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The Best Science Fiction Film of All Time?

So, it's been thirty years since we first saw STAR WARS. Hard to believe.

Amidst all the hype and hoopla of this anniversary, I keep seeing people calling STAR WARS "the best science fiction film of all time." Uh... really? I don't think so. The original STAR WARS was a good movie, and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was even better (Leigh Brackett wrote that one, so there's good reason), but RETURN OF THE JEDI went downhill, and you really don't want to get me started about those three wretched prequels. Even the original triad hasn't aged as gracefully as one might have hoped. It has become apparent that much of the charm of the first movie came from the novelty of seeing favorite tropes from classic SF books realized on the screen for the first time... but that charm wears off on repeated viewings, and once it does you realize that neither the story is, well... not all that it could have been. You also realize how much retrofitting and backfill has gone on since the movie's first release. I don't care what Lucas says, I will never believe that Darth was meant to Luke's father from the outset, or that the romantic pairing was always supposed to be Leia and Han (it is plainly Luke and Leia)... and damn it, Han shoots first!

Never mind about all that. STAR WARS is what it is, and it had a profound effect on both SF and on film, for both good and ill... but it is not even close to being the best SF movie of all time.

What's better? Try 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Try THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. Try the first ALIEN, or even better, ALIENS (but never mention the third installment in my presence). Try CHARLIE (the film version of the classic "Flowers for Algernon"). All worthy. Try George Pal's wonderful adaptation of H.G. Wells' WAR OF THE WORLDS (a better film than the Spielberg remake, in my opinion), or Pal's version of THE TIME MACHINE (a MUCH better film than the really truly abominable recent remake).

The best, though?

MGM, 1956. Leslie Nielson, Anne Francis, Walter Pidgeon, Robbie the Robot. FORBIDDEN PLANET. Also known as the Tempest on Altair-4. Inspired by Shakespeare, in turn it inspired Gene Roddenberry, who borrowed heavily from it when coming up with STAR TREK. State of the art special effects (for 1956, admittedly), gripping story, some fine performances (especially by Walter Pidgeon, whose performance as Morbius beats anything ever seen in any of the STAR WARS films). Unlike STAR WARS, this is a film that only grows richer every time you watch it. A monster that makes sense, characters with a little psychological depth, science that isn't just empty technobabble, a sexy heroine, a tragic hero, the awesome caverns of the Krel... FORBIDDEN PLANET has it all.

Winner and still champion.

The best science fiction film of all time.


( 132 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 31st, 2007 07:45 am (UTC)
Definitely the original Time Machine, Aliens, and 2001. Excellent movies, all.
May. 31st, 2007 09:11 am (UTC)
What is Science Fiction
what about The Last Star Fighter, Flash Gordon, Star Kid and whoever said DUNE, c'mon even David lynch thinks it was a mistake 9but it's still a guilty pleasure of mine). I understand your reasoning with Forbidden Planet (the reason I love your novels is because your characters are as rich as Shakespearen ones), but the true question is which science fiction is the best. I don't count Star Wars cause it's science fantasy. But there are really three different kinds of science fiction movies: Space odessy's like 2001, Forbidden Planet Star Trek, etc. Then you have your dystopian futures such as Metrpolis, Blade Runner, Gattaca, and my favorite BRAZIL. And finally there are the ones that have to do with Earthlings opening there eyes to science fiction and th future such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, an lets not forget Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Even 2001 fits in this category. So truly what is science fiction.
Serenity was a good movie too. Fifth Element also.
But artistically speaking i think the two best are BRAZIL and 2001.
And when the hell are we going to go back into a science fiction movie cycle again. There hasn't been anything to make us dream of the future. I'm wondering if it has to do with bing in war time because I know that after the Vietnam war Science fiction was big. Maybe horror is the big genre because that's the way of the world now. And we look to the superman genre to get us through it. I just hope the Iraq war ends so we can have a future again.
May. 31st, 2007 12:35 pm (UTC)
It's been mentioned, but I'd add Metropolis. None of the sci-fi films that have been listed wouldn't exist without it.
May. 31st, 2007 01:20 pm (UTC)
Hello, my comment has nothin to do with fiction movies but rather just a revelation of the way i feel after reading one of the chapters of the third volume of "A Song of Ice and Fire". I know i know, am still in third volume but i was late in acknowledging the talent of GRRM. I must say that am very very depressed. :( after reading the sad chapter in the third volume as u all well know, the incident with the Frey, am not gonna reveal more but DAMN GRRM why did you have to take that decision. You totally took my illusion of coming back home eveyrday from work to read for a couple of hours. Heck, everybody at work knows what am goin through, they laugh at me. I´ve been down the whole day...... Why did you do that????? :( waaaaa. WANT THEM BACK...
Jun. 1st, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: depressed....
Ahh, the red wedding. One of my favorite scenes of all time.

Really though, Rob never had a PoV chapter, so that couldn't have been much of a suprise. And seeing that Cat was a primary cause of all the problems that began with here kidnapping Tyrion, I wasn't sorry to see here reap her reward. Her only evidence was Littlefinger's word??? Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Maybe UnCat will be an improvement.

Re: depressed.... - olga_stark - Jun. 1st, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: depressed.... - entomologist - Jun. 8th, 2007 07:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: depressed.... - olga_stark - Jun. 8th, 2007 09:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: depressed.... - entomologist - Jun. 9th, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: depressed.... - the_lady_snow - Jun. 10th, 2007 08:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: depressed.... - entomologist - Jun. 11th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: depressed.... - the_lady_snow - Jun. 11th, 2007 08:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: depressed.... - entomologist - Jun. 11th, 2007 02:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: depressed.... - the_lady_snow - Jun. 13th, 2007 05:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: depressed.... - entomologist - Jun. 14th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 31st, 2007 01:47 pm (UTC)
I find it telling how Alien to the power of 3 must not be spoken of in your presence and yet you don't even acknowledge the existence of Alien: Resurrection (and rightly so).

My personal vote goes for Aliens. It was my first sci fi movie ever and it had a profound effect on me. You know, besides the nightmares.
May. 31st, 2007 01:52 pm (UTC)
Why are there no votes for Spaceballs? -pouts-

May. 31st, 2007 02:27 pm (UTC)
I wholly agree and thank you for making the point, sir.
May. 31st, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC)
Yay Netflix
I concur, and now runs to Netflix to add "Forbidden Planet" to my queue.
May. 31st, 2007 04:04 pm (UTC)
Sith Lords
While I agree that the Leia/Han romance was probably added after the first movie, I just want to say this about the whole "I am your father" issue: in Dutch, the name Darth Vader translates literally as Dark Father. I think you have to give the point to Lucas on that one..... : )
Jun. 8th, 2007 09:24 am (UTC)
Re: Sith Lords
Yep, I agree on this one. Also if you read Joseph Campbell (which George Lucas did too) it seems clear that the son much challenge the father to complete his journey. Leia was never meant to be her brother though "Good Luck" - kiss - ew!
May. 31st, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC)
Yes, Alien/Aliens forever! I love the dark realism (or whatever you call it) and Ripley is a great character.
Recently I liked Will Smiths; I Robot. Although I have never read the book so not sure how it maches up..
Jun. 1st, 2007 08:15 pm (UTC)
I Robot
I Robot is a collection of short stories about Robots. I don't recall one that was similar to the movie. But the movie did draw upon the three laws of robotics and was a sci-fi mystery in the Asimov tradition.

Re: I Robot - fireballofdoom - Jun. 3rd, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 31st, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC)
For those attending the event, you can use this link to get to it in SL(if you have an account).

Jun. 1st, 2007 03:45 am (UTC)
I took the time to register to add 12 Monkeys !
Jun. 1st, 2007 11:58 am (UTC)
I love the original trilogy but I still love the cult classic Blade Runner. I don't know what went through Dick's mind but his books are great. Some of the movies don't live up to his name but that is a different story.
Jun. 1st, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC)
I'd like to suggest to you my favorite SF film, in the off chance that you haven't seen it, Serenity.
Jun. 15th, 2007 03:40 pm (UTC)
i'm glad someone mentioned this :)
Jun. 1st, 2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
Science fiction can be a tough genre to define, but for my money, no other sci-fi flick can hold a candle to The Matrix.

The sequels on the other hand...
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( 132 comments — Leave a comment )


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