…of course, I don't really like much sci-fi in movie form as Hollywood generally stinks at making good science fiction. I grew up reading 'hard' science fiction authors like Arthur C Clark and Isaac Asimov, and have been regularly disappointed by film treatments of the genre. Science fiction is essentially really smart, highly educated people thinking about the possible ramifications of future technologies and edgy scientific theories; as Robert Heinlein defined it, "realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method."
I loved (and still love) the mind-bending concepts, philosophical conundrums, and existential puzzles that are at the core of the genre. Hollywood, somehow, manages to take that and turn it into explosions in space, or monsters in space, or cute teens in space, or wizards in space, or superheroes in space, or… you get the idea.
So here is my list, its loosely arranged from most favorite on down, but they are all pretty interchangeable. For something to make my list it must meet the following criteria:
1) I've seen it.
2) It's science fiction. It is actually speculative about the universe in some way, while simultaneously consistent with what we know about the universe, and the other elements of the film (action, special effects, character development, cinematography, etc) don't overshadow the science fiction.*
3) I like it.
So here goes…
My Favorite Science Fiction Films
District 9Time Crimes
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Edge of Tomorrow
*I figured I needed an explanation of all the things that fail at being science fiction. Fantasy is not science fiction, sorry Star Wars. Space is not science fiction, sorry Gravity. Horror is not science fiction, sorry Event Horizon. Action/war is not science fiction, sorry Starship Troopers. Pretentious 'Art' is not science fiction, sorry 2001. And possibly the cardinal sin of film (which transcends the sci-fi genre and applies to all genres) is to take a brilliant story from another medium (a book, a real event) and turn it into something unrecognizable.
**Yup, the Matrix is number one. The reason for that is simple. I had been disappointed time and time again by Hollywood "sci-fi" and was jaded. I had seen the trailer that made the film look like sexy, leather clad, ninja-hackers, with guns, performing physically impossible dance moves and ritualized fight scenes. I had no interest in watching the movie. Finally, a friend of mine (who had horrible taste in movies) wanted me to go see it with him because he was really into the rave scene and loved the clothes and the music, I went to pacify him. I walked into the theater expected typical drivel and was blown away. In some ways I walk into every movie going experience hoping to match what happened to me the first time I saw the Matrix.