The Greatest Science Fiction Films

This article was originally a blog post, published Aug 7, 2007

In this searing heat, I can’t seem to sustain a consistent high-level thought. So today instead of sociopolitical analyses, you get more entertainment news dithering. I saw a slew of new movies this past week. Here’s the rundown:

The Simpsons – passable for kids and for non-longterm fans. For the rest of us, though, this was shallow disappointment.

Sunshine – looks great, sounds great; first 2/3 were really compelling. But it fell apart in the final 20 minutes. Ecch.

The Bourne Ultimatum – perhaps the perfect action movie. Doesn’t talk down to you in any way.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – the 2nd best of the series so far (after The Prisoner of Azkaban). Stunning images.

Somewhere in this process, I decided to list the greatest science fiction films of all time. To do so, I had to decide upon a definition of “science fiction”. I decided that something is science fiction if it employs speculative science as a core element in its narrative. Star Wars does not qualify, for example, because its story could have taken place anywhere and anytime; the robots and spaceships were mere accessories not critical to the narrative.

So here’s my top 5. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

5. Gattaca – Elegant, intellectual and moody, this film explores the meaning of humanity in a world in which we can select and design the biological trappings of humanity.

4. The Day The Earth Stood Still – How would humans react to an alien… really?

3. Planet Of The Apes – It’s got it all: spaceships, time travel, strange evolution… the ultimate hodgepodge of 1970s sci-fi ideas.

2. Blade Runner – Again, an exploration of what it means to be human, when humans can now be grown in vats.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey – This was the first book I read cover-to-cover in one sitting. It’s a rare film that embraces grand ideas that inspire, challenge and uplift, and doesn’t bother to dumb it down.

Did I miss any?

2001

Blade Runner

Planet of the Apes

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Gattaca

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