Tuesday morning around 8am one of my friends calls me up and says, “What are you doing?” I replied, “Working!” He took that answer with some incredulity; as I believe he truly thinks I only work on Sundays. “Let me take you to breakfast—we haven’t hung out for a while,” he shot back at me. “Okay, but I need to get some things done first. Drop by my office around 9:30.”
After I prayed and studied a bit, shot off some emails and did quick admin work my buddy showed up and we went to the Bowling Alley here in town, which is just about the best place to get breakfast. We both ordered the special—he had wheat toast with bacon, I took rye toast with sausage. But the highlight of our meal was a very enjoyable conversation about science fiction movies.
Now you know why me and my friend are buddies. We can talk for hours about stuff like that. What we did was weed down to our top five science fiction films of all time. I list them below and they are in no particular order.
- The Day the Earth Stood Still—We mean the original one, not the environmentally preachy Keanu Reeves (Whoa!) remake. I bet some of my readers have never seen this one. It is slow and plodding at times, but considering the period in which it was made and the iconic images laid out in it as well as the way it has been copied in one way or another, it must be in the top 5. The Day the Earth Stood Still is to science fiction what Casablanca is to romance; having been copied so much it sounds like cliché until you realize this is the source of the cliché!
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind—Spielberg at his A game with Richard Dreyfuss making mashed potato mountains is an all-time favorite. This film has not only drama, sci-fi gusto, but also great and subtle humor. The scene where the little boy is abducted from his home—classic. Besides, I have this great pic of me in front of Devil’s Tower.
- Back to the Future—I know, I know some of you say this shouldn’t be on the list but we decided to put it on. One of the reasons we put it on is that it is science fiction in the truest form—a scientific premise of invention that has great consequences. Perhaps more than any others this one is truer to the Jules Verne/H. G. Wells concepts of science fiction. There is also a great prophetic value to Back to the Future as it highlights ongoing issues in culture. We only mean, though, to include the original, first film. The other two sequels were garbage.
- Alien—We had a rather spirited debate about whether to include Alien or Aliens in our list. We both agreed that Aliens is probably a tad bit more watchable because of the idea of Marines in space blowing up extra-terrestrials but the better movie has got to be Alien, even if it is possibly more of a horror-flick than a sci-fi film. Sigourney Weaver’s powerful performance in both of these films, really, helps us to forgive her for Avatar. What almost everyone agrees upon, though, is that the franchise should have stopped after Aliens—because it became very ridiculous.
- Mars Attacks!—It is impossible to keep this film off the list. Not only is the idea so spectacular—that Slim Whitman saves humanity, but the cast is truly awe-inspiring. When the Martian shoots the dove in the desert is truly one of the most beautiful scenes in all of science fiction history.
Honorable Mention—Predator (1st one), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and War of the Worlds (original). My friend insisted on Predator, I do not think it was that great. Khan is spectacular, but in my thoughts it transcends the sci-fi category thereby disqualifying it. War of the Worlds is the same movie as Independence Day, and we love both and they would be in our top 10 but not the Top 5.
Intentionally Omitted—Star Wars films and 2001: A Space Odyssey. I love Star Wars but personally categorize it as science fantasy, not fiction. We believe most people would put 2001: A Space Odyssey on their list, but we refuse to do so because we find it boring and self-important (but we do like HAL).