Worlds & Time

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

10 Best Intellectual Science Fiction Movies

For a while there on Fark, they were doing a lot of 10 best lists (including this really moronic “Best Animated Movies” list that should have been Akira; Spirited Away; Beauty and the Beast; The Incredibles; The Nightmare Before Christmas; My Neighbor Tontoro; Monsters, Inc; Fantasia; Shrek; and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), and I’ve been thinking of doing one for a while. I decided to pick a made-up category: the 10 best intellectual science fiction movies of all time, as chosen by me.

What is an “intellectual science fiction” movie? If a movie’s plot is based on exploring some aspect of technology or culture in a fictional or futuristic setting, in a way that provokes interesting questions, that is an intellectual science fiction movie. The best ones do this with intelligence and depth, and the worst ones take a great concept and turn it into crap. This usually doesn’t include movies that explore an entire new setting, like Star Wars and to a lesser extent Star Trek (although some of the Star Trek episodes would make the list if I included television shows).

Just so you know: I am both a huge Star Wars and Star Trek fan.

Obviously, this isn’t based on gross receipts or popularity. The opinions are my own, which obviously carries its own inherent bias. Just as a warning, I am biased toward more recent movies.

Here are the movies:

No. 1: Contact (1997)

Currently my favorite movie of all time, “Contact” is based on a brilliant book by Carl Sagan. This movie explores Earth’s first contact with extraterrestrials in the form of a radio signal from another star and also the trust that we humans place on technology, religion, and other humans.

Although the special effects for the movie are pretty, they don’t drive the plot, which revolves mostly around Eleanor Arroway’s experiences and search for extraterrestrial life. The acting is absolutely superb, and the technical work and music are amazing.

Sagan, who wrote Contact, was determined to make sure that “Contact” was scientifically accurate, and for the most part, he succeeded. The science represented in the movie is a combination of inspiration and hard work. The meaningless technobable is minimal. Further, Arroway has to wrestle with her dreams and the realities of her life along the way to her discovery.

The movie differs from the book in several ways, for example in the book five scientists travel using The Machine, not just Arroway. However, I believe that dropping the “hidden message from the creator in pi” plot makes the theme (searching for ultimate truths that are just out of our grasp) much stronger.

This movie is the pinnacle of the synthesis of intellectualism and story-telling.

No. 2: Children of Men (2006)

This movie, only recently released, forced its way onto this list with its dark look at a futuristic United Kingdom on a world in which humans have lost the ability to reproduce.

Alfonso Cuarón did an amazing job with this movie, with many subtle indications of a world that is very much like our world and yet completely different. From the ads for suicide pills to the cult of celebrity that surrounds the youngest human, Children of Men is both a brilliant social commentary and a wonderful work of art.

Again, although “Children of Men” features huge explosions and gunfights, they are not the focus of the plot. They are simply part of the experience that the movie portrays. I couldn’t help but hold my breath during the scene where they left the apartment building, but it felt real as well.

No. 3: Gattaca (1997)

When I was a kid, I wanted to have fraternal twins someday, and I’m sure other people similarly wish they could select their children, or at least their childrens' attributes. The theme behind “Gattaca” is so enticing, so innocent. What could be wrong about making sure that our children are the smartest and the fastest?

This is the ultimate movie about eugenics, and to a lesser extent about DNA profiling and statistics. The protagonist has to fight to show that what we desire can be just as strong as who we are. This is a theme that definitely resonates very strongly with me.

Overall, this is another very interesting movie; perhaps especially for the idea that someday we’ll wear a suit and tie to travel into space.

No. 4: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This film, which introduced us to Hal 9000 and big black monoliths, was certainly a groundbreaking science fiction masterpiece. It would be ranked higher if it was more comprehensible. Can you say that you really would have understood the ending to this film without reading the book (or Wikipedia)?

The plot of this movie revolves around the discovery of a “designed” object on the moon, and a subsequent investigation to Jupiter in which the computer (programmed to act like a human) goes crazy and tries to kill all of the astronauts.

Despite some sections of the movie that could be clearer, this movie has provoked decades of discussion and speculation, and is probably one of the most influential science fiction movies ever made. It’s also one of the Stanley Kubrick’s amazing works of art.

No. 5: Brazil (1985)

I must admit, I haven’t seen “Brazil.” Every time I’m at the video store I forget to look it up. Still, when people list the best science fiction movies, “Brazil” typically finds a place.

If I understand the plot, then Brazil rightfully deserves its place on this list. It’s themes of imagination and reality and of the breakdown of bureaucracy provoke a deep reaction among viewers because they recognize the dysfunctional world that it presents.

The story of the making of “Brazil” seems to typify the plot as well. The studio didn’t like the bleak ending, so they chopped up the movie to make the saccharine “Love Conquers All” version. The director, Terry Gilliam, had secret showings of the original and that version of the film eventually won a Best Picture from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

No. 6: A Clockwork Orange (1971)

When I first watched “A Clockwork Orange,” I was greatly disturbed by the entire thing. However, partially through Elliot’s enthusiasm for Kubrick, I eventually came to understand why this movie is so good, and so important.

In the book, the protagonist and his hooligan friends are 15 year olds that practice “ultraviolence,” which involves rape and random attacks on people and property. Eventually he’s captured and “reprogrammed,” but it raises ethical questions about what makes someone good or bad. Can we simply cut evil out of society without cutting out some of the things that make us human?

Interestingly, I just learned from Wikipedia that the book ends on a positive note, but since the American version dropped that chapter, Kubrick didn’t know about that until after the screenplay was written. Up until this point, that makes half the movies on this list that end on a positive note, and half that tear the bottom of your soul on the way down.

No. 7: The Abyss (1989)

Like “Brazil,” the edited version of “The Abyss” makes little sense, but this isn’t a case of studio interference. The “Director’s Cut” is three hours long, and James Cameron worried that people couldn’t sit through it. Additionally, Industrial Light & Magic wasn’t sure they could create some of the visual effects with the technology that they had available at the time. If you’re going to watch this movie though, you should dedicate the time to see the long version.

“The Abyss” changes the alien encounter scenario by placing it underwater, but the primary conflict in the movie is between the civilians, who take the view that the visitors are benign, and military officers, who believe that the aliens attacked a nuclear submarine.

Some of the scenes that were in the Director’s Cut include some really interesting threats that the aliens deliver to the humans involving a giant tsunami wave that rise to destroy humanity around every coast in the world. Unlike Contact, in the end there is incontrovertible proof of the aliens at the end of the story.

This is the only movie on the list that involves a nuclear weapon, but that’s to be expected because it’s a James Cameron movie. Incidentally, the novelization was written by sci-fi master Orson Scott Card.

No. 8: Vanilla Sky (2001)

I can’t quite believe that a Tom Cruise movie made my list, but here it is. When I went to see this movie, I had absolutely no idea that it was a sci-fi. I thought it would be more along the lines of “Almost Famous,” probably a drama about a musician.

This movie came out two years after “The Matrix,” but the way that it questions reality is substantially more nuanced, although the themes are very similar.

Some of the things that make Vanilla Sky special are the way that it revolves around the choices of the main character. There is a vast conspiracy out there, but it’s his conspiracy and in the end it’s a solution that he built. Also, as much as I hate to admit it, the acting is also very good.

No. 9: Metropolis (1927)

This is another movie that I haven’t seen, but you probably haven’t seen the whole thing either. Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction epic has sadly been lost over time. Still, this is one of the most influential science fiction movies ever made.

This movie, about deep class divisions in the future, is so inspiring that just the poster led writer Osamu Tezuka to create his own version about the nature of authority and consciousness.

There are Manchurian Candidate themes in “Metropolis” too. A member of the ruling class uses a robot doppelganger to lead the lower classes into revolt, anticipating that he will then be able to eliminate them.

No. 10: Flight of the Navigator (1986)

There’s always a movie on the list that people hate, so mine is this eighties movie, which contains one of the best portrayals of time travel that I’ve seen. The whole premise (with faster than light travel, time travel, telepathy, and a morphing silver spaceship) is interesting, but when I first saw this movie, I thought that the treatment of the protagonists return eight years after he disappeared was very well done. I haven’t seen it in years, but I really liked it.

Besides, it has a happy ending, and lists should have happy endings.

***

There are so many other amazing movies that didn’t make it onto this list. Some of the others that come to mind are Phenomenon, Powder, Minority Report, Starship Troopers, Equilibrium, and The Cell.

There are some really bad movies in this category out there though. I picked out ten more movies that are bad, either because they try to be intellectual and fail, or because they take a wonderful premise (or short story) and manage to turn it into crap. Just for fun, they’re in the opposite order than the first list.

No. 10: Mission to Mars (2000)

This and Red Planet came out at the same time, and the later was obviously the better movie. You see, in this movie, the “face on mars” is really an alien spaceship that seeded life on Earth and then stayed behind. Perhaps you have to see it to understand how much it sucked.

No. 9: Total Recall (1990)

They wouldn’t have survived on the planet while the atmosphere was forming. And why would the aliens bother leaving the device in the pyramid if they weren’t going to use it? The only really interesting question it raised for me was “Would a triple-breasted whore make more money than a double-breasted one?” Incidentally, this is based on a Philip K. Dick short story, and I think he’s a great sci-fi writer. This will come up again later.

No. 8: Bicentennial Man (1999)

The idea for this movie isn’t quite as bad as the execution. Robin Williams? Two hundred years old? The fact that he could eventually replace machine parts with human replacement organs? That speech that the judge makes? I want my 132 minutes back. This was based on a work by Isaac Asimov.

No. 7: Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (2001)

This is basically the same movie as Bicentennial Man, except that it was well executed . . . until the end. When I watch this movie, at the point where David is trapped in the helicopter, I turn it off. The alien machines spoiled the whole thing for me. Why would they reactivate him instead of just tapping his memory? Why did they recreate his mother? Why did they have those horrible accents? This is otherwise a good movie, but that ending just ruined it.

No. 6: Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

This is the Star Trek that tried desperately to become a Star Wars, but fell miserably on its face. True, I don’t dislike it as much as “Nemesis” but the premise of this movie was counter to what seemed to be the theme of the Star Trek franchise, which was that eventually things all things can be understood. Suddenly there’s mystical magic in Star Trek? I don’t buy it for a moment.

No. 5: The Da Vinci Code (2006)

Whatever intellectual content there was in this movie was already covered in detail by Dan Brown’s book. And all the books that he (probably) plagiarized from.

No. 4: The Saint (1997)

Okay, I know, let’s take the premise of cold fusion, involve a pretty scientist that needs notecards to understand the concept, throw in a love story, and then make the entire thing a spy movie. And throw in a bunch of Catholic dogma that didn’t make much sense either. Yeah, I can’t imagine why this didn’t work.

No. 3: I, Robot (2004)

The Foundation Series (of which I, Robot is a auxiliary short story) is an amazing series of books, and this title was bought and then slapped on a Will Smith vehicle. The reason the books give for robots that are able to harm humans involves the development of the “Zeroth Law,” which allowed robots to kill humans in order to benefit humanity as a whole. You could have made a mint off that premise, instead of making it just a pretty action flick where Will Smith beats down on robots.

No. 2: Next (2007)

This isn’t even out yet, but it is based on a Philip K. Dick story, and let’s face it: apparently scripts based on Asimov and Philip K. Dick stories don’t make very good movies (the only exception so far being “Minority Report”). It stars Nicholas Cage, and while I like his movies, it’s not because they make me think.

No. 1: Paycheck (2003)

See, this is why Next makes it on the list even though it isn’t out. Palmistry? Lasers that can see the future? A memory device that plays like a first person shooter? At least Dick’s original story had a cool ending (not involving a lottery ticket). How on Earth did they make this so bad? They got fairly good actors, and they had a cool concept and a big name. This movie should be embarrassing to everyone involved.


Update: Yeah, I farked up the "I, Robot" description as the good people at Fark were so kind to point out. Fixed now. I have no excuse but temporary insanity.

Update 2: I have now seen both Brazil and Metropolis, and I was right, they both deserve their places on this list, although if I was to rewrite it now, I would bump Brazil up by one place on the list.

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66 Comments:

  • I don't know if you ever read these comments, so this might just be floating out in the blogosphere somewhere. :-P

    I love your top ten lists. Contact is a big favorite of mine, despite the number of people who have told me they hated it. I always loved it, and watch it whenever I catch it on cable. I, too, was a big Flight of the Navigator fan, and I'm glad you included it on this list.

    But putting The Saint on the top ten worst?!?! Come on. Now, really, the only reason I enjoyed it was because Val Kilmer was hot, but STILL. I don't know that I'd classify that as sci-fi, either. Maybe I just think of sci-fi as having to do with space, so I guess if we're talking science, and fiction, we have to include it.

    I don't remember which one Star Trek: Insurrection was, but it had to have been one of the ones with Picard instead of Kirk, and I probably liked it. (I was a big ST:TNG fan in high school.) My favorite was First Contact.

    Don't ever tell anyone who knows me now, however. That's buried in my past.

    Anyway; I greatly enjoyed your lists. Made me remember that I really am a nerd at heart.

    Talk to you soon.

    By Blogger Brigid, at 7:44 PM  

  • Heh. There's always one that people hate. It just didn't happen to be the one that I thought that it was.

    And Insurrection was the one where there is an idyllic paradise with people that live for hundreds of years, and there are evil people trying to steal the "good" radiation in the atmosphere.

    Near the end, Picard is with an injured woman, and he saves her by "slowing" and savoring time itself.

    Just because he's seen her do it once and he likes her.

    It was a really bad ending.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 1:36 AM  

  • Nice list. Contact is a great movie, despite the haters. Glad to see it was at the top of the list.

    And I couldn't agree more with your worst list. Another movie that could be added to this is one that is also not out yet. It's called Sunshine (2007). It looks unbelievably lame and incredibly impossible.

    By Anonymous Bob, at 7:29 PM  

  • Thanks for the comment, Bob, although I don't think enough people read my blog for there to be "haters."

    I'll keep and eye out for "Sunshine" Maybe it will be so bad that it'll be good.

    -ST

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 7:45 PM  

  • Part of your problem with AI is you think the machines at the end are alien. They are actually descendents of the machines created by humans. Indeed, they are descendents of David, if you will.

    That fact makes their behavior understandable (they represent a synthesis of human emotion and immortal mechanical body) and it gives the end of the film a greater sense of meaning. I still thought it was a flawed film but it's better than most people give it credit for.

    I also liked the fact that it took the extinction/transcendence of humanity for granted.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:33 AM  

  • Actually, I did know that. I called them alien for their appearance rather than their nature.

    I still disagree about the ending though.

    As for taking the extinction/transcendence of humanity for granted, I've been reading Vernor Vinge recently, and I've been really impressed by his idea of "technological singularity." If you haven't read anything by him, I would recommend his work.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 1:46 AM  

  • Have you ever actually read anything by Isaac Asimov? I mean, I'm just curious because you're basically completely wrong about everything you wrote about his work here.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:50 AM  

  • Hey look, it's the haters!

    Yes. I've read Asimov. I got the name of the first book wrong, which was pointed out in the Fark thread. I hadn't bothered to change the thread though. I've just been responding to the comments here as the emails come in.

    It has been a while though. I keep meaning to pull the Foundation trilogy off my shelf and reread it. Something tells me though that the series will still involve R. Daneel Olivaw and his zeroth law.

    Thanks for the constructive criticism.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 2:12 AM  

  • I don't mean to raise your rankles any more, but I think you've got the Foundation trilogy confused with The Robot series (specifically The Robots of Dawn, part of his robot/human detective series). Mostly because the Foundation trilogy has nothing to do with setting forth the rules of robotics and positronic brains. In fact, as I recall, I don't think there were even robots in the original trilogy. Thanks for proving my point, though.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:51 AM  

  • *Sigh*

    Believe what you want to believe.

    I did go fix the post though.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 3:06 AM  

  • I agree with some of the things you said - but particularly about Paycheck. They really turned pure gold into crap with that one. Much worse than with Total Recall. Paycheck was a phenomenal story and would have made an INCREDIBLE movie if they had been anything but huge idiots.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:45 AM  

  • Thanks for the comment, Anon.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 3:57 AM  

  • A different anonymous here :)

    The Foundation series and the Robot series were tied together in the later books, after the original Foundation Trilogy. It's in the Foundation's Edge/Foundation and Earth series.

    The Foundation Wikipedia article lists all of the Robot books and short stories as part of the Foundation series.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:26 AM  

  • Wow. Not only have you not opened a book in years, you have completely and utterly made everything you posted look like a kindergärtner's plagiarized paper with your comments about 'I, Robot'.

    'I, Robot' is part of the Robot Saga, which started with Caves of Steel, not the Foundation saga, which starts several thousand years after the end of Caves of Steel, and was originally not even associated with the Foundation saga. Only books published years after the original stories connect the two time lines, and then only briefly.

    BIG DIFFERENCE.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:27 AM  

  • I figure nothing you say can be accurate because you list Shrek in the top 10 of animated movies. Incredibles, while good, also shouldn't be up there. There is nothing that makes that movie special outside of overpaid actors. If you must stick computer animation on there, Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. blow anything else out of the water.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:29 AM  

  • Just curious, why do you dislike Equilibrium so much? I thought it was highly underrated.

    However, Ultraviolet, it's thematic sequel, was complete crap, IMHO.

    By Blogger Michael, at 7:15 AM  

  • "...scripts based on Asimov and Philip K. Dick stories don’t make very good movies (the only exception so far being “Minority Report”)."

    You might want to see "Blade Runner" before talking about Philip K. Dick stories (and sci-fi movies in general). Also, why the hell would you put movies you haven't even seen on your list?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:27 AM  

  • I liked Total Recall :Blush:

    By Blogger Charlfoo, at 8:05 AM  

  • Gotta say, AI was a lot better movie than many people give it credit. I think the funny thing is that Steven Spielburg asked a very simple question at the begining of the movie "Can a human being truelly love a machine that loves them?"

    The entire movie is based on this question: Peoples reaction to David and how they treated him...including the final chapter...when the future robots revive him. Eagle eyed people would have been able to spot they were robots that were made in the image of their creator (Logo of the Robitoics corporation)

    I think the reason why they did revive him instead of just tapping into his brain was because they wouldn't harm a fellow bot-in fact probabbly considers him one of their great anscestors.

    And of all the people he encountered, only the Robots really wanted to help him to get a bit of happiness.

    By Anonymous Darth Lukash, at 9:05 AM  

  • You prove your ineptitude within this subject by omitting Blade Runner, based on the Philip K Dick short story "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", from your list of "Intellectual Sci-Fi", which is a dubious term at best.


    P.S. No Congo? Sphere? Can't believe this got greenlit on Fark.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:05 AM  

  • Vanilla Sky? Come on people! That was a complete remake of what was already an amazing foreign language film called Abre Los Ojos. Check that film out and then watch vanilla sky and you'll see it's literally scene for scene the same movie, just with more expensive special effects.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:16 AM  

  • On your list you put Total Recall on it because of the unbeleivable aspect of living through the atmosphere forming. You are right. The fact is that the character really was not there but actually at the Recall place. When you watch it a couple of times it becomes fairly obvious and if you listen to the directors commentary he comes right out and says it.

    I can see not liking it if you do not like that premise, but I thought it was pretty good.

    Just an fyi.

    By Blogger John, at 9:59 AM  

  • I pretty much came in to say the same thing as Darth Lukash. The end of AI:Artificial Intelligence had nothing to do with aliens, they were the evolved version of the robots that man created, basically a parallel to man's search for God, they wanted to learn about their creators and how they came to be.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:27 AM  

  • Okay, kudos for Gattaca. It is my favorite movie of all time, and sadly often forgotten.

    But come on... Star Trek Insurrection does NOT deserve to be on that list. Did you even see the movie? They actually do explain why the planet is the way it is, and what happened to the people. It wasn't "magic." I mean come on, Star Trek V anyone? That will always be the worst Star Trek movie of all time.

    By Anonymous Kelly, at 10:51 AM  

  • It has already been said, but I'll siy it anyways; Vanilla Sky is just a remake of the infinitely superior Alejandro Amenabar's Abre los Ojos. You may remember Amenabar as the director of The Others and Thesis. And the movie is Spanish, both feature Penélope Cruz, but the spanish one lacks sophisticated special effects and that makes it even more effective, because the sci-fi themes come as a real surprise.

    By Blogger C. Augusto Valdés, at 10:57 AM  

  • I don't think you did a horrible job, but I gotta say, how could you put two movies you haven't seen on the list after saying the list refelcts your personal bias. You are making my head asplode. Also, Bladerunner?

    You were right about Brazil even though you didn't see it, but whatever.

    I would suggest at vetting what you write before publishing it to maintain a semblance of internal consistency.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:39 AM  

  • Holey Moley! You forgot Blade Runner! That kicks Contact into the dirt.
    Also you need to list Silent Running up on the top list.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:53 AM  

  • I just have to say that Vanilla Sky sucked compared to the original spanish film, sans Tom Cruise. A few other posters mentioned Abre Los Ojos, which was much better. It always seemed like Cruise made that movie to flirt with Cruz, who was also in the original.

    Otherwise great list. I would put Blade Runner in my top few.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:27 PM  

  • "Abyss" was the only film to give you proof of the existence of aliens? Did you even watch "Contact"? At the end of the film she describes all of what she has seen (about an hours worth) but was only 'gone' for three minutes. Her voice and image recorders showed nothing. But when they were reviewing the tapes one official said to the other, "What about the fact that she got 53 minutes of nothing?"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:24 PM  

  • Wow. Not only have you not opened a book in years, you have completely and utterly made everything you posted look like a kindergärtner's plagiarized paper with your comments about 'I, Robot'.

    Thanks for the constructive criticism.

    I would suggest at vetting what you write before publishing it to maintain a semblance of internal consistency.

    Ditto.

    Just curious, why do you dislike Equilibrium so much? I thought it was highly underrated.

    I like Equilibrium a lot. If I bumped one of the other movies on this list, I would have probably included it in that opening.

    You might want to see "Blade Runner" before talking about Philip K. Dick stories (and sci-fi movies in general). Also, why the hell would you put movies you haven't even seen on your list?

    I've seen "Blade Runner." Perhaps it was just me, but I didn't like it as much as the fan boys have said. Although, near the end when I mention "Minority Report" as an exception, Blade Runner should have been included there as well.

    As for why Brazil is on the list: Because I felt like it. These lists are always biased to the movies that the writer has seen. I thought it would be ironic to include a movie that I haven't seen on a "best" list.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 1:58 PM  

  • "Abyss" was the only film to give you proof of the existence of aliens? Did you even watch "Contact"? At the end of the film she describes all of what she has seen (about an hours worth) but was only 'gone' for three minutes. Her voice and image recorders showed nothing. But when they were reviewing the tapes one official said to the other, "What about the fact that she got 53 minutes of nothing?"

    That information was surpressed by the government. At the end of Abyss nearly the whole world knew about the existence of the aliens. Further, at the end of Contact, the message that the aliens left was "Wait, and someday we'll do something else." At the end of the Abyss it was "Hey humanity. Aren't you glad we didn't crush you like the bugs you are?"

    But come on... Star Trek Insurrection does NOT deserve to be on that list. Did you even see the movie? They actually do explain why the planet is the way it is, and what happened to the people. It wasn't "magic." I mean come on, Star Trek V anyone? That will always be the worst Star Trek movie of all time.

    Actually, while they explained why the planet and the people that live on it are the way that they are, they never explained why she can "slow time." That was the issue I had with it.

    I figure nothing you say can be accurate because you list Shrek in the top 10 of animated movies. Incredibles, while good, also shouldn't be up there. There is nothing that makes that movie special outside of overpaid actors. If you must stick computer animation on there, Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. blow anything else out of the water.

    Did you not get the point about all of this being my opinion?

    And if you assume that nothing I say is accurate from one thing that I say, then I guess we have nothing more to say to one another.

    Thanks for all of the other comments as well, even if I didn't respond to them directly. I promise I will rent "Abre Los Ojos" when I get a chance.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 2:09 PM  

  • Wow... I gotta say, your top ten list is... *alright*. Sadly enough, you leave out Stargate, which was a fantastic movie of its time, spawning 2 series based on it (one running 10 seasons now, the other I think on its 3rd or 4th?)

    Children of Men is more of an action-drama, IMO. Not so much a sci-fi. Vanilla Sky, absolutely rocked. I avoided it like the plague when I heard of it, just because Tommy boy. Not bad, though.

    Where's Johnny Mnemonic? Way ahead of its time, when it comes to future use of technology.

    Like I said, you have good taste in movies, but your choices for Sci-fi seem to be obscured with sci-fi being mixed with other genres. I was half expecting you to put on there Independence Day, which totally kicked ass!

    One more thing.. if you're going to put down movies you haven't seem, why not the new Transformers movie? It originally got an 'R' rating, so you know its gonna be kickass for us Gen-X'rs who grew up on that (and Thundercats.)


    -Ryan

    By Anonymous Roxtar, at 2:36 PM  

  • Im a huge sci fi fan, both books and movies. These are some of the worst movies out there you should really start watching some real sci fi, not this crap.Seriously crap.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:52 PM  

  • Any serious sci-fi fans should look for an indie film called 'Primer'. Excellent sci-fi, great film, and not for the faint of heart: this is hardcore science here.

    This movie completely outsmarted me and I loved it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:41 PM  

  • Ryan,

    I really liked Stargate. It was recently mentioned elsewhere in my blog.

    However, I don't think that it fit in with the theme of this 10 best list.

    And I will probably like Transformers too, but I don't think that I will be able to call it "intellectual."

    Thanks for reading.

    Im a huge sci fi fan, both books and movies. These are some of the worst movies out there you should really start watching some real sci fi, not this crap.Seriously crap.

    Make some suggestions, and I will.

    Any serious sci-fi fans should look for an indie film called 'Primer'. Excellent sci-fi, great film, and not for the faint of heart: this is hardcore science here.

    This movie completely outsmarted me and I loved it.


    Thanks, I'll check that out.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 4:01 PM  

  • "GATTACA" and "Contact" love? So happy! I will contest "Vanilla Sky" though. And you do need to see "Primer", the ideas in it haunted me for days afterwards.

    By Anonymous American Eagle, at 4:29 PM  

  • Thanks to whoever for the "bladerunner" post. the book was called "Do androids dream of electric sheep" and was amazing. I HIGHLY recommend it. Also, if you see the movie "Bladerunner" watch the cut without the voiceovers, it's much better.

    Some films you forgot:
    "Until The End Of the World" - one best films every and highly underrated.
    "Star Wars"- Ummm- one of the best movies ever.
    "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"- Great film.
    "Forbidden Planet"- Pure space opera, but the soundtrack is EONS ahead of its time.
    "Road Warrior"- created a whole genre.
    "the Matrix"- just for the effects.
    "Slaughterhouse Five"- Vonnegut!


    How about "Plan 9 from Outer Space"? Worse move EVER, but somehow brilliant!

    As for bad:
    Anything by Roger Corman or Lloyd Kaufman.

    "Johnny Mnemonic" SUCKED- Read teh short story by William Gibson. God forbid they let anyone make another of his books into a movie.

    As for the whole intellectual thing... Movies are for FUN.

    If you want intellectual- READ William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Allister Reynolds, Charles Stross, and Stephen Baxter.
    THERE that should spark some comments.

    By Blogger rmaciale, at 4:42 PM  

  • Remember those "choose which item does not belong" questions from High School?
    If this list were one of those questions I would have no problem as "Vanilla Sky" should NEVER be on a list that includes the like os "Clockwork" and "2001". But then again, neither do "Flight of the Navigator" and "The Abyss"
    You need to see more Sci-Fi movies pal.
    Try "12 Monkeys" or "Blade Runner"
    When you're done with those then check out "Close Encounters"
    Damn man, even "2010" is better than "Vanilla Sky"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:48 PM  

  • Jeez, where are Crow T. Robot and Tom
    Servo when you need 'em?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:00 PM  

  • You need to see more Sci-Fi movies pal.
    Try "12 Monkeys" or "Blade Runner"
    When you're done with those then check out "Close Encounters"
    Damn man, even "2010" is better than "Vanilla Sky"


    The only movie that you just mentioned that I haven't seen is 2010.

    As for the whole intellectual thing... Movies are for FUN.

    Movies are for lots of things. Fun is definitely one of them.

    "Until The End Of the World" - one best films every and highly underrated.

    Thanks. I'll check that one out too.

    "GATTACA" and "Contact" love? So happy! I will contest "Vanilla Sky" though. And you do need to see "Primer", the ideas in it haunted me for days afterwards.

    Sounds good.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 7:53 PM  

  • Yeah...umm...HELLO????????

    It's called "The Matrix".

    The most intellectual sci-fi movie I've seen in a long, long time.

    It's extremely philosophical!

    I rate it far higher than any movie on this list. Ugh.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:05 PM  

  • @rmaciale

    he specifically says at the beginning that he's not including movies like Star Wars because they take place in a separate world.

    personally, i consider SW to be more of a fantasy film than a sci-fi. the whole "mystical" aspect of the inclusion of the force here is a dead giveaway in my mind.

    By Anonymous Alaphic, at 9:53 AM  

  • I might be in the minority, but I *hated* the Director's Cut of The Abyss. "Ooo the aliens have seen humans are evil and are going to destroy us but they won't because now they've learned that we show love" crap has been used in almost EVERY SINGLE GODDAMNED SCI-FI MOVIE since "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and even earlier. It's nothing but a huge cliche that I'm sick of seeing, and the theatrical version of The Abyss cuts it out-- which is an excellent choice.

    (Thankfully, most sci-fi movies have moved away from that horrible cliche... I can't think of any in the last 10 years that use it.)

    I do agree with some comments though:
    1) You need to see all the movies before putting them on the list. If you have a movie in mind for the list, just rent it and watch it before publishing.
    2) You need to watch more sci-fi movies. Other than Metropolis, the oldest movie on that list is 2001: A Space Odyssey. You're totally missing the Charlton Heston trifecta of sci-fi: Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, and The Omega Man. You're missing anything black/white, like The Day the Earth Stood Still or Forbidden Planet. And you're missing a ton of newer movies, like Dark City or 12 Monkeys or Sunshine of the Eternal Mind.
    3) 2001: A Space Odyssey belongs at the top of this list. It might have been a little harder to digest than Contact because of the slower pace, but there's isn't a single sci-fi film today that doesn't borrow heavily from 2001.

    Cheers.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:24 PM  

  • To the Anonymous poster above:

    1. Others have already mentioned that. Personally, I've always found it odd that these 10 best lists are always the writer's favorite movies. I was trying to be subtly ironic, although no one seems to have understood that. Oh well. I'll remember never to do it again.

    2. I did explain that the list was skewed toward more recent movies in the opening paragraphs. I apologize for not considering "golden age" movies golden. I don't like comics from the gold and silver age either.

    3. I disagree.

    Thanks for your comment though.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 3:47 PM  

  • personally, i consider SW to be more of a fantasy film than a sci-fi. the whole "mystical" aspect of the inclusion of the force here is a dead giveaway in my mind.

    I agree.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 3:50 PM  

  • One of the big problems, in my opinion, with Paycheck was the political overtones toward the current administration. A President who looks into the future and uses pre-emptive strikes against possible future threats? Sounds too much like some of the anti-Bush rants before the last election. And the "perect" ending with the lottery ticket was lame beyond compare.

    just my .02 worth.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:33 PM  

  • I dont understand how you can post movies and rank them yet not see them. Doesnt that disqualify you? It's a good list but you lose credibility.

    By Blogger J Ryan, at 5:01 PM  

  • I've already explained (twice) why the movies I haven't seen made their respective lists.

    It doesn't disqualify me from writing future lists. This is my blog, after all. You don't have to read them if you don't want to.

    Speaking of which, I'm going to go back to reading Slacktivist now.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 5:37 PM  

  • I did look at your sci-fi lists, with which, of course, one can always quibble. The thing that made me stand up and go, "WTF?!" was your inclusion of Akira in the best animated movies of all time. Read Akira sometime. Then go check out the movie again. All that deep stuff that was in the movie? Not deep. You're just confused because they left out 60% of the characters and 90% of the plot. It's like the X movie. Sometimes the Japanese try to take something much longer and squeeze it into a movie. Instead of making a coherent whole, they just make a greatest hits package, and rely on fans that know the material to enjoy it.

    Meh.

    By Blogger timdesuyo, at 10:14 PM  

  • do you know that vannila sky is actually a remake the original isin spanish, Abre los ojos from Alejandro Amenábar... look it up but dont watch it it,s the same god damn movie even
    Penélope Cruz plays the same role :D

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:54 PM  

  • Thanks for the list, although i don't agree with some of them, it was good to read someone else's opinion on the movies i love to watch. I don't see why people need to get so upset and attack you, its just a blog. Keep up the good work.

    PS. I know they're not intellectual or exploring humanity but where was the alien and terminator franchises?

    By Anonymous jordo, at 8:15 AM  

  • I am sad to see that no one has mentioned the smash hit "Food of the Gods"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:58 AM  

  • By Blogger Spherical Time, at 11:57 AM  

  • Hi ... I dont blog much or visit forums much either . I was just searching for good movie recommendations and stumbled upon this blog . I read the comments and OH MY GOD . People are so rude . I mean cmon guys some person is trying to contribute and help (the likes of me . Did watch children of men . Liked it a lot ). If you disagree with something please convey it politely . If you really hate the content of the blog then just don't visit . No one is forcing you .

    I haven't watched a lot of movies or read a lot either . But I liked the list and I agree with most of the movies on the list .

    And yes ... paycheck could have been made much much better .

    Peace

    By Blogger Jinal, at 4:47 PM  

  • I found this list very pleaseing and displeasing all at the same time. I understand most of your movies choices though, I just don't agree with them all. Thats is normal is it not? why yes it is because we all are entitled to a opinion of our choice. As this is a blog and this is your list and people here seem to forget that entirely and make snood and rude comments and I applause you on not bashing them and going below the standered norm.
    Though I ask why Vanilla sky? The movie to me was just a re run of ideas from the matrix. I gave it nothing of real orginality and it had Tom Cruise in it lol. There are a few others but I don't bother with them because well this is not my list

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:29 AM  

  • I think that it's absolutely normal to disagree with some of the entries on any given list, Anon.

    As to why Vanilla Sky is on the list and The Matrix isn't:

    Personally, from the perspective of "intellectual" movies, I think that Vanilla Sky was very well done. The Matrix might have had some interesting ideas to it, but it was designed to appeal to action movie fans just as much or more so than fans of intellectual movies.

    Also, note that Vanilla Sky was a remake of a 1997 Spanish film, Abre los Ojos. If anything, both Vanilla Sky and The Matrix are a rerun of that movie, and not each other. At the time this list was written, I hadn't seen Abre los Ojos though, so it didn't make the list.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 12:57 PM  

  • this list is awfully short of intellect sans The Matrix. Leave out the special effects, as it was a necessity, rather than a luxury.But just the courage to think of a storyline which showed this whole beautiful world as a software programme dumped into our heads, was simply outlandish !! Vanilla sky ???!!! oh come on...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:20 PM  

  • 'Sphere' and 'Event Horizon' should have been squeezed in somehow.

    By Blogger MATTY DIZZLE, at 12:53 PM  

  • Obviously, I disagree. Scary does not mean it is also thought provoking. I considered Sphere and Event Horizon and didn't think they fit this list well.

    Also, having seen Abre Los Ojos now, I'd probably replace Vanilla Sky with that movie. Both were very good, and in my opinion better than the Matrix.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 2:01 PM  

  • They were both extremely thought provoking in my opinion. Even coming from a scientific standpoint. I also enjoyed the movie 'Sunshine' though Much of it was obviously not scientifically accurate, in which case you have to be aware that we are talking science "FICTION". :)

    By Blogger MATTY DIZZLE, at 11:04 AM  

  • Matty: They were both extremely thought provoking in my opinion.

    Yeah, but not in my opinion. It's my list, after all.

    Even coming from a scientific standpoint. I also enjoyed the movie 'Sunshine' though Much of it was obviously not scientifically accurate, in which case you have to be aware that we are talking science "FICTION".

    Heh. Even the most scientifically accurate film on this list (probably Contact) has implausibilities and fictional elements. Just because something like Flight of the Navigator is fictional, that doesn't mean that I didn't like it or consider it appropriate for this list.

    I just don't happen to agree with you on those two movies.

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 12:05 PM  

  • I actually need to see some of the movies from your list and re watch several of them as well. Perhaps that may alter my viewpoint. I respect your opinion. I just wondered what you thought of those films.

    By Blogger MATTY DIZZLE, at 10:49 AM  

  • wow, your list blows in both directions. you must enjoy more fluff than hard core sci fi.

    but as usually, this is just one man's opinion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:45 PM  

  • wow, your list blows in both directions. you must enjoy more fluff than hard core sci fi.

    Again, thanks for your particularly constructive criticism. If you made some suggestions, perhaps I could enjoy some of the movies that you don't consider "fluff."

    By Blogger Spherical Time, at 10:47 PM  

  • BLADE RUNNER

    By Blogger jacob, at 12:06 PM  

  • Starship Troopers was a terrible film, but the book was incredibly thought provoking and well written. All of Robert Heinlein's books are incredible, but unfortunately hollywood doesn't seem to be interested. Methuselah's Children would make a great film, as well as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

    By Blogger Lazarus Long, at 11:54 AM  

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