This is a golden age of science fiction cinema. Wander into your local multiplex and you’re faced with a choice between aliens and superheroes, giant robots and dystopian futures, all presented in shimmering 3D with top-of-the-line digital effects. Purists love to quibble about quality, but they don’t really have a leg to stand on: sure, many modern movies prize spectacle over substance, but that’s nothing new, and the likes of ‘Gravity’, ‘Under the Skin’, ‘Moon’ and the Marvel series prove that smart sci-fi is still very much in demand.
So how did we get here? How did this hugely popular but critically frowned-upon genre go from cardboard spaceships on strings at the local drive-in to the world-conquering pinnacle of blockbuster success? To find out, we created ‘The 100 best sci-fi movies’, a definitive look at the genre from the silent spectacle of 1927’s ‘Metropolis’ to the emotional intimacy of 2013’s ‘Her’. The results are inspiring, enlightening and often surprising, with slam-bang Hollywood mega-hits nestling alongside French arthouse oddities to create a new, inclusive definition of what the term ‘science fiction’ really means.
To make the list, we polled the leading lights in the fields of both science and science fiction, from world-beating physicists to award-winning authors, from Oscar-nominated filmmakers to the stars of film and TV. Where else can you find ‘Pacific Rim’ director Guillermo del Toro rubbing shoulders with ‘Game of Thrones’ creator George RR Martin, or C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels, trading favourites with Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Sir Paul Nurse? How many sci-fi faves do horror-meister Stephen King, ‘The Thing’ director John Carpenter and TV science hero Jim Al-Khalili have in common?
The result is an epic feature that celebrates the established masterpieces while also finding room for those small-scale oddities that you might have missed. We hope it’ll serve not just as a fun read for film fans, but as an inspiration for future directors, writers and perhaps even budding scientists. Just look at all the wonderful things you can create with a little imagination.
Produced by Alex Plim. Written by Geoff Andrew, Catherine Bray, Dave Calhoun, Cath Clarke, Alex Dudok de Wit, Eddy Frankel, Tom Huddleston, Trevor Johnston, Joshua Rothkopf, Anna Smith and Keith Uhlich.