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My Top 5 Science Fiction Films of All Time

Perhaps you’ve heard that there’s a little movie coming out this weekend called Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I love the Star Wars series. The first film came out when I was 6-years old. I had all of the toys when I was a kid. I used to have marathon sessions where I would watch all three in succession. I had all three movies memorized and could pull out almost any line of dialogue on command. One year for Christmas, my mother bought me Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, and we had to make a rule when we played that I was only allowed to get 5 correct answers in a row, because there was not one card in that pack that had a question on it that I didn’t know the answer to.

Like most other people, I was disappointed in the prequels. I didn’t hate any of them, and can actually make a small case for why The Phantom Menace is decent. In Attack of the Clones I feel like the sequences where Obi-Wan is figuring out who’s behind the clone army is intriguing and decent story telling, but the love story between Anakin and Padme is absolutely unwatchable. Then all of the drama was out of the story by the time we got to Revenge of the Sith, which rendered it little more than eye candy.

But as I saw one media outlet state when Disney bought Lucasfilm, “George Lucas saves Star Wars by firing George Lucas.” I’m also a Star Trek fan, and I loved what JJ Abrams did with that franchise. In fact I felt his first Star Trek film was the best film of that entire franchise, surpassing even Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. So since I heard that he was directing the first Star Wars film post-Lucas, I have been optimistic about what the final result will be. I’ll find out once and for all on Sunday.

That said, I am one of those who does not consider Star Wars to be pure Science Fiction, but rather a somewhat separate genre of Science Fantasy. There isn’t really a lot of science in Star Wars. The only real reason it’s referred to as Science Fiction is because it takes place in space and on other planets, and there are space ships and lasers. But when you really look at the series and the thematic elements that it uses and the motifs that give the story its depth, it’s much closer to fantasy than sci-fi. Even our good friends at IMDB regard Star Wars as Action-Adventure-Fantasy. So that is why there will be no mention of Star Wars on this list of my favorite Science Fiction films of all time.

5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind


This film is as dramatic a science fiction film as I’ve ever seen, and really it doesn’t become a sci-fi picture until the third act. However, there are elements of extra-terrestrial activity throughout the film, even if we as audience members are not fully aware of what’s happening until then. Close Encounters has a compelling story, a sympathetic protagonist and a web of intrigue that keeps the story interesting from start to finish. It’s one of Steven Spielberg’s earliest films, and remains one of his best.

4. The Terminator/Terminator 2: Judgment Day


I put these on as one because I have a hard time separating them. Even though the second film came out 8 years after the original, and its special effects were leaps and bounds better, it really is a continuation of one fluid story and picks up where the first one left off. Plus, it’s harder to get more sci-fi than a time traveling cyborg who is sent back in time to kill the mother of the leader of the resistance against intelligent machines before he’s born. It’s an amazing premise that was very cutting edge for its time, and for the most part director James Cameron did a great job of living within the rules that he set up for himself and staked his claim as one of the great action/sci-fi directors of his generation.

3. Alien


“In space, no one can hear you scream.” That is perhaps one of the greatest and most recognizable log lines in the history of cinema. Ridley Scott combined Science Fiction with Horror to create one of the most terrifying and suspenseful films of all time. Trapped in a space ship with a carnivorous/parasitic alien, a group of space travelers trying to get back to Earth have to fight for survival within the confines of the craft that could end up being their coffin.

2. Blade Runner


This time Ridley Scott combined Science Fiction with Film Noir with equally stunning results. This is a dark film and very deep thematically. This film ponders what it’s really like to be “human” and who really deserves to be called that with a band of replicants trying to avoid detection and get revenge for their very creation. Harrison Ford created one of his signature roles in this film, which was a complete departure from the roguish, sarcastic and funny Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Rick Deckard was a hard-boiled, no-nonsense cop who trusted no one.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey


I know, I know. You’re sarcastically thinking, “Oh, how original.” Well, have you seen this film recently? Better yet, have you ever seen it projected on a big screen? Any judgment on this film must be reserved unless you’ve seen it projected in a theater. I have been lucky enough to see it that way, and it is a completely different experience than seeing it on TV, even a modern over-sized flat screen. 2001 is a superb film, also about humanity and its direction towards either salvation or destruction and the narrow divergence between those two destinations.

One comment

  1. Tim Lane says:

    Not bad. I don’t do lists as they always leave off someone more deserving … or at least today, tomorrow your five will do nicely.
    But some that I would consider:


    A Boy and His Dog (yeah, I know, probably a guilty pleasure more than top five)

    Silent Running


    Soylent Green

    And I still left of Jurassic Park, ET, Final Countdown, The Time Machine. Planet of the Apes, and on and on. It’s a great genre with such a diverse scope.

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