Thursday, June 20, 2013

PCP Top 10 - My favorite Sci-Fi films

So I haven't done a Top 10 in awhile since they are very time consuming to write, and with it being sci-fi week here, I thought now would be a good time to break one out. So in honor of sci-fi week, these are my Top 10 favorite science fiction films. A few things I'd like to point out about this list: 1) I am omitting fantasy films from this list to focus just on sci-fi, otherwise Lord of the Rings would be on here. 2) I am also omitting superhero films, because those would also dominate the list otherwise, and I plan on doing a future Top 10 superhero films another time. 3) I am lumping some films in the same franchise together, so as not to have them take up too many spots on the list. 4) There are two films on my secret shame list of unseen films, Wrath of Khan and Blade Runner, that I am still hoping to find time to watch, hence that is why they are absent from this list when I suspect they'd be on it. Now, on with the Top 10!  Remember, these are my favorites, the ones I can watch over and over, not necessarily the best of science fiction.

10. Avatar - Avatar still ranks as the most incredible thing I have ever seen on the big screen. I have still to date yet to see a film that does 3D better than this movie. While it might not have the most original plot (Fern Gully and Pocahontas seem to be major inspirations), and the bonding thing the aliens do with the animals of the planet borders on bestiality, you don't think about it at the time because the visuals and scope of the film are completely breathtaking, and the 3D was so immersive that I truly felt like I was on Pandora. I already can't wait for the return trip to that world, whenever James Cameron gets around to filming the sequels.

9. Back to the Future - The first adventure of Doc Brown & Marty McFly is the best of the series, and it is a ton of fun. While many of the jokes went over my head when I first saw this as a kid, it remains a beloved classic tale of time travel and the dangers of meeting your parents in the past. Also, to a little boy, the DeLorean is probably one of the coolest cars I had ever seen at that point in my life (although now I realize why Marty was just so shocked that was Doc's choice for the time machine). This will probably be the among the first science fiction films that I expose Jackson to once he is old enough, so I can't wait!

8. Akira - My first exposure to anime was my best, I have yet to come across an anime film that impressed me as much as this one did. While I have never really gotten into manga, it is tempting because apparently this film didn't incorporate the whole book series that it is based on, a whopping 2100+ pages of graphic novel. The story of secret governmental programs tampering with humans is common to a lot of genres, but Akira does it very well. If you could only watch 1 anime movie, make it this one. Hollywood keeps talking about making a live action version of the movie, but it seems to have been stuck in development purgatory for a decade or so. I doubt it will top this anyways, even if they did ever get it off the ground.

7. District 9 - I think one of the most incredible things about this South African film was the fact that the budget was a mere $30,000,000. In blockbuster terms, that is a drop in the bucket. Its visuals, especially the alien creatures' design, comes across like a film with a much higher budget. It is an allegory for the apartheid struggle in South Africa, but it also is a great thrill ride of a story of a really crappy day in the life of a human exposed to the aliens' technology. The second most incredible thing about the film is that it is the writing & directorial debut of Neil Blomkamp. It is one of the best debut films since Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. His 2nd film, Elysium, comes out in August, and I can't wait to see it. In the meantime, if you never saw this District 9 you made a huge mistake, it is outstanding. Go see it now!

Find out the top 6 after the jump!

6. Terminator/Terminator 2 - James Cameron returns to the countdown with two films that solidified both his and Arnold Schwarzenegger's careers. While the first film was a great sci-fi story, and an outstanding foundation for the franchise, it was T2: Judgment Day that really blew away audiences, myself included. Featuring groundbreaking special effects that still hold up well today (and were better than a ton of other movies of the past 20 years) for the design of the T-1000, T2 really opened eyes as to just what could be designed in movies using computer animation combined with motion capture. The world of films would never be the same. T2 still stands also as the best film of Arnold's career, bar none.

5. Serenity - Two words: Joss Whedon. If you like sci-fi and don't like Joss Whedon, you are a blasphemer of the highest order. Between his outstanding TV series and his great work in film, Whedon is one of my favorite directors and creators working in Hollywood today. I already can't wait for the Avengers 2 and for the SHIELD show coming to ABC this fall, but if I need to get a Whedon fix in the meantime I throw on Serenity. Based on his cult favorite Firefly television series, Serenity is a great conclusion to the series, but it also stands alone as a very enjoyable space western. Even if you never saw the show (and I still haven't yet watched all of the episodes), the film works very well without turning away newcomers to the universe, while those that had watched the show were rewarded with one last journey with this motley crew in space.

4. Alien/Aliens - The Alien franchise has spawned 7 films if you count the four Alien films, the two Alien vs Predator films, and Prometheus, as well as countless video games. The first two films are both outstanding, far better than the other 5, but also both are very different in tone. Alien is a space horror film, directed by Ridley Scott, with the titular alien running amok on a ship in deep space. Aliens is more of a space action film, directed by James Cameron (making his 4th appearance on this list) with a group of marines fighting against a horde of aliens on a distant planet. Both films are linked by their tough heroine, Ripley, played epically by Sigourney Weaver, and by the mysterious Weyland-Yutani corporation, in addition to the alien creatures - some of the scariest looking extraterrestrials ever captured on film. I love these films, and they taught me that in space, no one can hear you scream.

3. Star Trek / Star Trek Into Darkness - Star Trek is the last film that I saw more than once on opening weekend, and it is the most fun I've ever had watching anything in the vast Star Trek universe. Star Trek, along with Star Wars, were the two franchises that first exposed me to science fiction, so they always will have a special place in my heart. The new Trek universe is fresh, bright, and exciting, with more space action in the opening 5 minutes of the film than most of the previous movies had combined. I absolutely loved this reboot, as well as its sequel earlier this summer, and I can't wait to see where the franchise goes from here. The cast is outstanding, everyone involved is a worthy successor to the roles' originators. JJ Abrams did such a good job with this reboot that I really can't wait to see what he does once he gets his hands on the Star Wars universe (aside from putting lens flares on everything, that I can do without).

2. The Matrix - Before the summer of 1999 rolled around, the most anticipated sci-fi film of that year was the return of Star Wars to theaters with the Phantom Menace. As we all know now, that film sucked. Meanwhile, the Matrix came out that summer and blew audiences away. With incredible action sequences, an awesome soundtrack, a trippy plot, and the now horribly overused "bullet time" effect, The Matrix was the sci-fi film that 1999's audiences deserved but didn't get with Phantom Menace. I'm so glad that I worked at a movie theater when this film came out, I got to watch it as often as I wanted, and the poster to the right is in my collection of movie posters I lifted from the company. I just need to frame that bad boy and put it up in my house someday. The sequels you'll notice are not on this list, because while they were entertaining, they pale in comparison to this now classic film.

And now, the moment you've been waiting for (or scrolling down to see if you didn't read up to this point), the reveal of my top sci-fi film. It's a tie between the two best Star Wars films:

1. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back / A New Hope

The first two Star Wars films are hands down (hands off?) far and away the best films in the series. A New Hope (aka Episode IV) is an incredible achievement in sci-fi. It pulls you in, from the epic music and opening text crawl to start the film, followed immediately by two spaceships flying directly over your head. And once it pulls you in, it doesn't let go, right up to the climactic space battle against the Death Star. Despite the nifty updated visual effects from when George Lucas re-released the films for DVD, I still vastly prefer the original cut of the film (which I still have on a videocassette at home) in which Han shoots Greedo first. If you don't understand why this is a big deal, it's okay it just means you aren't a Star Wars nerd like me.

As uplifting and awesome as A New Hope is, I feel the best film in the series is the far darker Empire Strikes Back. Our heroes are on the run despite their huge win at the end of A New Hope, having to face new challenges and encountering memorable new characters like Yoda, Lando Calrissian, & Boba Fett. The film also features probably the most spoiled twist in all of film, the parentage of Luke Skywalker. I know I am going to have to work very hard to keep my son Jackson from learning of this spoiler before seeing this movie, because I can't wait to see the look on his face when this truth is revealed. Overall though, I really can't wait to share the whole Star Wars universe with my son, but I'll make sure to show them to him in the proper order: the original trilogy first, then the prequels.

Honorable mentions - these 10 runners up (in alphabetical order) are also films I love watching whenever they show up on TV, but they didn't quite make the cut: Galaxy Quest, Ghostbusters, Independence Day, King Kong (Peter Jackson version), Men in Black, Planet of the Apes, Predator, Spaceballs, Star Trek First Contact, & The Thing (original).

Alright, so those are my favorites.  Did I miss any of yours?  If so, hit me up in the comments with your thoughts!  Thanks for stopping by!

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