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The Top 20 SciFi Movies (the first 5)

Minority Report (Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Max von Sydow. Directed by Steven Speilberg)

Based (very loosely) on Philip K. Dick's short story of the same name, this movie tells the tale of a group of precogs who can foresee crime before it happens. Taking advantage of this, pre-crime police quickly apprehend criminals and charge them of crimes that they have not yet committed. When John Anderton (Tom Cruise), finds himself on the other end of a precogs vision, he goes on the run to discover why he would murder a man he doesn't know and uncovers an old conspiracy. This movie is creepily futuristic - the cold technology is complemented by strange, earthy characters. Everything about the movie - from its action sequences to its mind bending paradoxes of time and cause and effect - are perfectly directed and executed by Steven Spielberg. Even Tom Cruise, generally wooden or overblown, gives a nice and subtle performance as a man still suffering from the kidnapping of his son and the guilt he feels about letting it happen. Of special note, is the performance of Colin Farrell as the suspicious police officer hunting Anderton. Is he good or evil?

Blade Runner (Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson. Directed by Ridley Scott)

Also based on a Philip K. Dick story titled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?, Blade Runner touches on the favorite scifi topic of robots and the nature of humanity. The classic cyber-punk movie hardly needs any introduction. Deckard (Harrison Ford) is tasked with hunting down 4 replicants - man made androids with set expiration dates - and kill them. Serving as an analogy about slavery and the adaptability of humans to the lowest, nastiest environment, the film is never cliche or overtly preachy in any way, which is the mark a good scifi movie. 'Dystopian' is a very overused word (and concept) in scifi, but this film touches on it nicely and with the perfectionist eye of Ridley Scott who, as a skilled director, doesn't overdo it on the explosions and actions. Instead, he creates a very quiet, meaningful movie. The end is one of the most memorable of any film, with Rutger Hauer giving a stirring and beautiful speech on a rainy rooftop, mere minutes after brutally attacking Ford's character. The last line of the film - It's too bad she won't live. But then again, who does? - is particularly moving in its context. Watch it and you'll know what I mean.
Side note - do yourself a favor and watch the director's cut. It is far superior - the distracting narration has been omitted and the ending is more ambiguous and dark.

Gattaca (Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Loren Dean, Alan Arkin. Directed by Andrew Niccol)

If your expecting some movie full of gunfights and action and explosions - this is not it. This is a very human story about lost dreams and what it truly means to achieve something that everyone - the entire world - is keeping from you. Ethan Hawke stars as an 'in-valid', a man born of natural means without any eugenic style tampering by his parents. In this society, where gene cherry-picking has become the norm for conceiving children, Hawke is at a great disadvantage, not only physically but in society's eyes. In this genetically enhanced world, he is classified as only suitable for certain work (janitorial) and kept from the one thing he has always dreamed of - to travel to Titan and see the stars. In order to get there, he goes to painful lengths to trick everyone around him into thinking he's one of 'them'. The movie is brilliantly subtle and emotional. Hawke's character puts himself through terrible pain and suffering to simply be something that everyone else around him already feels entitled to. One of the best aspects of the movie come in the form of the man who he finds to aid him - the man who's identity he 'buys'. He's a paraplegic who we discover, despite his 'perfection', had walked in front of a car to kill himself and now goes through life bitter and disillusioned, despite his genetic superiority. Jude Law plays this character with a lovely balance of sarcasm and pain, and the end in store for this man will make you cry. If not, you don't have a heart. I recommend this movie to anyone who likes movies with real emotion and beautiful dialogue.

Inception (Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Cain. Directed by Christopher Nolan)

I always hesitate to put really recent movies on these types of lists, but it seems obvious this movie will stand the test of time. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a thief of ideas, pulling information from people's minds by entering their dreams. When a business tycoon offers him the job of implanting information into a subject's mind, he accepts the job despite its supposed impossibility on the promise that he can return to the States to be with children. It seems Cobb is on the run for killing his wife
(Marion Cotillard), but the truth behind her death is much more convoluted (beautifully) and sad than a simple homicide. Nolan (a Master director) weaves together different storylines - the dream caper, Cobb's backstory, the nature of dreams and reality, and the subconscious father/son dynamic at work in the subject - all into one cohesive and symmetrical story that is both mind-blowing, exciting, and emotionally involving. This is one of those movies that people will still be talking about for years and years, and not just for the awesome hallway fight sans gravity. The performances are pitch-perfect, the pacing is good and keeps the movie (almost 3 hours) from feeling tedious. The layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of dreams occurring at the same time are directed perfectly so that you never forget what's happening or find yourself lost in the action. Overall, a perfect movie, if there ever was one.

Matrix (Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster, Joe Pantoliano. Directed by the Wachowski brothers)

Most people only remember this movie because of the fight scenes. And it is true that this is one of its biggest appeals. The action is beautiful - it finds a way to be almost non-violent in its gracefulness. The asides to Alice in Wonderland give the movie an eerie vibe that adds an extra layer to it if you're sensitive enough to notice. Scenes of massive machines feeding on sleeping humans sets up a disturbing picture of the world, one that sticks with you even as the characters jump into the simulation of the world - one very much like our own. The action is perfect, the pacing is great, and the themes are understandable. The acting isn't a strong suit - Fishburne and Reeves are stiff and wooden, but the side characters are surprisingly vibrant, especially Agent Smith, a roguish computer program who serves as a sort of law enforcement. He seethes with annoyance and emotion, even as the humans seem to be robotic - perhaps an unintended irony, but it's still fascinating. It's been 10 years and this movie is still considered great (despite its sequels), and is one of those movies that sticks with you, for one reason or another. At once painstakingly philosophical and butt-kickingly awesome, the movie has something everyone can enjoy.

*this list is in no particular order

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+ comments + 4 comments

October 30, 2010 at 4:17 PM

OK let's see the next five.

October 31, 2010 at 4:06 PM

good picks

November 11, 2010 at 1:23 AM

The Matrix made me wary of the Brain in a Vat theory, and for that, I am forever paranoid.

November 17, 2010 at 3:23 PM

I always wondered in the matrix the aliens still had to keep all the humans alive, so how could they possibly be getting enough energy to make up for that?

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