Science-Fiction movies have always been around, with Georges Melies’ “Le Voyage dans la lune” being one of the earliest examples of a film set in “space”. Naturally, people were curious. And naturally, the sci-fi genre would evolve through the years, hitting its peak in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky made two of the best sci-fi movies of all time: “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Solaris”. Let’s take a closer look at some of my personal favorites (in chronological order).
Things To Come : Author H.G Wells was so ahead of his time, he published his book “The Shape of Things to Come” in 1933, predicting a second world war and the “reshaping” of humanity. In the movie, the war would continue into the 1960’s before a more “reasonable” civilization attempts space travel. Though a bit dated, the movie is still fascinating to look at and features some very impressive sets. As far as early science-fiction movies go, this is a must-see.
The Time Machine : Another movie based on H.G Wells’ masterful work, “The Time Machine” is campier in tone than “Things to Come”, but that’s one of the reasons why I love it so much. Set in 1899, Rod Taylor plays Wells himself, an inventor who dreams of a utopian society but finds that the opposite is true when he travels to the future. A lot of movies have tried to emulate the success of the original “Time Machine” (including a 2002 remake directed by Wells’ great grandson, Simon Wells), but very few have succeeded. In terms of imagination “The Time Machine” remains one of the best of its genre.
2001: A Space Odyssey : A movie that certainly gets better with time, A Space Odyssey caught me off guard when I first saw it over a decade ago, and left me wondering if they’ll ever be a space movie as masterfully directed as this. Regarded as Director Stanley Kubrick’s very best work, “2001” is certainly his most ambitious. Set in space, the movie follows a crew on its way to find a mysterious artificial object buried beneath the lunar surface. Kubrick won an Oscar for his groundbreaking visual effects then went on to direct several classics, but “2001” remains one of his very best films.
Solaris : Andrei Tarkovsky’s answer to Kubrick came in the form of “Solaris”, a Russian masterpiece that follows a psychologist who is sent to a station in order to discover what has caused the crew to go insane. Many regard this as a work of art, and it’s easy to see why. In the hands of Tarkovsky, space has never looked more terrifying. Or fascinating. Your call.
Alien : It was while watching “Alien: Covenant
” that the idea of compiling a sci-fi list came to mind. Director Ridley Scott may have done a good job with “Covenant”, but he’ll never top his early work. “Alien” starred Sigourney Weaver as part of a space crew battling an Alien entity aboard their spaceship. The eerie atmosphere and the first-rate action scenes terrified audiences at the time, and still do. This is science-fiction horror at its very best.
Moon : Duncan Jones was relatively unknown when he made “Moon
“, a superior science-fiction movie that ranks (in my opinion) as one of the best of its genre. Sam Rockwell is brilliant as an astronaut finishing up a three year contract on the moon, mining energy from lunar rock. He wants out so he could get back to his wife and daughter. Then an accident happens, and a new astronaut appears, looking exactly like him. How is it possible? This terrific movie keeps you guessing at every turn, up until its gut-wrenching finale. Add it to your list of must-sees.
: Christopher Nolan’s very own Space Odyssey is among the director’s best work. A terrific Matthew McConaughey plays an ex NASA pilot who is asked to find a new home for the human race following an environmental disaster that threatens to end our world. The result is a movie that is a genuine original in every possible way: involving and immersive, moving and memorable. Like Stanley Kubrick in 1968, Nolan leaped into space and dared us to leap with him. What a movie!
Arrival : A masterpiece in every way possible, “Arrival
” gave us Canadian Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve at the top of his creative form. And yet at the surface, the story couldn’t be more straightforward: aliens land on planet earth. A linguist (Amy Adams, in one of the best performances of her career) is recruited by the military to find out what their intentions are. The script has plenty of surprises up its sleeve, relying on dream sequences to convey emotions, scored by Johan Johannsson, who also worked on the brilliant “Sicario
”. Was Villeneuve overreaching? Sure. Most great filmmakers do. His film is a groundbreaker, a personal vision of humanity that dares to aim high. You can’t possibly miss that.