People generally are crazy about science fiction films or dislike them. Intentionally, science fiction also includes fantasy and superhero films in my book. So, Star Trek, Spider-Man, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are all cousins in the sci-fi/fantasy universe. Now, those are strange holiday gatherings!
My list could include Star Wars, Gravity, Dark Star, Alien, Westworld, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Metropolis, A Trip to the Moon and so many others. Below are films that have resonated with me for some reason during my lifetime. Film is a personal experience shared by individual members of the audience, whether in a theater, your car at a drive-in or you living room.
In no particular order, submitted for your approval:
Blade Runner (1982) Ridley Scott was on a roll directing sci-fi films. This tale of replicants in a future world has Harrison Ford as a noir cop.
Andromeda Strain (1971) Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, and directed by Robert Wise. A group of scientists try to unravel the mystery of a space organism before it infects earth and kills human life. Very science heavy.
Ad Astra (2019) Brad Pitt stars as an astronaut send to find his wayward scientist father, Tommy Lee Jones who is thought to be behind a strange energy pulse threatening Earth. A great looking film but also very serious and thoughtful.
Army of Darkness (1992) Directed by Sam Raimi and stars cult favorite Bruce Campbell. Ash works in department store but gets caught up in time travel ending up in the Middle Ages. Armed with a shotgun and chainsaw, he must find the sacred book to get back to his time, although many adventures stand in his way.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick’s classic, based on the work of Arthur C. Clarke. Incredible special effects by Douglas Trumball.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) Whales, time travel and a fleet of spaceships that threaten the earth. Maybe not the best Star Trek, but the most fun. Directed by Leonard Nimoy.
Repo Man (1984) Directed by Alex Cox and starring Harry Dean Stanton, a post-punk comedic view of alien visitors. This film is a loose series of connected scenes containing weird, humorous happenings.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Don Siegel directed the original. Strange happenings, people aren’t themselves, literally. When people go to sleep they are taken over by replacements growing from pods.
The Time Machine (1960) Directed by George Pal and based on the H.G. Welles classic. George builds a time machine and discovers he has more purpose in the future. Starring Rod Taylor. Very cool special photographic techniques for the time.
The War of the Worlds (1953) Byron Haskins, directs Gene Barry in an adaptation of H.G.Welles story of alien invaders. Great effects for the times.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) Byron Haskins directs a story of two astronauts forced down on Mars. One dies, the other has to learn to survive. He meets an escaped alien slave who becomes his companion. Special effects are cool.
Martian (2015) Ridley Scott again, creating a rescue mission to pickup a stranded astronaut on Mars, who has had to learn to survive until rescued.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Steven Spielberg’s first space visitor film. Mashed potatoes, Devil’s Tower and a tonal progression as a means of communication.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) James Cameron’s sequel stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Robert Patrick. A much better film than the first.
The Thing (1982) John Carpenter’s remake, easily his best film, he combines suspense, horror and dark comedy in a taught and relentless race for survival. Kurt Russell leads a great cast.
Back to the Future (1985) Robert Zemeckis’ classic time travel comedy.
Sleeper (1973) Woody Allen’s comedy about a man who goes to sleep and wakes up in the future, landing in the middle of a revolution. Back when Woody was funny and not creepy.
Galaxy Quest (1999) directed by Dean Parisot, who replaced Harold Ramos. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Tony Shalhoub star as actors of an old TV series, making their living at autograph conventions and store openings, who get beamed up by space aliens to help save them from villainous aliens. A very smart comedy.
Mystery Men (1999) Low-rent, wannabe superheroes who must do battle to defeat Casanova Frankenstein and other villains in this comedy. Starring Ben Stiller, Greg Kinnear, William H. Macy, Wes Studi and Geoffrey Rush.
Planet of the Apes (1968) Directed by Franklin J Schaffner. Charlton Heston in the film that started the series. The future isn’t what it used to be.
Silent Running (1971) Douglas Trumbull directs and Bruce Dern stars in this ecological space story. The Earth has been destroyed and several spacecraft are charged with keeping alive plants for an eventful reforestation of Earth, until his corporation has other plans.
Men in Black (1997) Barry Sonnenfeld directs Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Rip Torn. A secret organization polices aliens on earth and tries to apprehend those arriving illegally.
Soylent Green (1971) Directed by Richard Fleischer, starring Charlton Heston and Edward G Robinson in a grim, but tasty view of the future.
Total Recall (1990) Paul Verhoeven directs. Arnold Schwarzenegger is Quaid, who dreams of espionage on Mars. He undergoes an implant of a vacation on Mars but it conflicts with his past secret life which come out.
Robocop (1987) Paul Verhoeven again. A Detroit police officer is gunned down, he dies and his family moves away after he was declared dead. He is brought back to life with robotic parts to fight crime and the corporation that has taken over the police department. Peter Weller and Nancy Allen Star.
Big (1988) Directed by Penny Marshall and starring Tom Hanks, a young boy is transformed into a man and experiences what it is like, until he wants his young life back
Ghostbusters (1984) Directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramos and Bill Murray.
Young Frankenstein (1974) Mel Brooks directs from a script by Brooks and Gene Wilder. Wider is the younger Dr. Frankenstein who is out to rehab his family’s name. He builds a monster that terrifies the village until the Dr. can train him, unfortunately those plans go sideways.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Robert Wise directs. An alien arrives on Earth with a message/warning to live in peace or face destruction. He is met with violence and is injured. He intends to convince those in power to stop their fighting.
The Blob (1959) Steve McQueen plays a teenager who with his girlfriend find a man with something attached to his hand. It grows and starts devouring people before it can be frozen.
Altered States (1980) Directed by Ken Russell, written by Paddy Chayefsky and starring William Hurt. Using drugs and a sensory deprivation task, a researcher is able to travel back through evolution to the beginning of life.
When Worlds Collide (1951) Directed by Rudolph Mate. The earth must be abandoned before another planetary body crashes into it. A rocket ship is built and a group of earthlings are selected to leave the planet to find a new habitat and settle there.