Chicon 2000

Bob Eggleton's Top Ten SF Films

Rev. 26-Nov-1999

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My Top Ten List of The Best SF films Ever

by Bob Eggleton

In compiling this I took into account what makes a "science fiction" film different from a "fantasy" film, and I was walking a thin line most of the time. I didn't include any STAR WARS or STAR TREK films because they are part of a series relating to their specfic mythologies -- they basically all stand together. And while some of the films below have sequels, those sequels are more or less different visions involving some of the same characters. So here they are, and why I liked them, arranged in alphabetical order:

ALIEN (1979) This is the first and arguably best of the whole series of movies involving probably the best and most memorable outer space creature in ages, that all the rest had to measure up to. Ridley Scott's direction, along with some great characters, acting and visual effects, conjured up a story that had many clutching their seats. The landing on the planetoid and the EVA on same, was particularly well done, as it truly was an alien planet and not some obvious rock quarry or desert landscape. I can never get tired of seeing this film, it's so well done.

BLADE RUNNER (1982) Again, Ridley Scott showed us a vision of a dark, dank future, unlike the previous entry, but itself an alien- and not so alien world gone crazy with technology and moral complications. The acting sets and visuals, like Scott's ALIEN, added up to a film that really connected with what many science fiction fans wanted. Unlike ALIEN, this film didn't do so well at the box office but did survive as a cult hit and eventually a director's cut (1993), which some argue was not such a great idea on Scott's part.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977). Okay I know people who either loved it or hated it. I'm on the "loved it" side. Steven Spielberg's vision of contact between humans and extraterrestrials. What worked was the optimistic view of aliens so advanced, that they were like children and their spacecraft, toys. It had a lot of what are known as "Spielbergisms" in its portrayal of characters. I liked it because it showed Richard Dreyfuss' Roy Neary character as a person, like any of us at times, in search of an answer.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL(1953) Who's top ten list is this one not on? Perhaps a cornerstone film in the SF genre, appealing not just to fans but also to a wide audience. Michael Rennie's Klaatu remains unchallenged in his portrayal of an alien much resembling humans, but with a stern warning of powers far, far greater than man in the universe. Gort is one of the few truly memorable robots of the genre. The film hit home at a time Cold War paranoia was at fever pitch but worked to tell humans they must broaden their scope in thinking.

DR. STRANGELOVE or HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964) Some would argue the "science fictional" content, but it does have a fictitious "doomsday weapon" that does win out in the end. It is one of my favorite funniest films of all time as well. Stanley Kubrick's often hilarious version of a nuclear confrontation, showing the pointlessness of war and the stupidity of those who wage it. My favorite bits are such things as General Jack Ripper's (Sterling Hayden) rants about "natural bodily fluids" and of course, the show stopping scene with Keenan Wynn, Peter Sellers and a Coke machine.

DARK CITY (1998) A terrific film that came out of nowhere, it seemed. It had a Film Noir quality not seen in many films and was like a big budget episode of The Twilight Zone with regard to its situation and characters and ultimate conclusion. It was well textured and the idea was original. The production design was some of the eeriest I have seen yet... it was worth multiple viewings and, like the recent THE MATRIX, asked us to ask ourselves if we are really sure what we see and feel is "reality." Or are we all just rats in a maze...

FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956) Another "cornerstone" film with one character immortalized in Science Fiction: Robby The Robot. The forerunner to STAR TREK in its tale of a space mission to find a lost earth ship, and in the process retelling Shakespeare's The Tempest. Superb sets, effects, acting and an overall "Gosh Wow" feel that typified the genre.

GOJIRA/GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS (1954/56-each version respectively) One of the best anti-nuke films of its time. While some say GOJIRA was a ripoff of the earlier Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, GOJIRA was the one that lasted in memory, perhaps due to the fact the monster has a name. Even the Americanized version (1956) despite being chopped up, still retained enough of the graphic fear and terror generated by a monster which was the very face of Death itself. The film was generated by a nation, Japan, who saw themselves helpless in the escalating stupidity of endless atomic testing, and who themselves are the only country to have had atomic weapons used against them. And so the science-atomic testing-created Gojira/Godzilla-science was brought an end by the oxygen destroyer. But many more Gojiras/Godzillas came afterward...

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) Only recently available on video tape and DVD, this incredibly well done Hammer film entry still holds up and I never tire of seeing it. Released state-side as FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH , this was the third in the Nigel Kneale written series of SF films. Sometimes like a horror film (with Lovecraftian elements), the SF aspect gives the film a feel typical of that type of film made in the UK at the time, often called "The Golden Age of British SF films" by many afficionados. As well as a great story, the acting by such UK stars as Julian Glover, Barbara Shelley and Andrew Keir as Prof. Bernard Quatermass was well done. Roy Ward Baker's direction and some nifty visual effects made on a shoestring budget hold up over 30 years later. Though part of a series of films (the previous two made in the 50's) this film stands well on its own.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) Another "everyone's favorite." I saw this when I was 9 years and and my life has never been the same since... what else can I say about it???

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