The Man from Hell: Classic Science Fiction Stories

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Scott merged space opera, Westerns and horror in a way that pretty much nobody had done before, and the result remains vivid today. And you really have to see the sequel, directed by James Cameron, which is a defining moment in the history of military science fiction and space opera. But Empire Strikes Back took all of the formal brilliance of Star Wars and married it to a story that feels truly epic. All our other heroes struggle with tragedy and adversity — especially Han Solo — and it makes them deeper and more magnetic as characters. Based on the novel by Ursula K.

Le Guin, this made-for-TV movie is a rock solid piece of science fiction as well as an unsettling psychological drama. Despite the PBS production values, this story of a man whose dreams start coming true in the real world manages to pack in a lot of strangeness and wild visions. Plus it asks the kinds of huge questions about the nature of reality, and how our perceptions shape the world, that science fiction often asks at its best.

But where Mad Max shows the breakdown of Max and the civilization he lives in, this sequel shows the aftermath, and becomes an indelible classic of post-apocalyptic films in the process.

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The final huge convoy scene, with its demolition derby feeling, has influenced everything that came after. And yes, you absolutely must see the recent Mad Max: Fury Road as well. Like Empire Strikes Back, this film rises above its status as just another installment in a big, commercial saga.

You could show this movie to someone who had never seen any Trek, and it would still resonate on a hundred different levels. And then there are the space battles, which are totally different than Star Wars and yet indelibly awesome in their own right. Blade Runner is still just as visually unique now as it was when it came out, and it defined the look and feel of cyberpunk as well as urban dystopia.

A lot of people may hate on this film, but it changed the way we see first contact with aliens as much as Close Encounters of the Third Kind did. And E. Compare Tron to Lawnmower Man to see how much more exciting and believable the earlier film is. It manages to come up with a coherent theory of time travel, in which you can rewrite the past and the effects are seen nearly instantaneously luckily, Marty is only missing like an arm and a leg before the timestream rights itself and never becomes inconsistent.

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The 100 best sci-fi movies

This is my favorite movie of all time, and probably the best thing to come out of Monty Python after the television series. A subversive masterpiece, this film changed what a lot of people thought was possible in dark comedy as well as dystopian film-making. The two of them have to learn to work together to survive, and ultimately become a kind of family. This is one of the greatest science fiction action movies of all time, as a total badass commando played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who else? The Predator can see in infrared and turn invisible, and seems unbeatable.

Their ugly faces are everywhere, and their propaganda is ubiquitous. Good thing Piper is out of bubble gum. This anime classic is still utterly unique, all these decades later. In , Tokyo is an apocalyptic wasteland in the aftermath of World War III, and a biker gang led by Kaneda tries to prevent the devastation from happening again. Unfortunately, one of the bikers, Tetsuo, has the same kind of psychic powers as Akira, the man who caused the destruction of Tokyo in the first place. Every big-budget, CG-heavy action film aspires to be Terminator 2 deep in its chrome heart.

Michael Crichton took the story of his beloved film Westworld and replaced robot cowboys with cloned dinosaurs, and the result is a thrillride in which a shirtless Jeff Goldblum asks the big questions about whether we should tamper with the forces of nature, just because we can. As much as Tron and Terminator 2 , this film utterly transformed how movies use digital effects. Like Akira, this is one of the first anime films to hit the U.

With its theme of possibly false memories and cyber-weirdness, it had a huge influence on both cyberpunks and memory-altering works like Dark City and Dollhouse, but it turns into an amazing examination of the theme of sentience and the definition of life. This film, based on the French time-travel story La Jetee , is one of the most perfect works of fatalism ever. What makes this movie even more compelling is the way it combines the closed-loop time travel with a vision of madness, as embodied by Brad Pitt.

Niccol has sort of made a career out of filming wonderfully heavy-handed dystopias, but this is his most beloved and successful other than The Truman Show , which he wrote but did not direct. Ethan Hawke is a man who wants to join the space program even though he was not genetically enhanced, in a future where only people with upgraded genes get to do certain things.

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Forget the colossal letdown of the sequels — viewed as a standalone film, this is a brilliant action movie that spawned a million imitators, but it also put an end to an entire sub-genre. There were a slew of dark cyberpunk movies in the late s that mixed weirdness and clever intrigue, with a sense that nothing was real — and The Matrix basically ended that subgenre by being so good, the others paled by comparison. Have you even heard of Cyberwars?

The 13th Floor? The script is bursting at the seams with wild ideas. Buy, rent or watch 'Total Recall'. Never a critical favourite, the French filmmaking magnate Luc Besson has resolutely persisted in following his own idiosyncratic taste, and this wayward fantasy has an individuality distinct from Hollywood formula. But boy, did Besson assemble a crack team to visualise it. Buy, rent or watch 'They Live'. Unable to manage their waste output, humans have evacuated Earth, leaving robots behind to clean up the mess.

Soon enough, though, they have other problems to worry about, like the bouncy alien — who looks like a beach ball with claws — wandering the corridors, or the malfunctioning talking bomb that tries to existentially justify its need to explode and kill everyone onboard. Buy, rent or watch 'Dark Star'. The next time you hear a friend bemoaning the Hollywood remake factory, send them a link to this list.

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As the film progresses, the clammy hand of paranoia tightens its grip — and the final shot is a sucker-punch like no other. Buy, rent or watch 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'.

Leading science experts, writers and filmmakers help us decide the best sci-fi films ever made.

The film admirably credits the audience with the intelligence to decipher the clues in its elliptical narrative, gradually picking its way towards a state somewhere between paranoid anxiety and head-spinning dizziness. Buy, rent or watch 'Primer'. For this story, Page and co are employed on an upping-the-ante mission: to insert rather than remove an idea into the head of a corporate bigwig Cillian Murphy in order to sate the ambitions of a business rival Ken Watanabe. Most memorable are some jaw-dropping set pieces where Nolan and his team ostentatiously flex their special-effects muscles, most notably a scene that sees Page and DiCaprio walk through Paris as the streets appear to fold up and over before their eyes.

Buy, rent or watch 'Inception'. With his orange hair and a perceptible coked-up jitteriness, Bowie is perfect as the alien, Thomas Jerome Newton: spiky, awkward, uncomfortable in his own skin. But the real stranger in this strange land was cult director Nicolas Roeg, fascinated by the American Southwest — its listless nurses the brilliant Candy Clark and bored college professors a fearless Rip Torn. The movie is filled with daydreamers desperate for a sense of purpose. They instead find television, guns, alcohol and inertia. The result is wickedly smart and knowingly in-jokey without ever ahem alienating the non-nerds.


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Buy, rent or watch 'Galaxy Quest'. In a future where plants have become extinct on earth, a handful of starships act as greenhouses, preserving the few remaining specimens in the hope of eventually reforesting the planet. He rebels, kills his co-workers and heads off to tend to his plants with a couple of trusty robots in tow. The film may not have aged perfectly we can live without those willowy Joan Baez numbers , and Lowell is a bit of a blowhard.

The 100 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

But the message is eternal: whatever the risks, man must be his own saviour. Buy, rent or watch 'Silent Running'.


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  4. Buy, rent or watch 'Gattaca'. This being Hollywood, suave Michael Rennie was perfectly cast as the angular alien — after all, he came from the distant galaxy of Bradford.