Monday, July 21, 2014

100 Best Science Fiction Films

Time Out has organised a wide-ranging poll to work up a snap-shot of the current top 100 science fiction films. I was one of the participants: for what it's worth, here's my top ten (sneakily listed in chronological order so I didn't have to rank them, although I do have a favourite, as you'll see), and a short explanatory note. All but one of my choices are featured in the top 100, by the way.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951)
Road To The Stars (Doroga k zvezdam) (Pavel Klushantsev, 1957)
La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)
Quatermass And The Pit (Roy Ward Baker, 1967)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
The Man Who Fell To Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven, 1997)
Children Of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)

Almost 50 years after I first watched it with slack-jawed wonder, I still think that Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is not only the greatest science-fiction film, but also one of the best films ever made. Quatermass and the Pit deals with similar themes of uplift and fall within the confines of Hobb’s Lane and its Tube station. Road to the Stars (a significant influence on Kubrick) begins with a portrait of rocket pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and ends with an expedition to Mars; like 2001's Pan-Am shuttle and space station, it’s a reminder of the ambitious futures we have lost. Alien introduced an iconic monster and one of science-fiction’s best heroines, while the cluttered, grimy claustrophobia of its spaceship inverts Kubrick’s chilly antiseptic aesthetic. La Jetée’s haunting examination of time and memory, the portrayal of an alien seduced and corrupted by human appetites in The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Children of Men’s story of loss and redemption, prove that science-fiction films can move the heart as well as the mind. And the blackly comic satires of Brazil and Starship Troopers, and the stark warning of The Day the Earth Stood Still, are all still cuttingly relevant: a reminder that, at its best, science fiction holds up a distorting mirror to ourselves and our times.

UPDATE Amended because The Man Who Fell to Earth was made in 1976 not 1987. And Quatermass And The Pit was 1967 not 1957...

5 Comments:

Blogger Paul Weimer said...

Kind of hard to argue with 2001, Paul. As a cinematic achievement in SF, what comes close? Gravity, maybe, but I'd like to see in 20 years if Gravity holds up.

July 21, 2014 10:10 pm  
Blogger Brian said...

Great list! Pleasantly surprised to see my guilty pleasure Starship Troopers on it.

Paul W, apparently there is some debate as to whether Gravity is SF. For me, it is science fiction, but not everyone agrees.

July 21, 2014 10:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't The Man Who Fell To Earth a 1976 film? I'd think '87 Bowie would come across very differently from '76 Bowie.

July 23, 2014 5:30 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

You're right, anonymous. No idea how that happened. Especially as I saw it in 1976. If it had been made in '87, I don't think Bowie would have been it. Michael Stipe, maybe? Annie Lennox?

July 23, 2014 6:03 pm  
OpenID philrm said...

Also, the Roy Ward Baker film version of "Quatermass and the Pit" (as opposed to the tv series), is from 1967, not 1957.

July 23, 2014 9:47 pm  

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