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

The entire series is available in audiobook at my library.  I read all the books when I was young, and recently listened to the audio version - was neat.  They are produced with full characters and incredible sound effects, unlike most audio books.  I found listening to them to be better than the movie.  They also have many Dr. Whos with the same type of format.

I've never read Bicentennial Man.  I'd like to read it, but I have a hard time reading anymore.

I enjoyed Dune the book, but the 2 or 3 Dune movies I've seen left a lot to be desired.

When I was young, I read stacks of science fiction books, but the movies from them usually left me greatly disappointed.  Even so, I keep hoping a good director will translate some of my favorite books to the big screen.

I didn't care for Blade Runner, but it's been so long since I've seen it, I don't remember why.  Haven't seen Brazil.

I love to read science fiction books Spud. I have a library of them.

I have a large collection of SF novels even after I donated over 1000 paperbacks (90% SF) to a group serving military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I had initially meant to donate them to a book fair for the Denver Museum of Natural History but considered the troops in combat to have a greater need for respite from the daily demands on them. The museum minor financial gains seemed trivial in comparison.




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