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The Top 20 SciFi Movies (the next 5)

The Prestige (Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Cain, Scarlet Johansen, Piper Perabo. Directed by Christopher Nolan)

Centered around a rivalry between two magicians, this movie is the epitome of slight of hand movie making. The feud between the two magicians starts when Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) accidentally kills Robert Angier's (Hugh Jackman's) wife during a magic trick. That one action sets off a decade long fight between the two men, exacerbated by the fact that Borden has seemingly perfected the greatest illusion ever seen. Angier goes through great, most of the time terrible and illegal, lengths to find out the trick and to bring down Borden. Many don't realize this movie is scifi, because it doesn't really present itself as such, but in the end it is very much so. Getting there though, takes us through a dramatic tension between two men willing to sacrifice anything (including, ultimately, their own happiness) to best each other and it is wonderful to watch. It is also interesting, upon second viewing, to see how cleverly Nolan hides a lot of clues in plain sight throughout the movie. The performances are wonderful by everyone, including Jackman who is so often pegged as the good-natured, gruff guy, but here plays up an ambiguous, at times, unlikable arrogance with surprising finesse. You have to pay a lot of attention to this film, because it jumps around a lot in time, but it does provide markers for the viewer to latch on to to keep them centered. The mind games these men play on each other is fantastically obsessive and mean, and it's is fascinating to watch to see who will win, even though by the end you aren't sure which one you should be rooting for - or if you even should be rooting for either.

Star Trek (Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Leonard Nimoy, Simon Pegg, Eric Bana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin. Directed by JJ Abrams)

How to make a Star Trek movie for modern audiences? Somehow JJ Abrams manages to add just the right amount of humor and lightheartedness, which hearkens back to the silly over-the-topness of the original show nicely, with a perfect touch of drama. The plot takes on an alternate universe, which is always tricky, but by acknowledging the fact and having the characters be aware of it, Abrams manages to turn the cliche on its head a bit. It also helps that the time traveling aspect actually seems to make sense, and is easy to keep up with (instead of making your head hurt). The new actors, tasked with the awesome responsibility of stepping into such well-known previous roles, all do nicely, mostly because none of them seem to be imitating the original actors. Zachary Quinto looks enough like Spock, and moves enough like him to feel right, though he brings a touch of fragility to the part that was always lurking around the edges of Nimoy's Spock. In this context though, it works perfectly because while this is our Spock, he's also not our Spock. The same is true for Chris Pine's incarnation of Kirk - he's no William Shatner (who is?) but he's charming in a goofy, smarmy way, just like the Kirk we know and love. Karl Urban's McCoy is shockingly on-point, down to the gestures and voice, and it's obvious that Karl Urban has watched Star Trek many times before. Zoe Saldana's Uhura is smokey voiced and beautiful, just like the original and even though the small part she has is done well (she approaches Spock with a sort of tentativeness that is both shy and bold at the same time), her part is very underused. This movie is entertaining for newcomers, but also nice for long-time fans.

X-Men (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Rebecca Romijn. Directed by Bryan Singer)

Many mark this movie as the first in a long trend of comicbook movies, which can be either good or bad, depending on your point of view. This movie, however, is actually extremely well-written and well-directed. While the analogy of mutants being discriminated against as a parallel to racism may be obvious to most, it's aware enough of itself to never be clever or preachy. It is supposed to be an analogy, and has never (even in comic book form) tried to claim otherwise. It also helps that Singer manages to control himself and allow the story to unfold naturally, especially when it comes to the relationships. The friendship/mutual adoration that develops between Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin) is very organic and real and gives the movie its entire backbone. It doesn't hurt at all that the movie's main villain (Magneto) and main good guy (Professor Charlies Xaviar) are embodied by such great actors as Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart. While the bad guys are bad guys, Magneto is presented from the very start as someone with a valid reason for his hate and suspicion, causing the audience to detest what he's doing at the same time that we understand exactly why he's doing it. The very first scene of him as a young boy being separated from his parents in a concentration camp sets the tone for the rest of the movie and lets us know that while this movie may have a nice fist-fight here and there, that's not all there is to this story.

The Empire Strikes Back (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams. Directed by George Lucas)

I debated putting all three of the Star Wars movies on here as a trilogy, but then I realized it would be best to just pick out the highest quality film out of the three of them. As a whole, these movies are great - and are really one giant movie. But the best part of this giant movie is the second part "The Empire Strikes Back". Star Wars was a bit slow, as is expected with a film mostly concerned with setting up the plot and action, and "Return of the Jedi" was great, except many fans felt is suffered due to the inclusion of the Ewoks (I'm not one of those fans, but whatev). "The Empire Strikes Back" though, was perfect. It was the turning point for the whole series, the moment we realized that these three movies were all connected into a much larger, epic space opera and not just an adventure story. This is when we find out who Luke's father is, Han and Leia finally admit they like each other, and we meet Yoda. This episode is darker than the rest, mostly because it's all about Luke becoming who he needs to be, which, according to the usual arch of the hero's journey, always means an ample amount of pain and loss to push them on their way. It seemed, from the first episode, that Star Wars was meant to be mostly kiddie fare, but the second one - with its dismembered hands and dark father issues - seems to jump up to more adult issues and themes, and the trilogy really took off.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy. Directed by Philip Kaufman)

Having never seen the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", I can't make any judgment on which is better. However, that being said, the 1978 version of the scifi classic creeped me out when I saw it - and I wasn't a young person by any means. Starring Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum, this movie is about a society being slowly taken over by aliens who -quite literally- snatch your body from you and take you over. The fact that those "snatched" merely walk around robotically, is intensely creepy, and as each one of his friends are taken over, you feel the desperation of Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) to find some way to escape. The very last scene is awesomely disturbing because the film boldly ends in a very unconventional way, and it leaves you thinking about it long after it's over.

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October 30, 2010 at 6:27 PM

I wouldn't really call the Prestige a SciFi movie although it had elements of SciFi. And the new Star Trek, really? I felt like I was watching a bad impersonation of the original characters.

October 30, 2010 at 8:49 PM

Sci-fi is fiction based on "science". The Prestige used that machine to clone and, come on, Star Trek was great. And I am someone who watched the original.

October 30, 2010 at 11:13 PM

Hate to break it to you, Lance, but your in the minority when it comes to Star Trek - most loved it.

October 31, 2010 at 3:22 PM

Why are there so many deleted comments?

October 31, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Oh, hey I don't care much what most people think.

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