This is a golden age of science fiction cinema. Wander into your local multiplex and you’re faced with limitless sci-fi movies featuring aliens and superheroes, giant robots and dystopian futures, all presented in shimmering 3D with top-of-the-line special effects. Here is a list of 10 best science fiction movies.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
James Cameron is one of the few directors in Hollywood that really knows how to make an amazing sequel. As he proved with Aliens, he knows it’s not enough to merely reunite the old gang and try to recreate the magic of the original. That can only lead to a disappointing retread. Cameron is smart enough to bring in a ton of great new characters and dramatically expand the world of the original while raising the stakes for everybody. In the second Terminator film, Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back in time to protect Sara Connor and her son John from a new advanced robot made out of of liquid metal. It’s been 23 years since they made this thing, and somehow the effects are still impressive. For further proof of Cameron’s genius, check out the two horrible sequels they did without him.
2001: A Space Odyssey
A little over a year before men landed on the moon, Stanley Kubrick released a movie about a group of astronauts forced to battle their super intelligent computer while on a space mission. The film actually begins with a group of apes in the distant past that come across a mysterious monolith that speeds up their evolutionary process, before skipping thousands of years into the future. The pacing is slow by today’s standards and the final sequence seems like a long and confusing acid trip, though Kubrick knew exactly what he was doing, even if people are still arguing over what exactly that was.
Harrison Ford had a pretty amazing run between 1980 and 1982. In that time he starred in The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Blade Runner. The first two movies were marred ever so slightly by inferior sequels, but Blade Runner stands alone as a singular masterpiece. Based on the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, it’s the story of a dystopian future where robots are banned from earth. When some slip past our defenses, a special force called Blade Runners go after them. Harrison Ford plays a Blade Runner named Rick Deckard who knows an awful lot about the inner workings of robots brains for a mere human. Director Ridley Scott says a sequel is coming, but we’ll believe it when we see it.
The original Alien is equal parts horror and science fiction. The brilliantly paced 1979 film tells the story of a crew on a spaceship that prematurely awakens from a long slumber to battle an alien that emerges from the stomach of one of the men. The gruesome creature stalks the crew and picks them off one by one, until Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) fights back. The alien is every bit as cunning and devious as Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, and like those villains it came back and back in many sequels. There have been rumors for years about a final movie where the aliens finally come to Earth, but it seems unlikely that will ever happen.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Science fiction fans don’t agree on very much, but there does seem to be a general consensus that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the six Star Wars films. The original movie had a lot of backstory to sort through and Return of the Jedi has lots and lots of Ewoks. Enough said. Also, not to speak ill of the brilliant George Lucas, but the fact that he didn’t direct Empire was probably also a good thing. It’s the movie where Luke trains to become a Jedi, Han gets frozen in carbonite and Darth Vader tells Luke he’s his father before chopping off his hand.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
When a human-like alien named Klaatu lands his flying saucer in Washington, D.C., he merely wants to teach mankind about peace, but a nervous soldier takes a shot at him and everyone else assumes his intentions are terrible. He eventually poses as a man named “Mr. Carpenter” and learns about man’s endless capacity for war and destruction. The Cold War overtones are impossible to ignore, as does the fact that the alien’s Earth name is the same as the profession of another guy who preached peace about 2,000 years ago. The film ends with a stark warning that earth will be destroyed should they keep up their war-like ways.
Long before 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars or Star Trek, there was Forbidden Planet. The 1956 classic is the story of a starship in the 23rd century that travels to a distant planet to figure out what happened to a crew that landed there two decades in the past. They find two survivors, a robot named Robby and layers upon layers of secrets when they arrive. Leslie Nielsen took on one of the lead role about a quarter century before Airplane made him a comedy icon.
Before The Matrix hit theaters in the spring of 1999 most people knew Keanu Reeves as the guy from Speed and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, while the Wachowski Brothers were only known for making the 1996 low budget lesbian lesbian heist flick Bound. No matter what any of them do from here in on, they’ll forever be known as the people that made The Matrix. The movie, which centers around a computer programmer that learns his entire world is an illusion created by machines that are sucking away mankind’s collective energy, made nearly $500 million and became a massive pop culture phenomenon. Fans had to wait four long years to see the sequel, and by that point it was inevitable they’d be extremely disappointed. Turns out this was a hard franchise to conclude in any sort of satisfying way, but they sure kicked it off in spectacular fashion.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
After the insane success of Jaws, Steven Spielberg had the freedom to make whatever movie he wanted. While there was pressure on him to make Jaws 2, the director was already thinking of something way bigger. It was a story about a man drawn to a remote area of New Mexico after seeing a UFO. People begin disappearing and the military is extremely wary of the whole situation, but when the aliens finally emerge they are completely harmless and merely want to exchange information. It’s a brilliantly-paced story and a nice contrast to the many movies where aliens have aggressive motivations.
It took Hollywood seven years to make a sequel to the 1979’s Alien, but it was worth the wait. James Cameron was brought on to write and direct the film after the success of The Terminator, and he used every bit of his first big budget to craft a brilliant story of a remote space station that’s been completely overwhelmed by a race of super aggressive aliens. A single one of the things was enough to kill everyone on a space station besides Sigourney Weaver, so imagine a whole colony of the things. Cameron was livid when most of his characters were wiped out in the opening minutes of David Fincher’s Alien 3.