When I was too young to notice plot holes, illogical actions, over-moralizing, and other stupidities, I thought The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) was edge-of-the-seat scary and fascinating.  For many years I daydreamed about owning a watch that could stop everything except me.  

In 2 years, The War of the Worlds (1953) came out.  It impressed me almost as much as The Day the Earth Stood Still, but the enjoyment lasted for many more years and many more viewings.  It was scary and fascinating also, but slowly became my #1 because it was more realistic and not as preachy.  

In 3 more years, Forbidden Planet (1956) appeared.  It was fun, scary, fantastic, and cerebrally satisfying.  It easily took the #1 spot, where it stayed for 12 years.

In 4 more years, The Time Machine (1960) was released.  Very enjoyable.  It remained a favorite along with War of the Worlds for many years.  However, Forbidden Planet remained #1.

In 8 more years, the big one hit the theaters.  2001: A space odyssey (1968).  For my taste, the best yet.  No bug-eyed monsters.  No evil bad guys.  No plot-holes.  No overt moralizing.  No bad science. No childish dialog.  No cheesy acting.  Well, maybe a little.  All in all, a lot more realistic than all previous Sci-fi movies.

It was just adventure on a grand scale.  From the beginning of intelligent life to the (near) contact with a Godlike intelligence.  It also had quiet, personal moments that helped make it believable.  The grand space vistas were very emotional to this space and science lover.  The classical music was a perfect compliment.  I don’t remember hearing the opening number before, but it was very impressive with the very low bass note ushering-in the dramatic “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, and impressive first view of earth.  Also very thrilling was “The Blue Danube” accompanying the space shuttle waltzing with the space station (docking).

I must admit though, that it wasn’t perfect.  Even on first viewing, as incredibly impressive as it was to this 27 year old “youngster”, I thought the psychedelic color graphics near the end of the show were a bit cheesy and went on way too long.  Also, the weird ‘music’ and weird stuff happening to the astronaut at the end didn’t do anything for me.  The end message was also confusing.

Those negatives combined with the slow parts made it slowly loose it’s impressiveness on repeat viewings.  After watching it many times, it’s now mostly boring.  Without humor, all movies loose attractiveness on repeat viewings.

While I’m at it, I never considered it number 1, but I have to give honorable mention to the next Sci-fi I liked.  It came 6 years later.  Silent Running (1972), had poor dialog, poor acting, and the basic premise is incredibly stupid.  However, I liked the 3 cute klutzy robots, the songs by Joan Baez, and the self-sacrifice of the hero.  Didn’t hold-up to many repeat viewings, but I enjoyed it for a time.

Another honorable mention came 2 years later.  Logan’s Run (1976) had quite a bit of cheese, poor dialog, and poor acting (coughFarrahFawcettMajorscough), but the second half picked-up considerably, mostly due to the humor and quality acting of Peter Ustinov.  I never considered it the best, but I still like watching it every year.  

Eight years later, the sequel to 2001 hit the market.  2010 (1984) was not very popular, but I enjoyed it a lot, and still do because there is more humor, the characters are more well-developed & likable, the Godlike intelligence’s plan is more understandable, it’s not confusing, and the ending is satisfying.  I now like 2010 much better than 2001.

One year later, the first of a great trilogy began.  Back to the Future/s (1985/89/90) were great because they had very good actors & dialog, a good time-travel story, but mostly because they had a ton of humor.  Purists may say they’re Comedies, not Sci-fi movies, but humor does so much for me these days, and is so re-watch-able, that I don’t care.  My favorite Sci-fis these days are comedies.

I very much like the acting and humor of Christopher Lloyd, and in this trilogy, he does a great job as a slightly ditzy scientist hero.  The last of the trilogy is my favorite because he falls for a girl that’s very likable and a great beauty.  They’re also closer to my age than most movie love-story couples.  That helps.

A year after the first Back to the Future, were two more honorable mentions.  Short Circuit (1986) is the funny story of a warrior robot that accidentally becomes self-aware and decides to be a nice-guy, using the “do unto others” line of reasoning.  Still a fun watch after all these years.  Short Circuit 2 (1988), is almost as good.  Fisher Stevens is a great comic in both these movies. 

The second in that year, Little Shop of Horrors (1986) is a darkly humorous take-off of the Sci-fi/horror genre.  Lots of great actors and lots of humor.  A musical with good music and a good love-story.  Still watch-able after all these years.

The same year as the last Back to the Future part III (1990), appeared a Sci-fi “B-movie” that I thought was very enjoyable.   Tremors (1990) had lots of humor, and was believable because the characters acted like real people act.  Tremors 2 (1996) became just as enjoyable after a few viewings.  Tremors 3 and 4 are not near as good, but are still watch-able.

Three years later, and we have Bicentennial Man (1999).  Another not so popular movie that’s very popular with me.  Another artificial intelligence becoming self-aware.  Very funny and quite emotional.

I must also mention that in the same year, a TV series started that was as good as most Sci-Fi movies for my taste.  Futurama (1999-2003).  A greatly humorous take-off of just about every piece of popular entertainment and newsworthy stories, as well as quite a bit of Sci-fi.  Again, not very popular, but hits my funny-bone nicely.  The spin-off movies, however, were a big let-down.

The next year Mission to Mars (2000) came forth to not-so-thunderous applause.  Actually, just a very scattered applause.  But I’m one that applauded, and still do every year.  Believable and emotional.  

Two years later, there were two Sci-Fi comedies that I liked.  The adventures of Pluto Nash (2002), received  a standing hisss/booo, with the exception of yours truly.  I laugh and enjoy myself greatly every time it’s in the DVD player.  Randy Quaid as the robot Bruno, is very funny.

The second 2002 movie was to some just a childish sci-fi comedy.  But it instantly became (and still is) my favorite movie of all time (of any genre).  Lilo & Stitch (2002), is an animated Sci-fi comedy with a very emotional story of family and friendship.  As seems to be the case with a lot of my favorite Sci-fi movies it’s about an artificial intelligence.  This one is programmed by an “evil genius” to be super-powerful and destructive.  Why?  Just for the fun of it.  Again, the intelligence learns to go counter to it’s programming with the help of a young girl.  She teaches it what “family” means, which is the reason it resonates with me so emotionally.  The music goes perfectly with the movie and it probably goes without saying that the humor is my type and in great quantities.

It takes another 6 years before another favorite Sci-fi appears.  Wall-E (2008), struck me as good, but not great.  However, it has become more enjoyable on second and third viewing.  Once more, it’s a story of an artificial intelligence that exceeds his programming.  This time, he inadvertently saves humanity while pursuing his love-interest.  

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Replies to This Discussion

I love Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Chronicles of Riddick - so many I could list here.

I love the ones you listed Spud. Those are good movies.

I like the first 3 Star Wars (IV, V, & VI).  "I" was partly enjoyable (I'm one of the few that found Jar Jar Binks to be funny), but didn't like "II" & "III".

I've watched all of the Star Trek series and movies.  I like quite a few episodes, my favorite being  "The Trouble With Tribbles", because of the comedy of course.  My favorite Star Trek movies are "The Voyage Home" and "First Contact".

However, there are some Star Trek's that just annoy me too much because Captain Kirk acts so childish.  I wouldn't hire him as a dog-catcher, let alone a Star Ship Captain.  I know, I'm a curmudgeon!

I liked Pitch Black just a little, but haven't seen The Chronicles of Riddick.

One you didn't mention which, while it has its faults, has a measure of intrigue, at least for yours truly, and that is Steven Soderbergh's take on Solaris.  I suppose it's as much character study as it is science-fiction, but it has a quality I enjoy while completely avoiding being the kind of space opera which too often attempts to pass for science-fiction.

I watched parts of Solaris on TV, but kept going to other channels & coming back.  Psychological stories/character studies are just not my thing.

What about Contact?  I thought that movie was fascinating.  The simple fact that is was spawned from Carl Sagan gave it high marks in my book.

Seconded, enthusiastically so.  In addition to the quality of the science-fiction of Contact, there is also the matter of the main character, Ellie Arroway, and her excellent portrayal of an positive, assertive yet non-combative atheist.

Also poignant - when the original machine was destroyed by a religious zealot, who martyred himself in the process, so that questions about the unknown could remain unknown, thereby protecting the faiths of billions of clueless religionists.

Good thing for this rule:

First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?

I loved the premise and the atheistic female scientist.  The huge machine thrilled me because I love technology.  So, I liked it quite a bit on first viewing, but, sorry to say, I noticed too many things that annoyed me on the second viewing.

I always get very annoyed at religious fools of course.  Then, if I remember right, I got annoyed with her for falling for the sleazy guy.  And finally, I like resolution, and this movie had none.  I hate being left up in the air.

I'd be cool with a sequel to clear things up.  I know what you mean about that whole romance thing, though - seems like hollywood feels that shuffling a romance into an already good movie always makes it better. 

I've seen all the films you listed and enjoyed most of them. However, my all time favorite has to be Blade Runner, based on Phillip Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Also, among my favorites are Brazil and The Bicentennial Man (although the book was much better)
There are a mountain of SF novels that would make great films and I wish they would produce more. With CG technology almost any novel could be a great film. I enjoyed Dune, but if one had not read the book it was largely incomprehensible.

With CG technology almost any novel could be a great film.

I was really excited when Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was announced, but ultimately I thought the movie fell a bit flat.  There's no way to compete on the screen with what Douglas Adams managed to put into words.

Haven't read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but the movie didn't do much for me.




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