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Words can’t quite explain how excited I am that Prometheus is coming out this year. I’m hoping it’s both a return to form for Ridley Scott and the blockbuster sci-fi genre as a whole, which needs to keep growing as technology gets more and more powerful and the stories get more involved.
I got to thinking about the films that have been released recently that would be considered actual sci-fi “classics” the way Scott’s Alien and Blade Runner were. The same goes for Star Wars, ET, Predator, Terminator, you know the list.
So I went ahead and made some picks of what will and will not be considered classic sci-fi in the future. No superheroes, and nothing over ten years old, so no Matrix and Gattaca here. Check out the list for yourself below:
I love Sunshine. I try and show it to everyone I know, sci-fi fan or not, because It’s just that damn good. Danny Boyle is a master in any genre he attempts, and his first voyage into space produced perhaps my favorite film on this list.
Sunshine is sci-fi at its hardest. No aliens and the only real villain is human error. Yes, it has third act problems when it introduces an ACTUAL bad guy, and the film morphs into Jason Goes to Space for a little while, but it doesn’t negate the excellence that came before it.
The sun-centric film has powerful visual imagery that will stay with you long after you see it, and draws terrific performances out of its cast with actors like Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans better than we’ve ever seen them. Who needs aliens to make a good sci-fi flick?
Moon is another hard sci-fi project, also free of extraterrestrials. Well, it’s free of people altogether really. It’s about the seemingly mundane task of a lonely moon miner tasked with harvesting rock and shipping it back to earth.
It’s more of a character study than anything else, and Sam Rockwell is a one-man show that deserved an Oscar for his performance here. He plays every part in the film, but you’ll have to see it to truly understand what that means. Kevin Spacey voices a robot, GERTY, who might be one of my favorite movie sidekicks to date.
The film is sad and far from action packed, but it’s a phenomenal debut from Duncan Jones, David Bowie’s son who went on to direct Source Code, which has made him 2 for 2 in quality films.
Minority Report (2003)
This is a bit on the older side at this point, but it’s within the ten year range in 2003. It’s from Steven Spielberg, who is behind half the sci-fi classics that inspired this list, and it shows that he hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to the genre. War of the World and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull aside.
No aliens, and not even space travel, but the movie is perhaps the most well-executed vision of a plausible future I’ve ever seen from a technology perspective (outside of the whole psionic beings predicting murder thing).
Tom Cruise does a great job here, as he usually does given good material, and it’s a movie I can watch an endless amount of times and still enjoy.
It was a toss-up here between this and The Prestige, but I think that despite the fact that I like The Prestige better, you don’t really know that movie is sci-fi until the end.
But Inception rather is clearly such from the get-go. It might be more of the non-traditional variety, and might even be classified as a psychological thriller instead, but the technology the film is based around is definitely science-fiction, and I think it deserves a spot here.
Christopher Nolan created an exceptionally nuanced plot with stunning visuals and some of the most complicated scenes ever filmed (the spinning hall fight for one). Once he’s done with Batman, I hope to see more films like this.
District 9 (2009)
Finally, aliens! I thought District 9 looked sort of awful when I saw trailers for it. It almost looked like a joke, and with no budget and no famous faces, few took it seriously.
But once the film came out, everyone could see they’d been wrong. It was a fascinating story about a stranded alien population, and the effects looked quite good for it having about 10% of the budget as a traditional blockbuster.
The aliens were cool, their weapons were cooler, and the story was probably the best part. Add in an unexpectedly great performance from the human lead, the unknown Sharlto Copely, and we could the next great sci-fi franchise on our hands, if only they’d get around to sequel.