Top Ten Tuesday: scifi movies

Top Ten Tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. We usually talk about a bookish topic, but this week we’re talking movies – so in honour of SciFi Month, I’m going to look at my favourite SF flicks. This may be the hardest Top Ten I’ve ever written.

Looking through my collection, I realised that I was going to start with over 50 movies that hold a special place in my heart. I started by culling fantasy films – that’s a topic for another day – and only including one film from any given franchise… and ended up with three dozen.

I started performing intellectual and emotional contortions, trying to find ways to shorten the list. I even flirted with the idea of a Top Ten Types of SF Movie (with multiple examples of each), but in the end, I’ve decided I just need to search my soul.

So, if I’m super strict, the Top Ten SF films that hold the dearest places in my heart are:


Movie poster: The Abyss (a woman in a diving suit in silhouette)I fell in love with The Abyss the first time I saw it on VHS, back when I was less critical and more sentimental. Who am I kidding? Sure, the Navy SEALs and blue collar schtick is thin, but I still can’t resist the heart and hope that this displays. See what we are, it says. We can do better. 


Movie poster: Inception (a group of people in a city street that bends around the sky) Classy, clever, a visual feast from the very opening shot, Inception is – for me – Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece to date. From the jaw-dropping effects to the meticulous attention to detail (“I don’t like trains”), brilliant score and ambiguous ending, I find it hard to fault.


Movie poster: Jurassic Park (silhouette of a T-rex behind the logo)Jurassic Park was the first film I ever saw twice at the cinema. I grew up reading books about dinosaurs; wild horses couldn’t have kept me away. The first glimpse of brachiosaurs with John Williams score swelling to crescendo still moves me to tears. We won’t talk about the sequels, ok?


Movie poster: Mad Max Fury Road (a man in a face mask drives; a woman with a shaved head glares out at you)There are many ways to be subversive. Fury Road embraces most of them: a slick, trigger-happy blockbuster about battling patriarchal despots, which allows a one-armed warrior woman to upstage its eponymous hero. And has a bloke on bungees playing a flaming guitar. Embrace madness.


Movie poster: The Matrix (4 people wearing PVC and sunglasses. Who am I kidding. This is still absurdly cool)Stylish as hell, The Matrix bent a few brains, brought wire fu to Hollywood, and made Elrond a bad-ass. I loved it from the moment Trinity shows us how it’s done (“Get up, Trinity“) and it still gives me thrills. Don’t mention the sequels.


Movie poster: Monsters (a man in a gas mask and a woman walk through smoke past an Infected Zone sign)I love Monsters for not being a monster movie. Against all the odds (just 2 actors and 3 crew on a 3-week road trip with no script or professional gear), it’s stunning. It’s understated, intimate, and – if you’re paying attention – heart breaking. Blockbusters be warned: money can’t buy excellence.


Movie poster: Pacific Rim (Gypsy Danger jaeger)Guilty pleasure time. My inner child nearly bounced out of my skin when I first saw Pacific Rim. It’s big and brash and stupid. Guillermo del Toro is a master of irresistible art direction and by the time you add in a cast that oozes charisma, Idris Elba cancelling the apocalypse, and some stupid Aussies being really stupidI never stood a chance.


Movie poster: Serenity (River Tam poses with weaponry; the crew stand behind her on a pale plain)I saw Serenity before I saw Firefly and it converted me on the spot. It starts and ends with love, and in between serves up stubborn resistance to an authoritarian government that claims the moral high ground whilst devaluing its own humanity. It’s probably time for a re-watch.


Movie poster: Star Wars (the awesome 70s semi-illustrative one of the cast pointing blasters in every direction) When I say Star Wars, I mostly mean Episodes IV and VII. Do I love it for being galactic fantasy with space wizards, princesses and pirates? Or for being another fight the system epic about opposing evil with little more than loyalty and hope? Yes. I can’t wait to see Rogue One.


Movie poster: Super 8 (a Super 8 camera lens)Super 8 stole my heart by creeping in disguised as Spielberg, then laid down a wall-to-wall charm offensive with plucky kids and musical crescendoes. It champions empathy and forgiveness, and I may find it naive in days to come (“Bad things happen. But we can still live”), but I take endless delight in the script (and those production values).


Movie poster: WALL-E (a small robot stares at the stars)A beautiful, touching work of genius, WALL-E couldn’t have been made by anyone but Pixar. A kid’s movie that delivers scathing commentary on consumerism and has no dialogue for the first 20-odd minutes? It took balls and hours of watching silent movies to pull this off – and a lot of heart.


And this is in spite of 28 Days Later being one of my all-time favourite films. For the purposes of this list, I’m considering it horror and letting it go.

This is in spite of the allure of perennial pulp favourites like Tremors and Lockout, that get endless re-watching in our household in spite of being objectively terrible. Truly, properly, terribly entertaining.

This is in spite of those intensely clever films that make me think or rage or swim with emotion like Ex Machina and Interstellar.

And yes, I know, that was a Top Eleven. I couldn’t handle the guilt when I realised I’d somehow forgotten Fury Road. Could you abandon Furiosa? Well, exactly. That’s why there’s always room for one more.

Especially if – at the heart of it – it’s a story about love, hope and respect. I’m really not very convincing in my regular claim to love apocalypse and dystopia, am I?

What are your favourite SF movies?