20 Tired Science-Fiction Tropes (That Still Have Life In Them)

20 Tired Science-Fiction Tropes (That Still Have Life In Them)

We’ve criticized science fiction a lot (hell, we even tried ruining it), but we are also big fans of the genre. Specifically, we’re also big fans of the visionary ways in which it can help build the future, just by the sheer fact it opens possibilities for thought. Well, that, and the fact it also predicts technological advancements. This all amounts to the idea that sci-fi is plagued by stuff worthy of criticism (remember the icky incel wet dream that was Passengers?) but also by brain-melting ideas that, like on a time loop (wink wink), return again and again even in the best examples of contemporary sci-fi.

Now, the notion of cliché yet still awesome tropes in sci-fi is not new. In fact, we’ve devoted attention to tired tropes still full of life in the context of action and horror, like the adorkably thorough site that we are. In this Pictofact, then, we bring a new batch of strictly sci-fi tropes that we think still have a lot going for them – if properly done, that is. No lifeless tropes in what follows. These are the ones that have still managed to wow us in recent and contemporary science fiction. They are no substitutes for a good concept, of course, but they can contribute to good concepts becoming next level sci-fi. Also, yes, we apologize for using the word “adorkably,” sure, whatever. On with the list!

Social Commentary

CRACKED.COM Tired sci-fi tropes (that still work) Social commentary Some call it woke sci-fi, but actual sci-fi buffs call it just sci-fi. Just make the commentary or allegory or theme not too on the nose (or be talented), and things should be fine. For a brilliant classic example, see RoboCop, but for more recent stuff see Snowpiercer, Mad Max: Fury Road, or Don't Look Up.


CRACKED.COM Tired sci-fi tropes (that still work) Technobabble Sloppy, random technobabble can be annoying, so it's wise to, erm, reverse the polarity. Indeed, well-done technobabble lends believability to sci-fi. While Star Trek has been mocked for its overreliance on it, it tends to use it in an internally consistent way.

Plot Twists

Y BARANS TECHNICAL MAINTENANCE CREW BLUNAB Tired sci-fi tropes (that still work) Plot twists Every genre can benefit from (or be harmed by) plot twists, but in sci-fi they can just hit the spot. We all love the classic examples (The Planet of the Apes, The Empire Strikes Back, 12 Monkeys), but recent awesome ones appear in Moon, Source Code, Arrival, and Ex Machina. CRACKED.COM

Source: Gizmodo

The Multiverse

Tired sci-fi tropes (that still work) Parallel realities We're big fans of the chaos when alternate realities mix with our own. The MCU has been exploring its own multiverse of madness, but we also love Sliding Doors, Coraline, Comet, and Coherence, the timeless classic that is Donnie Darko, and of course, the trope's most recent example, Everything Everywhere All at Once. CRACKED.COM

Source: Collider

Time Loops

CRACKED.COM Tired sci-fi tropes (that still work) Time loops A trope we could relive every day (get it?), time loops have had a resurgence in recent years. Our favorite recent examples are Source Code and Edge of Tomorrow, but other great sci-fi-adjacent movies with time loops include Final Boss, Palm Springs, and The Endless, as well as Happy Death Day and its sequel. UDI

Cosmic Gods

CRACKED.COM Tired sci-fi tropes (that still work) Cosmic gods Alien races are cool, but the fun really begins when they can be better described as deities. Prometheus sucked and the MCU has been trying to delve into this Lovecraftian territory for a while now with meh results, so we're much bigger fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Mist, and more recently, Annihilation.

Source: Collider

Evil Corp

CRACKED.COM PIN - en Tired sci-fi tropes (that still work) Evil corporations This is an ever-necessary trope in our current dystopia, with all the propaganda that billionaires and their narcissistic corporate ventures are the good guys. Weyland-Yutani and OCP are the best-known examples, but there's also E Corp, from the quasi-sci-fi Mr. Robot, and BASH Cellular, from the documentary Don't Look Up.


CRACKED.COM Tired sci-fi tropes (that still work) Actually alien aliens Some whine about representation in sci-fi, but the genre is so inclusive that it even features species and cultures radically different from ours, forcing our tribal brains to face true otherness. One awesome contemporary example? The circular time-experiencing heptapods from Arrival. Is that movie woke, then?


Tired sci-fi tropes (that still work) Out the airlock In space no one can hear you scream, Hey, I love that trope! Shooting characters out exhaust ports or airlocks was how the Xenomorphs were defeated in Ridley Scott's Alien and James Cameron's wonderful sequel, but this trope has gained new life with The Expanse, which features some gut-wrenching executions by spacing. CRACKED.COM


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