Is ‘Gravity’ Science Fiction?


With Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity receiving alot of attention in the last few months from a successful box office and becoming a serious contender in the Osacr race (with numerous Academy Award nominations), it is interesting to hear pundits and fans describe Gravity as “sci-fi.” Co-winning the Producers Guild Award alongside 12 Years A Slave is quiet an accomplishment and a testament to the high quality production it took to orchestrate this big budget blockbuster. It is a magnificant feature needed to be seen on the biggest screen. A movie like this demands a reaction and gets people talking. The critics group I belong to (the Denver Film Critics Society) which voted on numerous movie awards last week declared Gravity to be the best Sci-Fi/Horror movie of 2013 as well as awarding it best movie of 2013. I had a major issue with this because technically Gravity isn’t in the science fiction genre.


The dictionary defintion of the science fiction genre states the following:


“Fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.”


To me, this doesn’t describe Gravity. I consider Gravity to be an action/adventure thriller set in space. It is a fictional movie that takes place in outer space with astronaunts, space ships, flying debris, etc. There is a difference calling it science fiction. Innaccurate stretches of science doesnt necessisarly make it sci-fi. Besides we suspend disbelief for action movies all the time (see the latest action packed movie that does well at the box office) and wouldn’t call action packed movies set in modern day as sci-fi.


When I posed the question to social media, most people of diverse backgrounds and various taste seemed to agree with my valid point. Gravity isn’t a sci-fi movie. However, the most logical counter point came from movie contributor Jason Cangialosi who said, “The dramatic catalyst in the film is based on a theoretical premise called Kessler’s syndrome, so it actually abides by the definition of sci-fi that is a rational or realistic portrayal of possible future events. While the setting itself may not be futuristic, it relies on a theoretical premise, which as I understand, has not be proven or recorded true.”


It is interesting that even Alfonso Cuarón himself doesnt classify his own movie.


So TMB readers, what is Gravity as a film genre? Science Fiction? Action Adventure? One person even suggested Horror? Please let us know in the comments section.

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About Kenny Miles

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.

10 thoughts on “Is ‘Gravity’ Science Fiction?

  1. Gravity: Marketed less as a sci-fi, more as a dramatic thriller set in space

    Interstellar: Marketed as sci-fi

    Gravity: Glaring scientific inaccuracies – meets positive critical acclaim because of how “real” it seemed.

    Interstellar: Impressive scientific accuracy – meets mostly negative criticism because people don’t understand the reality of relativistic time dilation and think it is too “fake”.

  2. It’s a time travel movie! They combined an historic space shuttle with the future Chinese Space Station planned for around 2020. Back to the Future Sandra Bullock style!

    But no, I think it’s a thriller and not science fiction. While the events of the movie were unrealistic and could never happen in that way, virtually all modern thrillers involve people doing super-human things surrounded by unrealistic events and extreme artistic licence. This was no different than that, and used contemporary technology and settings.

  3. I was with you on Gravity being an action film. I was arguing that “Her” is the sci-fi film nominated this year, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
    However, when I read that thing about Kessler Syndrome, and realized that it is essentially what sets up the conflict in the film and ushers in the second act, everything changed. It is a mild piece of science fiction, it isn’t obvious, but that is only because we accepted everything in the film as scientific fact. It isn’t. Therefore, it is absolutely science fiction.

  4. I do not thinks its a science fiction movie you can called a technology or something space technology movie, as there is nothing to be done with science but with technical work, yes it true that science is a name of imagination than work on it and develop something after hard work and technology is all about the hard world reality.

  5. It’s a disaster movie set in space, like “Deep Impact” or “Apollo 13”. Keppler Syndrome is a scientifically accepted theory that was first proposed almost half a century ago. Just because we haven’t observed it doesn’t mean it’s “fiction”.

    If you want a valid counterpoint, then consider the Chinese space station to which Sandra Bullock clings. It doesn’t exist, though it may exist in the future. That, to my mind, still doesn’t make it sci-fi, since the science to build it is currently available.

    Science fiction, to me, includes the use of scientific technology (not theory) that is currently unavailable. Cell phones were always possible in theory, but if you had written about them in the fifties, then it would have been sci-fi. The technology depicted in “Gravity” is all science fact, even if it has not yet been built. If they had, even once, said “It is now 0800, February 10, 2017”, then I might consider it to be sci-fi.

    1. Kepler theory, which you talk about, is accepted theory.
      Kessler’s syndrome, which was the basis of this film, isn’t.
      I think you have them mixed up.
      Gravity fits the description of sci fi.

  6. If Gravity is scifi, than any zombie movie dealing with unprecedented biochemical effects of viral agents on the human brain is scifi as well. Actually, zombie movies are more scifi than Gravity was in that respect.

  7. I’m not sure it was SciFi- but I’m not sure that’s a good thing – because it was unrealistic without the normal suspension of disbelief that one participates in when not wrapped in the trappings of a “contemporary” technology setting. Given the proper fictional universe, I can say that warp drive or transporters exist, and live within that universe – but using today’s technology puts a higher burden on the filmmaker as the viewer must evaluate the events in the film in the context of reality. A lone mission specialist is going to go “space-station hopping”, oxygen deprived and in shock between US and Soviet platforms and land safely on Earth? Orbital space-debris fallout and O2 levels are going to be so exquisitely timed with other plot devices? After rather good handling of physics, all of a sudden there is some magical deep-spaced vectored constant force that suddenly comes out of nowhere and pulls Clooney’s (and apparently nothing else) character away?
    Other than the latter issue, most issues are the same as once could raise about a Bourne or Mission Impossible movie, but they were brought to the forefront for me *because* of the movie’s factualized presentation.

  8. You are quite correct that Gravity was not a science fiction film, as was Europa Report by way of contrast. I’m glad to see someone raise the question that should have been asked a lot more frequently.

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