The film industry, past and present, has been a vehicle for just about every genre from drama to horror, but every serious science fiction buff cannot count themselves enlightened without having seen these five sci-fi masterpieces in film history.
1. Star Wars
Out of all the six current Star Wars movies, this is the one to watch (although Empire Strikes Back is generally considered the best). It set the benchmark in filming technique and industry technology, and catapulted Harrison Ford to stardom, although Mark Hamill saw less success in doing live-action scenes in video games such as the Wing Commander series. The story of a budding young Jedi Knight launched a franchise that continues to this day, with the upcoming filming of the seventh movie in the series and merchandising based on all of the movies.
Forget Sean Connery’s work in the James Bond films of the ’60s or the 1983 remake of Thunderball. He shines as District Marshal William T. O’Neil in this 1981 Oscar-nominated Peter Hyams vehicle. Stepping into the middle of a drug operation at a mining facility on Jupiter’s moon, Io, O’Neil finds himself facing off against mercenaries hired to kill him, in a High Noon-like showdown.
Just as 1979’s Alien (although itself sci-fi—sort of) tweaked horror vibes, James Cameron’s 1986 sequel with Sigourney Weaver, reprising her role as Ellen Ripley, tweaks the action vibe. Colonial marines, with Ripley as an adviser, are sent to the now colonized planet that she and her crew had first encountered the alien. With all the serious firepower the Marines bring with them, they face a formidable foe in the aliens that have colonized the very same planet for themselves. The final confrontation between Ripley driving an exoskeleton and the Alien Queen is seen in movie history as one of the most intense confrontations ever filmed.
4. The Last Starfighter
This 1984 vehicle stars Lance Guest as a video game junkie who unwittingly wins high scores on one particular machine that turns out to be a test for a galactic defender. He soon discovers that he is the last defender of a planet about to be conquered, flying an actual Gunstar featured in the video games. This movie brought charm in the form of the trailer park community Alex Rogan was trying to escape, never realizing he would do so—off planet.
5. The Abyss
James Cameron’s next major sci-fi vehicle after Aliens, The Abyss (1986), starring Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, pits an undersea mining crew against nature and each other along with a military contingent (led by Micheal Biehn) sent with them to find out why a submarine sank under mysterious circumstances. What they discover is nothing anyone expected– and certainly extraterrestrial in origin reminiscent of movies such as Super 8 and ET.
There are many, many excellent and well-made sci-fi movies, both past and present, that belong on this list. But serious sci-fi buffs who considers themselves true aficionados of the genre should have seen at least these five movies.
Opinion by Lee Birdine