When listing your favorite genre flicks, sci-fi and horror practically go hand in hand.
Often times fans don’t like both genres equally, you’re usually partial to one or another, and while I’m more of a horror nut, I do indeed have many sci-fi favorites as well. So like our horror list, when I think of great sci-fi, here’s what comes to mind.
The 1977 Star Wars was of course a big touchstone for so many of us, and whether you grew into a sci-fi fanatic or not, Star Wars took me, and so many other kids to another incredible world so far beyond our own. The best was still yet to come with Empire Strikes Back, but being a young kid who didn’t know about how special effects worked, seeing Star Wars back in the 70’s was like seeing the most incredible magic trick ever performed.
Going all the way back to the sci-fi classics of the 50’s, it’s truly amazing how well the best from that time still hold up after all these years. The Day the Earth Stood Still, It Came From Outer Space, Forbidden Planet, just to name a few, came from the era when people were trying to come to grips with the horrors of the atomic age. The warning issued in The Day the Earth Stood Still is still relevant today. On a less serious note, monsters like The Creature From the Black Lagoon and Godzilla warned us of the dangers of pollution and nuclear power, and they’re both great fun to watch these days.
In addition to nuclear fear, sci-fi has also warned us repeatedly against the dangers of technology getting too far ahead of humanity, and Colossus: The Forbin Project, is one of my favorites in this vein. A friend of mine believes Colossus, a super computer that becomes self-aware and ends up holding the world hostage by commanding nuclear weapons, was the inspiration for Skynet, and it’s a great sci-fi gem that more people should go back to today.
Not knowing the great twist ending beforehand, the original Planet of the Apes definitely blew my mind, and like many genre fans, I still have great fondness for it. As a big lover of time travel stories, the original Time Machine, the first two Terminator films, and Back to the Future are all big favorites with me, and have been since I first saw them.
At the same time, sci-fi doesn’t always have to be perfect to be enjoyable. Logan’s Run is flawed, heavy-handed and clunky, but I really like the ideas behind it, and you can definitely say the same about Soylent Green. It’s also great that the 1980 incarnation of Flash Gordon got another 15 minutes of fame in the comedy Ted. While it’s not on the level of The Day the Earth Stood Still, it’s still got a special place in my heart. (Great theme song too from Queen: “FLASH! Ah-Ahhhhh!”)
And as regular TG readers know, we’ve still got plenty of mad love for Star Trek II and Tron, which both hit their thirtieth anniversary this year, and I still love ‘em both to this day.
Again, all this is only scratching the surface, and there’s certainly tons more I’m sure I’ll remember the second this story gets posted, but when I think of great cinematic sci-fi, this is usually what first comes to mind.