Hauer’s psychotic replicant and the ending of the movie is exciting and also a little sad. I empathised with Hauer’s character all through the film (I’m a little weird you see).

(14) Forbidden Planet

I watched Forbidden Planet as a kid and it really scared me (much to the amusement of my father). I remember asking my dad with a quivering voice “What is the Monster from the Id?” and as the characters struggled with the vast and violent invisible monster, I was clutching my dad’s arm as he chuckled at my fear. For that reason, I have always remembered this wonderful film. Of course it had a fabulous robot too and that was the icing on the cake. I saw it recently actually and was amazed that the star was Leslie Nielsen who I imagined was always a comedy actor.

(13) The Terminator

Violence, time travel and a fantastic story combine to provide the perfect Arnie film. This, believe it or not, was the first film I saw Arnie star in. I was bored one day so decided to go to the pictures and there was nothing on but The Terminator – what a fortuitous decision. I was captivated by the movie and urged everybody to go and see it, including complete strangers (I told you I was weird). You can’t beat time travel and a virtually unstoppable cyborg whose sole purpose is kill its target no matter what.

It will never stop until you are dead – that’s a scary thought.

(12) The Thing

I saw the trailer for The Thing and thought to myself, this is just another tacky horror film. A bunch of university mates persuaded me to go and see it and I am so glad they did. It is easily John Carpenter’s best film in my opinion, and has everything the discerning science fiction fan loves; horrible monsters, a great story and an ending that leaves everything to your imagination. If you haven’t seen it, don’t be put off by the title – it is a truly scary and thought-provoking film.

(11) Cloverfield

Everything JJ Abrams does at the moment is a triumph. I am a huge fan of his TV work (Lost and Fringe) and Cloverfield is no exception. Monster movies are excellent and what makes Cloverfield stand out from the rest, for me, is the mystery factor, that is, the fact that you don’t really see the monster at all and there is no explanation of what it is or where it came from. The heroes of the movie are basically clueless idiots and that makes it even more enjoyable because you know that they should just get out of there instead of hanging around waiting for a lovelorn buffoon to rescue his girlfriend. I can’t wait for the sequel.

(10) Terminator 2 – Judgement Day

I know – Arnie again – but, incredibly, the second Terminator movie is even better than the first. It has all the fascinating elements of the first film, plus the added bonus of trying to change future history. The kid was annoying but the transformation of Sarah Connor from an innocent young woman into a violent, psychotic warrior bent on changing the future and protecting her son, was a great idea. Best of all is Robert Patrick’s liquid terminator. A great sequel.

(9) Predator

Ok – this is the last Arnie film, I promise. The concept of an alien coming to Earth to hunt humans, string them up and keep bits of them as trophies is vastly appealing to me. Arnie and his elite band of mercenaries make tough opposition for the creature and that is why this first in the series is by far the best.

(8) Alien

I was too young to see Alien at the time it hit the cinemas and it wasn’t until around five years after its release that I saw it for the first time. It is tense, scary and takes the idea of a bogeyman to the extreme. The guy who dreamt up the alien, a remorseless, intelligent, violent killing machine that bleeds acid is exactly on my wavelength because that is the kind of monster I would create. A fabulous film.

(7) The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds is my favourite science fiction story by H.G. Wells and I’m going to take yet another liberty and mention the two movies in the same section. The original adaptation from 1953 is another of my favourite old style science fiction films – and although it is totally different from the book, it contains a lot of the elements that I love from the book. The recent Steven Spielberg adaptation starring Tom Cruise is absolutely magnificent though. Set in the modern day, it has the tripods from the book and for once Tom Cruise plays a hero who is simply terrified and completely helpless. And the special effects are something else.

I have to make a special mention of the musical version by Jeff Wayne which is one of my favourite concept albums of all time. The story aside, the songs, the vocalists and the narration of Richard Burton are the icing on the cake. I took Mrs PM to see a live performance at the Manchester Evening News Arena a year or two ago with Jeff Wayne, a full orchestra and Justin Hayward. The stage show was simply awesome.

My one wish is to see yet another remake that is even closer to the book, set in England in the late nineteenth century.

(6) Pitch Black

I was on a business trip to Atlanta, sitting in a hotel room on a Sunday evening, watching any old garbage on US TV when I saw a trailer that perked my interest. It showed a guy in pitch blackness who lit a flame – and when he did so, he was surrounded by hideous black monsters that shrank from the light. As soon as I got back to England I told Mrs PM, also a science fiction buff, and we went to the pictures to see Pitch Black. And we both absolutely loved it. I hadn’t heard of Vin Diesel at the time but I thought his character, Riddick, was indcredible – a truly flawed hero. The film exceeded my expectations because it had monstrous aliens, great characters and it was all set in darkness which added to the fear and tension. I loved the ending.

I have to say, I also like the sequel The Chronicles of Riddick, despite the criticisms.

(5) Star Trek

Please allow me to indulge myself – I love Star Trek, and J.J. Abrams came up with a magnificent reboot of the franchise that has incredible potential for future films. I went to see this with a little trepidation but it blew me away. The casting of Zachary Quinto (Sylar from Heroes) as Spock was inspired. And it was a delight to see Simon Pegg playing Montgomery Scott. It was a terrific action movie and cut aside the political correctness that had crept into later versions of the series. More – I say – give us more of the same. I can’t wait for the sequel.

(4) Star Trek – First Contact

I was totally disappointed with Star Trek – Generations. To allow the next generation to take the reins in this dreadful way was frankly absurd. When I heard that the next film with Jean-Luc Picard would be a Borg film I was excited but at the same time, nervous that it would be like the series, i.e. nice and diplomatic. It wasn’t. It had everything you could hope for in a movie; time travel, evil villains, a wicked Borg queen and a normally sensible and professional captain of the Enterprise mutating into a weird version of Captain Ahab. Even Worf had a bad time. Easily the second best Star Trek movie.

(3) The Matrix

I had no clue what The Matrix was like. I just knew it was a science fiction film. And I left the theatre with a huge grin on my face, citing it as one of the best and most original movies I had seen. I particularly like Agent Smith, superbly played by Hugo Weaving. In fact, most of the characters are terrific. And the special effects are wonderful. I particularly like the scene where neo and Trinity walk into the building and march through the metal detector loaded with guns and a bomb. And the mayhem that ensues it one of my favourite action scenes of all time.

The sequels were quite disappointing, actually. The Matrix Reloaded had some great actions scenes, notably the freeway chase but I left the cinema feeling that something was missing. It was the same with The Matrix Revolutions. I think it all got a little silly really. They should have stopped after the first one.

(2) Star Trek II – The Wrath of Kahn

To this day, Star Trek II – The Wrath of Kahn is the only science fiction movie that makes me cry every time I see it. I simply cannot watch the scenes surrounding Spock’s death without blubbing like a baby. I have to watch the movie alone lest others laugh at my emotive outburst. When it appears on the TV I simply have to find time to watch it because it is easily the best Star Trek film. Ricardo Montalban was immense as the evil Kahn, driven by revenge at the expense of everything else. Even William Shatner, a man whose acting leaves a lot to be desired, excelled himself for once.

(1) Aliens

What could be better than being trapped in a space ship with the scariest and most vicious alien in the universe? I would suggest being stuck on a planet with hundreds of the buggers is far worse. Okay, so this time Ripley had a small army with her, complete with weapons that could take out on or two of the beasts, but in the end it didn’t really help. At the start of the film, I was shouting at Sigourney Weaver – “Don’t go back there!” while at the same time thinking to myself “You have to face the alien again – just for me.”

And she did – with gusto. The final scene where she is kicking the alien queen’s bottom is simply wonderful.

This film has everything I need from a science fiction movie: a brave hero, violent mercenaries, tension, blood, fear and a whole army of large evil monsters with big teeth.

The perfect science fiction film – and that’s why it is number one.

I hope you enjoyed my list and I will be happy to hear your thoughts, whether you agree with me or not and I am happy to hear your suggestions.


An Eerie Tapestry said...

I tend to agree with most of the choices of yours that I've seen. Surprised to see Forbidden Planet there (guess Shakespeare's not that bad after all). My list would have included Back To The Future (yay, you can go back in time and 'fix' things) and maybe Cube (though the maths is laughable).

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi MArk,

At least Forbidden Planet is in modern English - I never complained about the stories - just the language and the fact we had them rammed down our throats...

Back to the Future was bubbling under and almost went in at the expense of Star Wars - I am one of those strange people who loves Part 2 best.

I don't think I've seen Cube - I'll look out for it and try not to laugh at the Maths.




Nomad said...

I think Aliens is one of my favorite films of the thriller genre. I know, I know, they certainly overlap a great deal. Aliens is even better as a stand alone film- without seeing the first one. As a stand-alone, there is a lot more tension because Ripley's trauma is evident but until we actually see how absolutely horrible that creature is, you, like the crew, really can't take her that seriously.
This could be a complete misunderstanding of the film, but isn't Aliens- and the whole series to some extent- a metaphor about motherhood? Its seems to be a running theme. That demon-like thing erupting from your abdomen, the computer was called "Mother", the adopted little girl, and of course, the alien creature itself was a mommy on the nest.
Even after so long, the film holds up well.

Nomad said...

By the way, have you ever seen "The Incredible Shrinking Man"? For its time, it was quite good. I wish they would re-make it with modern technology but I am sure they would ruin whatever good things there were.
As a child I saw it originally on TV and developed a fear of spiders, especially the big hairy ones. And about three years later, my family was driving along a country road at night and we happened to see a tarantula crawling along the side. My brother insisted on putting it in the first aid kit box and taking it back with us. In the car.. for 5 hours! Talk about a plot for a thriller. (But too much like snakes on a plane, maybe.) Anyway, he promptly went to school the next Monday and sold it for 5 bucks. Typical.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Nomad,

Yes - I think you maybe right about the "motherhood" thing. I almost included "Alien: Resurrection" in the list because I think that is another outstanding movie and of course, she effectively is a "mother" in that one.

Yes - I have also seen the "Incredible Shrinking Man" (though not for many ,many years). I too hate spiders - though I don;t think that phobia stems from the film. A remake would be superb.

In fact, I do like a lot of movies from that era - "The Day The Earth Stood Still", "This Island Earth", "It Came From Outer Space" to name but a few. In fact, perhaps I should list my favourite "classic" Sci-fi films in a future post.

Thanks for your thoughts.



Pandora Behr said...

Ah Galaxy Quest - I love that one too. The only thing that betters Alan Rickman in this role is his stint at Marvin the Paranoid Android in Hitchhikers.... inspired.
Some great choices here - agree what you say about the Matrix as well.
Though don't you consider Donnie Darko science fiction?

Anonymous said...

Nice list! I like all the movies that I've watched from it especially Terminator and Alien series.
Have you watched Sphere, Cube, Event horizon or Screamers?

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pandora,

Ah yes - Marvin in Hitchhiker's Guide - he was the best character in that film too - but to be honest I didn't really like that particular version. I preferred the TV series.

Yes I do like Donnie Darko and I suppose it is a sci-fi film really. Not sure it would make the top 20 though.

There are loads of other similar movies bubbling under - picking a top 20 is more difficult than it sounds - there are just so many to choose from.



Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Aluajala,

You're the second person to recommend Cube. No, I don't think I have seen it. I have also not seen Sphere or Screamers. That's quite a surprise really considering I love Sci-Fi.

However, I have seen Event Horizon and it is a fabulously scary movie. I watched it with Mrs PM and she was cowering all the way through it. I think it would definitely make her all time top 20.



River said...

I'm not a huge Sci-Fi fan, but I do like stuff such as Stargate, Farscape, Firefly. (I like a little comedy mixed in with my fear). I have seen several of the movies on your list and your reviews have prompted me to make my own short list of movies that I might possibly enjoy.
I have vague memories of a movie set in the future, not sure of the title, Population Zero?, where people were not allowed to have children,the earth was vastly overcrowded, at one point all babies born had a black light tattoo or microchip to prove they'd been born before the cutoff date. After that all "babies" were dolls programmed to act like the real thing and they were traded in for "older" children after a suitable time. If a woman did find herself pregnant she was supposed to take the abortion dose immediately. In this movie a couple managed to have a real baby, were found out and escaped the city to a beach somewhere.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I've not heard of Population Zero - I'll keep an eye out for it.

I like Stargate the movie but failed miserably to follow the series mainly because of TV scheduling and the fact that Sky bought it before I have Sky.

Shame that cos I think I would probably have liked it.



Unknown said...

Are you kidding me? You have listed every "save" sci-fi film. You took no chance in your selection and that is shite. How about Sunshine from Danny Boyle? Tron? Solaris? Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) ? To leave off The Fifth Element (1997) is blasphemy! Logan’s Run (1976) ?

Call me bitter from your awesome week in the EPL pciks but come on!

River said...

The movie is a very old one. I've been over at the IMDb, because I remember one of the main characters is Michael Cole from The Mod Squad. I think the movie I'm remembering is actually titled The Last Child and was made in 1971.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Ed,

Yes - I was going to gloat about the FFL week ...


As for your choices of movie:

Sunshine - I found it boring to be honest. It was OK but not riveting.

Tron - yes - brings back memories. I will watch the sequel that is babout to appear to. Tron was bubbling under.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Again - yes - I love the old version and the first remake (with Donald Sutherland) - again bubbling under.

The Fifth Element - again - it was OK but it didn't strike me as a top 20 movie (sorry).

Logan's Run - yes - good but not quite good enough.

Actually, somebody has kindly lent me a DVD of Cube so I'm looking forward to that.

Anyway, Ed, I'll pop over and gloat on your blog in due course ...




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I'll keep an eye out for it ...




Nomad said...

Looking forward to your review of "Cube." Strangely, I thought the second sequel of Cube was better. That was the one which actually explained something.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Nomad,

I thought Cube was quite good - a little strange and, as mark suggested, bizarre in the Maths department, but it is Sci-Fi I guess so it has the right to be strange. It did leave me wondering what was going on and, as you suggest, didn't really answer any questions.

Hence the sequels, I guess.

Oh well - I'll keep an eye out for the sequels.