This category gets a short shift in any awards ceremony. The old people who vote still probably do so by pen and then send the ballot via snail mail. They are not hip to technology. They, in fact, still use the word hip to describe something those newfangled gadgets the kids are playing with nowadays. There have occasionally been some sci-fi movies that garnered respect, Avatar, obviously comes to mind. (Side rant: Avatar was stupid. It was yet another example of the great white man coming in to save the nature-loving savages from their evil enemy, other greedy white people. The only difference is that this time, it was in 3-D with day-glo colors. James Cameron and his ego can go bite it.) But mostly, they are ignored.
A goods sci-fi movie has the same things any good movie in any genre should have: good plot, good script, good actors. However, it also needs good science and good internal logic. Inception had neither. If you think about that movie for more than a minute, you need a Tylenol. Lots of summer blockbusters are fun to watch, but don’t even try to be anything other than eye candy. I’m okay with that. But the best sci-fi movies create more than two hours of entertainment. They create worlds. They create a whole new way of seeing reality.
So, here are my top five. I am ignoring the obvious, standard choices such as Blade Runner and Alien mostly because they didn’t resonate with me.
1. The Matrix. Obvious, yes, but still worthy. I remember going to see this in the theater with a work buddy and having literally no idea what I was about to witness. I thought it was going to be a fun ride. It was so much more. The sequels may have been awful, but that original is a shining example of how to think big.
2. Dark City. This is my dark horse contender. It is deliriously weird, but creates a fascinating world where everything can change at a moment’s notice. It’s just cool. I know that isn’t exactly a Roger Ebert worthy review, but I don’t want to spoil any part of it for those who haven’t seen it. So go see it.
3. Serenity. My love of all things Whedon-esque is well documented. This movie, a love note to all the fans of the cancelled TV series, Firefly, was a fantastic way to bid farewell to our intrepid crew. I think it works as a stand-alone movie too though. It’s funny and sad and cool and fun and it even has a Buffy-Bot. What more could you possibly want out of a film?
4. The Abyss. Sure, Terminator is probably the best of Cameron, but Linda Hamilton’s Minnie Mouse voice drives me to distraction. Plus, I can never get my head around the chicken/egg conundrum of how John Conner had to send his dad to knock his mom up. I much prefer The Abyss. The ending sort of sucked (What happened to decompression?) but the very real fear of being trapped under the ocean and dying a slow, cold, wet death really hit home for me.
5. The Star Wars Trilogy. The original series, not the second set of movies and not any of the special edition versions George Lucas keeps releasing. Nope, I am talking about Luke, Vader, Leia, Han, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2. These movies are part of my DNA. I still get my dad Star Wars related gifts and always will.
I may have very basic tastes and my geek cred might be in jeopardy, but the list stands.