The Best Sci-fi Movies Of All Time

If you are a true fan, you'll watch any old crap. But if you want to infect your friends with the sci-fi virus, strap em down and expose them to these.

No. Just .... no.

Just The Facts

  1. Sci fi is in theory the use of alien or futuristic settings to explore the human condition in times of stress and peril.
  2. Who are we fucking kidding - guns, space dogfights and explosions are about it.
  3. Sci Fi and cheetos go together like ham and eggs.

Why Sci Fi?

What are the greatest Sci-Fi films of all time? A burning topic on the net, where it is guaranteed to drive fan boys into frothing rages and ineffectual flailing of their flipper like arms.

There two main reasons for this:

  1. Science fiction is an important genre in fiction that encompasses the desires, fantasies and imaginative grasp that humankind hopes to aspire to, while starkly illustrating the human condition.
  2. Its major audience are people who have spent too much time living in Mom's basement and have little else to do than nitpick and over-analyze any bit of tripe that comes out in the film medium in the genre.

This is the latter.

[cue Law & Order sting]

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

"I was born a poor black child"

Those words do not start Buckaroo Banzai, but may as well have for what is offered in its place. Arriving a full year in theaters before its much more popular contemporary Back To The Future, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension brought a high-end, satirical sense to the world of hi-tech si-fi, along with some truly ridiculous alien antagonists, and still won by combining a heady science fiction plot, comic book action, and a likeable and futuristic hero character into one wildly confounding ride of a movie.

As to the titular character: a brain surgeon, revolutionary scientist, world-famous action-adventurer and rock-and-roll star (no, really: go read the summery), Buckaroo Banzai is every Doc Savage/Billy The Kid/Indiana Jones/Oppenheimer character smooshed into one person. He's a sci-fi fan boy's wet dream: suave, brilliant and gifted, but still able interact on a relatable human wavelength.

What an awesome motherfucker.

So the movie's plot - as much as there is - involves totally awesome Buckaroo breaking through to the 8th dimension vis-a-vis a suspiciously-similar-to-a-famous-DeLorean machine he bulit, which drags back with him the knowledge that such travel can be obtained in the human realm. While a character who has been stranded in our dimension for a long time learns of this, other things happen - including Ellyn Bursten, who tries to kill our hero while he rocks out at a packed club in New Jersey with his sidekicks/band-members The Hong Kong Caveliers. Then a bunch of 8th Dimensioners show up and try to start something with Buckaroo, who is obviously too awesome to have any of that kind of shit happen on his dimensional watch. Other aliens also intervene, who for some reason are Jamaican, and the whole universe hangs in the balance, according to what Buckaroo either does or not do next.

Director W.D. Richter's unique vision of mixing sci-fi with comedy, send-up, comic books and meta-commentary was lost on the studio bosses who gave him all the damn money to make the thing in the first place. But, whether or not it was a hit (hint: it wasn't), this movie was certainly something. It was possibly a mixture neither attempted before in a science fiction movie, which is: it doesn't give a damn whether or not the audience understands what's going on. While this occurs unintentionally all the time in B-movies, no one could imagine a major studio letting such a daring conceit be funded and released as a big-budget science fiction flick for public consumption on their dime.

It's the kind of movie that boasts John Lithgow and Christopher Lloyd as hilariously named Emilio Lizardo and John Bigboote, respectively, as bad guys. Similarly, on the easily distinguishable "good guys" side are none other than Jeff Goldblum and Peter "Buckaroo" Wellers (of Naked Lunch and Robocop fame). It's a movie where you see the titular character shift from brilliant scientist to rock and roll icon to down-to-earth Everyman to panicked, in-over-his-head hero. Along the way, nothing is explained and you just have to try and keep up, because the movie's not giving you any fucking clue as to what's happening.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eigth Dimension is impossible to follow when watching it for the first time, but repeated viewings clarify the bizarre hopscotch plot it's trying to lay down and rewards the viewer if they watch it closely enough in subsequent viewings. There is also such a fun, plate-spinning fever dream tone that gives it the air of an ultimate send-up of the genre, while still offering the surrealism that has always been cautiously towed by it.

Buckaroo is an intentional piece of madness, as good as Gillaim, but with more relatable characters steering the wayward ship. On display are the simple, important distinctions between good and bad sci-fi, and it doesn't care which side it lands on, as long as the kitchen sink iss thrown in along the way. Sometimes even sprawling, uneven messes of film hit the target in the genre. This one does, and it paved the way for the anarcho-fun Southland Tales, ExistenZ, and Charlie Kaufman movies attempted in its wake.

The Thing

Kurt Russell and his co-workers are having some issues with trust, and no wonder; there's a disgusting and hostile alien hiding out in their Antarctic base. Even worse...it hiding in them.

Though considered a remake of the 1951 movie "The Thing from Another World", it actually is a more direct adaptation of the short story "Who Goes There?", which also served as the basis for the first film. Put your fuckin' seatbelts on though, because this one is going to get ugly.

Back in 1982, this movie had some of the most horrific special effects ever seen, and they still don't look anywhere near as cheesy as other films from this era. Everytime the alien's human host is injured, it morphs whatever remaining parts it has into a working body with deadly new appendages. Every part of it is alive, and this makes some of the fight scenes against it pretty harrowing. They can't even lean close to check out the corpses, or it might shoot out a tentacle and nail them. Even though it can grow anything, it likes tentacles a lot, so it sprouts a lot of them. People think that the Japanese invented tentacle rape, but they didn't. It turns out it's just a fighting move for pissed off aliens.

Certainly, The Thing rides a perfect line between horror and sci-fi, with plenty of action thrown in. This may also be one of the most tense and adrenaline-fueling movies ever made.

--K.P.

Dark Star

Look fucking awesome? He is chasing a giant watermelon with claws. That tried to tickle him to death.

Dark Star was John Carpenter's first film, and his first serious venture into sci-fi, and is directly to blame for Ghosts of Mars. A black comedy about an incredibly bored crew who just want to blow shit up, it speaks strongly even now to the gamer generation. The most outstanding character in the film is the sentient, religious planet buster bomb.

The main message of the film, though, is the sheer mind crushing monotony of space flight, where you do whatever you can to make life bearable, including blowing up perfectly stable planets and suns for shits and giggles. Probably the only film that actually cover the sheer boredom of a "five year mission." in a black humor vein. Forget nods to the fanboys - this totally killed the hopes and dreams of a generation.

THX-1138

Hordak

12 Monkeys

KP

Metropolis

A robot. With tits. Your Grandad was fucking weird.

One of the very first feature length Sci Fi films, Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece Metropolis set the benchmark for Utopian / Dystopian sci-fi. Although a tad dated by modern standards - it is in black and white and people speak literately, without blowing shit up or slo-mo walks away from explosions - a true cheeto dust covered fan will be able to recite the dialogue word for word - what there is of it.

Originally a metaphor for the conflict between the upper and working classes (ah - the good old days, when one could whip the peons) the film still works today as a metaphor for pretty much whatever grinds your gears.

They Live

John Carpenter - for the third time on this list - proves that he's here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and he's all out of bubblegum.

They Live is every paranoid conspiracy theorists' fantasies come to life. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper - playing, um, "Still Rather Recalcitrant" Roddy Piper - is a drifter who comes across a pair of sunglasses. Here's the kicker: when he puts them on, they reveal that all media in the world - billboards, magazines, money - is actually a subliminal message to keep the population in line. They also reveal that many seemingly normal people are actually aliens, who are trying to enslave the world.

What is one to do when they find out this horrific truth? Apparantly beat the living hell out of your best friend, then go on a murderous rampage. And this movie is all about the rampage.

This epic beat-down is delivered just to get the guy to put the freakin' glasses on.

And this is his friend! Imagine what the aliens have coming to 'em.

Though the visual effects are minimal (but effective), what makes They Live great sci-fi is the subversive, anti-authority message - our leaders are lying to us, we are being brainwashed - that is matched with the old "aliens are trying to take over" chestnut. Carpenter's trademark humor is also on display - only it's mauled by Piper's flat delivery of every single line, which makes it funnier somehow. They Live a movie just begging for a remake. If only our alien overlords would allow it.

Blade Runner

Not every Philip K. Dick novel gets turned into a good movie, and it may be that the source material, fascinating or not, is somewhat difficult to work with for filmmakers. Despite any of that, Blade Runner set the bar on every adaptation to follow, and plenty of critics say it has never been equalled by them. Those who disagree are forced to fight Roger Ebert in a no-holds-barred cage match. 20 solid minutes of agitated yelling, sweat, and man-boobs usually helps change their mind.

While the book "Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?" was reworked and gritted up (pretty much inventing the process of gritting up anything), it wasn't done haphazardly, or without the attention and approval of Philip K. Dick himself.

In the dystopian (but not too far) future of Los Angeles in 2019, synthetically made humans are not always happy serving humanity, and when some of them escape and start killing people, it's up to Rick Deckard to find them. It seems that he has a gift for telling androids from humans; no easy task, since the look and act almost identically. The replicants don't live very long, but he can't really wait around for 4 or 5 years to see if they die on their own. In the future, police are expected to solve cases quickly.

Harrison Ford does plenty of scowling as Detective Deckard, though he doesn't talk about his family or rely on many of his later dramatic idiosyncacies. He's pretty well matched with the rest of the cast, though some of the escaped replicants are more interesting than others. Leon is about as smart as a bag of rocks, and Zhora mostly just wants to run away (wearing saran wrap, so all of LA can see what android boobies look like). On the other hand, Pris is fairly nasty, and might be the first time Daryl Hannah played a violent killer.

All of them pale in comparison to their leader Roy. Rutger Hauer probably IS a scary android, and somebody should really go check, because he marches through the film seething menace, rage, and weird curiosity everywhere he goes. Seriously, if Deckard could have gotten him into a conversation about why the sky is blue, it might have kept him interested long enough to just get him to calm down already. Alas, the two of them have beat the living shit out of each other instead, leaking blood and robot stuff all over a rainy rooftop.

Blade Runner is great not just because it punches you in the eyes and brain, but it also punches you in the heart. After watching it, you'll turn to your loved ones and say "Why can't we all just be occasionally-homicidal androids?"

--K.P.

Gattaca

The staircase is about as subtle as the imagery gets.

One thing Sci-Fi tells us over and over again is that no matter what technical miracles we produce, we will use them to totally fuck people over. Gattaca takes this to its logical conclusion, saying a hearty "Fuck you" to genetic have-nots.

The film is centered around the struggles of one of these genetic have-nots yada yada yada - who cares. It has Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke semi-boning while Jude Law is stuck in a wheelchair. On the list for being pretty much the only semi intelligent treatment of genetic segregation.

The Matrix

KP

T2: Judgement Day

Say you've already been mercilessly attacked by a cyborg in the early 80's, and were told by a guy from that same future era that came back to protect you that your son was going to be the savoir of mankind - and then he totally boned you and bore that very child. That would probably put you on edge for life, right?

Cut to 10 (12? How the fuck old is John Conner supposed to be, anyway? He looks 15-ish) years later, and you're not only considered a lunatic, but a cyborg comes back that looks exactly like the one that tried to mercilessly kill you and is now there to protect said savior/son. Obviously this would be a pretty fucked up thing to come to terms with. But you do, for the sake of humanity, or whatever.

Pictured: coping.

Now, this other robot, known as a T-1000 and is mentioned by said previously-murderous-but-now-friendly-cyborg as if it were a dishwasher brand to buy, but is a thousand times more killer-ass (that's a word; look it up) and is made out of an indestructible metal poly-alloy? What the fuck? The fuck, indeed.

And that's just the introductory back story to the best sequel ever to anything, ever. T2: Judgement Day could be the sequel to Steel Magnolias and still be more dynamic than the tits of the original cast put together..

Deleted scene from Steel Magnolias 2: Electric Boogaloo.

T2 contains every money shot all sci-fi movies aim to shoot their hot gobs of payoff all over. There are guns, explosions, nuclear holocaust, giant trucks fucking shit up, robots, better robots, time travel, tough-but-hot chicks (see Alien/Aliens below) and a sweet, thumbs-up resolution that is more emotionally rewarding than any hug your dad ever allowed in childhood.

That thumb has more love for John Connor than your father will ever have for you.

Never mind it came from uber sci-fi God/Furry enthusiast James Cameron. This is an eat metal and spit bullets/robot-on-robot fighting/still have time for some serious drama Science Fiction Film, and will still get you home before the 1997 robot apocalypse.

8 /29 - Never Forget

Alien / Aliens

Not shown: Ripley's massive clanking balls

Way back in 1979, a little film hit the screens. The tagline may have been "In Space, no one can hear you scream," but there was a shitload of screaming in the theaters. The first true sci-fi horror, Alien terrified a generation with it's slow build up and glimpses of the monster, later ripped off to minimal effect by Cloverfield. It was rumoured that Ridley Scott used subliminals in the theater release - quite possible but hardly necessary.

You honestly thought we'd miss this?

Then a miracle in the annals of filming occurred. James Cameron, not known as the most subtle of directors, produced a sequel that picked up the audience by their hair, fucked them senseless, then kicked them in the balls. Aliens manged to combine the sheer terror of the first film with some seriously kickass action, one hell of a punch in the face of suspense and probably one of the best known lines on the net.

You know which line we mean. Don't make us say it.

Honorable Mentions

Star Wars IV-VI:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a little known director produced something truly magical. Then he got seduced by CGI and his "vision" and fucked it all up. Big time.

Back to the Future

Look - we know it isn't great, despite being most folks introduction to time travel. But is has a De Lorean. As a time machine. That is good enough for us.

Robocop,

Videodrome

David Cronenberg! Guns pulled out of stomachs! James Woods going nuts! Warped hallucinations! Ultra violence! Deborah Harry's tits! How this didn't make the best of list, we'll never know.

Planet of the Apes,

2001

Omega Man

No one has done Matheson's "I am Legend" well. This is the closest to a decent version. Despite Heston hamming it up in every scene.