Top 20 Sci-Fi Movies: Rottingcorpse’s List
What are the top twenty sci-fi movies of all time?! Really? Is there a geekier question we could ask? How about asking which episode of Star Trek TOS was the best? (Actually that’s easy. It’s City on the Edge of Forever. Go ahead. Argue with me, Mister Space Seed.)
All right, full disclosure: I haven’t always been a big sci-fi guy unless you count superheroes, supernatural horror, and slasher films, which for this little experiment we didn’t. I guess when you get right down to it, it all inhabits the same space. It’s all fantasy. Yet I’m the guy who argued that John Carpenter’s The Thing and Alien couldn’t be on the list because they were horror films. I also argued that Star Wars, Ice Pirates, and Buckaroo Banzai were really more LOTR style fantasy than pure sci-fi. And NO! Ice Pirates and Buckaroo Banzai would not on my list even if I did allow that type of stuff.
Jesus. Listen to me. You know, I wasn’t always like this.
Okay, fine. I’ve always preferred Friday the 13th to The French Lieutenant’s Wife. However, if you would have asked me if I was sci-fi fan, I could have emphatically told you, “no.” Yet as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself becoming (a) more interested in science fiction, and (b) snottier about what should be considered sci-fi and what shouldn’t. I used to think The Fifth Element was ingenious Euro-pop. Now I think the whole thing is kind of silly because there’s no basis in real science. It’s all magical gobblety gook dressed up in sci-fi trappings. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact I couldn’t think of one good reason why it shouldn’t be on a top twenty list without pulling out the Buckaroo Banzai defense. It’s just not, you know, “science-y.”
It’s funny because unless it had to do with UFOs, the “science” stuff used to bore the tits off me. But see, there’s a science to “UFOlogy.” Sightings and abductions really maybe sort of happened. Sure, I got into Issac Asimov in high school because I’m also obsessed with robots and technology taking over our lives. The stories sort of engaged me, but I think I went in looking for action and adventure, and got these psychological treatises on ethics and responsibility. Still, the robot stuff was pretty good. Yet when I tried to move on to his Foundation series, I found that…
Oh my God. Have I always been a sci-fi geek? I mean, this whole thing started because I said that Total Recall shouldn’t be remade because it’s easily made a list of the twenty best sci-fi movies of all time.
Anyway, figuring out the best sci-fi movies of all time wasn’t easy for me due to the criteria I set for myself. For one, I’ve developed a taste for really bad movies due to years of being a horror film fan. (That I attest to proudly.) Yet I felt weird putting guilty pleasures like Fantastic Voyage, Dune, and even The Fifth Element (Ice Pirates and Buckaroo Banzai too) on a list that was supposed to be “the best.” >em>The Last Starfighter might have been a really fun movie when I was ten. However, it also kind of, you know, sucks.
Buckaroo Banzai fantasy rule aside, I used two main criteria when making my list. The first was that the films had to have at least a nod to the “science” aspect of science fiction. Metropolis and The Empire Strikes Back are the exceptions to this rule. However they both firmly satisfy my second criteria, historical significance. I felt a list of the twenty best sci-fi films of all time needed movies on it that changed the way we make and watch movies. The Road Warrior and Blade Runner aren’t necessarily my favorite films in the world. Yet their influence on sci-fi cinema is so undeniable that it felt criminal to leave them off.
My list (Nacho and Cassander’s lists as well) is almost as interesting for the omissions as for the movies on it. Jurassic Park is both scientifically sound (DNA cloning) and historically important (revolutionized CGI) while also being a damn good movie, yet I didn’t put it on my list. Starman is another one that’s not on my list, and yet I can’t come up with a good reason why. When I saw 12 Monkeys on Cass’s list I slapped myself in the forehead, yet I ultimately left it off mine. Planet of the Apes is one of the most historically significant movies ever, yet I stayed away from it. I’m sure you and readers can think of countless others. The difficulty of making this list shows how much good sci-fi is out there.
I’d also be amiss if I didn’t mention two movies that almost made the list but then got replaced. Strange Days and Death Race 2000 were both on my initial list of twenty for no other reason because I like them. DR2K got omitted because, let’s face it, it’s DR2K. Have you seen it? It’s terrible. Awesome, but terrible. Strange Days was a tougher call. Released in the 90s it told the story about a “virtual reality” drug popular around Y2K. I think the main reason I cut it was because Y2K has passed and Strange Days now falls into that weird sci-fi sub-genre, Future history. Yet 2001 is still on my list, and while the movie version of 1984 is sort of mediocre, the book certainly deserves consideration as one of the best sci-fi stories ever. I love it, but sometimes love isn’t enough.
Sci-fi is most interesting when it shows us who we are and what me may someday be. I think all the films on my list do that on some level. Whether you completely agree with my list or not (and God I hope you don’t) I think that if you marathon every movie I chose you’d come away feeling it was time well spent. You’d feel that you were entertained.
After all, isn’t that the point?
2. The Day the Earth Stood Still (original)
3. War of the Worlds (original)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
5. Blade Runner
7. Total Recall
8. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
9. The Empire Strikes Back
10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
11. The Matrix
13. Earth vs. The Flying Saucer
15. Forbidden Planet
17: The Road Warrior
19. District 9
20. Starship Troopers
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