Thursday, June 28, 2007

Best Sci-Fi Movies

RottenTomatoes, the website that aggregates movie reviews from all over the web, has come up with a list of the top 100, best-reviewed science-fiction films of all time. Without actually counting, I’d say I’ve seen about half the films on the list but as in most lists, it was fun seeing the films on their list, trying to guess which films made the cut and reading up about the ones I haven't seen. There were a few surprises, both pleasant (how did this film come so low?) and unpleasant (they gave this one such a high ranking?!) but we know that such lists are always subjective and the basis of fun discussions rather than universally-accepted lists to be argued about.

I prefer sci-fi films that offer up a mix of story and action. Films that focus only on the former(like 2001: A Space Odyssey) tend to be too slow and talky for me while films that are high on action(like Independence Day) offer good entertainment but are rarely memorable and don’t stand up well on repeat viewings. As always, there are exceptions to these in both categories but for the most part, I prefer my sci-fi cocktails to have a good mix of both action and story.

That said, following are the sci-fi films I’d rate as my personal top ten favorites (the numbers in parentheses indicate their rank on the RottenTomatoes list).

10. Alien (#4)
The first film that tackled the "haunted house in space" theme, it is atmospheric rather than gory. It takes a little time to get the action going but is a relentlessly thrilling ride after that.

9. Signs (#83)
Quite possibly the alien invasion film that accords the least importance to the actual aliens themselves, it builds the suspense up gradually before closing with an exhilarating climax where all pieces fall into place. Shyamalan mixed the suspense and the humor very well too.

8. The Empire Strikes Back (#6)
The best of the Star Wars series, it is the darkest film of the lot and contains undeniably the most shockingly memorable moment in the entire series. Made more than 20 years ago, the special effects still manage to astonish us.

7. Back to the Future (#22)
My favorite time-travel movie, the movie creates an unimaginably tangled knot(by making Michael J. Fox travel to the past and getting his own mother to develop a crush on him) and then proceeds to unravel it in a delightful fashion. Has a ton of incredibly clever moments scattered throughout.

6. Jurassic Park (#62)
With amazingly real dinosaurs and marvelous set pieces, Spielberg creates a rousing experience with this film. After the initial setup, the movie is just one long chase and keeps us on the edge of our seats until the credits roll.

5. E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (#1)
A heartwarming tale of an alien stuck on Earth and becoming friends with a boy and his sister(a very young Drew Barrymore), this is a fairytale for all ages. Adeptly combining comedy and sentiments, the film had an exhilarating last segment as the kids help ET escape.

4. Matrix (#32)
Brilliant in concept and pathbreaking in action sequences, this was a truly explosive movie. Style oozes out of every frame and the movie makes us think while dazzling us with its kinetic stunts. Too bad neither of its sequels came even close to it in quality.

3. Aliens (#10)
James Cameron replaced Alien's suspense and creepiness with all-out action in this sequel and what a ride it turns out to be. Throwing a child into the mix to raise the stakes, the movie has us in our grip with thrilling chases and spectacular fights.

2. Minority Report (#5)
A movie I've liked a bit more on each viewing, the film is just the perfect mix of intriguing concept and high-voltage stunts. The theme of precognitive crimefighters offers wonderful possibilities and Spielberg exploits them to the fullest extent. Really intelligent and amazing action sequences.

1. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (#27)
Eye-popping special effects, terrific action, intelligent story and delicious one-liners make this my favorite. The shape-changing cyborg remains one of cinema's most heartless and relentless villains and the relationship between Schwarzenegger and the young boy was developed well enough to make the last scene quite touching.


At 2:42 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Very interesting list but i am bit surprised that Signs made it into your top 10.

Signs was very good movie but the "twist" given ruined it for me. I found the ending very lame :)


At 2:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those interested in Sci fi, I highly recommend Dark City.

It may be bit out dated now, due to Matrix but still good movie.


At 4:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about Children of Men & 12 Monkeys? You didn't like them? I would rate them better than signs.

At 6:30 AM, Blogger VThinkTank said...

This is unrelated to the subject. I am putting it here to draw Balaji's attention

Forgive me for this

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice list, but mostly mainstream. For really pure Sci-fi, I loved Sunshine, The fountain, The Butterfly effect and oh yes, Dark City. 5th element and 12 monkeys were great too.

And you have also got to watch Children of Men. Beautiful.

At 8:19 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I liked this movie called Abyss - I saw it when I was really a small kid... ever heard of it?

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

sanjeev, i thot 'sign's was the 1 movie where shyamalan didn't go for a forced twist. i loved the way the pieces fell in place in the end. so the climax was the best part of the film for me :)

i saw 'dark city' a long time ago. went over my head that time...

karthik, saw '12 monkeys' a while back. don't remember much other than pitt's acting. saw 'children of men' recently. liked it but not enuf to break my top 10 :)

krish, yes defly a mainstream list. as i said, i like both thot and action and its usually mainstream films that provide that. indi films tend to have too much thot and too little action.

among films in ur list i liked 'butterfly effect' quite a bit though it was a bit too dark. '5th element' was fun the first time but didn't enjoy it as much in repeat viewings. 'sunshine' was a bit too vague and weird. haven't seen 'fountain' :)

At 11:40 PM, Blogger narayanan said...

Am surprised Signs and Minority Report made into your list. Signs looked quite philosophical. The concept of Minority Report was interesting, but being dressed up as a suspense made the movie look lame.

T2 and Back to the Future trilogy would make into my favourites too :)


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