Science Fiction Films: Which Are the Most Significant?

Okay, here’s that big participatory entry I’ve been hinting at.

As some of you know, I’m currently writing The Rough Guide to Science Fiction Film, which will be a general overview of the history of Science Fiction in films, with chapters on some various themes (science in science fiction, SF film icons, crossover subgenres, etc) and so on. The heart of the book, however, will be the Science Fiction Film Canon: The 50 classic Science Fiction films. In my own brain, I see this list as the list of the most significant science fiction films, as opposed to the “best” or the most financially successful. This gives me latitude to, say, include films that are influential on science fiction filmmakers, but not necessarily the audience (or, vice versa, as the case may be).

(You rightly ask: And why do I get to choose the Science Fiction Film Canon? Well, because someone paid me to, basically. But also, I’m both a professional film critic of more than a dozen years standing, and I’m also a professional science fiction writer. If someone’s going to compile this list, it might as well be me.)

I of course already have a preliminary list of 50 films ready to go. BUT! Even with my rather extensive knowledge of science fiction, film and science fiction films, I am more than willing to entertain the notion that my list has gaps: Films that should be on the list may not be there — films that I have on the list may not deserve to be there.

So, this is where you come in: Suggest me some science films (one or more, as many as you like) which you feel are especially significant. If you want to jot down a sentence or two as to why you think they’re significant, that’d be swell (to be clear, any comments you make on films are for my personal edification — I won’t cut and paste into the book. I do my own writing). Any films you might care to think of are appreciated, but in particular I’d be interested in knowing any suggestions you might have for:

* Science Fiction films before 1965
* Science Fiction films in foreign languages (of any era)
* Significant animated science fiction films (including anime)
* Science Fiction films based on novels/novellae/short stories, particularly before 1965
* Films not usually thought of as “science fiction” but which have significant science fiction plot elements (a recent example: Kate & Leopold)

Here’s what I’m not looking for:
* Suggestions on Fantasy films (LotR, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, etc)
* TV shows, mini-series or made-for-TV movies (they have to have been in the theater)
* Really bad films you know no one else likes but you (like, say, Galaxina), and which are not likely to be seemed significant by your basic jury of geek peers.

To avoid getting the obvious suggestions, here are some films I’ve already considered for the Canon — which is to say they may or may not be on the list, but one way or another they’re already on my radar:

* Star Wars films (for the purposes of the list, I’m treating film series as a single entry)
* Star Trek films
* Alien films
* Blade Runner
* 2001
* Close Encounters
* Akira and Ghost in the Shell
* Godzilla films
* Matrix films
* Mad Max films
* Planet of the Apes films
* Terminator films
* Solaris
* the various Body Snatcher films
* The Day the Earth Stood Still

Although I already know about these films hopefully this list may suggest other films to you to suggest back to me.

Go ahead and leave your suggestions/comments in the comment thread; I’ll be reading and commenting the next couple of days as well, of course, and will also check in while I’m at Noreascon.

Also, please do link to this on your own blogs and send the entry URL to people you know who might be interested in leaving a suggestion or recommendation. I’d like to hear from a wide range of people so that I can have the largest pool of films to think about for the Canon.

Fire away!

177 Comments on “Science Fiction Films: Which Are the Most Significant?”

  1. Significant science fiction films

    John Scalzi is working on The Rough Guide to Science Fiction Film, and he’s soliciting suggestions for his Science Fiction Film Canon….

  2. This Island Earth: Inspired the Mouser Catalog, and featured an interocitor….

    The Black Hole: Killed mainstream SF by making it a huge money loser, and then saw all the credit for this go to “Tron”.

    Dreamscape: Quaid gets kooky in a madmans mind… Pre Lawnmower Man.

    Frankenstein: Don’t we all get our “This is what an evil lab should look like” knowledge from this film?? The scenes where he is (re?)viving the monster… Pure sci-fi, and beautiful.

    Flesh Gordon: The first one was terrible, but started the “Superhero Porn” angle. Flesh Gordon 2 is pure genius, and everyone should watch it just to see a spaceship powered by copulating chickens and the turd people. Also, I’d give “Ultraflesh” with Seka here in the X rated category, but Flesh makes it in the list with an R rating.

  3. “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun.” I felt this was a major step in sci-fi because it didn’t try to explain everything, it didn’t have a happy ending, and it didn’t really resolve anything. It was really out of step with the times.

    “Metropolis” for sure

    “Time after Time” H.G. Welles goes after Jack the Ripper in modern day San Francisco. The first time travel movie to address geographical placement according to time travel involving a partial day. (if you travel 12 hours, you end up on the other side of the planet. Surprise!!)

  4. “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun.” I felt this was a major step in sci-fi because it didn’t try to explain everything, it didn’t have a happy ending, and it didn’t really resolve anything. It was really out of step with the times.

    “Metropolis” for sure

    “Time after Time” H.G. Welles goes after Jack the Ripper in modern day San Francisco. The first time travel movie to address geographical placement according to time travel involving a partial day. (if you travel 12 hours, you end up on the other side of the planet. Surprise!!)

  5. A couple I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

    “Fail Safe” – 1964 – This one goes hand in hand with “Dr. Strangelove.”

    “The Abominable Dr. Phibes” – 1971 – horror/sci-fi.

    “The Bad Seed” – 1956 – Not your standard science fiction fare in that the scientific issue in question was heredity of behavior, but I think it was a fairly influential film.

    “Young Frankenstein” – if you’re going to include spoofs/comedies this one is definitely worth considering. I can’t believe no one mentioned it already.

    “Being John Malkovich” – 1999 – I’m surprised this one hasn’t been mentioned yet either. I’m not sure it’s influential enough to make your list.

  6. Guys … gals … I’m sure everyone is just tickled to be listing their faves, but let’s actually READ the originator’s request!

    To avoid getting the obvious suggestions, here are some films I’ve already considered for the Canon — which is to say they may or may not be on the list, but one way or another they’re already on my radar:

    Please go back to the top and read the list. This is getting a little out of hand.

  7. I hate lists/posts like this, so of course must contribute. Some very obscure/foreign films are available through “public domain”/gray-market copy outfits like Video Search of Miami, Super Happy Fun, etc, and they often have “Science Fiction” categories to search. You can find stuff like the Czech “Who Would Kill Jessie” and Losey’s “The Damned” (neither of which I’ve seen).

    I also have never been able to see a lot of movies mentioned in books like Nicholls’ “SF Encyclopedia”, such as “Gog,” “Five”, “The World, the Flesh and the Devil” etc. but these may be worth searching for.

    So what have I seen? A 60s Czech film with beautiful combo of live-action and cut-out animation is “An Invention of Destruction,” on video from Facets (I think). Based on Verne.

    In Paris in 1988 I caught a fascinating recent Russian film with a lot of color filter work, “Day of the Eclipse.” It’s one of those metaphysical Tarkovsky-esque not-much-happens things but I still recall it. I think it might have been made by Sokurov, who’s become a big deal. Also caught Enki Bilal’s “Bunker Palace Hotel,” a triumph of set-design in a future dystopia. (As is Altman’s “Quintet,” which no one’s mentioned.)

    A protege of Losey made a startling, excellent, very stylish 60s UK film called “Invasion” (which I caught on a Video Yesteryear tape). Really fine.

    I’m glad folks have mentioned “X-Man with X-Ray Eyes”, “Man Who Fell to Earth”, “Donnie Darko,” “Fahrenheit 451” and, yes, “Alphaville.” It might seem that I especially like science fiction films that leave out the science fiction–guilty, but these leave in the poetry.

    Yes, most commercial movies fool us into thinking they primarily tell stories, which implies the art of cinema should be compared with novels or dramas, but Motion Pictures are literally about the power and emotion contained in an image, a moving image, and are best compared with music, imho. That’s why “Alphaville” isn’t overrated but beautiful–it can be replayed/rewatched many times as a visual symphony of moods.

    Oh, and just b/c I carry a torch for Julie Christie, I’ll toss in “Demon Seed.”

  8. Trying not to look at everyone’s suggestions before writing my own:

    Back to the Future trilogy – as a childhood primer for temporal incongruities

    Gattaca – oddly affecting

    Equilibrium – though really not much of an influence, but a nice dystopian movie

    The 1950’s Time Machine

  9. La Jette (The Pier) (1962) by Chris Marker really needs to be on the list. It’s a fantastic film and an outstanding and original example of the genre.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (all versions) deserves special mention, since the themes are so key to the obsessions of the whole of the last century (and this one still).

    Please don’t include any film featuring Robin Wiliams.

    And for manga it’s got to be Akira for the international impact (although Miyazaki is a far better film maker).

  10. Here’s my suggestions –

    1) Forbidden Planet
    2) The Day The Earth Stood Still
    3) War Of The Worlds
    4) The Thing – starring Kurt Russel

  11. Some suggestions for that final catagory —

    ‘One Night Stand’ [] — it’s a pre-apocalypse last day on earth film made almost entirely in the Sydney Opera House with a tiny ensemble cast. They basically spend their time doing all the things we would — getting to know each other and waiting for the end. If that’s allowed I should also include ‘Last Night’ [] which cover much the same suspects in wider context and with a larger cast.

    ‘Passion Of The Mind’ [] is the last Demi Moore film released before she went into hiding. It’s a drama of the mind as Demi lives two lives on two different sides of the planet — which one is a dream and which one is reality? Is a very interesting piece about the nature of the mind and how our dreams can colour our perception of reality. Certainly a lot better than it has any right to be.

    What about ‘Electric Dreams’? [] There is no doubt the film has dated, although in its own way it uses visual techniques which at the time must have seemed as extreme as the flourishes of the latter film. Its use of pop video, in the sequences of high emotion, especially in the scene of where Miles is chased around the house, are at least echoed in the chase sequences at the heart of something like ‘Being John Malkovich’.

    ‘Virtual Sexuality’ [] which for a British teen film says some interesting things about gender and the nature of what makes men and women — is it to do with outward appearances or is something deeper at work?

    Finally, the James Spader film ‘Starcrossed’ simply because it was the first film I ever had and watched it more than I should.

  12. Let’s see. In no particular order:

    A Trip to the Moon (Voyage Dans La Lune)
    The 10th Victim (yes, mentioned already. But — Ursula Andress!)
    Fantastic Planet
    Galaxy Quest (aka in our household, in the con scenes, as “there, but for Her grace, go we.” Significant only in the sense of getting the fandom culture almost dead-on accurate for once)
    The Iron Giant (is this the first Disney SF as opposed to fantasy animation?)
    The Fly (with Vincent Price)
    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Most of the attention goes to the subculture, but the movie itself has some of the greatest music in filmdom, and, aside from the pacing of the dialogue, is a pretty damned good tribute to the great sf film up until then)
    Fantastic Voyage
    I like, but am not certain it is “most significant”, Buckaroo Banzai
    The Thing

    Which should do for now, until I get another bout of inspiration. Or boredom. (Are those two cousins, or siblings?)

    Two quick notes:

    I’m SHOCKED that nobody ever made a theatrical film called R.U.R. I have seen the 1930s effort, and thought surely it was from the theater, but it turns out to have been a TV production.

    Similarly, if it HAD been released into theaters, the PBS adaptation of The Lathe of Heaven would be on top of my recommendations list.

  13. Ok … significant flicks as opposed to best or favourites …

    I agree with the person who suggested Plan 9. It’s the worst; that’s significant.

    Attack of the Killer Tomatoes deserves consideration for the same reason.

    Rocky Horror Picture Show is significant as a wacky musical homage to classic sci-fi.

    Dark Star deserves a look as John Carpenter’s first flick.

    You may want to consider grouping/pairing films that were classics in both original form and as remakes such as The Thing, Alien and Bodysnatchers (x3? x4?)

    Finally, I think Brazil probably qualifies more as fantasy than SF. And City of Lost Children, too!

  14. A few more to throw out there…

    They Live — John Carpenter

    Factor of Ten — Eames Brothers (sort of a documentary but..)

    The Hole -Tsai Ming-liang

    Last Night — Don McKellar

    Barren Illusion — Kiyoshi Kurosawa

  15. I see you’ve considered the Godzilla series, and someone rightly mentioned “King Kong,” but I’d add “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” which was the direct inspiration for Godzilla and therefore the entire genre of kaiju eiga…

  16. stalker
    le dernier de combat
    la jetee
    slaughterhouse five
    boys from brazil?
    tetsuo the iron man?
    dead ringers?
    wave twisters? haha.

  17. All this “Gattaca” and not a single vote for “The Truman Show”? I feel so alone!

    Not that “Gattaca” is a bad choice, though.

    Sadly, “Jurassic Park” almost has to make the list of 50. It made a lot of impact… and, along with T2, it marks the point where CGI made the big leap from “nifty gimmick” to “omnipresent”.

    “Back to the Future”, for certain. A far better movie than most of the movies on this list.

    “Real Genius” – the only movie I know that succeeds in capturing the flavor of real-world science: professors madly grasping for research grants; students as slaves, laboring under fluorescent lights; nervous breakdowns. And hacks, in the grand old sense of the word. My friends from Caltech swear that it’s a documentary.

    Lots of comedies border on SF, but many don’t quite make the grade. “Ghostbusters” feels like SF but I’m not sure it actually is. And, alas, I’m pretty sure you’ll think that “Groundhog Day” is fantasy. “Men In Black” is SF for sure, but I doubt it’s anywhere near the top 50; “Galaxy Quest” is more important because, as someone said up-thread, it captures the real-world impact of sci-fi fandom.

    You haven’t excluded shorts from consideration, which means that “Duck Dodgers” is in play! And it’s before 1964, too! I think it’s aged better than the Flash Gordon serials themselves…

  18. I just wanted to mention a few films that I figure will get ignored here.

    “A Boy and His Dog” is an awesome post-apocolyptic comedy that I’m rather fond of.

    “Until The End of the World” is probably one of my favorite films of all time. It’s long, and can be a little slow in places, but the movie manages to overwhelf most of those shortcomings with its charms and insights into the human character.

    I just figured these two were worth mentioning… I have quite a few more favorites, though I just wanted to make sure that these films got mentioned.

  19. I haven’t yet seen any of these mentioned, but there was 64,213 of them made and they must have had something that spawned these awful movies. They are the giant insect movies. Not that we liked them, but they had a huge influence: Giant ants, giant spiders, giant shrews, …

    Also, there had to be the first awful teen-can’t-convince-adults-and-so-has-to-fight-monsters movie (like Killer Clown from Outer Space)

    These aren’t good movies (except KKFOS), but they have been a huge sub-genre and have influenced furture movies.

  20. Definitely Robocop, perfect satire of the entire decade of the 80’s.

    The Back to the Future movies for just being great fun.

    I don’t know if I know of any others that haven’t been mentioned several times over.

  21. Pal’s “Time Machine” — attention to detail, acting, TLC for Wells vision
    Bladerunner — “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe”
    A Boy and His Dog — Harlan, say no more
    Fantastic Planet — ID creature & theremin
    Metropolis — deep & funky
    Matrix 1 — SO right-on
    Harrison Bergeron —
    T2 — “Wolfy’s fine, dear”
    Alien — the sets alone
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea — Disney risking the studio
    Killdozer — in lieu of all the great unmade Sturgeon flix

  22. Metropolis, for the 1000’th time, I think it is a little strange that you didn’t list it yourself at the top.

    While I would put them high on my list of greatest films in general I personally don’t feel that Jean-Pierre Jeunet or Ghibli’s films are really sci-fi, at least not what I would call one of the greatest 50 sci-films. Which I would think should be a template for the genre as a whole.

  23. Star Wars, Close Encounters and the various Star Trek films obviously don’t belong on anyone’s list of the best science fiction films. Badly scripted, infantile and devoid of 3-dimensional characters or compelling plots, these crappy films scrape the bottom of the barrel — somewhere around “The Valley Of Gwangi” or “The Crawling Eye.”

    That said, it’s a solid list for the most part. Some oddball yet superb science fiction films you might consider adding:

    Nebo Zovyot (“The Heavens Call,” Soviet, 1960) directed by Mikhail Karzhukov. This film was hacked and sliced and re-edited into an abomination called “Battle Beyond the Sun.” The re-editing added cheesy outer-space monsters. The original film, however, is notable for its sense of wonder, its suggestion that mankind might cooperate to explore the universe, and its superb visuals done on next to no budget. The breathtaking scene of the alien moon rising, for instance, was done by filming a moving canvas backdrop getting cranked up behind the actors in space suits. A truly remarkable film and an all-around gem, if you can find it.

    Planeta Burg (1962 Soviet, re-edited by American Pictures International with added scnese of Basil Rathbone, and released in America as “Journey to the Prehistoric Planet”) Directed by Pavel Klushanatev. Quite good, with a fun ending. For once, we get a sober realistic depiction of a scientific expedition to another planet. The scientists actuallya cted like scientists, and didn’t run around with ray guns like wild west heroes. The production design of the robot is superb, and the space suits are some of the most convincing in film, even more impressive than the ones in Kubrick’s 2001. A fine film.

    Vynalez Skazy (Czechoslovakian, 1957, released in 1961 in America as “The Fabulous World of Jules Verne”) Directed by Karel Zeman. One of the most inventive science fiction films ever made. Imagine a movie shot in the style of moving woodcuts 19th century illustrations, with live actors. This film won the oscar for foreign film in 1957, and desrved it. Not only that, it comes from a pretty good Jules Verne novel (“Facing the Flag” AKA “The Roche Fulgurator”). An outstanding film that ought to be on any self-resepcting top 10 list.

    The Invisible Boy (1957) Written and directed by herman Hoffman, the same guy who did Forbidden Planet, this remains the best mad-computer-takes-over-the-planet film ever. Robby the Robot gets used to good effect, but the meditations on AI were far ahead of their time. Reminiscent in some ways of The Matrix.

    Ikarie XB-1 (1963, Czechoslovakian, released in America as “Voyage To the End of the Universe”). directed by Jindrich Polack. A wonderful film which eschews the usual evil-alien space-battle cliches in favor of problems which are more likely to afflict interstellar space travellers — loneliness, time dilation, inter-ship politics, and of course galactic menaces in the form of exotic radiations. This one definitely belongs on any reasonable list of the top 10 science fiction films, instead of swill ike Star Wars or National Enquirer sludge like Close Encounters.

    Dark City (1998) Alex Proyas’ masterpiece. Better than Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, if that’s possible.

    On the Beach (1960) The scariest movie ever made. The fact that this one uses the prospect of global thermonuclear war to set up the story makes it even more terrifying. Greatly underrated.

    Day the World Ended (1956) Roger Corman’s first film. If you can get past the cheesy Paul Blaisdell monster at the end, the script is solid, the directing atmospheric and effective, and it’s one of the most powerful end-of-the-world scenarios ever filmed. For more effective than “The Omega Man” (1970) or “The Last Man On Earth” (original title L’Ultimo uomo della Terra, 1964) or even Arch Obler’s “Five” (1951) or “The World, The Flesh and the Devil” (1959).

    Phase IV (1974) A greatly underrated film with fascinating meditations on evolution, biology, and the insigificance of humans in the grand scheme of things. The ending is truly haunting.

    The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971). A dark horse, albeit very well made. It’s arguable whether this film truly qualifies as science fiction. But it has an overall science-fictional feel, does the same thing as “Them!” or “The Giant Mantis” but much better, and certainly puts the audience in the peculiar position of viewing their species from outside itself.

    THX 1138 (1970) One of the darkest satires ever made about a dystopian future. Prophetic in many ways; some of what Lucas scripted has actually come to pass already.

    Demon Seed (1977) If you can get past the absolutely ludicrous plot point of a computer inseminating Julie Christie, this is an impressive and poetic film. The director, Donald Camell, came from the world of experimental film, and the knockout visuals make this film something special. Also, the ending is not the usual -kill-or-be-killed shoot-’em-up.

    Lunnaya Raduga (1984, Soviet, released as “Moon Rainbow” in America.) A fascinating film full of metaphysical speculations about the effect of space travel on the human psyche Refreshingly devoid of the usual ravening alien monsters, but with superb special effects using Rusisan lumia (art of light) projections. Defnitely worth seeking out if you can find it.

    La Jetee (1962) directed by Chris Marker. A recognized masterpice, and one of the strangest science fiction films ever made. 28 minutes entirely comprised of still photos (!) This isthe sourc eof the infinitely inferior Terry Gilliam film “Twelve Monkeys,” but this one does it so much better there’s no comparison. One of hte best time travel stories ever put on film — arguably *the* best.

    The Time Travellers (1964) A clever and memorable time travel film with a wallop of a twist at the end. You can read this film as a subtle social critique of progress, or you can just enjoy the futuristic miniskirt disco and the flaming androids battling crazed mutants. Probably not worthy of a spot on the top 10, but definitely in the top 20.

    Chelovek-Amphibiya (1962, released as “Amphibian Man” in America) Directed by Vladimir Chebotaryov & Gennadi Kazansky. One of hte best science films, and the much better film from which the inferior “Man From Atlantis” TV series was ripped off. This vastly superior versions boasts true emotional depth as well as memorable expressionistic camera work.

  24. Dark Star – a cannon should include a parody, IMHO. This one also gets bonus points because most science fiction fans have never heard of it but every one knows the director (John Carpenter) and it was co-written by the guy who wrote Alien

    Cube – How does a small group of humans deal with aliens & alien technology when they don’t even know if they’re dealing with aliens?

    A Boy and His Dog – Any Science Fiction cannon that doesn’t include Harlan Ellison is a sham. He’ll be represented by Terminator, no doubt, but this one deserves a nod.

    Brother from Another Planet – What does it mean to be alien?

    Invaders from Mars – (1953 version). The best of the ‘sci-fi as metaphor for commie menace’ genre, but also a great film in it’s own right. Bonus points because it scared the living daylights out of me when I was 8.

    And, of course, Barbarella (just kidding!)

  25. Naked Lunch – Willan Burroghs peice of weirdness is a serious contender.

    Metropolis (again) – but hey it is one of the first sci-fi films and I think one of the best.

    I do agree that City of the lost children belongs, but Delicatessan is more horror than scifi.

    Maybe Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro?

  26. “The Stuff” – I refused to eat yogurt for the longest time after watching that movie.
    No one’s mentioned the 1960’s Dr Who movie.
    Who can forget Santa Claus Conquers the Martians? Night of the Lepus was an interesting story of killer rabbits (with their awful gnashing teeth!)

    But for movies that would be in the top 50, I’d include Demon Seed, Starship Troopers (for entertainment value only), Saturn five, Until the end of the World, The Quiet Earth, and the rest of the movies that everyone else has mentioned.

  27. “I know it’s breaking the rules, but Rod Seger’s Twilight Zone really is first class storytelling, most of them originally written by Seger himself. These are great American classics and really they shouldn’t be ignored.”

    I agree with this, but the man’s surname is “Serling” not “Seger.” (He was originally from Binghamton, NY, near where I grew up, and I think the name of my home town appears briefly in one episode.)

    Calling him “Rod Seger” brings to mind a really dire spoken-word version of “Like a Rock” with that deedle-deedle music in the background, and nobody wants that…

  28. They’ve been mentioned (wow that’s a lot of comments) but I wanted put my vote in for both Clockwork Orange, Farenheit 451 (black and white), Buckaroo Banzai, Repo Man and 12 Monkeys as science fiction movies that meant a lot to me.

    And Tron and Flash Gordon, for the childhood memories.

  29. On the recommendation front, other people have mentioned everything but _The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra_ (which is a hoot, but I’m not sure recent spoofs are really what you’re after), so I really don’t have anything terribly original to add.

    I will second the recommendations of a couple of comedies, namely _Galaxy Quest_ and _Real Genius._ Neither is particularly strong on the science front, but both do an excellent job of capturing the “feel” of their respective subjects. And they both manage to be respectful of total geeks without being disgustingly condescending.

    Also, I agree that “The Fly” probably ought to be in there, just because the “Help meeeee” thing is so well-known in popular culture (even if people have mostly forgotten where that comes from– this is probably the only way that movie can possibly be seriously compared to Shakespeare…) .

  30. Well, here are some films which have yet to be mentioned. I’m pretty sure they don’t fit into the 50 canon, but they’re worth mention for consideration/mention in the book.

    After Life (Wandafuru Raifu) – A really great existential film. Part documentary, part fiction. The dead come to an office for an intervie, and
    have a week to choose one memory to live with(in) for eternity. Covers lives in retrospect, some people interviewed are fictional, some are really talking about their lives.

    Altered States (Certainly representative of the 60/70’s take on sci-fi– ie, sf = psychadelic experience)

    Woman in the Dunes – Another Japanese existential film. Not sure what to say about this one, except that it’s worth checking out. Pacing and flavour similar to Stalker/Solaris.

    The Kingdom (TV)- Lars von Treer’s best work.

    If TV is fair game, (ie, not all anime mentioned are “feature length”) then Max Headroom is a must. In fact, in so far as influence goes, Max Headroom’s near the front of the pack of cyberpunk influences –right up there with Blade Runner.


  31. Bad Taste by Peter Jackson is a pretty good time, original as well. I don’t know if it’s been elsewhere listed.

    Alphaville would be my #1 pick with Blade Runner.

    Would Battle Royale be considered science fiction, or just fiction?

  32. Hmmm, some suggestions:

    Forbidden Planet, it should be on the list, it MUST be on the list.

    Zardoz is still stuck in my head after all these years. God, that flying head…

    Buckaroo Bonzai

    On The Beach–YES!

    Dr. Strangelove (or How I Stopped Worrying…etc) no one’s mentioned this movie and I think it should go into the list.

    2001: A Space Odessey.

    Fantastic Planet (La Planète Sauvage) — Yes! This is a great animated SF film.

    The Shape of Things to Come (or was it titled Things to Come?) Anyway this 1930’s SF movie with Raymond Massey is a classic.

    The Fifth Element

    Dark City

    Donnie Darko

    War of the Worlds (1950’s version)

    Soylent Green (I still get chills from this movie–the people movers gave me nightmares!)

    Tron has influenced more people than a lot of critics and pop-culture commentators give it credit.

    Day of the Triffids

    Battle Beyond the Stars

    I am blanking on the name, but there was this film about a computer that ended up taking over the world by controlling all the nukes: Colossus the Forbin Project(?)

    Woody Allen’s Sleeper

  33. I’ve got to vote for Gattaca, as so many others have already. One of the few true science-fiction stories, rather than the “shoot-em-ups” that so many SF movies seem to turn into.

  34. In order of appreciation

    City of Lost Children [film]
    The Abyss [film]
    When Worlds Collide [film]
    The Time Machine [film]
    The 5th Element [film]
    Logan’s Run [film]
    Westworld [film]
    Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind [film]
    Forbidden Planet [anim]
    Adventures of Baron Munchousen (sp) [film/anim]
    War of the Worlds [film/anim]
    Serial Experiment Lain [Anime]
    Laputa Castle in the Sky [Anime]
    Andromeda Strain [film]

    Lot’s more, I’m a pretty big sci-fi dork and these are largely mainstream, but if you want the less popular but heartier sci-fi msg me or something.


  35. Well, my dad, who is 57 years old (and who has been into science fiction his entire life) says that without a doubt, the movies that were most influential to him were FORBIDDEN PLANET, THE TIME MACHINE, and THIS ISLAND EARTH. In recent years he says that DUNE, ALIEN, THX-1138 and BLADE RUNNER are the first three he can think of.

    Now, I am 25 and the most influential of my early movie-watching years were EXPLORERS, DUNE, NAUSICAA (WARRIORS OF THE WIND in the US) and BUCKAROO BONZAI. Somehow as a pre-teen I missed the Star Wars fandom, but was sucked into ALIEN, THX-1138 and BLADE RUNNER as much as my dad was. Later, my budding feminism enjoyed THE STEPFORD WIVES, and even later still, GATTACA, DONNIE DARKO, THE QUIET EARTH and, as a secret indulgence that I can’t get enough of, GALAXY QUEST.

    But, to stress a point, I think that NAUSICAA was the very first film that made me desire the delicious contraryness of a post-apocolyptic world (contrary becuase, do I *really* want that? Maybe…). To this day I have a VHS of it that is under lock and key and quickly wearing out… rumor is that before 2004 is out, it will be redistributed by Disney. I certainly hope so, becuase in my peer group, it remains by far one of the most important films in our collections — and, if it is redistributed, it’s gonna be a hit, and I would think this book project would want to be up on that.

  36. Am I missing something here? I thought that this was supposed to about the MOST SIGNIFICANT sci-fi films. Yeah, Gattaca was great. Gattaca made no money. No one in Hollywood’s going to make another movie like Gattaca for that reason.

    I’d go with “The Thing From Another World.” Sci-fi could’ve gone the “Day the Earth Stood Still” route and been–y’know, SCIENCE FICTION. Instead it went the monster movie route. “Thing” invented every cliche:

    The scientist who wants to study the creature, which always means it’ll start killing everyone.

    The scientist admires the monster because “it’s not ruled by emotions, it’s ruled by logic.” Because scientists are heartless idiots.

    The “emotionless” monster runs around screaming “AAARRGGHH!” a lot and killing everyone, because apparently that’s logical. Try that at the shopping mall sometime, and see if your actions are described on the news as “logical” or “senseless.”

    The good guys (after the scientist gets killed) defeat the monster with some Rube Goldberg trap, thus proving that emotion is better than logic. Except that they didn’t; getting really mad or depressed or happy and defeating the monster would’ve. Finding a logical way to kill a deranged monster really proves the triumph of logic over emotion. It doesn’t make sense, but, what the hell, have the good guy hug the only woman in the picture at the end and say it anyway.

    With a few notable exceptions, these cliches defined sci-fi up until Star Wars (and continue today).

  37. How could I forget COLOSSUS?

    COLOSSUS convinced me when I was a wee one that computers would destroy is all. What’s not great about that? For christ’s sake, they *mime having sex* to outsmart the computer! Woot!

  38. The President’s Analyst (1967) — With James Coburn in the title role. One of the best SF satires, with plenty of government/corporate skullduggery, rampant paranoia, and sinister technological plots. As relevent today as it was 35 years ago.

    Dead Ringers (1988)– Usually considered horror rather than SF, but it has an SF element in its unusual, invented surgical instruments and procedures. Groundbreaking special effects (computer-controlled moving-matte photography) Also has the trademark Cronenberg tone of eerie surreality that hits you with a wallop.

    Not in the top 50, but still good:

    Earth Girls Are Easy (1989) — Not very influential maybe, but an enjoyable lark and affectionate sendup of alien invasion flicks.

    Miracle Mile (1987) — Hokey script in places, along with sequences that effectively capture the panic of trying to escape a looming catastrophe. Evokes Cold War fears at the gut level.

    Altered States (1980) — Given that the science is a total crock, it’s surprisingly enjoyable. It’s all about mind/body-altering experiences, but on a shamanistic level rather than the usual drug-induced level.

    Some that I haven’t seen:

    The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961) — A Cold-War hysteria film that it is highly recommended.

    Seconds (1966) — Frankenheimer made this after “The Manchurian Candidate.” An anxious thriller that questions the fundamental values of society.

  39. Most of the important ones not already on your list have been mentioned by now, most notably Metropolis, A Trip to the Moon, and Forbidden Planet.

    Also, the first feature-length sci-fi film (The Lost World, 1925) might be significant.

    On the lesser known side, I’ve always been partial to the 80s Short Circuit films – I think they’re a bit underrated.

  40. It would be a shame not to include Escape From NY but to have the Mad Max series. Other post-apocalypic-style movies that are on my favorite list but maybe not others’ are Waterworld and Tank Girl which I’m sure nobody else here would want. Barbarella should definitely come before Tank Girl.

    Maybe as a sidebar to the Top 50 you can explain how one of the bestselling SF novels of all time, which is also rated in the top 10 novels regardless of genre of all time (by individuals, librarians omit it), can be made into one of the worst movies and book-to-movie abortions ever despite having good actors and a large fanbase: Battlefield Earth.

    The Last Starfighter is extremely significant because it was not only a really good non-Star Wars hero in space movie but also had what may have been the first computer-generated objects presented as real objects.

    Which brings to mind Tron, again already mentioned.

    Speaking of the 80’s, although at the time all the critics wrote off Short Circuit as an E.T. clone, it has survived the years extremely well, in fact longer than the main actors. Johnny Five is almost as well known and recognizable as R2D2 and C3PO, and far more like a realistic multipurpose robot (and influential on real robot designers)–one of the designers was none other than the famous futuristic designer Syd Mead, who also worked on Aliens, Blade Runner, Tron, and Strange Days.

    Maybe at least one movie with mind recording should be on the list, like Strange Days; I seem to recall Brainstorms having a similar device.

    I didn’t particularly like A.I., but it’s worth mentioning that if you gave ratings to sf movies of influence by reference, A.I. has tons of references (at least as perceived by me). Unfortunately its probably too early include something like I, Robot, which in a few years will have proved to be much more influential and well-known than Bicentennial Man.

    The indy movie Robot Stories which I saw in Harvard Square after which the director came and answered questions (said he was working on a Western now) was really good, in fact I think I liked it better than other so-called “thinking man’s” sf like Gattaca.

    Also, another fairly new movie which was one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen, but may be too early to consider it a top 50, was of course…The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra.

  41. another vote for:
    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (the quintessential cult film, if nothing else)
    Contact (an interesting meditation of ‘first contact’ and based on Carl Sagan’s only fictional novel)
    Dark City (did what the Matrix did, only better, but the Matrix was probably more influential on pop culture and special effects)
    The Cowboy Bebop Movie (the only film I know of about bio-terrorism, but I don’t know *lots* of movies)
    The X Files Movie (?? – mostly because it’s connected with the series, so feel free to exclude)
    Ghostbusters (good, funny, staple of pop culture)

    No one’s mentioned The Wizard of Oz? That definitely has SF elements. And was influential on pop culture, other filmmakers, and society in general.

    non-specific influential things that need to be on your list:
    the first or first influential SF film for children. don’t know what it is, but it needs to be on your list.
    a Japanese movie or anime involving robots or mecha.
    a movie that’s based on a comic book (just look at how many are springing up now. whoever got the idea to do that first deserves a mention.)
    a movie that covers artificial intelligence.
    a movie that’s *really* paranoid (about the government, the future, or technology . . . or possibly something else).
    a movie that’s notably optimistic (about the future or the topic it’s covering).
    a movie with a soundtrack that started SF movie soundtrack conventions.
    a movie that most people completely don’t understand.
    a movie everyone can understand.
    a movie that has inspired almost universal hate (of the movie itself).
    a movie that pays special attention to a feminist or minority issues.
    a movie that defined SF movie conventions (the hero, the visual styles, the soundtrack, the special effects . . .).

    that’s all I can think of for now. sorry that I don’t know enough movies to be more specific for the general categories, but they’re categories that need to be covered and I figure you know enough movies to pick movies that fit the categories the best.

  42. I wouldn’t really attempt to argue that it’s a Significant Film, but people citing other Bad Computer movies reminded me of an 80’s classic that I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned: _War Games_.

  43. George Pal’s “War of the Worlds” was on AMC tonight, and I’d forgotten what a great film it is. Beautiful technicolor, 50’s futuristic flying machines, and Pal’s strong religious beliefs underlying the whole thing. It only vaguely resembles Wells book, but still captures the underlying “we’re not the strongest in the universe” theme. And “Independence Day” totally ripped off the plot, but managed not to have 1/10th the heart of the original. Plus, this is where Dr. Clayton Forrester of MST3K fame got his name; how much more influential do you get???

    And then there’s “I Married a Monster From Outer Space”, a completely lurid title, but a film that takes a wild look at the battle of the sexes. Lots of psychosexual undertones, too.

  44. Destination: Moon is a well-known pre-1965 SF movie that nobody’s mentioned yet, and it was written by Robert Heinlein.

    Space Balls. Nuff said.

  45. I don’t know the Japanese name of it, but there was a film my brother and I dug when it came on late at night on one of the tv monster film shows back in the late 60’s. I believe the title in english was The Mushroom People.
    Strange flick.

  46. ‘Quintet’- Paul Newman. What a film. I think he personally bought all the copies. We have one, and watch it a couple times a year.

  47. Help name the 50 best sci-fi films

    John Scalzi (sci-fi author) is working on a book about the 50 best science fiction films. He’s asking for help n coming up with the list….

  48. Whoops, I guess Destination: Moon was mentioned earlier, several times…

    While I’m here, I’ll add to the push for Starship Troopers, and maybe another Paul Verhoeven SF movie based on a famous writer’s work: Total Recall. Maybe Total Recall and Minority Report can be grouped together in a single Philip K. Dick entry with or separate from Bladerunner. Paycheck and Impostor might not be good enough to join in though.

    I’ll also push for Electric Dreams, it may be silly, but it’s not just a romantic comedy.

  49. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure “Hell Comes to Frogtown” is on everybody’s secret list.

    Demolition Man and the lesser-but-still-good Judge Dredd have always had a place in my heart.

    Now that I’ve given up all credibility, I agree that The Fifth Element should be on the top 50 list, simply because it is one of the Best SF Movies of All Time.

  50. did anyone mention the animatrix? it’s not technically part of the matrix film trilogy.

  51. I’m repeating much, but I have to give my 2c:

    Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951) — “Klaatu Narada Nikto.” Aliens order humanity to give up their WMD, sweet.

    Thing From Another World, The (1951) — Great f/x, genuinely scary.

    War of the Worlds (1953) — A spectacular and scary H.G. Wells adaptation.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) — A classic.

    Forbidden Planet (1956) — Another classic from ’56.

    Village Of The Damned (1960) — please, not the glowing eyes, aargh.

    The Day Of The Triffids (1963) — Killer plants on the loose.

    Fantastic Voyage (1966) — The movie that kicked off nanotech.

    Barbarella (1968) — Jane Fonda, Jane Fonda, Jane Fonda.

    Clockwork Orange, A (1971) — Come and get one in the yarbles, if you’ve got any yarbles. Real horror-show like.

    Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) — Kurt Vonnegut Jr., enough said.

    Westworld (1973) — beware the crazy robots.

    Dark Star (1974) — A team of humans in a spaceship roaming through space destroying planets with nuclear devices. The nuclear devices, however, are intelligent. One of the nuclear devices has a bit of a problem with it’s mission and decides instead to explode while it’s still attached to the spaceship. Great movie, I especially enjoyed the fact that the ship made no sound in space. No air, no sound. I believe that’s the *only* movie I’ve seen that in.

    Stalker (1979) — This one makes you think. Superb cinematography. Very moody.

    Thing, The (1982) — John Carpenter does a superb job covering the 1951 original.

    Brazil (1985) — Terry Gilliam’s best film.

    Gattaca (1997) — Uma Thurman is amazing, Jude Law fantastic, Ethan Hawke does a fine job.

    Impostor (2002) — Gary Sinise & Madeline Stowe, a scintillating combination.

    I’d like to make an appeal to keep horror and fantasy out of a Science-Fiction list, they don’t belong. It’s a d One more appeal: popular does not necessarily equal significant. Jurassic Park and Back to the Future are fine, fun films, but they do not belong in the top 50 all-time sci-fi films, imho.

    My top two: Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

  52. Here are my pics for the survey. Some are obvious. Some are light, as opposed to hard, sci-fi.

    * Science Fiction films before 1965
    Metropolis (Germany, 1927)
    Forbidden Planet (1956)
    Dr. Strangelove (1964)

    * Science Fiction films after 1965
    A Clockwork Orange (1971)
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
    Back to the Future (1985)
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (1994)
    Twelve Monkeys (1995)
    Gattaca (1997)
    Dark City (1998)
    Pi (1998)
    The Truman Show (1998)
    Equlibrium (2002)
    Minority Report (2002)

    * Significant animated science fiction films (including anime)
    The Iron Giant (1999)

    * Films not usually thought of as “science fiction” but which have significant science fiction plot elements
    Young Frankenstein (1974)
    Brazil (1985)
    Delicatessen (1991)
    Abre los ojos (Spain, 1997)
    Donnie Darko (2001)

  53. If Star Wars can be considered then you should have a look at “Battle Beyond the Stars” I always found it a better flick.

    Also, for time travel but not that far, “The Philadelphia Experiment”.

    My all time favourite has already been mentioned “The Day the Earth Stood Still”

  54. I’ve seen a few comments already mentioning both “Donnie Darko” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (haven’t read the whole thread… looooong). But I think they’re worth flagging up as a pair, perhaps as superb examples of what might be influential to SF film makers of the future. Both are, of course, wonderful films in their own right.

    As I’ve always seen it, SF is at its most powerful when it allows the author/director to look at the human condition in unusual, yet believable, circumstances. In film, I think that too often the ‘hard SF’ elements get in the way – spaceships are more visually appealing than character studies, I suppose. “Darko” and “Eternal Sunshine…” are great examples of films with undeniably hard SF plotlines (alternate universes and memory erasing), which many viewers might never classify as SF. They’re content to let the SF element toddle along in the background, allowing the themes and the characters to develop in a way that’s facilitated, rather than hindered, by the SF. I’d hope that either one or both would get a nod on your list, as a hopeful direction for future writers and directors to take; that interesting and unconventional storytellers shouldn’t shy away from SF, nor should they feel constrained by its stereotypes. As a medium for expressing intriguing thoughts about humanity, it’s every bit as good as a story about a cop who relates more to criminals than he does to his wife. In fact, I suspect in most cases, it’s probably better.

  55. Would _Edward Scissorhands_ fall into the “not usually thought of as sci-fi but has sci-fi elements camp”?

  56. Robocop.

    Paul Verhoeven in my opinion at his very best. Succeeded in showing the human side of a cyborg in a unique way. Ahead of its time usage of stop motion. Great ending. The violence in some cases was also way ahead of its time but masterfully shot. Try and get the directors cut version – now an out of print Criterion collection DVD.

  57. While I know this isn’t quite what you’re looking for, but it does at least deserve an honorable mention.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a movie over 20 years in the making that will hopefully come out next year. This movie is based on a radio series that is also the inspiration for a series of books, a TV mini-series, a computer game, a stage play, a website, and a towel, among other things. The movie version seems to have been hastened, ironically enough, by the death of the writer of the original radio series, books, TV series, game, and screenplay of the now-in-production movie. Douglas Adams was an ingenioulsy creative and progressive writer who’s ideas were so original, they have, for the most part, only been copied by himself.

  58. I second Dwayne’s vote of “JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN”(1969)(aka Doppelganger). An underrated film with a great story and cool specials effects for the time.

  59. Metropolis by Fritz Lang. Just had to mention it. It was sure a great movie for it’s time.

    Brazil by Terry Gilliam. A great film, especially in the Direcotrs cut.

    Terminator, Running Man and especially Total Recall. These three are about the best Action-SF Movies IMHO.

    Johnny Mnemonic. I really don’t know what to say about this movie. It was very impressing.

  60. A new entry: the obscure but visually fantastic:
    Battle in Outer Space (1960)

    I second:
    Event Horizon (1997)
    Death Race 2000 (1975)

    With the tagline like this its got to be big: “In The Year 2000 Hit And Run Driving Is No Longer A Felony. It’s The National Sport!”

    my 2 cents!

  61. Don’t miss Brainstorm which is notable for convincing scientist characters doing something like actual science, and then exploring the social and personal consequences of their invention.

    Project A-ko Strange and funny anime spoof with future schoolgirls A-ko and B-ko competing for affections of young C-ko via giant fighting robots, plus aliens, superpowers, and Colonel Sanders.

  62. Acción Mutante (1993) directed by Álex de la Iglesia. A Spanish SF movie, bitterly black, ludicrously violent, and jaw-droppingly funny, about a gang of ‘mutant’ terrorists fighting the strictly perfect norms of a future society (or just taking the ransom money and running off in a spaceship). Back up the page somewhere, Daniel Pullin described Gilliam’s Brazil as ‘1984 on Acid’. Acción Mutante is Brave New World on crack. Can’t help feeling it might have influenced Steve Aylett’s work (Slaughtermatic, Toxicology, et al).

    I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned the two 1960s big screen movie versions of Dr Who – Dr Who and the Daleks (1965) and Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966), both directed by Gordon Flemyng.

    How about Don Bluth/Gary Goldman/Art Vitello’s Titan A.E. (2000)? Significant because it was the first and so far (I think) last animated SF film that 20th Century Fox have done – first because they were jumping on the bandwagon, and last because it completely bombed and nearly bankrupted their animation division.

    Jean-Marie Poiré’s Les Visiteurs (1993) about accidentally time-travelling French noblemen.

    Would Powell & Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (1946) count as SF?

  63. Hard finding ones that haven’t been mentioned yet, but:

    Apollo 13 – the most factual science fiction movie

    Toy Story (both) – for kids, but adults (big kids)like it too

    Monsters Inc. – ditto

    Time After Time – H.G. Wells vs. Jack the Ripper, ‘nuf said

  64. Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1959 was one of the first science fiction films I ever saw.

  65. Wait, hasn’t this already been done?

    Anyway, how could these have been missed?

    1. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
    A little weak on plot and acting, but great soundtrack….

    2. Zapped! (Scott Baio and Willie Aames – comedic genius! Scatman Crothers, even Heather Thomas! How did this only get 3.8 on IMDB?)

    3. Infra-man (Okay, not top 50 qual, but maybe my first sci-fi movie)

    TV Favorites:
    1. Lathe of Heaven (already mentioned. PBS, not the recent SFCh crap; or maybe I just really liked the book).

    2. The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything
    (better yet, the sequel, in which the dog makes the title!)

  66. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin)

    Transformers: The Movie. As animated movies in america go, it’s hard to point to sooner with content for people over 10 (Being PG, instead of G)… at least with wide distribution.

    Just for consideration… Pokemon *eek* It’s marginally sci-fi though (I’ve never seen a pokeball, or a pokedex!).

    It’s hard to really nail down a lot of anime, because so much of the good stuff is serial, or extensions/expansions of series (e.g. the N.G. Evangelion movie is meaningless unless you watch the series first).

    Macross, a movie version of the Robotech story. For innoculating people my age (mid 20s) with Anime, so anime could kick our asses later.

    Icky but… Urotsokidoji as probably the most famous tentacled hentai, and I believe the first animated hentaicle movie. (Also, relevant in the trial of a video-store owner (but you’d have to check the CBLDF or somewhere for real info on that). Though, it’s only marginally SFish (I suppose it’s more horror/porn than SF/porn).

    Possibly “Battlefield Earth” for having the lowest ratio of watchability/quality to dollars spent.

    I wish I could suggest “The Prisoner” but alas… TV series and all that.

  67. Does the original Cat People count as Sci-fi? It is one of my favorites, it came from the same period in American culture that produced Body Snatchers and Village of the Damned.

  68. oh my god. a boy and his dog? the never ending story? these should have been at the top and i hope they are in there somewhere. too bsy to read.

  69. There are two different types of science fiction.

    You have pure science fiction, where the focus is placed upon the world, the science of it all.

    Then on the other hand, you have character driven drama/comedy whatever, that just HAPPENS to take place in a science-fiction setting. Both have their value.

    What I would urge on the list? One of each.

    For pure science fiction, I would urge Final Fantasy:The Spirits Within. A much maligned movie, mainly because of the heritage, which was mostly wasted, and the almost extreme focus on the setting instead of the character.

    Watch the movie, follow the nuances and details. The origin of their technology. How it all works. The movement of the ships, the look of the computer screens.

    Pure brilliance. I love that stuff.

    On the other side, for character driven sci-fi, I would have to vote for Until the End of the World. Basically a drama in a sci-fi setting, the sci-fi setting allowed for more exploration in the drama side.

  70. although most of my favorites have been already mentioned above, one is missing:

    Hitchhiker’s Guide through Galaxy (as well the BBC mini series and the new movie, which isn’t ready now)

  71. Dune – Short for such an epic story, but great atmosphere.
    Event Horizon – Sci-fi with terror.
    The 5th Element – Visually good (reminds me of Moebius).
    Mars Attacks! – Tim Burton…
    Dark City – Really new concept beautifully presented.
    Pitch Dark – Pure action sci-fi on the Alien side.

    Hope it helps!
    Sphere – Visually good.
    The Thing/Escape from New York/They live/Starman -John Carpenter, the king of B films.
    Waterworld – Abovewater sci-fi, bit egoccentrical…
    Trip to the moon – George Melies; it has to be there.
    The Time Machine (1960) – Ditto
    THX-1138 – As believable as 2001 or Blade Runner, though a bit Autumn movie.
    Monthy Python: Brazil – It is sci-fi
    Myazaki’s: Conan, the future boy – A series, though… but as fast paced as it gets in Japanese
    X-men: The 2nd. It’s a decent Marvel universe transposition to the silver screen
    The adventures of Buckaroo Banzay – B-series cult movie
    Blade Runner/Total Recall – PKD!

  72. “As Time Goes By” – little known Australian time travel film, one of the cleverest of its genre.
    “Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers” – sure, it’s cheesy 50s scifi, but it sums up its genre rather well.

  73. Nothing really new to add here, but I would like to push Plan 9 From Outer Space. It’s not a film that I personally enjoy but I think it is _significant_ in that it certainly made sci-fi more visible for a while and again when Tim Burton made Ed Wood.

    Fifth Element
    Solaris (2002)
    Escape From Plan 9
    Johnny Mnemonic
    The Time Machine (61)
    Battle Royale
    Ghost In The Shell 1/2
    Event Horizon

  74. Two from the 1920s you should consider:

    Aelita, Queen of Mars (Soviet)
    The Woman in the Moon (German, dir by Fritz Lang)

  75. Try:
    The Day The Earth Caught Fire (the first environmental disaster SF movie)
    Any one of the Quatermass movies

  76. OK no-one’s mentioned it, but Rollerball is my all time favourite sci fi film of all time. NO not the remake, the original corporate state man against the system with bikes and rollerskates one. I have bored many friends into ex friendship with my tireless and ceaseless advocacy of this masterpiece.

    I’d also say that I think Eternal Sunshine …. and Starship troopers should be on the list, and both Solaris films are worthy of discussion. Alphaville is another I always come back to. I’d drop the lucas though. I feel very strongly that the message should be sent that Star Wars is an ex- equine no longer needing a flog.

  77. Hi. Nice thread. So, some votes first, and then a title no-ones thought of yet:
    Yes on
    Tarkovsky’s STALKER – visually amazing and restrained
    Sayles’ BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET – look, he’s an escaped slave from outer space (and….interesting feet) trying to blend in with the alien-a-ted descendants of freed slaves. Plus he utilizes psychometry, an ability even those in the “psychic” know think is a weird freakin’ ability. To quote an above post, “What does it mean to be an alien?”
    BRAZIL – personally, I can only watch this film once every so often. It’s moving too close to now; monolithic cities, total emotional alienation fron one’s loved ones and coworkers, over-dependence on technology and state intervention, an autocratic, self-regulating bureaucracy dismissive of even the slightest hint of outside initiative (or, maybe, human-ness). Plus, it kind of reminds me of THE GREAT GATSBY, and that book made me cry. Stop looking at me like that.
    THE QUIET EARTH – yes, without a doubt
    A BOY AND HIS DOG – despite my quarrel with the “ethical aesthetics” of the Ellisonian fictive paradigm, a good film. The comic with Corben is better, but a good film.
    PI – check
    FORBIDDEN PLANET – check and check
    SCANNERS – Dude, his head explodes! Come on! Dude!
    VIDEODROME – Met someone who saw this in the theater totally tripping on lsd-25. I can’t imagine how seeing James Woods pull a revolver (pistol?) out of his belly-vagina-pocket affected him, but hey.
    WINGS OF HONNEAMISE – really good, really underrated.
    ALIENS, or surprise surprise, ALIEN 3 – you want dystopia? I got’cher dystopia right here!
    THE NAVIGATOR – tell me you didn’t want a sentient FTL spacecraft/best friend and I’ll call you a gormless vedershnel, flippers down. (gah, did I just write that?)
    (And now the surprise vote.)
    THE ADVENTURES OF PIPPI LONGSTOCKING, the original German/Swedish 1973 production, not the crap USA one from, god, I think I deliberately blanked my memory on it, the ’90s sometime. Why? She’s insanely strong, wildly rich, her best friends are a monkey and a horse (with purple spots if I recall correctly), her dad’s a friggin’ PIRATE, and she pulls insane stunts. Like walking on a ceiling using only a very strong home-made glue! Like lifting her horse above her head for kicks! Like piloting a schooner through the air, fueled only on belief and gusts of wind from her powerful 9-year old chest! Shit, I even saw a site a few years ago where she was called out as being in league with the Devil! I can’t really provide a cogent scientific explanation for why she’s so strong, but I’ll bet PKD didn’t know what a Turing test was, and ‘Do Androids Dream….’ had a kind of portable version of it. (okay, I’m exaggerating. PKD probably did know what a Turing test was. It wasn’t mentioned in the Exegesis that I recall, but my memory is selective, and I don’t have a copy on-hand to reference.) Seriously though, if we’re going to be casting votes for films like SUPERMAN and BATMAN (not too many votes there, eh?), we should include PIPPI. Even if it’s just for the kids.
    Oh, wait. What about IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE? Or is that considered a fantasy film. It does have strong religious overtones (and subtle immigrant/rascist assimilationist ones), but it involves an alternate world. A macroquantum parallel practically. And, it is very influential.

  78. “Strange Days” I think sould make the list. It had a rare cyberpunk feel, that I don’t remember in any other near future movie.

  79. A number of films I’d bring up have already been mentioned, and some few a number of times, but really, no one has yet referenced “Andromeda Strain?”

  80. For the love of God, the Matrix is not a Science Fiction film.
    It is a good action film with sci-fi trappings. It conforms to action-film clichés, dropping plausable, bite-sized chunks of narrative almost at random to throughout the film, in an attempt to justify the extravagant action sequences. It is mostly driven by SFX that will seem like something out of a 50’s B-movie in five years.
    As a SF film it is unoriginal and boring, and blew the mind of so many people at the time it was released only because better things failed to get there first. Dark City is one of them.

    The look The Matrix as a whole reminds me too much of the far-superior Dark City, a film that was swamped by the Matrix’s frenzied reception. In fact, the Matrix has an uncanny resemblance to Dark City, to the extent that certain elements in the two films are almost identical. Don’t believe me? Look here:

  81. I would have to put 5th Element, Logan’s Run, Equilibrium, Brazil, and Dune for films. Akira and Ghost in the Shell for Anime.

  82. “Why not check imdb for the top 50 sci-fi movies as rated by people all over the world?”

    I did. But doing that doesn’t make this less useful.

    You can assume that I *have* done my research — quite a bit, in fact, and as noted, I do already have a preliminary list of 50 that I’ve selected. But I don’t think you can have too much data from which to work, and there are at least a couple of films I’ve seen recommended here that haven’t been on my radar before (“Man Facing Southeast” being the obvious example — need to see if NetFlix has it).

  83. It, The terror from outer space.

    Great little black/white Sci-Fi horror movie, stands up to this day. The nasty creature tearing up the astronauts and they way the keep moving up in the ship, deck to deck, is the basis of all the Ridley Scott Alien movies, up to and including how the astronauts dispatch the alien at the end.



    I would say add The Stepford Wives (the original). It had an important message for its time.

    Personally, I’d like to see Avalon (2001) on the list. If for no other reason than to get people to watch a truly amazing and underrated film.

  85. Mario Bava’s ‘Planet of the Vampires’ is a direct precedent to ‘Alien’. I would definitely consider it in terms of influence.
    …and here are some that may not make the grade…
    Cube/Cube 2:hyperspace
    Titan Find
    Nightflyers(based on a novella by george rr martin)
    From Beyond
    Xtro 2 (for jan michael vincents excellent performance..)
    Deep star six
    Tetsuo and Tetsuo 2
    Level 5
    Killer klowns from outer space
    split second
    Night of the living dead
    The omega man
    The hidden
    The borrower
    The tingler(with vincent price)
    …..and i have run out of steam. Probably only the obvious amongst these would make the grade. Why not make it the top 500!

  86. “Dark Star” – because the future will feature slackers in space and snippy AIs.

    “These Are The Damned” – haunting B&W English paranoia about the lengths the emerging nuclear state will go to to secure the survival of the human race.

    “Quatermass And The Pit” – the dark side of the coin to “Childhood’s End” and conceptually 50 years ahead of its time.

    “A Boy And His Dog” – best sperm milking sequence ever.

    “The War Game” – made 36 years ago, still banned and makes “Threads” and “The Day After” look like “Mary Poppins”.

    “La Jettee” – the inspiration for “12 Monkeys” but far more unforgettable.

    And when is someone gonna remake “Day of Triffids”? or just make “The Kraken Wakes’?

  87. You might be able to argue Brazil as SF, but Highlander, although it belongs on an absolute top 50 list of ALL movies, isn’t SF.

    And in response to Anonymous Jack, movies can be multiple genre–to say The Matrix was not SF because it was mostly action is ridiculous. It is more true to literary SF than most big budget action SF movies (including any Michael Crichton-based ones) because the world does not start nor return to the status quo. And Dark City was released in 1998, before The Matrix (1999). To all who think The Matrix was an unfair ripoff of Dark City, remember that The Matrix was inspired and borrowed from a lot more other movies and books and Wachoskis probably didn’t get influenced by Dark City at all since they were both being made at the same time, and actually some scenes in the Matrix were filmed on the exact same rooftop(?) sets as Dark City.

    The popular vote seems to indicate putting both Dark City and The Matrix on the Top 50, but you have to argue that as far as wide-spread influence goes, scientists and philosophers talk about the Matrix primarily and then sometimes mention in passing those other films like Dark City, 13th Floor, and the Truman Show. There are at least 3, probably 5 books about the Matrix and philosophy/religions, etc. Plus, it is obvious that the action gimmmicks used in the Matrix influenced other filmmakers–both parodies, copies, and trying to meet the raised bar by inventing other action gimmicks such as in Equilibrium–and game makers (e.g Max Payne’s bullet time).

  88. I’ll try to avod movies already mentioned, but I only made it halfway through the comments:

    Toxic Avenger and Trancers – series upon which Trauma, Full Moon and much of the direct to video industry were built.

    Ultraman – One of the first Japanese characters (with Astroboy) to make it to North America.

    Weird Science – Two geeks use their computer to make the perfect woman and become cool! The ultimate geek movie!

    War Games – Shall we play a game?

    The Man who Fell to Earth
    The Omega Man
    Planet of the Apes series
    Being John Malkovitch
    Death Race 2000

  89. I would like to second “Frequency”, if only to get a few more people to check it out. It came and went in the theaters without much notice, but I remember watching it and being impressed by their (mostly) coherent and original take on time travel/alternate timelines.

  90. Don’t know if it’s been mentioned but how about “Altered States”? William Hurt’s first starring role, it had a lot of deep ideas and William hurt played the quintessential semi-mad scientist brilliantly.

  91. “The Hellstrom Chronicle” was promoted as Science Fiction and Documentary at the same time, though I would call it a Science Mockumentary. The weird thing is that only Hellstrom is a fiction, whereas most of the stuff he says, like Hard Science Fiction, is either scientifically factual or possible. He is so apocalyptic about the future of the Earth and Insects, that’s all. I mention this movie, simply because it is suigeneric in many ways, and if the concept is duplicated in the future, it will invariably loom large with 20/20 hindsight. That is, it extends the possibility space of SF Film in a unique direction. Perhaps the weirdest thing of all about “The Hellstrom Chronicle” is that in 1971, the Academy were such phreaks they actually gave it an Oscar for the Best Documentary! Hard to imagine those days now…

  92. Wow. A lot of good suggestions.

    People missed _Things to Come_ which was made in 1936 and is also known as _The Shape of Things to Come_. It’s a beautiful film that obviously influenced Terry Gilliam and Ridley Scott.

    Here’s my list (cobbled from the comments and excluding the films you mentioned):

    Influential foreign films:
    _Akira_: can anyone deny the influence of this film?
    _Alphaville_: The visuals aren’t very influential, but the dystopian mood set the pace for the next 30 years.
    _City of Lost Children_: dreamy sci-fi with fantastic effects… influenced the way things look
    _Ghost in the Shell_: almost as influential as _Akira_
    _Le Jette_: the French art house classic that inspired _12 Monkeys_ and many time travel films from the 70s to today.
    _Le Planete Sauvage_: this animation style was and is hugely influential.
    _Metropolis_: the most influential sci-fi film ever.
    _Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind_: influenced tons of post-apocalyptic films, esp. _Starship Troopers_.
    _Solaris_: Jesus. Along with _2001_ this influenced EVERYONE.
    _Stalker_: Not as influential as _Solaris_ but still important among film makers.
    _Tetsuo: the Iron Man_: another visually influential film
    _Trip to the Moon_: the first sci-fi. First SFX.
    _The 10th Victim_ (1960): Italian film about a murderous reality TV show.

    Influential non-foreign sci-fi:
    _Barbarella_: yep
    _Brazil_: visually, as influential as _Bladerunner_
    _Dark City_: No _Matrix_ without this film
    _Flash Gordon/Buck Rodgers serials_ see Star Wars and every sci-fi opera after.
    _Forbidden Planet_: Yep.
    _Just Imagine_: 1930s precursor to all of the cities in the future
    _Liquid Sky_: for the same reasons as _Tron_. Just way more pretentious.
    _Repo Man_: I’m not sure if it’s sci-fi. More absurdist fantasy with sci-fi elements. It’s massivley influential.
    _The Day the Earth Stood Still_: obvious
    _Tron_: Shitty movie, but its style is undeniably influential.
    _War of the Worlds_: obvious
    _Westworld_: obvious

    Kind of influential:
    _Altered States_
    _Silent Running_
    _The Man Who Fell to Earth_
    _This Island Earth_
    And what about all the great cheesy post-bomb films like _X_ and_The Colossal Man_?

  93. I know it got panned in the reviews, but I can’t believe The Chronicles of Riddick didn’t get mentioned yet. It falls in my list of top 10 hard-core sci-fi movie favorites.

    And while there have been so many great movies mentioned above, what about Last Action Hero? (interdimensional travel between the movie world and real world.

  94. forbidden planet (w/leslie nielsen, got an oscar for SFX (which are incredible), really good movie and even more so when you consider that it`s from the 50s)
    la jetee (short french movie (about 25 minutes) by chris marker on which 12 monkeys is based on, not *really* a movie (it`s called a photo-novel i think) it consists of various still shots in a row but it`s very atmospheric, dark and gloomy)
    12 monkeys (you probably know it, i like it very much for its twisted plot)
    5th element (i used to dislike it (mainly because of chris tucker one of the many non-actors of hollywood) but i like it now because it makes fun of a lot of sf-cliches)
    solaris (by andrej tarkovsky, lightyears better than the american version, i regard is as a work of high art (watch the taxi-through-moscow-scene) while the steven soderbergh(?)-version is just an ordinary hollywood star vehicle)
    clockwork orange (not as good as the book, but look at the set-design (especially the korova(?) milk bar)
    stalker (by andrej tarkovski, another great russian film based on a book by arkadij and boris strugatzki (i don´t know the english title of the book, the german is “picknick am wegesrand”)
    independence day (although it`s crap i like it, it has THE classic sf-movie-plot (alien invasion) and incredibly funny (only in the scenes where it was not intended (e.g. the president`s “this is our independence day” speech)
    resurrection of the little match girl (most expensive southkorean movie ever made, also one of the best movies i ever saw, forget about matrix anyway, this movie is more funny funny more deep and has got the better action-scenes)
    alphaville (by jean-luc godard, very dark sf-movie, the mood reminds me of a philip k. dick novel)
    existenz (i think it’s by john carpenter, isn`t it?(or david cronenberg, i always mix these two up for a reason i don`t know)talking about philip k. dick, this is another good movie in the vein of him (there`s even a hint to pkd, when the both main characters are on the run they eat burgers from a perky pat`s paper bag)
    they live (this one is sure by john carpenter, too much action in the second part (but what can you do when the main character is played by rowdy roddy piper?), but i like it (again) for it`s philip k. dick-ness)
    escape from manhattan (also by john carpenter, a true classic in my eyes and kurt russell is too cool)
    the fly (the 50s version, not the 80s (main reason for this is that i don´t like jeff goldblum (he spoils every movie he`s in (not independence day that would be beyond good and evil even without him/he`s unbearable in the body snatchers movie from the 70s although i think this is the best of the 3(?) body snatchers movies (that one with spock in it)) and i like vincent price) as you might know there`s also a new remake in the making)
    the incredible shrinking man (in my opinion the best jack arnold movie, there`ll also be a remake of it hitting cinemas in 2005/6)
    the man with the x-ray eyes (50s movie with vincent price)
    wargames (gotta love it although not really sf)
    zardoz (relatively unknown movie (although it stars post-bond sean connery and charlotte rampling (if i`m not mistaken)) from the 70s, really good and very haunting)
    brazil (better than 1984, did terry gilliam ever do something that wasn`t worth watching?)
    the truman show (would you consider this one sf? i would)
    soylent green (i´m out of comments now)

    there sure are more good sf movies that i`ve seen (and even more that i`ve not seen), but these are the ones that come to my mind instantly. i tried to think of a good german sf movie (i`m from germany), but they either suck or were on tv (or both) (or i haven`t seen them yet)

  95. forbidden planet (w/leslie nielsen, got an oscar for SFX (which are incredible), really good movie and even more so when you consider that it`s from the 50s)

    la jetee (short french movie (about 25 minutes) by chris marker on which 12 monkeys is based on, not *really* a movie (it`s called a photo-novel i think) it consists of various still shots in a row but it`s very atmospheric, dark and gloomy)

    12 monkeys (you probably know it, i like it very much for its twisted plot)

    5th element (i used to dislike it (mainly because of chris tucker one of the many non-actors of hollywood) but i like it now because it makes fun of a lot of sf-cliches)

    solaris (by andrej tarkovsky, lightyears better than the american version, i regard is as a work of high art (watch the taxi-through-moscow-scene) while the steven soderbergh(?)-version is just an ordinary hollywood star vehicle)

    clockwork orange (not as good as the book, but look at the set-design (especially the korova(?) milk bar)

    stalker (by andrej tarkovski, another great russian film based on a book by arkadij and boris strugatzki (i don´t know the english title of the book, the german is “picknick am wegesrand”)

    independence day (although it`s crap i like it, it has THE classic sf-movie-plot (alien invasion) and incredibly funny (only in the scenes where it was not intended (e.g. the president`s “this is our independence day” speech)

    resurrection of the little match girl (most expensive southkorean movie ever made, also one of the best movies i ever saw, forget about matrix anyway, this movie is more funny more deep and has got the better action-scenes)

    alphaville (by jean-luc godard, very dark sf-movie, the mood reminds me of a philip k. dick novel)

    existenz (i think it’s by john carpenter, isn`t it?(or david cronenberg, i always mix these two up for a reason i don`t know)talking about philip k. dick, this is another good movie in the vein of him (there`s even a hint to pkd, when the both main characters are on the run they eat burgers from a perky pat`s paper bag)

    they live (this one is sure by john carpenter, too much action in the second part (but what can you do when the main character is played by rowdy roddy piper?), but i like it (again) for it`s philip k. dick-ness)

    escape from manhattan (also by john carpenter, a true classic in my eyes and kurt russell is too cool)

    the fly (the 50s version, not the 80s (main reason for this is that i don´t like jeff goldblum (he spoils every movie he`s in (not independence day that would be beyond good and evil even without him/he`s unbearable in the body snatchers movie from the 70s although i think this is the best of the 3(?) body snatchers movies (that one with spock in it)) and i like vincent price) as you might know there`s also a new remake in the making)

    the incredible shrinking man (in my opinion the best jack arnold movie, there`ll also be a remake of it hitting cinemas in 2005/6)
    the man with the x-ray eyes (50s movie with vincent price)

    wargames (gotta love it although not really sf)

    zardoz (relatively unknown movie (although it stars post-bond sean connery and charlotte rampling (if i`m not mistaken)) from the 70s, really good and very haunting)

    brazil (better than 1984, did terry gilliam ever do something that wasn`t worth watching?)

    the truman show (would you consider this one sf? i would)

    soylent green (i´m out of comments now)

    there sure are more good sf movies that i`ve seen (and even more that i`ve not seen), but these are the ones that come to my mind instantly. i tried to think of a good german sf movie (i`m from germany), but they either suck or were on tv (or both) (or i haven`t seen them yet)

  96. Earlier, when I wrote:

    >>no one has yet referenced “Andromeda Strain?”

    I was unaware the word search feature in my browser refuses to locate “andromeda” or “strain” on a first attempt. Apologies to those who have mentioned it.

    Anyway, I’ll add further votes for “This Quiet Earth,” “Slaughterhouse Five” and “Altered States” as SF films deserving attention.

  97. sorry that i somehow managed to post my rantings twice, anyway i posted my list BEFORE i read through all the other comments and there are 3 movies nobody has mentioned so far (i think): one is village of the damned (british sf-alien-invasion movie (not the usual kind), i think theres a french remake)

    punishment park (not really techy SCIENCE fiction, but a good SOCIAL fiction movie, an american(?) mockumentary where leftwing hippies have to choose before a mc-cartyist court whether they want to by sentenced to prison or to “punishment park” (pp is basically a desert were the hippies are chased by fascist police officers), very great and disturbing movie)

    retro active (i don`t know if it was in theaters, i once saw it on video. a weird time-loop movie similar to groundhog day but clearly more sf (with a grim sense of humor in it) and i thought it was extra funny for having bill murray (you know, like in groundhog day) in it, but i checked imdb and i found it starred james belushi (did i mention that i sometimes mix actors and directors up for no reason?)

  98. If Star Wars and the Alien movies will be up as their own category, I wonder if John Carpenter shouldn’t have his own category as well.

    The list –

    Dark Star – Something of a parody of 2001. Also features, I think, the first example of AI gone wrong. At the very least deserves mention in the Alien section, since Dan O’Bannon recycled some of his Dark Star material for that film.
    Escape from New York
    The Thing – Now recognized as a classic, and rightly so.
    Starman – Probably not a classic, but well liked.
    Prince of Darkness – Attempts to come up with a scientific explanation for evil.
    They Live – A silly movie with serious ideas. Just for the money that says “This Is Your God” on it.
    Memoirs of an Invisible Man – Well, it’s science fiction. Not very good science fiction, but it does feature pretty impressive computerized effects, especially for the time.
    Village of the Damned – Science fiction remake.
    Escape from LA – Pretty much a remake of Escape from New York, but it has possibly the greatest closing line of any film in the last fifteen years.
    Ghosts of Mars – Not great.

  99. ‘Zardoz’ with Sean Connery and Margo Hemmingway, from the early 70’s. Great post-apocolyptic setting with a discussion of the intellectual and mundane going on.

  100. The Invisible Man (1933) with Claude Rains
    First film to give a visual scientific premise dramatic reign, great effects
    King Kong (1933)
    Film that established an alien character to care about, amazing effects
    Frankenstein (1931)
    Life and death in the hands of a madman
    The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1937)
    Explores the impact of a man with omnipotent power
    The Thing From Another World (1951)
    Film that related the awareness of the outsider to US politics
    The Man in the White Suit (1951)
    Man invents a fabric that doesn’t get dirty or wear out, he incurs the wrath of everyone
    Them! (1954)
    First serious treatment of an atomic inspired change in evolution of ordinary earth life
    Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
    Better and more dramatic than ‘Independence Day’ it also deals with relationships and politics
    Forbidden Planet (1956)
    For many reasons already stated here
    Fantastic Voyage (1966)
    The journey inside the body was first exciting use of inner space instead of outer space

  101. Ok, have to reinforce Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (one of my favourite movies of all time), Zardoz (blew my head off first time I saw it, when I was about 14), The Omega Man, Soylent Green… I’m so glad someone mentioned A Boy And His Dog, I’d totally forgotten about it – I cried the first time I saw it lol. Would anyone consider the Richard Burton film The Medusa Touch scifi? Surely one of the first few dealing with psionics…?

  102. Meant to add, Zardoz is responsible for a classic line that’s stuck in my head ever since I first heard it – “We want to die.. what’s the trick?” Surely John Alderton’s finest moment lmao

  103. a few i would add would be:

    La Jetee, a short French film about psychic time travel that inspired 12 Monkeys.
    Terry Gilliam’s Brazil,Time Bandits, and 12 Monkeys.
    Scanners, Naked Lunch, and most of Cronenborg’s other movies.
    Altered States.
    Appleseed, from the creator of Ghost In The Shell.
    The Abyss.
    The Thing.
    Manchurian Candidate, and I’m partial to John Frankenhiemer’s version.
    Lost Horizon.

    a film that would fall into the normal films with sf elements would be Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita, at least in the government building a superassasin from former revolutionaries.

    those are my additions, hope they help.

  104. I did my best to scan so I wouldn’t get hopelessly repetitive, but I think that BATTLE ANGEL ALITA (or just BATTLE ANGEL depending) is a gorgeous post apocalyptic anime heartbreaker. Another underrepresented film is my personal sci-fi favorite, PITCH BLACK.

  105. open your eyes (spanish original version of vanilla sky) And you really should scan the IMDB to be complete.

    Top 2 SF files on my personal list are 2001 and Blade Runner. Everthing else is way down the list.

  106. For anime (that hasn’t been mentioned):
    They Were Eleven (1986)
    Hard sci-fi, not the glorified fantasy much anime turns into.

    Legend of the Galactic Heroes:
    My Conquest is the Sea of Stars (1988)
    Overture to a New War (1993)
    The movie adaptations of THE quintessential space opera. These don’t yet have an English language release, but Google should have no trouble turning up downloadable, subtitled versions.

  107. Honestly- I tried to read all 240 of the previous comments to ensure my suggestions had not been given. I lost patients some where after the fourth time Metropolis was given.

    1) A Boy and His Dog. I think it was a Harlan Ellison story, starred a young Don Johnson.

    2) Ground Hog day. It is a comedy (with Bill Murray) that deals with the phenomena of closed time-loop. Most don’t think of it as a SF- but I do, it deals with an alternate time system and gives a very interesting version of what an experience in one might be like.

  108. Destination Moon
    Blade Runner
    Logan’s Run
    Dark City
    Invansion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

  109. I’m gonna cast another vote for ‘The Abyss’– had to rely on the acting owing to close quarters ( I still can recall Michael Biehn’s character cutting himself with the knife under the table…. )

    Also a precursor of Cameron’s tendency to micromanage everything….

  110. THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH – a film cult-classic based on the novel by Walter Tevis, starring David Bowie and Rip Torn. Maybe a little too pop culture to be considered by many as really good sf, with some long (maybe boring) sequences that give it that real documentary quality, some of the cutaways of the alien at home on his barren planet about to leave his family behind in search of a solution are the best sf frames I’ve ever seen on film.

  111. Define sci-fi. For me Gattaca is an example of pure sci-fi in that the characters and the viewer get to ask the big W questions of humanity in the context of science and conflict with it. Who, what, why am I. Most of what people and marketing call sci-fi are hybrids:sci-f- horror(alien),sci-fi adventure(star wars), sci-fi fantasy(time bandits) sci-fi comedy(mars attacks), sci-fi drama(dune) and sci-fi god only knows(Barbarella). Go for the “what is the nature of man and his place in life” ones.

  112. good list so far, though i hope that you’ll have akira & ghost in the shell mentioned separately. they look weird listed together because they are both very different films.
    i don’t know how much help my list will be, since the ‘significant’ films have been mentioned already.

    -the fifth element
    -12 monkeys (i honestly haven’t seen la jetee, but they might both be worth a mention)
    -the predator movies
    -a clockwork orange
    -eternal sunshine on a spotless mind
    -vanilla sky (and like la jetee, i never saw open your eyes, the basis, but if you mention one you should probably mention the other)
    -altered states
    -total recall
    -the thing
    -28 days later (i know typical zombie movie but it is an engineered disease/hormone/substance that spreads to cause the events, i’m just a fan of movie itself)
    -iron giant
    -back to the future
    -groundhog’s day/run lola run
    -six-string samurai (i saw this once & i’m not 100% certain that’s the title but it’s a fun, cheesey cult movie about a rockabilly samurai in postapocalyptic wasteland. made for cheap but a fun movie… just figured it might be worth a mention)
    -king kong (personally not one of my very personal favorites, but it probably served as inspiration to a lot of sf filmmakers… probably could be grouped in with the godzilla)

  113. I’d like to second the recommendation for the anime “Wings of Honneamise”, sometimes called “Royal Space Force”. It’s kind of like “The Right Stuff”, set on a war-torn planet that resembles Earth. It’s only “significant” in that it inspired Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution” video (at least, surely the animators, Todd McFarlane and Kevin Altieri, must have seen it.) On the other hand, it’s my third-favorite movie of all time.

    Hey, John? When you see MaryAnn Johanson at the ‘Con, could you tell her that the bit of offending dialogue in “Kill Bill Part 2” was “c**kblockery”, not “c**kf**kery”? That almost certainly will not alter her opinion, much less her review, of the movie, but a Cosmic Wrong in the internet will be righted.

  114. Holy comments!

    For some reason I’m intrigued with the Bladerunner *world* and lifestyle…and for that reason I am a HUGE fan of The Fifth Element. I think of it as a poppy-upbeat bladerunner but also wonderfully individual.

    In the atypical category, I’ve got to echo the recommendation of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Groundhog Day.

  115. I’m not going to even try looking through 300+ entries to see how many times these get mentioned, but top of the list for me is surely Aaronofsky’s Pi, which deals with some astounding ideas with a practically zero budget, proving you can make a challenging drama without resort to an enormous cgi budget. If sf is the literature of ideas as some have suggested, then this is for me one of the purest expressions of sf ideation since 2001.

    By the way … years ago, in the Eighties, there was a really excellent movie from New Zealand (can’t remember it’s name, maybe someone else will) about a group of people waking up to find the world empty, ultimately because somehow they’ve shifted into a near-parallel which, for some reason, lacks people. has a terrific ending shot of the protagonist repeating the experiment which shoved them out of their own universe, then turning around on a deserted beach to see an enormous ringed planet rising above the horizon. anyone else remember it’s name?

  116. The Most Significant SF Films

    Various blogs have picked up the BoingBoing post about author John Scalzi’s request for contributing to his book about the most significant SF films. Needless to say, it’s generated quiet a few responses. Are your favorites represented?…

  117. Second, third, whatever of Pi, Eternal Sunshine, Close Encounters and Starship Troopers. My husband is a hard core sci fi fan. I will see if he wants to chime in. I know he digs Forbidden Planet, he forced me to watch it and I liked it. It has Leslie Nielsen in a dramatic role! Also a 1966 film which is right on the cusp.

    Has anyone mentioned Back to the Future? For me, that was the first movie that has a good sci fi/comedy/ teen flick content mix and was a good intro to the genre.

    The Truman Show is a great movie and has the plot element it sounds like you are looking for.

    Men In Black. The great chemistry between Will Smith and TLJ cannot be denied. And speaking of Will Smith — Independence Day — Apple(tm) versus the aliens!

    As far as Sci Fi humor, may I suggest Galaxy Quest? That movie is so, so funny.

  118. John, I don’t know how you can stand to go through all the entries. In the end, you’re going to have to find some way to take into account everyone’s idea of pure sci-fi/sci-fi in setting only/sci-fi in element(s) only movie. per your instructions I’ll try to put in my perception of what is the most INFLUENTIAL/SIGNIFICANT movie as opposed to what i think is the best. I will define this significance to include not just influence on popular culture, but also impact on other movies/media in other genres. I will also take a mored international view, becuase I am assuming you will not just be publishing this book in the US and thus will not be limited to American timelines/tastes.

    Galaxy Express 999 – the idea of a vehicle that can take you across the galaxy in a matter of days. Beats out Star Trek. People who replace entire bodies with machines and use their bodies to power a mechanical planet.
    Macross – I know the release dates get screwed with you guys in the States, but BEFORE there was Robotech there was the Macross Movie. Gundam – The whole series was based on the very first movie. Before it, other mecha movies very singular heroes (e.g. Mazinger Z, Voltes V, etc.). Gundam was one of the first to use ginat mecha in massive scale the way tanks were used in WWII. One of the first anime to have war between Earth citizens and space colonies.
    Laputa Castle in the Sky, Ghost in the Shell, Akira – significant because these are the most marketed anime movies outside of Japan (usually the first anime movie that people see)

    Early SF movies (I have to lump everything pre-80’s here. so sorry):
    Attack of the 50Ft Woman – seriously, everyone still refers to this, in a way I think it influenced the “honey i shrunk the kids” series
    War of the Worlds – definitive paranoia SF
    Earth vs. the Flying Saucers – who could forget those saucers?
    Godzilla – it didn’t exactly define the monster movie for some, but it does define the guy-in-rubber-suit movie
    Enemy Mine – classic adult human-alien friendship story
    2001 – enough said
    Attack of the Killer Tomatoes – one of the most refered to SF movies to malign the whole genre
    Andromeda Strain – definitive contagious disease movie
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind – we can communicate with Aliens!! We don’t have to go to war!!
    Clockwork Orange – It’s Kubrick!!
    Somewhere in Time – time travel in a non-SF setting, “legitimized” the plot device for mainstream, romance movies and books
    Planet of the Apes – defined the “man is not no.1 creature” movie

    80’s movies:
    Daryl – before AI, there was this movie
    Electric Dreams – first(?) friendly home PC with a personality and a world domination complex
    Tron – before the Matrix, there was the computer-generated reality of this movie. and light cycles rock. just ask the guy who made the Tron suit.
    Alien – one of the first movies in any genre with a female action hero. plus look at all the sequels.
    Predator – invisible alien stalker
    ET – there are better kiddie alien friendship movies as some people may argue, but this is what we all remember
    Last Starfighter – one of the first movies where a video game was actually a recruitment tool.
    The Fly – species-merging, enough said
    Flash Gordon – one of the first SF movies where the soundtrack was so influential
    Starman – great example of character-driven alien love story
    Star Wars – do I have to explain this?
    Star Trek – same as above
    Terminator – defining the concept of evil cyborg for a generation
    Robocop – defining the concept of good cyborg for a generation
    Wedlock – started (?) the prisoner-collar concept
    Blade Runner – replicants…
    Space Balls – SF goofiness
    Dune – influential for many of its tech (sound) effects, overused in other movies
    Zapped – kinky teenage comedy where all the powers come from a “secret formula”
    Escape from New York – post apocalyptic bad-ass hero movie
    Mad Max – post apocalyptic sorta nice guy hero movie series
    Superman – started in the 70’s but oh well, defined the superhero SF for many many people

    More recent (90’s – present):
    The Matrix – whether you like it or hate it, it has considerable influence in all entertainment genres
    The Abyss – as far as the last two generations go, it is the definitive underwater SF movie
    Fifth Element – that “cross” costume alone is enough to make this movie influential for a long time
    Batman – replaced Superman in popular consciousness
    Gattaca/Equilibrium – not sure, but if enough people think of this as this generation’s definitive dystopian SF then I won’t argue

    My head hurts now. Must stop. Good luck John. I don’t envy you right now.

  119. Forbidden planet. I saw it as a child and it always was my favorite. I am afraid to see it as an adult because it might not live up to my childhood appreciation.

  120. The Thing (both versions)
    Slaughterhouse 5 (Very well done)
    Omega Man (and/or Vincent Price in Last Man on Earth?) (A common theme)
    Andromeda Strain (suspenseful)
    A Boy and his Dog (hee hee)

  121. Great suggestions by many. However, only a couple of mentions for “Contact” one of my favorite movies of all time. Faith vs. Science, and one of the more spot-on commentaries regarding human nature out there; those who are happy are those who are passionate about what they love.

  122. “La Jetee” ( French Time Travel flick from 62
    “Forbidden Planet” ( Leslie Nealson is god
    “Them” ( a wonderful B-Movie about nuclear ants
    “Hardware” ( a superb horror sci-fi piece
    “Prayer of the Rollerboys” ( Haim at his best
    “Metropolis”( O.G. Sci-Fi
    Kabinett des Doktor Caligari, Das( Earlier than Metropolis and definetly bordering on Sci-FI in that Twilight Zone way. Shouldn’t be over looked
    Soylent Green ( mmmmm people. . .

  123. Trip to the Moon, Nosferatu, and Metropolis are all great SF silent films

    Spirited Away is incredible

    Bladerunner for innovation

    And, though you should be careful that Stanley Kubrick doesn’t rule the list, he has a bunch of great SF movies including Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, and (partly) A.I.

  124. La Jette (1962, Chris Marker) This is a French film, consisting of black and whit stills and narration only. This is the film that Twelve Monkies was based upon. Marker’s ability to tll and incredibly complex and compelling story in a short period of time with minimal materials is truly wonderful.

  125. Most significant – that’s tough. I have no idea what makes a film “significant” but here are two that immediately came to mind.

    Enemy Mine – I liked it and it somehow FEELS significant. I’m a little surprised it’s not mentioned more often.

    Valley of the Gwangi – Okay… as soon as you’re done laughing… Almost everyone I’ve talked to who has seen this movie considers it a classic even though it also seems to be one of those movies that you’re supposed to be too embarrassed to admit you enjoyed.

  126. I didn’t have the time to read through the entire thing so I do not know if this movie was mentioned, but I think Matsumoto Reiji’s “Galaxy Express 999” deserves some credit.

  127. Yeah, I know I used the title of the movie as one of my email addresses. Seemed like a good, unique, French email address at the time.

    Having said that, I caught this amazing French film at a film festival many years ago. It never got distributed, and appears to only be available on DVD in France ( I saw it in Houston with subtitles). But it is truly wonderful. The basic premise, and I dread revealing too much about it because every reveal spoils a little bit of the magic of this perfect movie, is that a specialist in ancient languages, one day, starts receiving instructions in an archaic form of Gaellic through his car’s radio instructing him to perform certain tasks or dire things will happen to the world. It’s a variation on the theme of a schizophrenic who hears voices, but in the case of this movie, they really aren’t voices in his head. The end of the film, in the car parking lot, just after he has witnessed a supernova whose light has just reached the earth after millions of years because a planet didn’t follow the instructions……well, it is just a superb film that very few people have seen, one the should be on everyone’s top 10.

    Good luck finding it, though.

    Simple Mortel
    by Pierre Jolivet

  128. Add another vote for 28 Days Later, On the Beach, Strange Days, Gattaca, and The Cell, in addition to those originally listed. Strange how nobody mentioned the X-Files movie.

  129. Three hundred comments, but I wanted to second (or third or whatever) :

    Donnie Darko
    Dark City

    ‘Cos I just love them so much. The director’s cut of DD makes it more clear that it is science fiction and not psychological.

  130. It’s probably worth checking out some SF film reference books from the 70s – the SF church was much broader in those days…

    Last Year At Marienbad – (1962) Alain Resnais – hyper stylised version of the nouvelle roman of the late 50s, close to SF in every way but no tech. A definite second on that one.

    Shirley Thompson Vs The Aliens (1968) Jim Sharman – from the director of the later Rocky Horror Picture Show movie and sequel – Australian SF movie, psychedelic!

    Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) – “Curtis Harington” (my DVD copy says it’s directed by “John Sebastian”). Brutally recut for the US from a Soviet film, it’s still possible to see the original idea through the surrounding dross – a sort of Arthur C. Clarke adventure meets dinosuars and spooky women’s voices. In place of the original, this is pretty interesting.

    The Illustrated Man (1968) Jack Sebastian – the only decent film version of Ray Bradbury and a pretty decent film as well. Cold, unloveable and hard. Definitely worth considering.

  131. “Android” was a very minor sci-fi film I saw in, I think, the early 80s. Co-starred Klaus Kinski playing himself NO SORRY – a totally deranged madman.

    Loads of comments you’re getting here!

  132. Another vote for Forbidden Planet – how did you ever miss it?

    Some others, and why they’re significant:

    Andromeda Strain – One of the first completely “play it straight” present day SF movies. So realistic, futuristic, and without internal contradiction that it still plays well today in the same way that 2001 does.

    The Last Starfighter – Not a good movie (basically a teenage wish-fulfillment story in space) but I believe the first Hollywood use of CGI graphics.

    Colussus: The Forbin Project – The ultimate pinnacle of the Frankenstein style, mankind enslaved by its computers 30 years before The Terminator.

    When Worlds Collide – This classic end-of-the-world movie was a true adaption of the book, and a first look at SF for many people in the 50’s.

  133. So many Great films in the 30’s to 60’s! All had an influence.
    Women in the Moon By Fritz Lang. Banned by the Nazis. Amazing film on a moon shot.
    Conquest of Space
    Destination Moon
    Rocketship XM
    The Thing
    The Invisible Boy
    Invaders from Mars
    This Island Earh
    The Angry Red Planet
    Day the Earth Stood Still
    It, The Terror from Beyond Space
    Messenger from Space (I suspect this film is now lost to time) It involved a lady alien with a toxic touch in the back woods being shot at.
    The Monolith Monsters
    The 27th Day
    Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
    The Flying Saucer

  134. All the way at the end, I find Tucholka’s list, which includes the George Pal masterpieces which so gripped me that I became a rocket scientist myself, I think all these favorites have already been mentioned, except maybe 1984 (which reminds me too much lot of the world we live in now):

    2001: A Space Odyssey
    Destination Moon
    When Worlds Collide
    The War of the Worlds
    Forbidden Planet
    Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
    Godzilla, King of the Monsters

    Why would anyone be ashamed of loving “The Valley of Gwangi”? It’s pure fantasy, but cinematic genius of first order. George Pal and Ray Harryhausen are the Titans of my Pantheon.

  135. (Well, without mentioning the obvious as requested, 2001, POTA, Ghost in the Shell etc…)

    COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (from novel: DEFINITIVE work on the man/machine thing)



    1984 (novel; John Hurt version)


    GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: Innocence (anime)

    FAHRENHEIT 451 (novel)


    THX 1138



    SOYLENT GREEN (novel)

    THE TIME MACHINE (novel)

    20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (novel)



    FANTASTIC PLANET (French animation)

    WAR OF THE WORLDS (novel)

  136. ZARDOZ
    Giant stone head spews guns. Julie Christie and Sean Connery. Riff on L Frank Baum.

    Kubrick. McDowell. Beautiful.

    Osment is Pinocchio.

    I second this one.

    Provocative premise. Disappointingly realized.

    Gorgeous, fun, Milla Jovovich, love conquers evil.

    not THIS ISLAND EARTH. unspeakably bad.

    Is it sound to solicit these suggestions? I mean, how influential can a film be if, as you say, you have been a movie reviewer for 12 years, and–supposedly–an enthusiast for most of your life, and it hasn’t occurred to you? Have you seen anything from anybody’s submission that has made you slap your forehead and say: how did I forgot that?!

    Might be more helpful for you to list 300 movies you have culled and ask people to select their favorite 10. With a blank for a write-in.


  137. Just curious: Some of you talk as if the distinction between science-fiction and fantasy was entirely clear.
    I, for one, cannot distinguish clearly between the 2. Care to enlighten?

  138. My pre-1965 favorite is FORBIDDEN PLANET. The grandfather of the Star Trek television series (the 3 ship’s officers on a quest) with a theme of an ultimate machine which produces “instrumentalities” from the mere thought processes of the operator, has to be included – even it it was conceived by William Shakespeare (The Tempest).

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