…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
Edge of Tomorrow
Total Recall (Both versions)
Children of Men
Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind
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.
Sci-Fi Movies I Didn't Like
Interstellar - I really liked the film's attention to detail, and its the first film I can think of that deals with the reality of time dilation (which is actually pretty standard fare for science fiction literature). But the absolutely bizarre "love transcends the space-time continuum" plot device completely ruined the movie for me.
2001 - I am aware of the fact that I can't really judge this film outside of the period in history during which it was made. But I saw it in the 90s and it just fell flat for me. It may very well be phenomenal as a film, and it objectively impacted both the industry and out culture. I just didn't like it as either film, or as science fiction. The homage to visuals and effects that are no longer awe-inspiring detracts from the story which Kubrick never really tells because he is too busy emoting. When I finally read Clarke's treatment of the film, I loved the story, but never have re-watched the movie. I recognize that this probably says a lot more about me (and what I want in a movie) than it does about the film, so be it. I didn't like it.
Snowpiercer - I just couldn't get past the absurd premise of "a post-apocalyptic world where train tracks never got destroyed, or need repairing."
Movies that Aren't Actually Science Fiction!
Star Wars - This is pure fantasy. There is absolutely no attempt at scientific accuracy, or speculation about the universe, or technological prognostication.
Jurassic Park - Technically this would be science fiction as it is an exploration of the possible dangers of cloning technology. But that really is only the device by which the film explains itself. The film is actually a man vs dinosaur movie. I would argue that the negligible science fiction elements are completely swallowed up by the film itself.
Gravity - Its a film about an accident in space. It fails to be speculative in any way about the nature of the universe, or future technology. It could actually be classified as "historical fiction," seeing as how the first fatality in space occurred almost 50 years ago, and the technology depicted in the film is outdated.
Super Hero Movies - Pure fantasy.