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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What 10 or 15 movies belong in the ultimate scifi collection?

As a followup to yesterday’s “oh-no DVD of the week,” someone’s idea of an “ultimate sci-fi collection” of movies, and at the suggestion of bill in the comments there, here’s a simple question that’s tough to answer:

What 10 or 15 movies belong in the ultimate scifi collection?

Anything that leaves out The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension is bogus, as far as I’m concerned.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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  • Drew

    A few more recent movies to consider:

    GATTACA, for asking serious questions about the implications of genetic modification

    The Matrix, partially because it’s a great example of an action movie plus a premise so cool it completely makes up for the simple plot, and partially because it was a massive part of my childhood

    Anachronox: The Movie, a little more personal bias goes into this one, because it’s made up of the cutscenes from a video game but it has won machinima movie competitions so at least somebody else thinks it’s good!

    WALL-E, for teaching children about the dangers of a slothful lifestyle!

    PS, IMDB claims The Prestige is a sci-fi movie, and I have no idea if that’s accurate but gosh darnit that would totally make my list if I thought it was. Also, I wouldn’t include Star Wars, as I don’t think they’re as amazing considered individually.

  • Yes, The Prestige is total sci-fi. Bowie Tesla? Yeah. It’s not on my list though.

    I’d like to see Soderbergh’s Solaris remake in there, along with Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. And, lest we forget its badass badassery: Pitch Black.

  • Hank Graham

    FORBIDDEN PLANET
    The single best sci-fi movie of the 1950’s, and the direct inspiration of “Star Trek.”

    THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
    I shouldn’t need to specify which version, but the other classic 1950’s sci-fi which still holds up beautifully. Gort the robot in this one is a better actor than Keanu Reeves in
    the remake.

    THE OUTER LIMITS–DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND
    The best episode of that classic show, and one that still holds up beautifully today. I recently showed it to some folks who’d heard of, but never seen, any of the original OL, and they absolutely loved it. The character of Trent, caught in the past and fighting aliens who have followed him from the future, with the computer/robot/prosthesis which has been grafted on to his arm, is one of the greatest single characters anyone has ever come up with.

    STAR TREK: TOS–CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER
    Star Trek, love it or hate it, has been one of the most inspiring works in the medium, and this episode is one that everyone who saw it at the time has remembered forever. And it’s another of those classics that has every bit of its old power, even today.

    2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
    Yes, cold and inhuman, like an Olaf Stapledon novel. Still, impossible to forget.

    BLADE RUNNER
    Also cold and inhuman, and also impossible to forget.

    STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
    The best of that series, and the only one you can plausibly say was well directed. It’s a pity Lucas’s ego won’t let him pass on the work to other directors like Irvin Kirshner, who can make his pulp stuff sing in ways he can’t.

    THE TERMINATOR
    Actually brings the noir-concepted “Outer Limits” to the mass audience (borrowing from the two Harlan Ellison scripts from that series), but in a brilliant action film that made you think.

    BUCKAROO BANZAI
    Not a great movie, an intriguing almost-great movie that sure got a bunch of folks thinking about how this sort of movie could be made.

    STAR TREK: TNG–INNER LIGHT
    Great sci-fi has always been about the concepts, something the effects overladen films of the last few years have apparently forgotten. This episode of TNG put you completely into an alien world, and showed a whole other life and civilization. Easily the best of the TNG series, and a brilliant use of Patrick Stewart’s superior acting talent.

    LAPUTA
    Any list of the best that doesn’t include Miyazaki is too provincial to be taken seriously. My only conflict was whether to include this or NAUSICAA. I went with LAPUTA because steampunk is so in at the moment, and I think if I’d seen this when I was 12, it would have been my favorite movie of all time. Airships, quests, forgotten super-civilization technology, flying robots–how can you not love it?

    ALIENS
    More sci-fi than the original movie, which was a haunted house movie set in a gloriously designed spaceship. This is the rare sequel that was better than its predecessor, particularly when you put back in the scenes with Ripley discovering that her daughter died several years before of old age. And the plot all stemmed from the biology of the alien itself, and to which all the characters were forced to react.

    HONORABLE MENTIONS
    AKIRA
    BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET
    CLOVERFIELD
    THE DEAD ZONE
    ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
    FAHRENHEIT 451
    FIREFLY (the entire series)
    SERENITY
    THE FLY (Cronenberg’s)
    ICEMAN
    THE INCREDIBLES
    LILO & STITCH
    THE MATRIX
    MEET THE ROBINSONS
    MIRRORMASK
    NEVERWHERE
    ROBOCOP
    20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
    THE TWILIGHT ZONE
    TWO
    THE MONSTERS HAVE COME TO MAPLE STREET
    NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET
    TO SERVE MAN
    WALL-E
    ROYAL SPACE FORCE: THE WINGS OF HONNEAMISE
    ZARDOZ

  • Hank Graham

    Oops!

    And in the honorable mentions:
    PLANET OF THE APES

    Sorry–just missed it

  • Hank Graham

    Oh, and the Japanese series
    GANKUTSUOU

    Which MaryAnn *so* needs to watch.

  • Chris

    In no particular order:

    1. The Empire Strikes Back
    2. A New Hope
    3. Planet of The Apes (original)
    4. 2001: A Space Oddessy
    5. Aliens
    6. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
    7. WALL-E
    8. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind
    9. Children of Men
    10. E.T.
    11. Brazil
    12. The Matrix
    13. Blade Runner
    14. Minority Report
    15. Gattica

    Cough “Eff your Buckaroo Bonzi” Cough

  • Bill

    in no particular order…

    The Time Machine (1960)
    Aliens
    The Terminator
    Man from Earth
    Star Wars Episode V
    Blade Runner
    Silent Running
    The Matrix
    Metropolis
    2001: A Space Odyssey
    Serenity
    Forbidden Planet
    Dark City
    Gattaca
    Logan’s Run

    of course there are many others that could have been included. coulda made a whole different list. in fact, the only one up there that i am not willing to bend on is “The Time Machine”. that’s gotta be there.

  • Saladinho

    In no particular order, and just off the top of my head.

    The Empire Strikes Back
    Star Wars
    2001: A Space Odyssey
    Stalker
    Solaris
    Akira
    Forbidden Planet
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    Minority Report
    Alien
    Aliens
    Terminator 2
    Back to the Future
    Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

  • Ken

    No mention of Contact yet? That’s gotta be in the collection

  • Patrick

    Despite loving some of the films, I am ignoring the Star Trek and Star Wars series. These are in no particular order:

    Quatermass & the Pit
    Forbidden Planet
    When Worlds Collide
    The Andromeda Strain
    2001: A Space Odyssey
    The Day The Earth Stood Still
    Blade Runner
    Terminator
    Alien
    Aliens
    Serenity
    The Fly (Cronenberg)
    Planet Of The Apes
    Children Of Men
    The Andromeda Strain

    But I hate leaving out:
    Them!, The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Journey To The Center Of The Earth, The Abyss, Mysterious Island, Robinson Crusoe On Mars, Altered States, They Live, Slaughterhouse Five, God Told Me To, Seconds, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Starship Troopers, Robocop, Logan’s Run, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, …

  • hdj

    No ones said Soylent Green! whats going on here

  • RaymondL

    I’m going to move into a slightly different direction, and list 15 (in my opinion) must-see science-fiction films. In no particular order…

    2001: A Space Odyssey
    Blade Runner
    Solaris (1972 Russian)
    Forbidden Planet
    The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 version)
    A Trip to the Moon (Georges Melies, 1902)
    Things to Come (1936 version)
    When Worlds Collide
    Fahrenheit 451
    Colossus: The Forbin Project
    1984 (1984 version)
    Aliens (1986 sequel)
    Akira
    Serenity
    Twelve Monkeys

    Most all of what I prefer are movies that make you think, or have a serious storyline to them, as opposed to the sci-fi special-effects laden movies that seem to proliferate in today’s movie environment. Which is why I’m more jazzed about Moon and District 9 than I ever would be about Star Trek or Terminator.

  • No one’s said Soylent Green! whats going on here?

    That’s because Soylent Green is people.

    This post is only concerned with movies. ;-)

  • bracyman

    How about the recent series Fringe? Or are we only talking movies here?

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