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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.


Jun. 9th, 2007 06:10 pm (UTC)
Re: best science fiction movies ever...
The username is probably better spelled the way you wrote it the first time.
Another film I recently thought of that I enjoyed was 'Red Planet'. It had Benjamin Bratt, Terence Stamp, Tom Sizemore, Val Kilmer among others. Pretty good film.
Have you seen 'Brazil'? I have not, but it's been rated as one of the best sci-fi films.
Unfortunately a good number of horror films are released as sci-fi, which gives the genre a bad reputation. Watch the Sci-Fi channel and see how many selections are merely splatter films with gel-mouthed critters as the villians.
Jun. 10th, 2007 07:39 am (UTC)
Re: best science fiction movies ever...
i've seen "brazil," & it's an excellent film, except the ending is frustrating like "time bandits," so i couldn't say "brazil" was 1 of the best sf films ever. "brazil" accurately shows the world as it has been since bureaucracy existed, w/a *little* bit of exaggeration, monty python style! i've to get my hand on the uncut version of "brazil" & see if it helps the ending, because i heard the studio chopped it up, so i didn't see the whole thing as it should've been. i enjoyed, "time bandits," too, but its ending punched me in the stomach, "red wedding" style. i love monty python, but sometimes it's a *might* harsh.
i haven't seen "red planet" [carrie-anne moss is in the cast, too]
regarding the sci-fi channel, i want to see, "glass spiders!" lol! However, sci-fi did an awesome job of "dune," [no, not the garbage that's lynch's film, (i can say that because i LOVED lynch's "twin peaks," which was an awesome tv series on the same league as "northern exposure.") the new "dune" w/alec newman & william hurt], "taken," "stargate sg-1" [w/exception of the pilot episode, i liked the film "stargate" better, the pilot was basically a rehash of the film to start the series], "stargate atlantis," [especially because of sheppard], "farscape," the wtf "lexx," [does anyone know what happened w/"lexx?" the last episode i saw of "lexx," had cliffhangers w/each of the characters of "lexx," including lexx himself!
oh yeah! "stargate" is also 1 of the best sf films ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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