There’s a simple reason why so many of the highest grossing films of all time are science fiction flicks: Audiences love stories about the far-out and fantastical. Science fiction can be so many things, from allegory to adventure, cautionary tale to cosmic comedy. The genre is so versatile that its possibilities are as infinite as the stars in the sky. This week’s Sci-Fi Sunday post presents you with a simple challenge. In the comments below, we want you to name your all-time favorite science fiction film, and tell us why it is so.
But first, a confession. While preparing this post, I posed the question to myself and to be perfectly honest with you, I struggled with it. There are so many incredible science fiction films that limiting myself to just one seemed like a fool’s errand. Eventually I realized that there was one film from this category that I have seen more than any other, The Empire Strikes Back.
Released in May of 1980, the second-ever film in the Star Wars saga remains the most compelling effort in the long-running franchise. Director Irvin Kershner was able to do the impossible, somehow make a film that was even more exciting than its predecessor. (Thanks in no small part to a perfect script and unforgettable, deeply human performances from stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill). I’ve seen this movie countless times since its original release nearly 40 years ago, and it never even begins to grow stale to me.
And that’s the trick all moviemakers face, isn’t it? Creating a work that will outlive them, remaining as exciting in the future as it was the day it was shot. These films become their legacy, and subsequently are passed down from generation to generation, beloved cinematic keepsakes of, to paraphrase Yoda old movie friends, long gone.
Another consideration: Science fiction films often have an otherworldly quality due to the their fantastic nature. Thus the future noir of 1982’s Blade Runner seems as compellingly disconnected from our reality as the landscapes in Fritz Lang‘s 1927 epic Metropolis. Sci-fi movies, like time itself, are always forging ahead — pushing the boundaries of new technologies to help bring their stories to life. But without interesting characters to get behind, stunning CGI visuals are pretty but hollow. So the best sci-fi films are those that have a compelling tale at their heart, not just razzle dazzle.
Keep these factors in mind as your pick your favorite science fiction film. I am curious to hear what you come up, and the reasons why your pick has resonated so deeply with you. See you in the stars.
Previously on MovieFanFare: Throwback Thursday: E.T., Blade Runner, and Other Sci-Fi Films of 1982
Each week our Sci-Fi Sunday posts celebrate the latest and greatest films and television shows from the universe of science fiction