Most significant Sci-Fi Movies of all time?

RoughGuidetoSciFi.jpgJohn Scalzi is a writer, and a writer of science fiction to boot. He’s just released a new book called The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, and in it is a piece of perhaps controversial writing. It’s a Top 50 of the most significant science fiction movies of all time. From his own blog entry:

Why do I get to choose what films are in the canon? Well, you know: 15 years of film reviewing and following the business of cinema, and a lifelong interest in science fiction, gives me some amount of credibility. Being a published science fiction author doesn’t hurt, either.

Not only that though, it wasn’t just up to him, he enlisted help.

… I made an open call for people to suggest their thoughts on the most significant SF films…

You can also see that entry on his blog. So, to the point I think I hear you say, what are those top science fiction movies he’s chosen and published? First, thanks to Martin for the link, and secondly I’m going to say that this is not all the book is about, there’s discussions on the history, origin, science behind the movies, the list itself and the associated reviews, etc, etc. It looks a really fine book so I’d suggest popping over to his site and reading more.

Enough Brunton! To the list!

Oh, one more thing, he’s placed it in alphabetical order, not in order of importance.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!
Back to the Future
Blade Runner
Bride of Frankenstein
Brother From Another Planet
A Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Damned
Destination Moon
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Escape From New York
ET: The Extraterrestrial
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
The Fly (1985 version)
Forbidden Planet
Ghost in the Shell
The Incredibles
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
Jurassic Park
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
The Matrix
On the Beach
Planet of the Apes (1968 version)
Solaris (1972 version)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Stepford Wives
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Thing From Another World
Things to Come
12 Monkeys
28 Days Later
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey
La Voyage Dans la Lune
War of the Worlds (1953 version)

Wow, personally I’m with him on a hell of a lot of this list. Some I don’t know, and a couple I think aren’t worthy to be in a top million list even! Yet that’s me, what about you? Is this a good list, do you agree with The Stepford Wives, The Incredibles and even Mad Max 2? What about Brother from another planet?

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31 thoughts on “Most significant Sci-Fi Movies of all time?

  1. Where the hell is “Eraserhead” ??? :)

    And none have mentioned “Screamers” … But the most fatal mistake is: The best entertaining SF movie , ever made : “The man who saved the world” :))

  2. I agree Herby. The list is supposed to be for the most Significant Sci-Movies. These may well not be the SF films you personally enjoyed the most.

  3. “Personally, I think Starship Troopers deserves to be there.”

    If they had stuck to the book I would agree. Instead, all of the originality of the book was sucked out of the movie to turn it into an ordinary sci-fi flick. Nothing Significamt there.

  4. If eligable (which I am not saying it is) Flash Gordon is certainly eligable as the first real “Space Opera” and of course the inspiration for Star Wars.

  5. I presume “The Damned” referred to here is the Joseph Losey film and not the Luchino Visconti one, cos if it’s the latter, then I’ll be damned myself if I can work out what’s SF about Nazis.

    “Gojira/Godzilla”? Which one does he mean? There’s a rather significant difference between the two, after all.

    As for Morbius’ wondering whether the Flash Gordon serial should be eligible for the list: why the hell not? It’s still a film…

  6. I don’t see how superhero movies like superman and increibles made the list. They’re action films. Personally, I think Starship Troopers deserves to be there.

  7. Amazed that “Village of the Damned” (British version of course) is not on the list, one of the most unsettling films ever.

  8. People keep telling me how good the Stargate TV series is though what little I have seen of it has not totally grabbed me.

    In any case we can only judge the movie on its own merits.

  9. The Mad Max movie are entertaining enough but not particularly original or significant. (The first movie was not even very sucessful stateside hence the sequel being called “The Road Warrior” over there.)

    Less well known films like “No Blade of Grass” (1970) dealt with the post apocalypse anarchic future years before the Max movies.

  10. At best Stargate was basically an action adventure with Sci-Fi elements. No way is it a significant SF film. At worst it is another patronising film where a handful of Americans go in and show the supressed natives population how to fight a battle.

    Minority Report however while perhaps not a great film in the truest sense is a very good SF film. Like many great SF novels it takes a novel concept (being able to predict crimes before they happen) and intelligently explores all the various possibilities and flaws of such a concept in an intelligent and reasonably entertaining manner.

    Another often overlooked film that could make the top 50 is…

    “Colossus: The Forbin Project” (1970)

  11. I think Stepford Wives easily deserves a place over Stargate or Gattaca because it defined a concept rather than followed it. Stargate followed the notion of wormholes and Gattaca looked at the already established idea of cloning, whereas Stepford Wives came up with a relatively novel plot of secretly replacing people with robots. Plus, Stepford Wives entered common cultural usage – I bet plenty of magazine articles have referred to women as a “Stepford Wife”… particularly the wives of leaders/celebrities. Can’t imagine that Stargate is ever referred to in that way.

    Dune is a terribly flawed film. I love Lynch, and I love the film, but it was a mess. Don’t forget that Lynch wanted his name removed from the credits, and when even the Director is unhappy with the results…

    I agree totally that Terminator rather than its sequel should be on the list.

    And can someone please explain why Minority Report should be on the list? I saw nothing there that wasn’t the same old humdrum sci-fi blockbuster. It didn’t push any boundaries, it didn’t deal with any new concepts, it wasn’t even a strong commercial success (not that many brilliant sci-fi films are).

    And would whoever nominated Waterworld please explain why it’s more than Mad Max IV: Max Goes A-Sailing?

  12. Is the Thing from another world an alias for John Carpenter’s The Thing? Cause truthfully, I’m more afraid of the replicating alien creature than some plant thing :P Flamethrowers are your friend…

  13. Would have put Terminator over Terminator 2 (2 was more of an action pic while the original was sci-fi all the way).

    Would have loved to have seen Silent Running on the list which actually inspired George Lucas’s Star Wars.

    Definatly agree only Star Wars Four and Five on the list.

    Glad to see A Clockwork Orange on the list. A lot of people overlook this as Sci-Fi.

    And my favorite film of all time. The Silent Classic “Metropolis” Not only the first sci-fi film, but the best. Nobody has ever been able to top Lang in my opinion.

  14. Hmm, how do you gauge significant? Is there even some type of criteria being applied? The Incredibles were good but I don’t know about significant…

    Also, how can you include Stepford Wives and not nominate something like Stargate or Gattaca?

    Also of note might be movies like Existenz, Videodrome, Scanners or Minority Report.

  15. I agree with the list given, although I would include both versions of The Thing – Howard Hawks and John Carpenter.

    Also, in no order, but the “**” I must draw attention to…




    Day Of The Triffids

    *****Silent Running*****

  16. Theres a few British films that could be considered…

    The Day the Earth Caught Fire

    The Quatermass Experiment / Quatermass and the Pit

    While not as critically acclaimed as 2001, 2010 was a very good SF film in my opinion.

    Other contenders…

    The Abyss

    This Island Earth

    When Worlds Collide

    The Time Machine (Original Version)

    Solyent Green

    Minority Report

    Silent Running

    Total Recall (A lot of good SF ideas if you look beyond the mindless violence)

    Please Note Flash Gordon : Space Soldiers – I believe “Space Soldiers” was tacked onto the title when it was televised. As a serial I am not sure if it’s eligable for this list?

    I’d like to suggest Serenity which I loved but it does not really add anything new to the genre. Surely thats the whole point of a list like this? It’s not just if it’s a great movie but if it’s a Great Science Fiction movie. There’s a subtle difference.

    Does the film introduce new ideas, concepts or technical innovations that make it different from previous films? That IMHO is how such a list should be compiled. (And no, not all the films I mentioned above meet that criteria though I beleive a few of them do.)

    For example “Brother from Another Planet” was enjoyable enough but hardly an innovative SF film. Many people prefer “The Empire Strikes Back” to “Star Wars”. But it was the original film that pushed the boundaries back, TESB just gave us an enriched storyline and improved Effects.

    Tron could be included for it technical innovations in CGI but as a SF idea it is very silly indeed.

    The Incredibles was great fun but the idea was 40 years old (basically the Fantastic Four) and the technical innovations had already been perfected in previous Pixar Movies.

    Back to the Future on the other hand was not just a great movie but also explored the concept of time travel in a fresh and intelligent way. The sequels (particularly Part II) may not have been such good films but they took the possibilities of time travel and paradoxes to another level again.

    My top ten list would in date order probably be…


    Things to Come

    The Day The Earth Stood Still

    Forbidden Planet

    Planet of the Apes


    Star Wars

    Blade Runner

    Back to the Future

    Jurassic Park

    With Close Encounters and Minority Report short listed.

  17. I’d agree with the majority of that list, things like the Incredibles though are so new there’s no way it can be classified as ‘significant’ since we haven’t seen it’s effects on the industry yet.

  18. Lists are always subjective, but it´s not a bad list at all. 28 days later, though, it´s a horror (and horrible) movie. If one has to choose a zombie one, choose Romero and no other.

  19. Good to see TRON up there. How about…

    Rocky Horror Picture Show

    War Games

    Donnie Darko

    Andromeda Strain

    Dark City


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