On Sunday, I posted a few thoughts on Interstellar in which I concluded that: “I don’t think it’s made it into my “top” SF films.”
But then I immediately wondered what films I would put on that list. My very first qualifier on that has to be that I am not a big film-goer, so my viewing is not exhaustive, but nonetheless, I do have favourites, as follows:
Star Wars: (the real ‘first” movie)—because it’s fun and adventurous and had space ships and a real sense of worlds and space. Plus “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” was just magic! Space opera? You betcha—but I still enjoy watching it again from time to time. A big reason, I suspect, for that is because as the first film, Star Wars was spared the “overblown” elements that overwhelmed the sequels, with the exception of The Empire Strikes Back.
Blade Runner: For me, Blade Runner is all about atmosphere, chiefly the world and the world-weariness of Dekker. But it also takes a slant-wise look at a really important question, what makes a human being—only without any big speeches or heavy-handed philosophizing.
Alien/Aliens: Alien is atmospheric, eerie—and basically a great psychological thriller set in deep space. It’s also a really compelling take on what I regard as one of the great SFF themes, “person alone.”
Aliens is an equally great action movie set in space, but despite the difference in pace/focus it’s a sequel that really works for me—or it may be that the change in pace/focus is why it works as a sequel, rather than trying to do exactly the same thing over again.
Gattaca: Gattaca is another one of those “deceptively simple” stories, which in this case means that it takes one idea, the implications of genetic engineering in a near-future world, and works it through in a powerful and straightforward way, by focusing on the implications for human aspiration.
Deep Impact: I love this film, particularly because it actually has quite good science, as well great storytelling and interesting characters, including positive and interesting women characters. Personally I think it knocks Armageddon out of the ballpark.
Forbidden Planet: Although an oldie (it was made in 1956) and accordingly dated in some ways, I still think Forbidden Planet has a lot to recommend it in terms of classic SF storytelling, with space travel and interplanetary exploration that anticipates the Star Trek genre. But it’s also a story that is as much about human psychology and motivation as external action.
Other films that are up there, too, include:
Terminator/Terminator2: for very similar reasons to Alien/Aliens in fact, although set on a pre-Apocalyptic Earth, rather than in space, plus I love Sarah Connor
The Matrix: So cool! (But what do you mean, sequels? I’m sure it’s a standalone film!)
Inception: If only because you’re never really sure what’s real and what isn’t!