My good buddy John Kenneth Muir over at John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV (one of the best sites on the web, period) has been asking his readers to provide a top 10 list for the greatest science-fiction films of all time.
I decided to participate and had some tough-ass decisions to make. This was one of the hardest lists for me to put together simply because 'greatest' and 'best' can be so subjective. However, objective legacy plays a role too. You can't just ignore something revolutionary simply because you like something else more.
Sure, you may really love Krippendorf's Tribe a lot better then The Apartment or Some Like It Hot but can you really keep a straight face and say the former is better then the latter (latters? latteri?)? No ... and I suffered that problem a lot with this list. I am really not a Star Wars fan but ... well ... I just like The Guyver better than almost all of those films, okay, but couldn't put either on the list!
So I tried to be unique to myself here while still keeping the idea of legacy in the background.
13. Iron Man
This is the only film on my list where I actually liked films in the franchise it spawned and in the genre it resides much better than the film I picked. BUT, Iron Man truly is a cultural landmark of science and fiction combined. Anytime a film can bring about changes in the narrative, function and production of future franchises, and do it with great writing, acting and production, it has to be on the list.
In the end, it was between game changer X-Men (even though I like X2: X-Men United better) and Iron Man (yes, I am weird and love Iron Man 2 more).
12. The Fifth Element
In a world where CGI and star power is more important than story, The Fifth Element still stands out as a film with a unique worldview and characters seen only in slapstick comedies. The Fifth Element is a bit played now but it still looks amazing and is so uniquely it's own ... something ... that it has to be in the top 20 at the very least (or, my top 12).
11. Minority Report
Despite some glaring plot holes I recently read about on Cracked.com or A.V. Club (sorry ... referencing is for term papers and I have a low attention span), Minority Report was one of the two great films released by Steven Spielberg in what I think is one of his most underrated years as a director (2002).
Before Tom Cruise went nuts his performance here was superb and Spielberg's surprisingly minimalistic approach to the production (save the product placement) made for a taught, superb thriller.
9. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
8. Galaxy Quest
7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Picking between The Terminator and T2 was tough ... in the end both are equally enjoyable but T2 is more impactful on the genre showing not only how to create an environment of tension and fear (every time the T-1000 is not on screen he is in the back of your head) but pushing technology to the limits and demanding it get one step better.
I'm always a sucker for genre-hybrids and Ridley Scott (but not Prometheus). So Alien is a solid choice for this list and for a Top 10 horror list. Even in 2013, in a world jaded by real horror and with audiences who have seen just about everything available right now with narrative, a little script that didn't even delineate gender to its characters manages to provide complex emotions; sometimes its all in the little details and the simple settings.
5. Back to the Future
4. Planet of the Apes
Since this film is primarily action-based, I chose to add it as second even though the film itself is probably my all-time favorite film of any genre (tied with Heat). I know that doesn't make any sense. Aliens focuses less on science and more on action-fiction though it is one of the greatest examples of world building you can get in something not on television. The deceptively deep characterization and non-stop tension (that never dulls with multiple viewings or age) makes this a sci-fi classic.
1. Blade Runner
Do I even need to debate this with anyone? Blade Runner is the ultimate gift to sci-fi fans. You can watch it a 1,000 times and always get something new out of it. Plus, its controversial endings and multiples cuts provides geek banter for decades and will for centuries.