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Sci-Fi for the Thinking Person

Movie site Rotten Tomatoes has posted a feature titled “Ten Sci-Fi Flicks for the Thinking Man“. Ignoring the passive sexism of the title, it’s a sure-fire conversation starter for any lover of science fiction films. RT’s Jeff Giles picked:

10. Planet of the Apes
9. Dark City
8. Sleeper
7. Gattaca
6. Primer
5. Children of Men
4. Solaris (1972)
3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
2. Blade Runner
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

George Dvorsky of Sentient Developments took issue with a few of the picks (as most people probably would…we all have our favourites), and so posted his own list.

So, for Grailers out there: what’s your top ten? Or at least, what films aren’t on the list that you think should have been?

  1. Solaris
    I thought the Solaris remake with George Clooney was better than the original, but neither movie was as good as Lem’s book. Lem was a real writer and genius. Much of his impact was due to his use of the language.

    1. Lem
      Lem’s language works even in translation. I don’t read Polish, but the translations to German seem a little more effective than the English ones. This may be due to English not being my native language.

      In any case, there are good translators out there. I think Lem’s work with language is an example of a common effect – if someone tells you how to solve a problem, how to do something, it suddenly becomes relatively easy. When before nobody had any idea how to do it.

      It is not how fast you go
      it is when you get there.

  2. Sci-Fi for the thinking man.


    Has he seen the movie? The one where the only remaining part of a killed dictator is his nose and they want to “assassinate” it?

    Hmmm, curious this is me thinks.

    What about:


    Strange Days

    The Matrix (Not the sequels though.)


    Terminator 1 and 2 (Time travel, AI eliminating mankind.)

    There are others, but SLEEPER????


  3. Gojira!

    even if only for the koan puzzle of why it should be what it has become (an entire genre of its own) the 1954 original Godzilla is top of the list of every thinking person I know.

    If all you’ve ever seen is the lame tag-along American Ramond Burr re-edit, you really do need to correct this oversight as soon as possible.

  4. invasion of the body
    invasion of the body snatchers, the thing, 1984, soylent green, terminator, the matrix, fahrenheit 451, a clockwork orange, 2001: a space odyssey, bladerunner, gattaca and planet of the apes.

    Thats a top 12 but in science fiction 12 can become 10.

  5. C’mon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Not including Matrix (I) is inane to say the least!!

    It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
    It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

    Red Pill Junkie

  6. Just off of the top of my head…
    …and in no particular order:

    2001: A space Odyssey
    Planet of the Apes
    12 Monkeys
    Dark City
    The Matrix
    Blade Runner

    and I leave a place open because I’m sure I’ve left out
    a masterpiece…

  7. Sci-Fi for the thinking person
    Matrix(1) for me, and Minority Report (Philip Dick story of an agency solving crimes that haven’t happened yet). Also, I enjoyed Paycheck (Ben Affleck – about a machine built to see alternative futures, and total memory wipe-out)

    ‘Whatever you do, comes back to you’

  8. Others not mentioned:
    *The Andromeda Strain

    *The Abyss

    *Jurassic Park (1)

    It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
    It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

    Red Pill Junkie

    1. Some thoughts
      [quote=Rick MG]I’d add Wall-E to the list too. It gets kids involved in scifi, and makes the adults think.

      I think I’m the only person in the known Universe who just doesn’t get the greatness of Wall-E. Or maybe I’m just loyal to Number Five. 😉

      I’d probably throw Donnie Darko into the mix, although it’s not overtly sci-fi (though definitely for the thinking person). And Alien as well (Aliens is a favourite too, but not so much ‘thinking’ as ‘action’).

      Kind regards,
      You monkeys only think you’re running things

  9. Stalker
    Based on one of my favourite SF novels (Roadside Picnic), this lesser known Tarkovsky work is “difficult”, but still worthwhile. If you thought parts of 2001 seem to drag as they convey the tedium of space travel, multiply by 10 to get an idea of the atmosphere here. At first I was disappointed that so little of the original narrative is retained, but few movies leave such a lasting impression. Worth renting any way.

    I would also include Dune, despite its faults, but then I’m a sucker for anything that Lynch does.

  10. What makes good sci-fi?
    I ask this question because sci-fi is always based on what is available at the time with regards to technology, and the ideas that are accepted by the general scientific fraternity. Therefore, films made in the early days of movie-making may actually have been far better than many made in recent times. Also the fact that the early films were made with limited resources and technology available also says a great deal about what makes a good sci-fi film.

    One film that still is great in my eyes is “Metropolis”. It was so advanced in its thinking that I can still get a thrill from its ideas which are now definitely happening.

    I also appreciated the 1951 version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. At the time it was a film that said much about human attitudes towards other species, as well as alien visitation and invention.

    “The Matrix” was a brilliantly made film with many important philosophical ideas for the thinking person. I also enjoyed the “13th Floor” which took a different, but I think a little more appropriate view of the computerised virtual reality of the world around us.

    For my husband, “2001 A Space Oddysey” was the best sci-fi movie of all time, but for me, whilst it was an excellent production I found it rather slow, confusing in places, and at times failed to successfully demonstrate quite difficult concepts visually.

    Planet of the Apes was good in its way – at least the first film, not the rest of the series – but was not one of my top 10.

    I remember a film, the name of which escapes me, was in black and white, British, and was about a man who was given extraordinary powers by the gods. It was so mind blowing, and demonstrated why I never want to possess that power for absolute power does corrupt absolutely even when you don’t want it to!

    I enjoyed the early 1950s film entitled “A matter of life and death” in Britain and entitled “Stairway to Heaven” in the US. I have a copy on dvd and have watched it several times. It is one I can watch over and over and never tire of it.

    The key is the particular time period in which the sci-fi film is set. If people accept that at the time the technology being used is what was known, or just out of reach, then people will accept it, however, if it is trying to be universal and appeal to people at all times in the past, present and future, it may fail because the technology used in the film may well date the film, especially if the technology of the time period in which the film is being watched is much more in advance.

    Films such as “the Time Machine”, and “Journey to the Moon” by sci-fi writers in the late Victorian, early 20th Century, can only ever be set in their own time, and can appear ridiculous to a modern viewer, but at the time the ideas were very advanced and worth considering.

    In the early 1950s films represented space ships as pure rocket type vessels, and weightlessness was never even considered, but does this mean they were less influential and brilliant at the time they were made? I don’t think so.

    Perhaps we should exclude films that have been made within the last 20 years, and only look at films that have proved the test of time and still arouse interest in those who watch them. Time has advanced, as has technology, and we need to take this into consideration when looking at sci-fi. Much science fiction has become science fact. Not enough films today truly look ahead beyond what is already possible, and available. Perhaps because so many technology companies want their goods to be included in the films and it brings in revenue, and reduces costs (slightly).

    In the early days, much of the technology had to be created out of nothing because it hadn’t really been invented. Today that is not necessarily the case. Perhaps we need to reconsider what is meant by a sci-fi film and accept that all of them will be “old hat” having been superceded by other technologies in the future.

    Carol A Noble

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