Our 7 Favourite Science Fiction Films of All Time

This week we decided to take a look at another genre of film: science fiction. We thought that by picking out our fav sci-fi films, we might get a clue as to what exactly it is that we're looking for when we look up at the stars. Of course, science fiction isn't all about lasers, snakes and rocket juice. At its best, sci-fi is a genre of ideas, of speculation, and of dreaming of what comes next. So, in no particular order of preference, here's a list of our seven favourite science fiction films of all time.

#1 Snowpiercer (2013)

The first film on our list examines how humanity might respond in the face of great scarcity, and what it might look like if the very existence of our species was hanging by a thread. If you can ignore some of the thermodynamically invalid science silliness of the film's core premise; that a hurtling mega-train is somehow the best place to weather a global winter, Snowpiercer opens up a beautiful world of stunning and fascinating set pieces, each arranged in a different car down the line. Along the way, the film asks some serious questions and explores some major moral quandaries.

 

#2 Children of Men (2006)

Of course, when things get a little bit worse, sci-fi films examine how humanity responds in the face of its utter destruction. How do we as a species deal with the prospect of our pending extinction?   Children of Men shows us an incredibly bleak look at the approaching apocalypse. But it gives us just enough hope that we don't off ourselves on our way home from the cinema. The film provides a brilliant concept for the end of our race: worldwide sterility. It's also a stark window through which we watch to look at how dependent upon our future and posterity we really are. And how quickly things break down in their absence.

 

#3 Contact (1997)

If we're talking sci-fi then at some point we're going to have to mention the 'A' word. And from a philosophical perspective, one of our favourite ways to consider alien movies is to look at the close encounter experience. It offers us a unique opportunity for us to look at ourselves as a community of humans, a species as a whole. With a new extraterrestrial kid on the block, all of our in-group bickerings are cast aside. Or not. Contact is a film based on a story by the great science guru Carl Sagan himself and tells of a potential alien encounter. The film quickly becomes a discussion about what our shared values as a society are, and what they should be. What does it mean to know for sure that something is out there and how should we respond? Contact searches for common ground in our shared humanity and seems all the more relevant today.

 

#4 Her (2013)

Another kind of alien encounter happens not during the initial contact, but in the aftermath of the event, and humankind has to deal with the question of, “What now?” But the problem isn't just with aliens. Our coinhabitance with robots, AI's, clones, and even the undead is also queried. In an increasingly fascinating genre that is taking more and more complex and realistic looks at what thinking, learning and self-improving machines might unleash upon our world and our society, Her has the courage to almost entirely ignore those questions and asks instead what it might unleash upon our emotions. The film explores our fragile limitations, not in intelligence, but in co-dependency, attachment, and emotional need. It is a deeply human look at what the future might hold and which innate features of ourselves might hold us back.

 

#5 Planet of the Apes (1968)

Sometimes, conflict is inevitable. And as far as science fiction is concerned, another big topic of exploration is not how much we learn to co-exist with another species, but how we deal with sub-existing when we find ourselves no longer the dominant lifeform. The original Planet of the Apes is science fiction nearest it's boldest and most socially relevant. The film explores humanity at the bottom of the totem pole and makes a broad if not in-depth foray into the social consequences of it all. And it does so with an underlying empathy and self-awareness. It considers our historic role, especially as colonialists and conquistadors, and in so doing it asks us to walk a mile in the shoes of the oppressed. Planet of the Apes is not perfect. It is the start of the conversation, not the end of it. And the twist at the end? Absolutely classic.

 

#6 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Our next pick is a film that looks at science fiction on a deeply personal level. It examines how technology might alter the very core human experience. What would happen if we could enhance that one unique human feature that is consciousness? There have been science fiction films that explore how we can expand our cognition and others that look at expanding our experiences beyond death. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind imagines what might happen if we start to erase our memories. The film is very soft sci-fi. Life looks very much like it does for us today. There's no super puppies, clone slaves or laser sex. Except for the new memory-erasing technology, which is marketed as an aid to help let go of the pain after a break-up. But instead of a warning to be careful of erasing our past, the film is an exploration of human nature by relief, and it reveals that which is profoundly human by examining its absence. The result is not so much about the future but about the present, which is really what all our favourite sci-fi films are doing.

 

#7 2001. A Space Odyssey (1968)

The final film on our list is a science fiction film that brings the genre together. It's a film that unhinges its jaw and attempts to swallow the future of all humanity in one gulp. There's a not a lot to say about 2001. A Space Odyssey that hasn't been said already. The film is vast, inscrutable, beautiful, annoying, prophetic, navel-gazing, cold, genius. It sets out to trace the entire history of humankind, from apes to star children and spends ten minutes on kaleidoscope colours in the process. The film is almost impossible to understand on first viewing, or without a little help from the book. The film also inspired and continues to inspire nearly all modern science fiction. In an era when science fiction was a genre for pulpy B-movie fare, legendary director Stanley Kubrick revitalised it and proved that it too could be art.

 

How do you feel about our list? Did we leave something out? have we included a film that shouldn't be there? Drop us a line and let us know. Until next time, may the force be with you.

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