Monday, December 04, 2006

Seminal Science Fiction and Fantasy

I was reading my own comment for "Fantastic Voyage" and I was so pithy that I inspired myself to write a post.

If you had to create a list of your seminal science fiction and fantasy films, what would they be? Here are my top ten, in no special order:

1)2001: A Space Oddysey (this film made a statement that science fiction could be more than guys in space suits and bad special effects running around zapping BEM ...and if I have to explain what a BEM is, you shouldn't be on this blog.

2)Star Wars: (I can hear Crunchy grinding her teeth. Star Wars was a phenomenon. It stretched the bounds of what film makers could do in the genre. Unfortunately, it also gave birth to the original Battlestar Galactica and the disaster that was Buck Rogers.

3)Superman, The Movie (this movie, complete with a blonde Marlon Brando, is the granddaddy of superhero films. It is dated and features an embaressing poem-song by Margot Kidder, but still worth being in your collection)

4)King Kong (I shouldn't have to qualify that I am NOT referring to the Peter Jackson film. This child of the depression era influenced so many writers and film makers in fantasy and science fiction that we should have a national holiday dedicated to it's initial release)

5)Frankenstein (I am submitting this as sciencefiction film here and not as a horror film, although it certainly is that...this film is the ultimate statement for the theme: there are some things that man were best to leave alone)

6)Lord of the Rings (all of them...I think in the next thirty years, film critics will look back and debate but recognize it as the legitimization of fantasy as dramatic spectacle...sort of like taking Shakespeare and adding faeries. Oh wait. Never mind.)

7)Godzilla (or Gojira, for the purists. This is a cold war film that would echo the fears of those who felt the terror of the nuclear threat. Now I'm talking about the original here, but I'm willing to discuss the rest of the franchise. I am also willing to talk about Godzilla's son, who in one of the film drives a car....I sh*t you not)

8)Metropolis/Shape of Things To Come (yes, I am including these as one entry. They deserve to stand alone. Shape of Things To Come was an astonishing vision, given us by none other than H.G. Wells himself. Metropolis by Fritz Lang was beautiful to behold and a dark social commentary. BRAVO.)

9) The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy, Toto and the Wicked Witch...spectacle and imagination writ large that has bridged the generations for ...well....generations)

10)Toy Story (I thought of throwing Shrek in here, but Toy Story was the animation which would establish Pixar as a giant and set the trend that continues today with such filmfare as Cars, and Ice Age II)

You'll notice you will not find Conan The Barbarian, The Matrix, The Terminator, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Krull, The Last Starfighter, Barbarella, and Men in Black on this list. Their omission is deliberate.


Crunchy Carpets said...

Good list and the original Star Wars SHOULD be on a list..because of the huge impact it had on film and fiction and sooo many people...lets see, what else.

Ridley Scott's Alien (First real mix of sci fi and horror) Broke down typical heroes and who lives and who dies.

Close Encounters of the Third was the first movie that seriously and fictionaly looked at the whole alien abduction experience..and made the aliens nice.

I have to say AI and I am not even a Speilberg fan..but I think he stayed true to is fantastic and misunderstood film.

.....more to come when my kids aren't jumping on me.

SQT said...


Blogger is being a pain in the behind again. When I loaded the page the only picture that came up was Frankenstein. I don't even know what else you started with so I just kind of randomly threw in a couple of pictures (sorry). Hope they're ok.

This is a great list. I need to spend more time on it than I have right now. But Star Wars goes without saying, I've always thought of everything as sort of before and after Star Wars.

I haven't seen the original Frankenstein, but the book by Mary Shelley is one of my favorites. I always find it amazing that a 19 year old could write such a mature piece of fiction. It's so well thought out that it remains influential to this day.

The Wizard of Oz is just a pure, perfect classic. I have a gorgeous Wizard of Oz table for my kids just so they can become familiar with the story. Huge fan.

Toy Story is another favorite of mine. I feel it was ground breaking and I love love love Shrek.

Smalltown RN said...

What a fun blog....lots to look at..lots to read...hey and I see my friend Crunchy carpets pays you a visit as well....I found you through Bees blog.

I'll be back....


Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

No Last Starfighter? Darn.

DonkeyBlog said...

Buck Rogers was a disaster? Whadayatorkinabout?

Crunchy Carpets said...

What about Forbidden Planet? That was classic 50's sci fi!

Alex said...

Superman? Super? Man? I didn't even like that film when I was a little'un.

And where the heck is Star Trek. Half of the scifi we see today would have never been made if not for the popularity of that franchise.

I like CC's two additions (Alien and Close Encounters). I would venture to add Conan the Destroyer (since Conan the Barbarian is under interdict), Clash of the Titans, and Blade Runner.

SQT said...

Oh, gotta have Blade Runner.

But remember, this is just Stewarts list. I am more than willing to open the blog to anyone else who would like to put up their own list.

SQT said...

Oh, but I have to disagree on Alex's take on Superman. I love Superman. It didn't have as big an impact on me as Star Wars, but it was up there. The idea of someone with that much power who could fly just sparked my imagination.

I've come to realize that for some reason some people take issue with Superman as a hero. But not me. But I also think it's unfair not recognize the movie and what it did for sci-fi. Yes it was mainstream, but in a good way. It's movies like that that make sci-fi accessable to the masses and encourage movie makers to make more. You can argue whether thats a good thing or not or say it degrades the quality of film when they pump them out. But frankly, I'd rather they try to make them than not.

Stewart Sternberg said...

First...Forbidden Planet wasn't included because I don't think it fit the concept of being seminal. It was a great film...but not seminal. There were lots of films I would love to have included but couldn't based on my criteria. Close Encounters...the best. E.T. for that matter. Outstanding. But not seminal.

And Alex, I am not a fan of Superman. I can't tell you how much I hated the last film, which in my opinion was nothing more than a remake of the first.

However, it is seminal. It proved there was a market for a big screen, big budget production of this kind of fantasy. Without it, I don't think you would have seen Tim Burton's Batman, or even Spiderman.

As for Star Trek, I would include it if I was making a list of seminal genre works, but it wasn't a seminal film. The tv show was seminal, not the film.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Blade Runner is something that serious fans love, but it wasn't a rip roaring success. I remember Norman Lear and Ladd sinking a fortune on the film and then bemoaning the returns.

I love the film, but again, to have qualified for consideration in the top ten, it had to have been able to influence and affect other works. Blade Runner itself was derivative, in my opinion. Around the time the film was released several directors were doing re-envisioned noir. Think "Body Heat" and the "The Big Fix".

SQT said...

Blade Runner was definitely noir, that's why my husband doesn't really like it. I'm not always a fan of the style, but I like Blade Runner for sure.

Is it wrong to have liked Buck Rodgers? I was 12, but so what?

utenzi said...

Interesting list. Both Star Wars and Toy Story certainly changed perceptions of their respective genres. I'd consider Star Wars to be the first SF film since Forbidden Planet. All the ones between were Sci Fi--with all the baggage that entails.

ShadowFalcon said...

Cool list

I'd Add Fifth Element and Bladerunner

then again my list would probalby have 100 1000