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Killer Flics Attack!: Best Sci-Fi Films – Our Critics' Lists

“Inception” has put sci-fi back in the movies, with mixed reviews. We look at the best science fiction films of all time. (See our guests’ lists of top picks below.)

A scene from the 1927 film "Metropolis" (Credit: imdb.com)

“Avatar” hit the jackpot. Leonard DiCaprio and “Inception” hit rougher waters with their dream travel. But science fiction is one of the sturdiest, most celebrated genres in the history of film.

From the earliest days of silent film, the movies have taken us to alternate “sci-fi” realities. Off the Earth. Into the Earth. To far galaxies. To unseen dimensions. Sci-fi films challenge convention, and offer different worlds, even within our own.

We’re looking at the best-of-the-best with Annalee Newitz of io9 and New York Times chief film critic A. O. Scott.


A.O. Scott, chief film critic for the New York Times.

Annalee Newitz, editor of i09, a blog from Gawkermedia that covers Sci-Fi, fantasy, and all things nerdy. She’s also written for Wired, Popular Science, and New Scientist.

Michael Brotherton, professor of physics and astronomy at University of Wyoming in Laramie. He’s the author of two Sci-Fi novels, Star Dragon and Spider Star.


Here are our guests’ lists for best science fiction films.

Picks of A.O. Scott, New York Times:

AI/ET/Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Fahrenheit 451
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kevin McCarthy and Donald Sutherland versions; not Nicole Kidman version)
Metropolis–Fritz Lang version AND Rintaro anime
Spaceballs/ The Empire Strikes Back
Robocop/Starship Troopers

Picks of Annalee Newitz of io9.com:

The Day the Earth Stood Still
Star Wars: A New Hope AND Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (tie)
Blade Runner
Terminator 2
Ghost in the Shell (Japanese version)
Teknolust (Lynn Hershman-Leeson)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (I hadn’t thought of this as sci-fi but it makes sense)
Honorable Mention: Primer (Shane Carruth)

Picks of Mike Brotherton, University of Wyoming:

Destination Moon
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Abyss
Deep Impact
Red Planet
Minority Report

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  • Joshua Hendrickson

    My top ten sci fi movies (not in any order, though I do count the first as number one):

    1. 2001: A Space Odyssey. The great sf masterpiece by Kubrick, and one of the greatest films ever made.

    2. Metropolis. The original sf epic, still stunning today.

    3. The Thing (1982 version). Many prefer the 50s version, but the remake is both closer to the original story and an unsung masterpiece of both effects and mood.

    4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The great popular hit movie plays well as parable and heart-tugger.

    5. Alien. A very realistic, working spaceship set inhabited by believable everyday people and a truly original monster.

    6. Gattaca. Melodramatic but still realistic look at how the near future might deal with genetics.

    7. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1950 version). The Keanu Reeves remake was awful, but the original is still a powerful experience, as well as one of the few liberal-minded sf films of the 50s.

    8. Solaris. Amazing filmmaking married to deep philosophical underpinnings. I liked both Tarkovsky’s original and Soderbergh’s remake.

    9. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Great on the theme of obsession, and pays off well with a magical conclusion.

    10. A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick’s dark futuristic view really did anticipate punk and modern decay, and if the electronic music sounds dated it still remains quirky enough to evoke an alien culture.

    Runners-up include:

    Blade Runner
    Star Wars
    Minority Report
    The Matrix
    The Quiet Earth
    The Road Warrior
    Dark City
    Forbidden Planet

    As a footnote, it’s tragic that more of the great mother lode of science fiction literature isn’t being mined for movie material. There are so many great stories and novels that could be used but are ignored.

  • Zeno

    There was turning point in the late 90′s from hard science fiction to fantasy. There is a huge difference between the two, but as to its cause… I have only two guesses: Scientific illiteracy, and / or the rise of religious rule in America.

    I really miss true science fiction where magic and sex don’t overtake the narrative.

    One can see the change in Americas failing mature intellect and taste, by comparing the original movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, which was geared toward adults, with the remake which was all tasteless flash and no substance meant for a six year old intellect..

  • George Savage

    Dear Sir/Ms.; Here’s my short list of best and guilty pleasure films.

    When Worlds Collide Written by Edwin Balmer. A character actors showcase. Special effects by George Pal,1951

    Things to Come, Written by HG Wells. With a cast of 20,000 and Raymond Massey too.1936

    Farenheit 451 Written by Ray Bradbury, filmed by Truffaut with Julie Christie, 1966

    The Man From Earth, Written by Jerome Bixby Staring people you recognize but don’t know by name. Another character actor showcase 2007

    Brother John, Written by Ernest Kinoy Stars Sidney Poitier,Will Geer, Paul Winfield and Bradford Dilman, 1971

    The list is in no particular order. They represent what can be done with no time, no money and no big names, or at least not big at the time of filming.

    Brother John and The Man From Earth are S.F. movie making at it’s most basic and best. Showing what you can do with no, that’s right; you heard me right. No, special effects.



  • Bill Farley

    I have a few favorites, but I think there should be some differentiation between science fiction that was filmed before special effects took over and to a large degree replaced more intricate plots. That point may have been reached in “Blade Runner.”

  • cory

    I am an unabashed sci-fi geek, and would like to give a shout out to the staples of the genre. Star Trek and Star Wars… They are lifelong sci-fi friends who have enriched my life.

    In fact, I am still anxiously awaiting my “beam out”.

  • Brett

    No “War of the Worlds” from the guests? How ’bout “The Man Who Fell to Earth” on anybody’s list? Joshua Hendrickson mentions “A Clockwork Orange.”

  • Chris B.

    Not one critic even mentions “Forbidden Planet”???

    Walter Pidgeon! Leslie Neilsen as the romantic hero! A very young and exquisitely beautiful Anne Francis! Robbie the Robot!

    And, the first ever all-electronic film score, composed by Louis and Bebe Barron (Which in the credits is called “electronic tonalities” or something like that so they wouldn’t run afoul of the musician’s union.

    We must be from different planets!

  • Ray Laurencelle

    Blade Runner
    Forbidden Planet
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    Star Wars (and sequels)
    Planet of the Apes (1968)
    Logan’s Run

  • Chris B.

    More “Forbidden Planet”

    The flying saucer! Probably the best one ever seen on the screen. Used again in at least three episodes of “The Twilight Zone”.

    No one mentions “Dr. Strangelove” either. Granted, though, it’s only marginally sci-fi.

  • Kingston

    I’m with Brett and Joshua.

    The Quiet Earth
    Altered States
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind

    These are old movies, but I’m not that old. There just hasn’t been a good one in a long while.

  • g

    I have to say, I LOVE Science Fiction! Ever since I was a child, it was my exile from the reality.

    I believe that you will not find a more passionate group of people, maybe with an exception of religious, political and sports fanatics, than sci-fi fans. Although, the latest are the most rational, respectful and polite. :)

    I can’t believe that the “Moon” didn’t make either of the guest’s list. It is by far one of the best sci-fi movies of the recent years.

    “Serenity” was amazing and a great continuation to a great sci-fi series “Firefly”.

    “Renaissance” should be given credit for its original visual style.

    “Fifth Element” is one of my most favorite.
    And how about “Angel-A” by Luc Besson as well. It’s not exactly sci-fi but pretty close to it.

    A very very unfortunate event is that the latest Hitchhiker’s Guide movie didn’t make the list of “top xx sci-fi” films. I think it is awful. It was a good attempt, but it failed as a great sci-fi film. I think it should be a prime example of why great sci-fi books are very hard to make into movies. Things that are so good written and that are so vivid in a reader’s imagination, are just hard to translate into the screen.

    I shudder with horror at a thought, that some “filmmaker” will try to make “Foundation(s)” into a movie and what a possible disaster that might be.

  • g

    Maybe “Galaxy Quest” is not a great sci-fi, but it is by far one of the funniest sci-fi movies ever.
    And an honorable mention to “Spaceballs”.

  • http://andrewliptak.wordpress.com Andrew Liptak

    My top ten picks:

    1 – Moon
    2- Pan’s Labyrinth
    3 – The Fountain
    4 – Minority Report
    5 – The Empire Strikes Back
    6 – Inception
    7 – Pitch Black
    8 – Solaris
    9 – Alien
    10 – Forbidden Planet

  • John

    I’d love to see a Doctor Who movie.

  • Lon C Ponschock

    The regular gang at the Syfy channel have ongoing discussions about television and film daily.

    Forbidden Planet is my pick for best science fiction film of all time. In 2012/2013 there is a remake planned. It will have the respected writer of Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski doing the project.

    This topic on a Friday should generate a lot of comments. I’m hoping to see some titles I may have missed.

    One not familiar to many was done in the international market as a television series. It’s called Charlie Jade. You really have to see this to believe how well it is done and for the writing and characters drawn in particular. It should have a dvd release in the NTSC format for US audiences. It was made in South Africa.

    Which reminds me: District 9.

  • Harry

    I will echo some of Joshua’s picks… here are mine in no particular order:

    2001: A Space Odyssey
    Blade Runner
    The Day the Earth Stood Still
    Star Wars
    Minority Report
    The Matrix

  • Hannah Dean

    I heard this was on the show today and am glad to see that several comments already include Moon (2009) – it should definitely be near the top if not at the top of the list.

  • Tony Schleifstein

    1. Alien
    2. Blade Runner
    3. Forbidden Planet
    4. Dr. Strangelove
    6. 2001 A Space Odyssey
    7. John Carpenter’s The Thing
    8. Planet of The Apes
    9. War Of The Worlds (Tom Cruise)
    10. Time After Time (Malcolm McDowell, David Warner).

  • joshua

    Joshua Hendrickson—”Gattaca–a look at the possible future”

    i would contend that it could possibly be the present–how would we know? When cloning is such an itching desire of some scientists ( i had one at my university some years ago trying to convince us in a lecture that it was good and useful), and the elite own 99% percent of the wealth–mutli-billionaires with the wealth of nations–isn’t it possible they do have secret underground communities harvesting human organs for the pleasure of the rich.

    Umm, I think I may have confused the film…

    P.S. There are too many Josh’s on this site-I’m changing my alias.

  • Chris B.

    Another classic missed by all – Disney’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”

  • joshua

    Joshua Hendrickson–i’m struck by your denigration of Blade Runner–so far down on the list.

  • Rick Evans

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978 versions)

    Forbidden Planet

    War of the Worlds(original version)

    The Time Machine

  • Ted Auch

    What about “The Fifth Element”?

  • Rick Evans

    OOPS: forgot Alien

  • Michael Craig

    28 Days Later deserves some sort of honorable mention. While not a traditional sci-fi (read: space-oriented), 28 Days Later serves up a novel take on zombies, adroitly mixing stunning British landscapes with an intriguing plot sporadically sprinkled with absolute terror.

  • Blase Gallo

    Gort, Klatu Vorale Nicto (spelling?)

  • Gerald Fnord

    “Creation of the Humanoids” is badly acted, crudely staged, and contains ideas that are still way beyond what most people ever think about (robot religion and human personality uploading, in particular).

    “The Flesh Eaters” was made with an all “art” (soft-pore corn) cast, and shows it in their bad acting, but the “monster” is inventive and can be taken as a prescient warning about nano- or biotech “grey goo”.

    Another vote for “The Man Who Fell to Earth”—a real work of art, as evidenced by what a “stone bummer” (as the kids don’t say) it is. A good training-film for any outsider in America, gay or Muslim or Jew or autist or otherwise.

    “Them!”—really science-fantasy, given the squared-cube rule that makes really big insects impossible, but effective; beautiful deserts.

    “It Came From Outer Space”—alien invasion—no, possession–no, it’s not as bad as all that, and more great desert idylls.

    “2001: a Space Odyssey”—for giving us some idea of the intense boredom that might be the most intractable problem of space-travel. It’s boring for a lot of it, but entirely on purpose.

    “Doctor Strangelove, or…”—’This is the way the World Ends/This is the Way the World ends/ This is the way the World Ends/Both with a bang and with a pie-fight’ Someone once said that the end of the world would be like a time a comedian literally died on-stage, and everyone thought it were a part of his act.

    “Gojira”—uncut, unadulterated, in Japanese with accurate subtitles. Moving.

    “Dune”—David Lynch’s—for being in touch with the basic Enlightenment project that is the major impetus behind good science fiction, and includes hatred for all gods, aristocrats, and every other wielder of arbitrary power, everywhere.

    “Solaris”—the Clooney-less one. People say a few other things by Tarkovsky are good enough that they’d be on this list had I yet seen them.

    “Minority Report”—for the computer interfaces and the obnoxious, ubiquitous, personalised marketting.

  • David McAlpine

    The best two sci fi movies in my book are:

    Dark City and Serenity (way to go Joss Whedon)

    Although it can be cheezy (which gives it some charm these days) is Logan’s Run

    The best series is Firefly (which launched the movie Serenity)

  • George Curran

    I will nominate Blade Runner as the most influential. It not only changed the look of science fiction films that came after, but it also influenced the literary s-f subgenre, cyber-punk (e.g. William Gibson).

  • Roni Jordan

    Without a doubt, the most unforgettable sci-fi movie moment for me was the alien bursting out of Cain’s chest in Alien. That film and its immediate sequel, Aliens, are the gold-standard by which we measure all other sci-fi films, combining moujnting danger within a claustrophobic setting. We have seen both films so many times, we know the dialogue by heart and own a direcetor’s copy of the screenplay for Aliens.

  • http://www.loitherstein.com Joel Loitherstein

    I will never forget the 1953 movice “Invaders from Mars.” I was born in 1951 and was only a few years old when I first saw it. The scenes of people falling through the sand and then the young boy, David, running through the tunnels to avoid the explosion that finally kills the Martians will stick with me forever.

  • Jacqueline Hides

    I loved “Slaughter House 5″ both the book and the film were great. Billy Pilgrim living in three different time zones at the same time as well as on the planet of Tralfamdore must surely quality as sci fi.


  • JP

    I’d like to see a remake of the fanatastic classic, “Robinson Crusoe on Mars.”

    “Forbidden Planet” was an obvious precursor of the original Star Trek show in terms of look, feel, and crew members… another great sci-fi classic.

    Outland is a terrific and under-rated sci-fi flick.

    The Thing is probably the best sci-fi remake EVER!

  • Julio

    My top favorites are:

    Serenity (Firefly Series)
    Alien / Aliens
    Alien Nation
    District 9

  • Art

    I am always fasinated by the problems with time travel in scifi. i think that 12 Monkeys is overlooked as a great SciFi movie. Bruce Willis’s character is so confused and conflicted because of the time travel that he starts to believe that he is going crazy and not time traveling.

  • Ren Knopf

    My list would include most of those mentioned. I know Star Wars by heart. But my “OH WOW” moment occurred with 2001, when Dave, and the audience, was transported in a blur of stars. Some of us were higher than others at that moment and had that scene been in 3D might well have suffered psychic harm. OH WOW indeed.
    Ren Knopf

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Argh! How could I forget A.I.? I would have popped that into the top ten easily, but it slipped my mind. I find it haunting and beautiful, and a great synthesis between two masters (each of whom have two movies already in my top ten), Kubrick and Spielberg.

  • JP

    I agree… Blade Runner is my very favorite sci-fi flick.

    Firefly my favorite series.

    Children of Men is probably the most prescient film I’ve ever seen, though the plot has nothing at all to do with the gist of the film, and was only incidental to the movie’s terrifyingly accurate foresight.

  • JP

    … Yes, AI! Fantastic!

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Serenity was a great movie, too.

    The spelling is “Klaatu barada nicto.”

  • euonymous

    The Day the Earth Stood Still – Michael Rennie
    War of the Worlds – the first one
    Forbidden Planet
    Dr. Strangelove
    Night of the Living Dead – the first one
    Evil Dead / Evil Dead II
    Fifth Element
    Men in Black
    Men in Black II

  • Barb O’Neill

    Don’t forget the humorous/tongue in cheek future-scifi efforts–for example, Men In Black and Fifth Element.

  • Jeanne Albert

    I’d like to include “Children of Men”– not necessarily the best of all time, but a very compelling story.

  • Michael Clurman

    The Forbidden Planet (1955) is my favorite. It’s the only sci-fi movie which has monsters worthy of an advanced civilization. The Monsters are “monsters from the ID.” These are the primitive insticts of the Krell civilization which in their morally advanced state they had forgotten that they had.

  • Steve

    I would like to capitalize on the allegory point. Russell T. Davies’ Torchwood: Children of Earth which the BBC produced for the small screen captivated audiences for a whole week with very little flashy special effects and much emotional suspense and played off three “what would you do if”:

    1) A force held your child [and everyones] in peril and you couldn’t do anything about it.

    2) Drug addictions gone from bad to worse (an alien “getting high” off of the chemicals in children, which is horrible)

    3) Can anyone get preferential treatment because of class or power to avoid the peril that everyone else faces.

    Russell did this in an amazing way and definitely worth watching. I love the emotion and human elements he brought into the revival of Doctor Who and the creation of Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures.

  • Keith

    Forbidden Planet, classic 1950′s sci-fi. Most sci-fi from the 50′s are the best. But the number one classic has to be Plan 9 from Outer Space!

  • cr

    I don’t hear you playing, “Science Fiction, Double Feature”
    from the Rocky Horror Picture Show -

    how can you Not use that song on this show? (Antici-pation!)

  • euonymous

    The Man Who Fell to Earth with David Bowie (British cut)

  • JP

    The Gojira release which remastered the original film and restored it to all its initial glory is the one to see… not GODZILLA.

    The film set a new standard for miniature set construction and for creature sound effects.

  • Nancy

    How about the Day the Earth Stood Still with Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal? Great film

  • http://andymancomics.blogspot.com Andy

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine”. To me it’s one of the greatest recent Sci-fi films, and deserves a ranking among the greats.

  • JP

    Videodrome is a stunning study extraordinaire of corporate executive guilt taken to the mind’s extreme.

  • Patrick Gross

    Has to be 2001! I saw it in the day as a 14 year old,and was awestruck,I have seen it yearly ever since,it is a masterpiece,no other movie has used music so effectivly,it actually increased the popularity of classical music! And Kubric is my favorite director of all time,with a very diverse collection of movies to his credit,I only wish he had made more…

  • pj hattler

    solaris Andrei Tarkovsky the o.g. is by far the best sci-fi flix hands down — a true master of his craft

  • Claire Sanford

    District 9 has been overlooked (I think only one person has listed it in the listener comments) but it’s worthy of any top 10 list. It was great science fiction and a compelling human/alien story.

  • g

    “Stalker” by Tarkovsky, based on Arkadi and Boris Strugatski.

  • http://www.vermont-photo-inventory.com Bruce Frauman

    I really enjoy the movie, Silent Running which came out in 1972 by Douglas Trumbo. It portrayed a stark future where the earth is being completely destroyed in an unseen war. It takes place on a space craft preserving what could be the last flora of our world, which is called back for the war effort. After my friends and I saw it in an old college dorm basement, we all looked up once out, and let out a sigh of relief. The trees were still there.

    I find the film haunting, funny, well acted by Bruce Dern, and memorable

    What about Woody Allen’s Sleeper?

  • August

    coming to the conversation late, but would welcome your guests comments on the movie “V for Vendetta.” The movie speaks to the dangers of technology as the film is set in a post apocolyptic near future. it also comments on the dangers of social/political apathy and fear.

  • Adam Wanzer

    As with any topic it is important to reflect on the founders of the genre. Sci-Fi began with luminaries that truly had scientific minds and not simply an affinity for the “fantasy” of fiction. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne brought us a future that was not that far off. This I think is a very powerful tool; the not so distant future. C.S. Lewis can also be included by merit of his trilogy Space (starting with Out of the Silent Planet). I think the evolution has been Exploration/Technology -> Socio-economic commentaries (including the previous two) –> Psychology (including the previous topics)… There is a tangent that inserts spirituality by way of Lewis. We are now in a mix that largely focuses on the mind. Is Sci-Fi what it was? Would there be room for Lewis’ Space Trilogy today?

    Sci-Fi is also a great medium for existential commentary. Avatar, as juvenile as it was, would fall into this group I think.

  • JP

    Neither of the Solaris films did justice to the book, but the Andrei Tarkovsky version does indeed stand up excellently on its own merits.

    … I’d love to a movie made that really does just treatment of the book.

  • David Minard

    It was “The Tingler”, a William Castle film and some of the movie seats were wired–supposedly–to give the sensation of the Tingler invading your body thru the soine.

  • David Minard

    It was “The Tingler”, a William Castle film and some of the movie seats were wired–supposedly–to give the sensation of the Tingler invading your body thru the spine.

  • http://wpln Keith

    Dark Star – John Carpenter

  • Gerald Fnord

    I forgot “The Man in the White Suit”, a great movie that shows how Capital, Labour, and Government all hate change.

  • jerry M Landay

    You have left totally unmentioned one of he greatest of the dystopian cinematic triumphs – Rollerball – with an eloquent and accurate futuristic analysis on our corporate society. Talk PLease about Rollerball.
    Jerry M Landay. Bristol RI – 401-254-2291

  • David

    What about EQUALIBRIUUM (SP) ????

  • jeffe

    Joshua Hendrickson’s list works for me. Although I would put Alien higher up in the list as well as Clockwork Orange and Blade Runner would be in my top 5.

    I know this is about films but the Twilight Zone episode called “To Serve Man” is a classic.

  • mary

    matrix trilogy. 1st major sci-fi of the future that shows a world w/people of color. in most sci-fi i’m disappointed that they don’t have people of color.

  • Amanda

    I am a huge sci-fi fan and I am often annoyed by the fact that science fiction films and books are not taken as seriously as other genres. It seems that most critics dismiss them as fluff or not as worthy of awards and recognition. They often have intricate plots and allegorical references to the real world meant to teach us something about humanity and many warn of the dangers of over zealous progress.

    p.s. It seems everyone has forgotten 12 Monkeys!

  • JP

    You’re right! V for Vendetta is superb!

  • Zeno

    I would like to see a remake of the little known Quatermass and The Pit (AKA US release: 5 Million years to earth) but as an update to the effects not to the really original story.

    Watch the original: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3434833733223827719#

  • http://wburboston Susan in Malden, MA

    2001 is the very best: You identified the sacred empty quiet of space in the film, and the clarity and beauty of how space and the spacecraft looked stays with me…the scene when Dave and co-worker are talking in the pod and Hal lip reads is really scary -

    also – must mention Tron – nothing like it at that time.

    And Mystery Science Theater 3000 – the movie – the scene where the guys little legs are hanging out of the jet is hilarious.

    Okay- on TV, have to mention the X-Files – especially the first 4 years, and of course, the Twilight Sone.

    My son and daughter, now 22 and 27, where avid watchers, along with me – and I consider it all a great part of their over-all education. Peace out.

  • g

    I will pick Sci-fi movie to watch any time any day over any other movie. BUT! The problem is that the majority of sci-fi out there is so crappy, that even watching a crappy rom-com or historical movie would be better.

    My favorite sci-fi movie moment, is from “Fifth Element”.
    The scene where the chinese food “boat” pulls away from the window and you see the spread of The City underneath.
    I know the whole movie by heart because I probably watched it about 100 times.

  • http://ianscottberry.com ian

    Sam Rockwell in the film “Moon” is a great Sci-Fi film that touches on all the areas your guests like in the genre.

  • Karen Luke-Mannarino


    Instead of movies lets look at some of the best sci fi today thru BBC america – Dr. Who with 2 fantastic actors in the last 4 years, David Tenant (10th) & Matt Smith (the newest, #11).
    The other is the wild, Torchwood, which has yet to appear this season but has an amazing cast and far edgier than Dr. Who.
    This has hooked my whole family (4 kids, girls and a boy, – ages 12-20)into sci fi like no other movie has!

  • Joe

    PKD. Please discuss.

  • g

    And if we are going to talk sci-fi TV shows – “Red Dwarf”
    - AWESOME!

  • cr

    For escapism, watch the MST3K guys
    comment on movies like:

    “Space Children”
    “Teenagers from Outer Space”
    “Prince of Space”
    “Fire Maidens From Outer Space”
    “Invasion of the Neptune Men”
    “The Creeping Terror”
    “Robot Monster”
    “The Crawling Eye” and
    “12 to the Moon”

  • millard_fillmore

    No one has mentioned the brilliant Zardoz!!

    /slightly tongue-in-cheek

  • http://wburboston Susan in Malden, MA

    bah! damned typos!!! I apologize, gentle readers.

  • Zak

    One of the best sci fi movies I’ve ever seen, disturbed and enthrawled me. Event Horizon reached DEEP into space and even deeper into the mind.

    Also, Inception was a great movie. I loved how none of the people died; it was just one of the unpredictables that made it an extra ordinary film.

  • Martine in Newton, MA

    Silent Running is still one of my favorite sci-fi movies.

  • Tom Baehr

    My memorable SF movies: War of the Worlds, the final scene where the Martian falls out of the spaceship. Based, of course, on Orson Wells’ radio play of 1938.

    When Worlds Collide, when the movie goes form black and white to color at the end. Very impressive to an 8 year old, which gives you an idea of how old I am. Based on a book by Arthur Balmer and Phillip Wiley.

    The Fifth Element, especially for the multi-layer traffic above the streets and in and around the cityscape.

    Tom Baehr

  • JP

    I am sent rolling on the floor howling every time I see De Niro’s mercenary refrigeration repairman go flying out the window in Brazil! Brilliant!

  • Michael

    While I preferred the more optimistic films (Star Trek, 2001, etc.) in my youth; I have begun to believe the more distopian films such as Blade Runnner and Silent Running probably present a more likely future for our self-serving species.

  • E. G.

    Add “Soylent Green” and “The Omega Man” to the list.

  • JP

    I always liked Time After Time, speaking of time travel.

  • Jonathan

    Battlestar Gallactica as an allegory for the Iraq war, racism and slavery.

  • John P. Martin

    I think one of my favorite moments in SciFi is the whole opening scene of John Boorman’s post-apocalyptic film Zardoz. The floating stone head of Zardoz traveling silently to a choral arrangement of Beethoven’s 7th (if my memory serves), drifting slowly into the film’s first baffling dialogues, with Zardoz’s booming voice proclaiming that “the gun is good!” and “the penis is evil!” — just brilliant.

    But beyond that, I love 70s and 80s science fiction. Rollerball, Solaris, Logan’s Run, Escape from New York, Running Man, Time Bandits, Ice Pirates, and other assorted weirdness.

  • millard_fillmore

    My list would include:

    1. Blade Runner
    2. 12 Monkeys (& La Jetee)
    3. Alien (& Aliens)
    4. Brazil
    5. The Terminator
    6. Sleeper
    7. 2001

  • Tim

    I agree with Art, 12 Monkeys has always been one of my favorites. Wild post- and pre-apocalyptic Terry Gilliam scenery combined with some great performances and a plot that unfolds to a chilling conclusion.

    Children Of Men is another near-future distopian sci-fi film that takes place in the erly/mid 21st century when humans have mysteriously stopped reproducing. The scenery and cinematography in the film do an outstanding job of demonstrating environmental, societal, and economic collapse.

  • Duke

    Vanilla Sky

    You don’t know it’s SciFi until the last scene. Up till then, you are just as confused as the Tom Cruise character.

  • chuck scheffreen

    My favorite films are 2001, Day the Earth Stood Still (original), ET, Close Encounters & Avator.
    My favorite scene comes form 2001 when the ape discovers the club (as a club) and throws it the air.
    The worst movie is amongst one recents listener’s favorites, “The Tingler.”

  • James Downard

    Interesting that both critics put visually memorable but rather thin plotted movies on their top (Metropolis and 2001). 2001 is arguably the most overrated SF masterpiece, and I am actually fonder of 2010 (the best ballanced Peter Hyams film). And I don’t know what film Annalee was watching, but the 2001 spacecraft were not plastered with ads (memory slip here, maybe she was thinking of Silent Running?).

    Most of the greatest SF films had superb film scores (Day the Earth Stood Still, Fahrenheit 451 and Star Wars being obvious cases). And for groupies, check out the CD Gerry Goldsmith recorded of his friend Alex North’s unused film score for 2001 (it would have been a very different movie had it been used).

    It was good to see a few noticing “Things to Come” H. G. Wells’ only screenplay and the most impressive epic packed into an hour and a half. Arthur C. Clarke showed it to Kubrick early in 2001 preparation as an example of a great science fiction film, and revealingly Kubrick didn’t like it.

    Missing from all the lists and the comments so far were some great films that are not widely known, such as “Quatermass and the Pit” (arguably the most chilling and ingenious alien invasion movie of all time). A real invisible nugget, as it has never appeared on video, is the late 1960s “Quest for Love” (a very clever alternate universe/love story tale).

  • Sam Jones

    A lot of the choices seem disappointingly un-nerdy.
    What about “Quatermass and the Pit”? Or “End of Evangelion” indeed?
    (And I’m not even mentioning “Gunbuster”!)

  • Jill Markarian

    I suggest 2 great adaptations of Sci. Fi. novels. First, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House-5. A great mix of actual history and sci. fi. Also, Ursula LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven. Low key but very thought provoking.

  • Burky J Chiang

    Some others not yet mentioned –

    Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series

    Dune was mentioned; great series!

  • g

    “Luke! I am your father!”

    Priceless and timeless!

  • BobWatts

    Starship Troopers was great. You’re either a citizen or a civilian. The propaganda was so subtle and I was never sure if the humans were the heroes or just what.

    Other greats include Being John Malkovich, The Fifth Element and the original (James Caan) Rollerball (Jonathan! Jonathan! Jonathan!)

  • Chuck Altvater

    My top ten are:

    The Matrix
    Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind
    A Clockwork Orange
    Escape form New York
    Soylent Green

    Chuck Altvater
    Savannah, GA

  • Jay

    For me, the great innovation of Star Wars was the way in which the technology looked as if it was “lived in.” No utopian gleaming white spaceships without a speck of dust; instead we get cobbled together devices, Luke’s landspeeder missing a body panel and looking like it needs to be washed, and grease like the inside of your uncles garage.

  • Valkyrie607

    Firefly is so awesome, despite the failure to portray Chinese culture well in a universe where the Chinese are supposedly ascendant.

    Event Horizon was a great flick that combined horror and sci-fi. The depiction of a person out in space, was that accurate? I’m curious.

  • Camilo

    For me, the most compelling science fiction is social science fiction–speculation on how changes in technology or institutions would change how we treat each other. Or even change the human character itself.

    Blade Runner offers a wonderful example. Even when cutting edge technology is focused on manufacturing inhuman slaves, the human spirit emerges–the will to live, the ability to cooperate, the need for association, the imperative to transcend our circumstances.

    Blade runner reminds us as well that the fact of our mortality should commend us to live fully while we can. The Harrison Ford character finds that Rachel did not have a specific termination date. “We don’t know how long she will live.”

    None of us ever does.

  • tracy

    There is a great movie XistenZ that dives into Descartes philosophy but it never really received much popular attention.

  • JP

    Gattaca is just a fantastic study of the psychological turmoil imposed upon people living in a world obsessed with genetic testing.

    This has long been a favorite of mine as well.

  • Chip Spann

    Why doesn’t someone do films (besides Johnny Mnemonic!)of the books of William Gibson???????

  • http://www.mikebrotherton.com Mike Brotherton

    My list posted at the top is my picks for the best science-based science fiction movies. While I love several of them, I don’t love them all equally well. My favorites are 2001, Contact, Blade Runner, and Alien/s. I have a compilation of top ten science fiction movie lists at http://www.mikebrotherton.com/?p=654

  • Becca

    What about Logan’s Run? Anyone, anyone?!

  • Nancy

    Galaxy Quest!

  • Robert

    The recent re- imagining of Battlestar Gallactica was brilliantly executed and encapsulates multiple Sci Fi themes. Gallactica brought into play concepts of genetics, artificial intelligence, mythology, space colonization and the human capacity for good and evil. Sci fi at it’s best!

  • JP


    … of course, you realize that Deckard was also a replicant?

  • Tim

    These are 2 classic Sci-fi movies:

    The Lathe of Heaven from 1979, where George Orr’s dreams change reality, and he tries to prevent himself from dreaming because he fears their effects.

    The Quiet Earth from 1985 from New Zealand, where a Stars Wars like international project causes a mass disappearace when it turns on.

  • JP

    Galaxy Quest! Yes!

  • http://wburboston Susan in Malden, MA

    * Spoiler Alert*

    Re: comments about “Moon” – [I just saw it on Comcast on Demand, not knowing anything about it, but agreeing that a possibly middling sci-fi film is better than most commercial films out there] – I was pretty surprised. The story it told about the nature of consciousness, clones, who/whose experience is real and the morality/immorality of corporation of the future broke my heart.

  • ray in vermont

    my choices,

    “Bladerunner”, directors cut

    “12 monkeys” , Terry Gilliam, also “Brazil” terry Gilliam

    “the fifth element”, Luc Besson (also Angel-A, Luc Besson)

    Alien (first one)

    I really like the first 10 minutes or so of “Planet of the Apes”, (original version) when their ship crashes into the lake (Lake Mead?)

    I would love to see more Philip K. Dick made into films; Minority Report wasn’t so great

    and how about “The Wizard of OZ”
    “20,000 leagues Under The Sea” with James Mason as captain Nemo.

  • Seth Riddle

    What about satirical films like John Sayles’ Brother From Another Planet? The story is he wrote this after he had it out w Speilberg as a writer for ET.

  • robert

    I agree. Moon was excellent.

  • gemli

    I just want to say that I thought the Star Wars saga was a huge galactic bore, in the same (boring) league with Close Encounters of the Boring Kind.

    More fun were 2001, District 9, the Matrix trilogy, and a personal favorite, The Chronicles of Riddik. Also, the 2003 TV series Battlestar Gallactca, up until the final disappointing, stupid, ridiculous conclusion was one of the best things I’ve ever seen on TV.

  • http://wburboston Susan

    to g: hehe!

    Hal “I can’t hear you Dave….”

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    SF films that disappointed me:

    The War of the Worlds (both 1954 and 2005 versions). While the kid in me will always love the original, and while I found a good deal to admire in Spielberg’s remake, both films seemed quite pallid in comparison to the H.G. Wells novel’s tone and message. For a really interesting take on this story, check out the graphic novel THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, Volume 2 by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill.

    The Fifth Element. This movie was a lot of fun, quite quirky. But the “bad guy” aliens really rubbed me the wrong way, and the opera singer alien, though initially mysterious and intriguing, was much less so once she doffed the veil and began singing. Ultimately the film felt like what it was: a concept originated by a teenage sf fan.

    Godzilla (1998 remake). I have always been a huge Godzilla fan, and would have included the original film in my list had I really believed it was a good movie rather than a mere favorite of mine. I wanted so badly to like the remake that after seeing it I managed to convince myself that I had liked it. Self-delusion can only be carried so far. I realize now that the filmmakers had no especial affection for or interest in Godzilla. While I still enjoy watching this in parts, much too much of it is awful, especially the scenes that aped the raptors from Jurassic Park. And why the hell does Godzilla only breathe fire twice? (I must add, though, that the film is a treat for fans of the Simpsons, since three voice actors from the show are featured in it.)

    Event Horizon. Granted this is really a horror film in space, but then so was Alien, and that was an exceptional film on scientific terms. I enjoyed it well enough on its own terms, but those terms were not very laudable–come on, Hell in hyperspace? However, I do have the highest praise for the brief scene where we finally see the video record of what happened to the original crew–that is a genuine nightmare come to life, and I will never ever forget it.

  • http://wbur.org Jim Goldman

    I am surprised that people are not remembering Alien Nation (so clever, since the title is really about alienation) with James Caan and Mandy Patemkin. It was an interesting TV spin off afterwards, but the movie was really terrific, and had huge social commentary. Any one else remember this movie?

  • Joe

    Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, Next, Paycheck, Screamers.


  • Joshua Hendrickson


    I am afraid that a lot of the audience for Blade Runner is not aware of the possibility that Deckard is a replicant. Although the clues are in the film, they are not sufficient to suggest this to most viewers, or are too subtle. Of course, it’s not spelled out in the original novel, either.

    And yes, John Carpenter’s The Thing is the best sf remake ever, absolutely. It’s a masterpiece and I never grow tired of it. The last scene is perhaps the only last scene in any horror movie that isn’t a cheat. Is Childs a Thing? Is Macready? Both? Neither? Sharing the bottle…

  • Gary Jaz

    “Sunshine” is the best sci-fi movie in many years.

  • JP


    The clues about Deckard being a replicant are indeed subtle in the original version of the film, but the idea is blatantly asserted in the Directors cut.

    Deckard is able to prove to Rachel that she is a replicant because he read her file on implanted memories and can tell her about memories that she never told anyone.

    … here is where the very key image of the unicorn from the Director’s Cut comes into play.

    Deckard has a dream (or implanted) memory of a unicorn, something he’s never had any reason to tell anyone about… Gaff, however, demonstrates at the very end of the film that has been privvy to Deckard’s memory file in the same way Deckard was privvy to Rachel’s file. Gaff leaves the little origami unicorn behind in Deckard’s apartment as a way to tease Deckard and clue him in.

    Deckard is the mysterious 2nd replicant that Bryant accidently lets slip is still in need of termination, the 1st being Rachel.

  • JP

    Brilliant screenwriting, BTW.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    And then there are novels that practically beg to be made into films.

    First on my list here would be Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash.” A truly wild near-future, hilarious and hyperactive, with great characters.

    “The Mote in God’s Eye” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. A terrific space opera about first contact with a genuinely interesting and realistic alien species, it has great mystery, space battles, and intrigue.

    “The Forge of God” and “Anvil of Stars” by Greg Bear. These linked novels are, first, the finest and most realistic aliens-destroy-Earth story ever written, and second, the finest and most realistic depiction of space war ever written, as children of the Earth’s survivors hunt down their home’s killers. These might be too complex for cinema, but not if they ended up in the right hands.

    (I’m sure that old school sf fans will want to beat me up for this, but I don’t think Asimov’s “Foundation” series would make a good film, or even a good tv series. I recall the books as being long on concept and extremely short on background detail and character–with the exception of the Mule.)

  • JP

    Snow Crash is fantastic, and I’ve long waited to see that made into a film.

    … I think the best way would be fully animated, however… something like theway the Final Fantasy films were made.

  • Rich

    Blade Runner
    and to that eariler commment yeah, Creation of the Huminoids, Lousy movie but their is something to it. Kind of pre Blade Runner.
    and for that matter what about
    Fantastic Voyage – for all of us that got involved in science, microscopes, etc,
    and the all time favorite…Wrong Trousers by Nick Park

  • Joshua Hendrickson


    I saw the director’s cut of Blade Runner once on the big screen, but the only things I remember about it were the voiceover being cut out and the film’s ending appropriately in the elevator rather than out in the implausibly sunshiny outdoors. I did recognize in the original film that Gaff was the key to the clues about Deckard.


    I liked Sunshine but in the end it just wasn’t plausible enough for me.

  • Joshua Hendrickson


    glad to meet another Neal Stephenson fan here. I have to disagree with you about “full animation”, though. Personally, I find cgi depictions of human beings repellent. It ruined Beowulf for me despite the screenplay having been written by Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite writers. Keep human beings human and digitalize the rest, I say.

  • JP

    Also key about Deckard:

    “How can she not know what she is?”

    “More human than human, is our motto,” which explains why Deckard feels pain, can have teeth knocked out and fingers broken, and is relatively weak (human-like), unlike the battle replicants.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Jim Goldman,

    I remember Alien Nation vaguely. I liked it. The premise about the aliens being slaves, minorities, was a good one (District 9 was an interesting update on the same basic premise). I recall the opening scene of the movie introduced the premise in an effective way. But apart from that and the idea of salt water being lethal to the aliens, I don’t remember anything else about it.

  • JP

    If it wasn’t done CG, I always saw Angelina (circa and look of Jolie in Hackers) as Y.T.

    I just think the look and complexity of the Snow Crash world would be to difficult not to go fully animated, where the imagination of the director would be totally free to do real justice to the book.

    … and I’d like to see it done as a trilogy, at least.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    While I’m sure everyone recalls the original Twilight Zone tv series fondly, I must mention the Twilight Zone series that CBS aired in 1986. While some of the episodes were mediocre, quite a few were excellent, first rate science fiction. And they weren’t just remakes of old TZ stories, either.

    As far as it goes, the Twilight Zone movie of 1983 has a bad reputation, but I always thought that the versions of “It’s a Good Life” and especially “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” were both superb.

  • Joshua Hendrickson


    don’t get me wrong, I think the backgrounds and such should be cgi, but when you mentioned “full animation” I thought you meant animate the people as well.

    Angelina Jolie as YT? Naah. Pick someone the character’s age … 14, if I recall.

  • John

    My Science Fiction movies choices pretty much encapsulates those already mentioned.

    But if I were putting together a cheesy science fiction giant monster movie festival and the cities they wreck havoc in would include:
    Godzilla – 1950′s and with Raymond Burr (Tokyo)
    Godzilla – 1990′s remake (New York City)
    Them! – 1950′s (Giant insects – ants and bees) (Los Angles)
    Reptilicus – 1960′s (the unlikely city of Copenhagen)
    It came from beneath the sea – 1950′s (San Francisco)
    Gorgo – 1960′s (London)
    The Giant Behemoth – 1950′s (London)
    The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms – 1950′s (New York City)
    The Beginning of the End – 1950′s (Chicago)
    The Flying Serpent – 1940′s (New York City)
    Q – 1980′s (remake of above and also in NYC)
    Rodan – 1950′s (multiple Japanese cities)
    The Giant Claw – 1950′s (New York City)
    Twenty Million Miles to Earth – 1950′s (Rome)

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Mary’s comment about the Matrix films breaking the “color” barrier is right on. I hate Keanu Reeves and I wish the Matrix had been made with Will Smith in the role of Neo.

  • JP

    Yeah, that’s why I say circa and look of Hackers.

    Hackers was a terrible movie, but Jolie and the haircut she has in Hackers look exactly as I pictured Y.T. in my mind’s eye.

    Take a look if you can find an image of Jolie from the movie, and see what you think.

  • Mia Karnatz

    2001: A Space Odyssey
    Silent Running
    The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
    Blade Runner
    Forbidden Planet
    Logan’s Run
    The Fifth Element
    Invaders from Mars (1953)

  • Josh

    I was surprised to not hear mention of Dune, 1984 film, as well as Logan’s Run no today’s show. At least, the portion I was able to tune into.

  • Tim Truemper

    1) 2001
    2) Alien/Aliens
    3) The Day the Earth Stood Still (first)
    4) Terminator 1 and 2
    5) District 9
    6) Contact
    7) Men in Black
    8) Emoire Strkes Back
    9) Artificial Intelligence
    10) ET

    Lots of other good ones but these are not only great Sci-Fi movies, they are good movies for any genre.

  • JP


    Raven in Snow Crash is probably the best villain I’ve ever come across, and I’ve read everything Peter O’Donnell ever wrote, so I’ve come across some great villains.

    Why people in Hollywood aren’t falling over themselves to make a movie from Snow Crash is utterly unfathomable.

    Any takers? James Cameron? Guillermo del Toro? Peter Jackson?

  • http://www.onpointradio.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

    I’ve been a longtime advocate for a movie of “The Left Hand of Darkness,” by Ursula K. Le Guin. I agree about “Snow Crash,” too.

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Snow Crash would be a sweet movie.

    If you like Gattaca, you should read The Chrysalids.

    The book of Fahrenheit 451 is also well worth reading, though there is a place in my heart for the movie as well.

    I thought Blade Runner moved really slow when I saw it on TV, but when you see it on a big screen, you realize that it’s just giving you time to appreciate the details of the scenery.

    I think that The Running Man and Tron are both often underrated.

    Serenity and Firefly are awesome!

    I think my favorite of all might be Brazil though, especially after watching Metropolis.

  • http://www.onpointradio.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

    I also really didn’t like the movie of “Farenheit 451,” although I’m a big fan of both the book and of Truffaut. It seemed to miss the point in a lot of ways, although I liked that Julie Christie played both Guy’s wife and Clarisse (if I’m remembering that correctly).

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Oh, and District 9! So good!

  • http://cyberfumes.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    Yeah, you could tell the movie of F 451 was made in the days before they realized that attempting sci-fi requires a huge movie budget. It’s a fun boiling down, but you’re right that there are great points that the book gets to that the movie misses.

  • George Savage

    A few more for my list;


    On the Beach

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind

  • JP

    This is a little off-topic, but since people are talking about movies that need to be made:

    …Ever since I started watching the best Parkour stuff I could find online, it occured to me that TARZAN should be remade using really intense parkour stunts and especially if the director could really go for getting the look and feel of Frazetta paintings on film.

    … just imagine it!


  • Nancy

    I can picture what you mean about Trazan. That could be a savage combo on film.

  • http://www.vermont-photo-inventory.com Bruce Frauman

    Two other series of books that I think would make good movies and movie series were written by Stephen R. Donaldson.

    The Thomas Covenant fantasy series includes two trilogies dating from 1977 through 1983. I just learned that a third series of four books release from 2004 to a scheduled 2013. I suggest looking up the author in Wikipedia for a more compete summary.

    The books involve a leper in current times who travels in some mysterious fashion to “The Land”, a rich fantasy world with many memorable human like species (such as elves and giants, but unique to this world. There are the usual journeys and epic battles between good and evil. The “hero” is not always very healthy and resistant to participating. I guess one criticism would be the white male as hero saving almost single handedly a less technological race (see Avatar, for instance).

  • http://www.vermont-photo-inventory.com Bruce Frauman

    The second more science fiction series by Stephen R. Donaldson is “The Gap” series, originally five books rereleased as four. These are loosely based on Wagner’s Ring Cycle. At least two intertwined plots through several planets in different galaxies. Diverse well formed characters put through very difficult situations. I know this description is rather vague, but though the basic plot and several scenes stay with me, I don’t know how else to characterize the books.

    In terms of movies, these books are very visual and follow two intertwined plots with diverse and well formed characters. Perhaps he has refused to allow rights to filmmakers.

    By the way, the first series is formally, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever.

  • JP


    Of all the things people have done on film, I’ve never seen anyone really try to get down the look and feel of a frazetta painting… it would indeed be a savage and intense look, and it could certainly be done these days.

    … I think it would go over quite well with audiences.

    … and could there be a better use for parkour than the way one would expect Tarzan to move through the jungle?

    Hollywood is crazy for parkour right now, so it shouldn’t be a hard sell.

  • Rob

    I would put the orginal Star Wars at the top of the list, although the quality of the later three movies ruined its image somewhat. Maybe it is because I saw the original 3 movies as a young kid and movies with special effects of this kind were so new (at least to me) at the time. I would also put the original Planet of the Apes on my top ten list, but most of Joshua Hendrickson’s list above works for me.

  • Rachel

    The Terminator – strong female character, plausible scary future of machines taking over.

    Alien – another strong female character and freakish mean alien battle it out in an eerie setting in outer space.

    It was awesome as a girl growing up to see strong females in science fiction – a place where we were once excluded despite Mary Shelley often being credited with writing the first science fiction novel.

  • Zeno

    Not sure if Cloverfield was SF…I’m not sure what it was, but I liked how it was made with respect to the viewer. No details, just draw your own conclusion.

  • GD

    Forbidden Planet: Monsters from the Id!

  • loninappleton

    Another vote for Alien Nation. It explores the concept of alienness and learning to understand it the best that has ever been written. The film is ok, but the television series (including the late release of some made for tv movie specials) shows what real speculative fiction can be. Overcoming bigotry is a big message in that series.

    I’m not through the whole thread here yet but Oliver Stone’s The Wild Palms is operatic in it’s story line and pressages what is being done with Caprica. I have seen The Wild Palms more than once all the way through. Worth seeking out.

  • loninappleton

    Alternate histories have not been mentioned much. There’s a film called “Fatherland” giving the alternate history to the present day as if Germany won the Second World War.

    There is an assassination in 1963 but I’ll not give away who the victim is.

    These kinds of stories on film are not the big SFX shows: what they do is explore what we could be and what we are; sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Harlan Ellison has used the term speculative fiction in this context.

  • Kristopher

    I’m surprised by the reviews on “Inception” by your guests as well as Mr. Edlestein. (SP?) I wasn’t quite sure of what I thought about Mr. Nolan’s dream opus immediately after viewing it but it did “haunt” me a little and I gave it enough thought to watch the film again. Upon a second view I was sold. I found those elements of existential crisis that Mr. Scott found missing. There is a fun ambiguity about the movie that lends the viewer to interpret the ending in a way that I have vacillated over. To say this movie is visually compelling but lacks depth makes me wonder if we watched the same movie. To me, this movie is about perception, reality, suicide, religion, psychology and almost any other aspect of being human that has been questioned since “Blade Runner” all of which are the epitome of “deep”. The allegory of “Wizard of Oz” and the Psychology of Jung are present in this film if one has the audacity to imagine what dreams are made of.

  • Terri Gregory

    “Brother from Another Planet” belongs on the list, as does “Dark Star,” a crazily weird low-budget cult classic in which a beach ball is an alien.

    Some of the Star Trek films belong on the list before some of the Star Wars films.

  • Joshua Hendrickson

    Cloverfield! Very good movie … no answers offered or necessary. Probably the best take on the Godzilla theme yet filmed. I love the scene where one of the characters, having been bitten by a critter, just suddenly explodes behind a screen.

    For Cloverfield fans, here’s a bit of trivia (gleaned from dvd commentary) that really puts an interesting spin on the movie: “Clover” the giant monster is actually a newborn baby!

  • Steve H

    I think my favorite overlooked SF movie is “Moontrap,” a low-budget direct-to-video (I think) movie that starred Walter Koenig (yes, THAT Walter Koenig, but not in the Star Trek persona). Well written, well acted, and they even got the physics right (no sound when there’s no atmosphere).

  • Josh

    2004′s “Primer” was, in my opinion, the best film to deal with time travel and one of my favorite sci-fi movies. Its gritty realism and the intense psychological dynamics of the characters made it truly mind blowing.

    Thanks for the show!

  • John Evans

    “Sunshine” (2007) is on my top 5 list, and not just for science fiction.

  • Zubie

    Just got this show by accident. Top 10 lists for movies are always problematic. In one’s own mind there are so many ties, so many things get unmentioned, there’s always the cultural bias (US films vs foreign), and style bias (pulp sf, 50s monsters, 70s cerebral, fx extravaganza).

    Great that “Brother from Another Planet” gets a nod & someone remembered ’68 Planet of the Apes. “Slaughterhouse 5″ might not really be SF but commentary on SF as Billy Pilgrim may just be suffering from PTSD & retreating to his childhood SF pulp. Curious that M. Crichton’s stuff seems unmentioned (Jurassic Park, Coma, The Andromeda Strain, Westworld). “Dark Star”, while not perfect, is perhaps one of the better true SF spoofs on film so far by making fun of SF elements as opposed to just sight gags and puns (HHGTTG movie does as well but BBC radio/TV series better, & Galaxy Quest great spoof of SF-film).

  • http://www.facebook.com/OnPointRadio#!/AmberMartingale Angela

    I was stunned to hear not a single word about Soylent Green or Plan 9 From Outer Space.

    Plan 9 deserves a spont on anyone’s list of Top 10 WORST Sci-fi movies. As does Logan’s Run.

    I thught Soylemnt green should have been mentione dbecause of that scene at the end where Charolton Heston’s character is carried off on a stretcher screaming “SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!”

  • Kevin

    Ashbrook’s show was great yesterday; yet… it was his airing of Bernard Hermann’s overture to “The Day the Earth Stood Still” that got me combing the www for more background on the composer. Wow! On Point could do an entire show dedicated to the genius. How ’bout it Tom? I’ll even call in! (What an awesome picture of the assistants tending to the robot in between takes for Metropolis!)

  • Rich

    Terminator 1,2,3 plus all 31 episodes of Fox Sarah Connor Chronicles (the latter being the best of all, and which can be had pretty cheap on DVD, which is even better than when it was on TV).

    Back to the Future 1,2,3 (I love time travel when it is done properly as in Ti, SCCi, BFi (TimeCop is not bad but pushes the credibility envelope).

    Star Wars: Episodes 4 (1977) and 5 (1980) only, plus the youtube star wars phantom menace review parts 1-7, and attack of the clones review parts 1-9, which shows where Star Wars went wrong. Note: “language” in the reviews is R-rated.

  • DD

    What about I Robot? Even though it borrowed from a number of Issamov’s robot stories (I’ve read them all), the pieces were skillfully weaved together. The movie stayed pretty true to his writings and contained many of the ideas he introduced.

  • Patricia Kayden

    What about “Enemy Mine” with Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr?

    The Blob (Steven McQueen’s debut film performance)
    are all great sci-fi films in my opinion.

    And nothing beats the original Star Trek series and Twilight Zone for sci-fi tv.

  • jeff

    “Blessed Saint Lebowitz – keep em dreaming down there!”

    A Canticle for Lebowitz…

  • Jeff Z

    The Postman by David Brin was a good book but only a passable movie!

  • John B

    La Jetee by Chris Marker … the most haunting, time travel sci-fi film ever. Remade and embellished as 12 Monkees, but still a stand out. Only 28 minutes, B&W, Netflix on demand … check it out if you haven’t seen it. I just watched it again 2 days ago; I can’t forget it.
    Also overlooked, Quatermass and the Pit. Great premis … the swarming hive within us!
    Yes, Deckard=Replicant … but checkout how many of Phillip K. Dick’s short stories have been pirated for sci-fi. Many of his stories read more like “treatments” than conventional sci-fi.

  • Edwin Romanowicz

    I would add John Carpenter’s “Dark Star” to the list of great science fictions movies. What it lacked in special effects it more than made up for in dialog. The scene where the astronaut argues with the computerized bomb about what is real and what isn’t is incredible.

  • tworivers

    Planet of the Apes (1968 version w/ Heston)
    Empire Strikes Back
    Galaxy Quest
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (70′s version with Donald Sutherland)
    The Day the Earth Stood Still (original version)

  • not another one

    in no particular order:
    blade runner
    district 9
    star wars
    children of men
    solaris (both)
    28 days later

  • yuletide Timberland

    Man there are so many good sci fi movies. If you look at this list http://www.filmcrave.com/list_genre_movie.php?genre=Sci-Fi it is hard to dispute that sci fi is the greatest genre.

  • Raxinfraxin

    I’ll limit this list to films set in the future, because I feel like it. And, no, The Matrix doesn’t really count.

    1. Blade Runner (the Workprint cut)

    2. Gattaca

    3. Alien

    4. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

    5. Metropolis (the original Berlin cut)

    6. Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (the original theatrical version)

    7. 2001: A Space Odyssey

    8. Forbidden Planet

    9. Moon

    10. Total Recall

    Honorable mention: Star Wars (the original theatrical version), Sunshine, The Fifth Element, Aliens (the director’s cut), Pitch Black, Silent Running, Outland

    Movies that I haven’t seen yet but are probably awesome: Planet of the Apes (the 1968 one, and not Burton’s remake), Enemy Mine, Demolition Man, Serenity

    Movies that I hate but which are loved by everyone else: Minority Report, the Star Trek remake, Avatar

  • Lori Cerny

    In no particular order:

    2001: A Space Odyssey
    War of the Worlds
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers
    The Day the Earth Stood Still
    Blade Runner
    Forbidden Planet

  • ron

    Seconds (1966) with rock hudson, never metioned movie, still one of the best sf movies.

  • http://zelat.com Riley

    I’m a Sci-Fi purist – Star Wars, in my mind, is not Sci-Fi.

    My list:
    1) Contact
    2) The Matrix (maybe influenced somewhat by Dark City – at least the soundtrack)
    3) 2010
    4) Blade Runner
    5) GATTACA
    6) District 9
    7) The Prestige
    8) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
    9) Starship Troopers (1997 – a more complex movie than given credit for)
    10) Moon

    Honorable Mentions: Terminator, Aliens, Alien, The Thing (1982), Enemy Mine, Twelve Monkeys, Total Recall, Dark Star, Predator, Robocop, Minority Report, Primer, Children of Men, Alphaville.

    Top Cult Favorites: A Boy and His Dog , Escape from New York, Logan’s Run, Dune

  • ZephyrFilms

     Add “A Canticle of Lebowitz” to the list that would make an excellent sci-fi/ futuristic visionary drama. I would like to write the screenplay! 

Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 20, 2014
In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

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