Scifi films aren’t just for Christmas, they’re a way of life. That doesn’t actually make any sense, but if you are on the same wavelength as us here at Scifi Methods, you’re probably going to want to wrap your eyeballs around these films at some point during your career. These are our recommendations to you for films which we think have a uniqueness and sophistication amongst everything else out there.
Not listed in order of superiority, because that changes every day.
Blade Runner (1982)
Director: Ridley Scott
The timeless classic and holy bible of future-noir art direction. Can take multiple viewings before the profoundness of the themes takes hold, but it is pure Cyberpunk eye candy to watch each time. The benchmark since 1982, just watch it.
Director: Fritz Lang
Quite simply the archetype scifi film. Whilst the medium of film was still in its infancy, German director Fritz Lang astounded his audiences with these incredible technical achievements. Although its imagery has been echoed from film to film continually since the 1920s, the influential elements are clearly still recognisable today.
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Set in a near future where the government has privatised the police force, a fatally-wounded police officer is resurrected as a programmed prototype crime-fighting cyborg, who must do battle with his inner self. Luckily, he also battles a powerful criminal gang who die in horrendous ways when he meets them. Scifi satire delivered as coldly as can be.
12 Monkeys (1995)
Director: Terry Gilliam
The film which captures what is by far Brad Pitt’s best film performance (second to his role as “Floyd” in “True Romance”), and Bruce Willis while he was still a serious actor. A complex story weaved together by director Terry Gilliam, who first found fame as part of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Source Code (2011) took enormous influence from this film and doesn’t even come close to being in the same league.
The Terminator (1984)
Director: James Cameron
The only genuinely believable role which Arnold Schwarzenegger has pulled off is in the film which has the most ridiculous synopsys ever, but is delivered as seriously as cancer: Self-aware Artificial Intelligence which has taken over the world in the future sends a bodybuilder-shaped cyborg back in time to 1984 to murder the mother of the future human resistance leader who is causing it problems in the future.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
The word “masterpiece” is rarely used with as much justification as when it is used to describe this film. There are few other scifi films where so many of the elements come together so perfectly and stand the test of time so well. Alien (1979) and Moon (2009) are just two films which take obvious influence from this, but it is difficult to see any interior spacecraft sets and wonder how many times the director re-watched this to check he got everything correct. Features the most sinister death scene ever committed to film.
Director: James Cameron
There’s no denying that the original Alien film (1979) is superior in originality and artistic sophistication, but this first sequel has a personality to it which just sticks with you. Features much of the Giger-influenced imagery which the series is known for, but with an additional dose of 80s action thriller for good measure. It’s just a shame they didn’t stop after this one…
Children of Men (2006)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Much like watching a documentary from an apocalyptic London of the future, British viewers will find this film uncomfortably close to home. Long single-shot sequences draw you into a dystopian world where the human race is facing extinction through infertility and society has completely broken down. Very real and very, very enjoyable.
Director: Andrew Niccol
Future-noir aesthetics combined with strong biopunk themes make this an extremely emotional story about genetic engineering and destiny. We get to know a young man who dreams of travelling into space but must illegally assume someone else’s identity in his attempt to get there, because his own genetic profile is not up scratch. Many provocative themes here, examined with depth and sophistication.
District 9 (2009)
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Director Neill Blomkamp’s breakthrough film takes very real historical subject matter (Apartheid in South Africa) and applies a scifi scenario of aliens who have been made refugees on earth being segregated from humans. Blomkamp’s documentary-style cinematography is used a great deal here, as is his impressive (but not gratuitous) use of CGI to give a film with indie roots a very blockbuster-feeling realisation. Judging by the alien technology and weaponry in this film, I’d say Blomkamp is also a big video game nerd.
Starship Troopers (1997)
Director: Paul Verhoeven
The 1959 novel on which this film is based is often criticised for its author’s right-wing political views. Paul Verhoeven’s film adaptation turns this story’s roots upside down by injecting his trademark satire and sarcasm with maximum effect. Throw in gritty realistic violence, exaggerated gore and nasty pokes at the mass-media, and you have yourself a thoroughly enjoyable film-watching experience.