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The Next 5 Best Scifi Movies of All Time

War of the Worlds
Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, directed by Steven Spielberg

Based on the famous book by HG Wells, War of the Worlds is a relatively simple story. Ray (Tom Cruise) ends up fighting for survival against tripod alien invaders. What makes this movie particularly good is the directing. In a world of Saw movies and other films that do their utmost to creep you out - War of the Worlds, on face value, seems pretty tame. Who thinks Aliens are creepy anymore? But Spielberg manages, with brilliant lighting and great action, to actually make these aliens skin-crawlingly unnerving. The pods of people waiting to get their blood sucked out of them will make you want to turn away, even though none of the violence is shown. The sight of these three-legged robotic monsters silhouetted against the sky, hearkens back to that old golden age of scifi when outer space invaders was terrifying and shook at that something deep down that was human in us. Spielberg also keeps the camera very POV based - we see hardly nothing the characters do not. Even the battles, which many other blockbuster movies would lovingly linger over, are sometimes cut away from the viewer once the characters are no longer there. It gives us a feeling of being with them in the moment. The idea, as well, of a main character who is not necessarily trying to be a hero - but who is merely trying to survive, is refreshing. The ending is problematic for most who are used to a heroic moment of triumph or something essential to the aliens blowing up spectacularly, but the ending is true to the book and a minor issue in the grand scheme of how beautifully shot this movie is.

Back to the Future
Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thomspon, Crispin Glover, directed by Robert Zemeckis.

The film, about a man named Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) that has to go back in time to make sure his parents get married, is a little different than most of the other movies on this list. It doesn't take itself too seriously - time travel is accomplished with a really fast car made by a crazy scientist (Christopher Lloyd). There are two things that make this movie so enjoyable to watch. First, the performances are fun. Fox is endearingly faux-cool, and Christopher Lloyd is the only person I know who can run around wild-eyed and crazy-haired without being annoying. Then there's the whole issue of time-travel. This film is one of the few films tackling time travel that actually tries to make sense and keep it clear for the viewer. When McFly goes back in time, he is a new variable, literally. He watches himself, his parents, everyone as a completely new person in that time. This lets him manipulate, screw up, and fix the lives of the people around him. Plus, the film does the daring in making McFly's mother fall in love with him when he meets her when she's only a teenager. Watching a boy try to dodge the attention of the woman that would one day give birth to him, while trying to push his painfully geeky father towards her is fun to watch.

Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

This classic story about a little boy (Thomas) finding a kinship with a stranded alien is one of the most uplifting films ever made. While many movies centered around children can come off syrupy and overly-cute, the child actors in this (including a very young Drew Barrymore) are likable and infuse their characters with some actual depth. This movie reminds us of what's its like to be young - riding your bike around and getting into trouble. And it also strikes at that part of us that remembers what it was like as a young person, hoping for something exciting to happen to you - something magical. It also reminds us of that childlike innocence that lends itself more naturally to protecting those in need, instead of exploiting them. It's no coincidence that the group that hides ET and cares for him - even going so far as to put themselves in danger - are children. And even as adults, everyone can relate to Eliot as he begins to love something so much that he'd do anything to protect it, including being parted from it. There is also that added thrill of seeing at the end that ET may have been just a child himself with concerned parents looking for him. These aliens aren't hostile or bent on conquest, they're are simply explorers who'd lost their child.

Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Frohlich. Directed by Fritz Lang.

Many may have heard of this film, but may not have seen it or know what's it's about. It touches on the concept of a Utopian society that seems all wonderful. A man named Freder (Abel) who lives in this perfect Utopia, sees a beautiful woman (Helm) one day, who quickly runs away. He follows her, and discovers - to his horror - that in order for their perfect Utopian society to function, there is a whole class or working people who live underground. The rest of the story unfolds when he falls in love with this women, who believes that soon the head (the upper class) and the hands (the working class) will unite by means of a mediator (the heart) who is to come. Freder discovers that his father knows about this society and the rest of the movie follows as Freder's father begins to scheme against Maria to make sure the working class never uprises. This movie was made in 1927 - there are no great special effects, but it is a historically important film, serving as one of the earliest scifi films. The performances are also good -some are overdone, as was the habit in that time, but many of the other characters are very nuanced and subtle. This is a rare movie in that serves as both a curiosity and as an enjoyable film. It was re-released recently cleaned up and enhanced, with lost footage reinserted, and if you were able to see this, count yourself as one of the few. I wasn't able to catch it in my town, but I hope to see it some day as it was meant to be seen.

Wrath of Khan
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, Nichelle Nichols, Ricardo Montalban. Directed by Nicholas Meyer

If you just mention to someone who's seen The Wrath of Khan the scene with the worms, I guarantee you, they'll squirm. It's one of the early scenes and it immediately sets this Star Trek movie apart from the ones that came before. Star Trek the Motion Picture was boring and philosophical, and the next two were just uneventful. But the Wrath of Khan had a great villain (Ricardo Montalban) - who was also familiar to all Star Trek fans because he was pulled from the original TV show. Montalban doesn't hold anything back, somehow making Khan - a visually ridiculous character - into someone so filled with rage and hate that you were forced to take him seriously. Watching Kirk match wits with someone just as clever as him, just as passionate, and who was very, very angry reminded us of what was so good about Trek to begin with. Plus, the ending is one of the most moving for any Star Trek fan - watching Spock die was one of the worst things a Trekkie could see and the scene was done so beautifully that I truly believe the franchise could have stopped there and ended on a bittersweet note. Spock had died as a hero, and delivered one of the best, and in this case, saddest lines ever to Kirk as he died "I have been and shall always be your friend."

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+ comments + 2 comments

December 1, 2010 at 2:28 AM

Love that Spock scene. A perfect friendship.

April 7, 2011 at 1:38 AM

You have good collection of sci-fi movies.I watched all movies with the help your links in this post.The movie I like most is the War of worlds.Tom criuse is just best..

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