Sci-fi movies: the best and the worst

Perhaps one of the most diverse genres, science fiction can contain everything from aliens, to plagues, to time machines, to Nicholas Cage. With such varied subjects, science fiction has the unique distinction of either being entirely absorbing and interesting or being flat out terrible.


Nicholas Cage’s 2009 science-fiction thriller begins with a somewhat promising premise. The plot starts in the fifties, as a creepy young girl furiously writes out seemingly random numbers on a sheet to be placed in a time capsule, begging for the “whispering to stop.” Strange and scary, the movie sustains these feelings as the scene shifts to the present time, as an MIT professor (Cage) and his son find the numbers and discover that they predict disasters. The plot is unique and even enjoyable until the very end, when the focus shifts to the apocalypse and alien. The cerebral and psychological fear stimulated by the first part of the film deflates as the stakes are exponentially raised. This plot change, combined with Cage’s lackluster acting, quickly turns the feature into a ridiculous attempt at writing the end of the world. 1.5/5 stars.

“The Time Machine”
A staple for anyone looking for dated, laughable attempts at the future, H.G. Wells plays a 1900s inventor whose attempt at a time machine sends him to a strange future. The human race is divided; to a more normal race and a cannibalistic, underground one. Students in Sci-Fi Lit watch clips of this weird movie, “because we read it and it’s so darn bad that it’s worth watching. We also show clips in order to compare the 1960s version to the other era’s version of a time machine. We look at what  the 1960s saw as a time machine, and what the 2000s see as a time machine,” said Ms. Kari Koishol who teaches the class. ? stars, but only because it’s so outdated. 

“Battlefield Earth”
John Travolta should not simply be known for his role as Sandy’s slick beau in “Grease,”  but also as the lead-bad-guy Terl in the screen adaptation of L. Ron Hubbard’s novel. While this seems an odd casting choice, the openly Scientologist Travolta wished to act in the religion’s founder’s work. The plot of the film follows humanity’s plight to fight back against an oppressive alien regime, the movie is much less dramatic, simply because you can’t take a villain with dreads, a braid from the nose, and codpiece seriously. Bad special effects and worse costuming make “Battlefield Earth” quite possibly one of the worst movies, in general, of all time. 0/5 stars

“District 9”
Produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Neil Blomkamp, “District 9” is an intense thriller-drama centering around an internment camp in Johannesburg that houses insectoid alien refugees. The aliens, called Prawns, are soon evicted by a corporate militia organization whose interest in the alien’s military capabilities are far from benign. Shot in a documentarian style, “District 9” expertly transitions from allegory to action as this film is both an incredible science-fiction movie as well as an interesting metaphor for South Africa’s history of apartheid. It features both fabulous South African accents as well as incredible action sequences which leave viewers breathless, while also pondering the greater societal questions posed by this powerful film. 4/5

This sci-fi classic is a remnant from a time when movies were works of art and not entertainment.  Sean Connery sports a revealing scarlet speedo as he plays Zed, a barbaric warrior who kills and rapes at the pleasure of his god, a giant, flying stone statue called Zardoz. Through a series of strange adventures, Zed learns that his entire way of life has been contrived by a group called the Immortals who are fascinated by Zed and everything he does. This movie was intended to be a 1984-style look into the human condition but to modern audiences this film is a bizarre, ornate, and unintentionally hilarious journey. It’s heavy on the “carnal themes of humanity” so unless you want to have an awkward time, don’t watch this with your parents. That said, this is one of those movies that is so strange and loud that sci-fi fans should see it at least once, preferably with friends and several bags of Cheetos—it’s long. 2.5/5 stars 

“Children of Men”
Children of Men is cinematic masterpiece of a movie. Directed by this year’s Oscar winning director, Alfonso Cuaron, “Children of Men” presents a world in the midst of a slow apocalypse wherein humanity has become entirely infertile. Great Britain is the last stable nation and maintains control over its populace through martial law. Into this fray steps Theo Faron, a former revolutionary who is tasked with protecting the first pregnant woman in 18 years. Faron must reconcCuaron earns his reputation as one of the great directors in Hollywood today with his brilliant implementation of a single camera shot from inside a vehicle. This movie is a hidden gem and is an excellent example of when great science fiction meets beautiful cinematography. 3.5/5 stars.

“Blade Runner”
Most die-hard sci-fi fans know of Ridley Scott’s amazing film, “Blade Runner” is definitely worth the hype. Taking place in futuristic Los Angeles, humans have become so advanced that they have created a race of cybernetic beings called Replicants who do dangerous slave labor for their human overlords. Harrison Ford plays Deckard, a gruff blade runner tasked with hunting down elusive Replicants. This movie is incredible both in its scope of storytelling as well as the ethical implications it poses. This movie is filmed in the film noir style of the 1940’s giving it a dark, gritty feel, and allows for a fitting backdrop for the moral questions it raises. “Blade Runner” is a piece of science fiction lore and rightfully deserves its place as one of the great films of our decade