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The Last 5 Best Scifi Movies

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Terminator 2

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick. Directed by James Cameron.

This is the second time I'm putting in the second installment of a movie series but, again, like Star Wars, this sequel was better than its predecessor. In this Terminator story, the cyborg (Schwarzenegger) that had previously stalked Sarah Conner (Hamilton) and tried to kill her has now returned to protect her son (Furlong) from another time traveling cyborg who is intent on killing him (Patrick). I think the main appeal to this movie over the first one is that one of the cyborg's is on the human's side. It's a long-held tradition in movie watching that audiences love to see big, powerful machines on the good side and on the bad side. It is also interesting to watch Furlong's character grow to love the cyborg, even as the movie resolutely stays away from over-sentimentalizing the machine by having him develop emotions - this machine is a machine all the way to the end. The acting is good (if you can call Schwarzenegger 'acting'), and it is always admirable to have such a strong female lead as Hamilton’s Sarah Conner (this was also one of the strongest points in the first movie). Robert Patrick is fittingly robotic, as well, which may seem like a weak compliment but it's not. It must take a lot of restraint to play a machine when so many actors would be tempted to deepen the role through emotional reactions or human traits. On a side note, simply because I chose part 2 to list does not mean the original Terminator should be skipped over - both are integral to the plot and both are very good movies. Make it a night and watch both.


Jurassic Park


Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

This movie isn't on here because of its great acting or wonderful plot, its on here because it has great action. The plot is fairly simple - a man manages to re-create dinosaurs and plans to open an amusement park where people can come and see them. Of course, as he is showing the park to a some archeologists, Dr. Alan Grant (Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Dern), things go terribly wrong and the dinosaurs break free. What ensues is a dinosaurs-chasing-people movie that is more entertaining than most other movies. The dinosaurs are suitably (perhaps inaccurately) scary - and the movie avoids the cliché of making the T-Rex the only main threat. The velociraptors serve as some of the creepiest, scariest predators ever on film with their screeching voices and claws that tap tap tap on the ground as they walk. The movie is brilliant in that it creates some very clever and scheming animals that are able to match the humans at every turn.

12 Monkeys

Bruce Willis, Madelaine Stowe, Brad Pitt. Directed by Terry Gilliam.

This is one of those movies that you have to watch a few times in order to understand what's happening - and even then it will still make your head hurt. A convict (Willis) is sent back in time to gather info on a man-made virus that wiped out most of the world sometime in the past. He's accidentally brought back 6 years earlier than intended and is committed to a mental institution. He manages to get his Psychiatrist (Stowe) on his side, and together they embark on a mission to prevent the virus. They come across a terrorist (Pitt) who they believe is the man responsible for the virus, and Pitt gives a great performance as an insane anarchist who's too screwed up to know what's he's doing. All the time they're trying to figure out the origin of this virus, Willis is haunted by his own past and a traumatic experience he had in an airport when he saw a man shot and killed by the police. The end is one of those time-traveling anomalies and is specifically set up to make you rethink the idea of fate and self-fulfilling prophecies. The performances are great, the directing is great, the plot is mind-blowing, and the ending leaves you scratching your head. This all adds up to a great movie that everyone should see at least once (though you'll probably have to watch it twice).

Donnie Darko

Jake Gyllenhaal, James Duvall. Directed by Richard Kelly.

This movie has always been presented as a horror movie - mostly because of the creepy guy in the rabbit suit - but it's actually a scifi movie. The movie begins when a jet engine crashes through Donnie's (Gyllenhaal) room while he's out and about. From that moment on, things seem a bit odd, especially the large, talking bunny that only Donnie can see. Is Donnie crazy? Or is it something more complicated than that? The movie is undeniably weird - it touches on telekinesis, time travel, time portals, and split realities, but that's most of its charm. It's well written and even Gyllenhaal (who I usually hate) gives a pretty well-rounded performance as a guy with serious emotional/psychotic issues even without the crazy things happening around him. The bunny actually serves as a very large piece of the puzzle and the revelation of what it means is pretty mind-blowing. I can't tell you how the movie ends - which is the main reason why it's such a good movie - so you'll just have to trust me on this one without much explanation.

Alien


Sigourney Weaver. Directed by Ridley Scott.

This movie doesn't need much explanation. It's scary and creepy and filled with action that makes you clench the sides of your seat. The movie is about a small group of space travelers who land on a distant planet and find themselves at the mercy of terrible aliens that can incubate in your chest and kill you while being born. Ripley (Weaver) is the main character and the camera mainly follows her as each of her expedition members get taken out by the aliens. There's something very primal about being chased by ugly, slimy aliens that have no trace of mercy or compassion. They're pure killing machines and seem to have every advantage on their side. The movie stays away from clichés or cheesy heroic moments that make no sense. Lots of people die - as they would in this situation - and even the Ripley isn't a sure bet. Weaver plays Ripley with shocking strength and a lack of femininity. Weaver has said that the role of Ripley was originally written for a man and when she was cast in the part, they didn't change anything about the script. So, essentially, she is playing a man's role and this is part of what rises Alien up out of the sludge of a lot of scifi centered around women. The movie never over-sexualizes Ripley - she never runs around in ripped leather or has perfect makeup. Even when being heroic, she does it with sweat and grunting and every unattractive thing that would really be present in a situation like this. Finally seeing a movie where a woman plays a big part - not as a romantic interest, not as a sex object, not as a second fiddle to the man - is refreshing and proves that this can be done successfully.

Le Voyage Dans La Lune


On a special note, I wanted to point out a small, black and white French movie from 1902 named Le Voyage Dans La Lune. This is the first scifi movie and its interesting to see how scifi has evolved and how it's stayed the same from over a century ago when this movie was made. It is also really interesting that the first scifi movie came from France when so many think of scifi as an American preference. Worth a look if you're interested in scifi from a historical perspective.


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August 1, 2011 at 9:02 AM

Great post !1 Thank you for sharing all the best sci-fi film with us. All movies are looking great..I will surely go for every movie in my summer holidays :-)

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