::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
The 8 Coolest Sci-Fi Flicks

The first thing you’ll notice about our list is that there are no “Star Wars” movies on it.

First, they aren’t cool in any sense of the word. Second, there the most overrated, over-hyped, and underwhelming science fiction films ever made. The sins of the George Lucas’ franchise are many:

  • The plots are simplistic, bordering on moronic. They are linear affairs with plot twists that fall from the sky with no back story support (“Luke, I am your father”).
  • A plethora of unimaginative, two-dimensional stereotypes cast as the main characters. These cliché-ridden characters have been stolen from every arch-type of the silver screen. The worst offender may be “the lone wolf, reluctant hero” Han Solo.
  • Clunky, wooden dialogue is embarrassing to watch actors try to bring to life (Amidala: “I’m not going to die in childbirth, Anakin. I promise you.” Anakin: “No! I promise you!”).

The key to making good science fiction movies is to create worlds that the viewer believes in. They need to be rich and detailed, but, most importantly, they need to be populated by engaging and interesting characters.

One of Lucas’ failings as a filmmaker may be his lack of irony. His “Star Wars” clunkers are played too seriously – like penny operas. He should have taken some lessons from directors John Carpenter (“Escape from New York”) and Paul Verhoeven (“Robocop”) on how to infuse humor into a film.

“Stars Wars” also suffer from predictable action scenes. The shoot-out with the Stormtroopers in the first movie plays out like a backyard cowboys and Indians game between 10-year-olds. Lucas could learn a lot about action by watching Ridley Scott (“Aliens”) and the Wachowski Brothers (“The Matrix”) how excel at breathtaking (and chilling) action.

So forget the drab “Star Wars” films and move on to science fiction that does it right. DaRK PaRTY presents our “8 Coolest Science Fiction Movies of All-Time”:

Dark City (1998)

John Murdoch awakens up in a strange hotel room, sprawled out in a porcelain bathtub. A ceiling light swings above him casting flickering shadows on the bleak walls. There is blood and he is panicked. He learns that he is the primary suspect in a series of bizarre serial murders. In the course of his investigation, he uncovers a world controlled by a group called The Strangers, who alter the reality of the world every night. And they are coming for him. Dark City” is one of the most original and surreal masterpieces of science fiction that it almost deserves its own category. Yes, the movie is this good. You won’t be able to tear your eyeballs from the screen as this dark, nightmarish mystery of John Murdoch and the aliens begins to unfold.

The Matrix (1999)

The first 10 minutes of “The Matrix” is breathtaking in its pageantry of violent action. It’s like a ballet. The film is about Neo, a milquetoast computer programmer by day and a rebellious hacker by night, who finds himself seduced by a group of underground hackers wanted by the government. He thinks he’s joining the movement, but finds out that the world isn’t what he thinks it is. “The Matrix” changed science fiction movies (and action movies) forever. It also features Keanu Reeves in perhaps his only non-annoying role. The movie is fresh, fast, furious, and contains one of the most delightful twists you could ever hope for (check out the lobby shoot-out in the video above).

Aliens (1986)

“Aliens” is the sequel to “Alien,” but the movies barely resemble each other. “Alien” is a haunted house, horror movie set on a spaceship. “Aliens” is a pure action driven science fiction – that is extremely scary. It’s like a video game unleashed on the big screen and it will leave you drained. The last half of “Aliens” is intense and not for the squeamish or the easily startled. But if you like your action fast and don’t mind watching 9-foot aliens attacking out of the shadows every few minutes then you’re in for a thrill ride.

The Road Warrior (1981)

“Mad Max 2” takes place in the distant future where men live in roving bands scavenging off the refuse of civilization and how each other. Cars and motorcycles are the modes of transportation and the new gold is gasoline. Mad Max, a former police officer, happens upon an outpost under siege by an army of rebels looking to steal the gas they are pumping from their refinery. Max doesn’t want to help them – he just wants their fuel. But after nearly losing his life to the mutants, he strikes a deal with the outpost to help save their lives. This is the movie that made Mel Gibson – and he plays the quietly seething Max to perfection. “The Road Warrior” has become a cult hit and redefined the movie car chase – and the post apocalyptic science fiction movie. A must see.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

“Planet of the Apes” is the grandfather of the modern science fiction movie. The plot is simple: an astronaut crash lands on an unknown world that is controlled by intelligent apes. Men are like rats – simply pests that destroy crops and need to be thinned. The astronaut is wounded in the neck and captured. He tries to prove he is intelligent, but is ignored by all except for two scientists. The movie may have one of the best surprise endings of any science fiction movie (see video below). And it features Charlton Heston at his noble best – a cross between Spartacus and Moses. “Planet of the Apes” has become a cult classic (and spawned too many bad sequels), but it remains one of the coolest films in any genre.

The Terminator (1984)

At its core, “The Terminator” is a time travel movie – but it also has elements of horror, action, and mystery movies thrown in. It’s also the first movie where Arnold Schwarzenegger utters his famous “I’ll be back” line. The film is about a soldier sent back in time from 2029 to save the life of his general’s mother (who is going to be executed by a cyborg). The soldier lives in a future where machines have taken over the world and human are rebelling to get their world back. The goal of the cyborg and his machine masters is to kill the woman who gave birth to their biggest enemy. Schwarzenegger has had a long acting career, but the terminator remains his best role.

Escape from New York (1981)

Director John Carpenter has a perchance for disappointing movies. “Escape from New York” isn’t one of them. In fact, it’s his best movie. The movie takes place in the distant future, amen, 1997 (can you even remember that far back?). It’s a time when the world has fallen to pieces and New York has been abandoned and turned into a walled maximum security prison. The U.S. president’s plane crash lands inside and the government needs someone to go in and rescue him. Enter Snake Plissken (played by Kurt Russell), a hardened criminal. They give him 24 hours to go inside and get the president. What follows in a thrill ride of a movie with tongue mostly planted firmly in cheek.

Robocop (1987)

“Robocop” is the most sarcastic and satirical science fiction movie made in the last 30 years. It skewers modern society (our materialism, our media, and our corporate culture). Yet it plays like an action movie on steroids as well. Director Paul Verhoeven dances this tricky line perfectly and makes a movie that was ahead of its time. He brilliantly cast Peter Weller in the role of Robocop – a half human, half machine police officer. Weller is able make the character more human than most of the human actors playing along side of him. A masterpiece of science fiction.

See our list of Hollywood's Most Awkward Nude Scenes Here

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
First of all, The Road Warrior, while one of the greatest films ever made, is not at all "sci-fi". There are no "mutants"(the apocalypse of the film is not even resulting from any nuclear war) and no 'future tech' stuff either.

Secondly, The Terminator is NOT about someone traveling back in time to save "his general's wife". Sarah Conner is John Conner's MOTHER. Not wife.

Blogger GFS3 said...
Of course, the Road Warrior is a sci-fi movie.

Fixed the typo on Terminator -- good eye.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Disagree with you on the 1977 Star Wars, though. It was a really great movie that stands the test of time.

Where's the "science" in The Road Warrior? It was a great action flick, though.

I think that PotA is pretty profound as social commentary, as is Soylent Green.

Thank God you didn't add EfNY 2 in your list of best Sci-Fi flicks.

Forbidden Planet is much better than Aliens as "science fiction".

Blogger Unknown said...
ALIENS is directed by James Cameron, not Ridley Scott. Ridley directed the 1st movie, not second. Good list, but I disagree on Star Wars

Blogger Unknown said...
Blade Runner might deserve a mention.
And if you treat Star Wars like a (very) modern Western, it comes off pretty well.

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