Friday, September 22, 2006


The 10 best science fiction movies

It's Lite Topic Friday again.

1. Blade Runner - Sort of a Phillip Marlowe meets Brave New World meets I Robot. Great visuals. Subtlety rare in science fiction. The script is actually better than the book, no offense to Phillip K. Dick.

2. Space Odyssey 2001 - Obviously a bit optimistic about our progress. Probably about 45 minutes longer than it had to be with drawn out scenes of zero gravity basic living, but probably one of the most grandiose presentations on screen without overdoing it. Arthur C. Clarke's quasi-Jungian themes got dumbed down a bit for the sequel which I'd have avoided like the plague if I'd had had warning.

3. The Lathe of Heaven, PBS version - This was PBS' first fictional film, lost to the public for 20 years because of bizarre royalties issues, and recently reintroduced. It's a low budget project that draws you into another world - Ursula LeGuinn's spirituality of the "eternity of the moment" that was lost in the recent sequel. The movie is about dreams, and so the whole film is dreamlike, for good reason.

4. The Forbidden Planet - The first science fiction movie based on Shakespeare, and probably set the mold for Star Trek.

5. Solyent Green - The best of the 70s genre of dystopian films. Ironic that Charlton Heston played in so many liberal themed movies.

6. Contact - Somewhat dumbed down from Carl Sagan's lone novel, which ironically ended on a spiritual note the film decided to forego - probably because it would have been too hard to explain to most of the audience. But the film is probably the best science fiction of the last couple of decades.

7. Gattaca - Maybe the second best, a tribute to the dystopianism of the 70s. The only problem is that it was filmed in the Frank Lloyd Wright civic center in San Rafael. It's hard to be taken "out" of the day-to-day realm when a science fiction movie is a place where I've been to work on many occasions.

8. A Clockwork Orange - Kubrick's creepiness reached a pitch in this film. It's always been hard for me to watch David Lynch movies because he seems like a Kubrick imitator pushing the extremity of form in lieu of substance. Kubrick's movies weren't always rich with substance, but they did a pretty good job of pretending to be.

9. The Empire Strikes Back - Star Wars ushered in the science fiction action movie which very quickly became formulaic and boring. But this one is a classic I can watch over and over again, which for some reason was the best written episode. It wasn't Shakespeare, but it was decent. And for one episode some of the bad guys could even shoot.

10. The Day the Earth Stood Still - In an era where science fiction was dominated by anti-communism and other manifestations of paranoia, this movie postulates that if aliens were going to attack it's probably got more to do with the fact that we're a bunch of assholes than any shortcomings on their part. Basically, they're not going to let us off the planet if we can't keep it together. Isaac Azimov explored this theme in a number of short stories, one or two of which I hope make it to film someday.

The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic. Great movie.

Still, you'd think the U.S. military would post more than two soldiers to guard Gort at night.
The Thing--still unsurpassed for original frightening effects. John Carpenter's re-make sucks with standard alien goo-guck in place of plot and drama.

War of the Worlds--original and Spielburg's but I read the H.G. Well's book and the book's better than either movies. I want to see a War of the Worlds that follows the book.

The Body Snatchers--original one. Remake is ok but does not equal the original in creeping terror of aliens among us.

Forbidden Planet--definitely the Star Trek prototype and for me, the movie that holds the Krell Machine which I need myself to reproduce mental imagery that is impossible to reproduce on canvas or even digital imagery. One of the reasons I don't do much art anymore is because the art I produce, the art we see in galleries and all over, pales into insignificance beside the mental images I have seen through psychedelic visions. You see where colors come from, they are so "pure" and intense. But that Krell Machine is dangerous. Killed off all the Krell who used it to create monsters from their ids who destroyed all the Krell people.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind--set the bar for dealing with aliens positively.

Children of Dune--This film is a sleeper but is absolutely flawless in matching set decor to actors to plot to dialogue--a true work of art.

A-I--Spielberg/Kubrick collaboration that is the ultimate Jewish future--David the artificial boy finally becomes a real live Gentile boy for all of 24 hours. David is in love with his mother and the Blue Fairy who turns out to not to be your little Tinkerbell critter but a full-blown Goddess, Asherah, Goddess of the Sea--blue was Her color.

13th Floor--only movie where you can catch a glimpse of what it's like to experience the world as "maya", something that happened to me long ago and changed my life forever.

The Day After Tomorrow--terrific film about possible Global Warming future turning into another Ice Age

Futurescope--Steve Lewis' film about a computer program that can predict the future which of course makes every rich person and nation on earth want it. I use the program myself to know what's happening next--like how it's predicting the coming fall of Gallegos..
TV wise...

Loved the Babylon 5 series...
SciFi Dune was also good.

Jury is still our on the new Battlestar Gallactica.
Steven - The Thing definitely gets an honorable mention, and even War of the Worlds although it completely missed the point of HG Wells' novel.

I was actually creeped out more by the Body Snatchers sequel, but I think that's because it was filmed in San Francisco where I was raised.

The Day after Tomorrow as fun to watch, but it was over the top with exageration, and no way that little fire was going to save them from a 50 below climate.

Close Encounters was fun, but I wouldn't put it in the top 10, nor ET.
Anon - TV wise I liked the first three Star Trek episodes, and the new Battlestar Galactic. Bab 5 storylines were interesting, but the writing was often bad and the acting wasn't always up to snuff. The 5th season was a complete waste of time.

But the best sci fi series ever was shortlived - Firefly.
Zardoz! 1974. And the original Time Machine.
Yes, Firefly beat them all hands down. Series better'n the movie because the characters get more developed.
Loved Loved Loved Firefly
Anyone ever see the Canadian series..come on old-timers brain..Z.z.z can't think of it,,weird sets, strange plots, but still good. Just take my word for it.
Great list .. I especially like Blade Runner at No. 10 .. it seems like adult science fiction is a dead art, but Joss Whedon managed to make one truly great one a couple of years with "Serenity," and I have high hopes for Danny Boyle's "Sunshine"
oops, that should be No 1, of course
Serenity probably belongs on my list, though I found it a slight let down after the series. I felt like Whedon was hoping the movie would revive the series and was hoping to broaden the audience by dumbing it down and making unnecessary plot developments such as the transition of the young woman sensitive to some sort of Ninja warrior. Also, it killed off my favorite character.

But if I hadn't seen the series, I no doubt would have regarded it as excellent, especially in the absence of what you term "grown up" science fiction.

Why can't anybody do Azimov's Nightfall right? It really shouldn't be that difficult! Maybe the third time will be the charm.

Haven't heard about Sunshine, but I'll look it up.

Just as a note for those like me who don't have cable, Battlestar Galactica 2.5 just became available on Netflix.
How about John Wayne as Ghengis Kahn in The Conqueror? It had to be science fiction.
Mark - didn't see your Zardoz suggestion before. I just saw it for the first time a few months ago. I don't know how I hadn't seen it before. It was fun.

What was the line about guns and penises?
Oh Oh, Guns and penises some times shoot off unexpectedly! Really, I just don't remember.
I think the chant at the beginning was very basic:

"the gun is good
the penis is bad"
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