Which science fiction films were best for the film industry?
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope began our love affair with the Star Wars Saga, as George Lucas created a galaxy far, far away that was teaming with alien life, exhilarating space battles, and the iconic Deathstar. Despite Lucas’ sporadic visual upgrading of the film, it’s amazing how well the original’s effects hold up. While nothing compared to The Force Awakens, A New Hope, with its mix of practical effects, visual effects, and models, gives us enough to believe to suspend our disbelief and join the adventure of Luke Skywalker.
With one of the best sequels ever, Aliens, Director James Cameron builds on the first film’s universe and goes bigger to create an interstellar war movie. Having a whole host of Xenomorphs coming after Ripley, Newt, and co is only the appetiser. Wait till they meet the queen!
With Jaws Steven Spielberg created Blockbuster, with Jurassic Park he perfected it. With the perfect balance of practical and visual effects, Spielberg created a film full of unforgettable moments: the T-Rex attack that’s pure cinematic magic, the sick stegosaurus, and the chilling raptor finale, cement its place as one of the greatest summer movies of all time. Jurassic World couldn’t come close.
The original version of The Thing, produced by Hollywood legend Howard Hawks, may seem a little tame compared to its bloody remake, but it was incredibly innovative at the time due to its use of the burn suit. In the film’s most famous scene the creature is set ablaze by the frightened scientists, marking the debut of the protective suite which would become a staple of American special effects.
While the film was a critical, and commercial failure, John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing has not only outshone the original, but is now considered one of the scariest films ever. Of course this was down to a combination of the chilly barren setting, an excellent cast led by Kurt Russel, and Carpenter’s stylish direction, but it’s the practical special effects that don’t so much make the film sing, as scream. With the use of animatronic puppetry, Carpenter built on the premise of the creature being anyone with the monstrous reality when the thing is discovered.
The Canadian auteur David Cronenberg had already gained his reputation as the master of body horror with films like, Shivers, and Videodrome, but The Fly surpassed all of these, and has become the director’s signature film. The Oscar winning visual effects take us painstakingly through the slow transformation of scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) from an ordinary man, to acid spewing abomination.
Re-Animator, came from the brilliantly disturbed mind of director Stuart Gordon. Based loosely on the works of Horror legend HP Lovecraft, Re-Animator is actually more of a Frankenstein riff, just a lot more twisted, with the re-animated head of Dr Halsey being one of the more creepy horror monsters.
Cameron knows how to follow up a cult classic, and with Terminator 2 he made one of the best science fiction films of all time. From the flash-forward to machine-ruled future, Sarah Connor’s vision of the earth’s destruction, and the incomparable villainy of the T-1000, T2’s effects haven’t aged a day.
While the popularity of Avatar has waned since its release, James Cameron’s passion project was a cinematic game-changer. The creation, and the detail of Pandora was just the latest example of Cameron’s penchant for re-writing the movie-making rule-book. To date it’s still the highest grossing film of all time, and also the sole focus of Cameron’s future output, with multiple sequels planned.
Ridley Scott has always been a world building filmmaker, none more so than with Blade Runner. Based on the Philip K Dick Novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Scott created a futuristic world seen as an urban nightmare. With a mix of practical, and visual effects, Scott brought to life an infinite city, with flying cars, and AWOL androids; rarely has the future looked so bleak, yet so compelling.
French director Luc Besson’s cosmic adventure movie took the influence of Blade Runner but instead made his future world a lot more hopeful. His dazzling mega city was brought to life with CGI and complex models, complete with flying cars, and handy McDonalds drive-through. The city is the backdrop of for Bruce Willis’ reluctant hero to save humanity, with the help of Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo, from a force of great evil.
Perhaps the most important science fiction film of the 20th Century, what else would you expect from Stanley Kubrick, 2001 would go on to influence nearly every other film on this list. Through his expert direction, Kubrick told the potted history of humanity’s evolution from the first use of tools, to intergalactic travel. Through a combination of fantastic set design, and ahead of their time effect, Kubrick brought an operatic quality to the universe that has been copied many times since, but never bettered.
Back to the Future Part II’s version of 2015 was so iconic that when the actual year came round there was a distinct sense of disappointment that our world failed to match that of director Robert Zemeckis. While the first film is clearly the best of the franchise, Part II took Marty, Doc, and the audience on a madcap adventure through the future and the past. The film has been so influential in our culture that it came to guide it, with the development of hoverboards, it’s prediction of franchise fatigue with the Jaws joke, and its prediction video-calls.
The found footage genre has been played out for years, but its greatest film is also its most innovative. Produced by JJ Abrams, and directed by Matt Reeves, Cloverfield is a special breed of monster movie, with its found footage premise making the action all the more insane, even causing some audience members to suffer from motion sickness.
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