Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies

Great feature over at Rotten Tomatoes, where they've listed the top 100 best reviewed sci-fi movies of all time. You can quibble for days about where things fall on the list, but it's been a fun trip through memory lane running through the scorecard.

Random musings and observations from yours truly on 100 - 51:

100. Escape from the Planet of the Apes. A sequel that wasn't afraid to break the template of "same thing, only bigger." Really focused on character, and turns the tables on the original's view of "ape world through human eyes." Also offers an interesting take on how the events of the first film were set in motion, though time travel conundrums make your head hurt.

97. The Thing. I'm surprised this is so low. A truly taut, truly scary film with a knockout Kurt Russell performance and groundbreaking (for their time) special effects. The original, while considered a "classic," featured Marshall Dillon as a giant "carrot."

91. AI Artificial Intelligence. Typically well done Spielberg production, filtered through Kubrick's detached cold. Much debated ending left me feeling it was a saccharine cop out.

90. Death Race 2000. Hysterical, cult, camp classic. The idea of cross country racers plowing through pedestrians for points is a gem. Who hasn't wanted to do that themselves? Ripe for a remake, but only if it retains the spirit of anarchy and black humor.

89. War of the Worlds. Top shelf special effects, and solid performances from Cruise and Dakota Fanning. Another total cop out ending from Spielberg, though. The brother? Really?

88. Flash Gordon. This is better than Escape from the Planet of the Apes? A triumph of design and look, with a bombastic Queen theme song and little else.

87. Return of the Jedi. Disappointing conclusion to the "original" trilogy. Good: Leia in the metal bikini, the Luke/Vader smackdown. Bad: Another Death star? THAT is what Vader looks like? Too much silliness. AWFUL end for Boba Fett (with a fucking burp?). And the less said about Ewoks the better.

86. Starman. Exceptional performances by Karen Allen and especially Jeff Bridges.

85. Innerspace. Interesting concept, but I have never, ever liked Martin Short in anything. Even in the beloved Arrested Development.

84. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Another triumph of mood and production design over actual plot. Really feels like the serials of yore.

83. Signs. Creepy character study undone by the ending. Aliens don't like water, yet come to a planet mostly covered in it? They can travel across space and take over worlds, yet don't get the fucking Weather Channel?

82. Dark City. Underrated, moody classic. If you haven't seen it, go rent it now.

81. The Matrix Reloaded. Made me think that there might be hope for the final installment. Alas, that was not to be.

78. Gattaca. Well written, well acted, and though-provoking.

70. Time After Time. Sparkling performances from the leads and a fun romp through two Victorian tales woven together.

68. The Abyss. Often gets ignored in the James Cameron catalog (when compared to the Terminator movies or Aliens), but shouldn't. Like a lot of sci-fi, it can get a bit heavy-handed with big ideas about how the human race is going to destroy itself, but the performances, plotting and effects are all top shelf.

67. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. A strong return to form for the franchise after the debacle of V. Focus on the characters is nice, and a fitting send off for the original crew of the Enterprise (though another Shakespeare quoting alien is a bit much).

66. Escape From New York. An interesting premise, and one of the most iconically cool characters ever created: Snake Plissken.

65. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The effects were groundbreaking for the time (1954? Really?) and James Mason was a perfect choice for the brilliant, embittered Captain Nemo. The design of the Nautilus was a triumph that still looks fantastic today.

62. Jurassic Park. You really believed that dinosaurs could exist in our reality. A trippy thrill ride enlivened by Jeff Goldblum's quirky performance and a terrific concept, and diminished somewhat by Spielberg's constant focus on kids and the pussification of John Hammond.

60. Robocop. Violent, startlingly funny and bitingly satirical.

57. Planet of the Apes. I'm shocked to find this movie so low on the list. One of the first great mind-fuck twist endings of all time and believable make up and performances. A total sci-fi classic.

56. Westworld. Another great concept from Michael Crichton, though as a movie this one has not aged well. But it's still an intriguing story and features Yul Brynner cashing in on his image from The Magnificent Seven. Plus, Gwyneth's mom was really sexy back in the day.

54. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The "lightest" and funniest of the Trek movies, it glides by on the charm and personality of the main cast, even if the central plot device is a little too "Free Willy" for my taste.

53. They Live. Totally unremarkable in my book, but memorable for one of the all time great movie lines, uttered by Rowdy Roddy Piper (?!): "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum."

51. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Astonishing special effects and a darker, grittier tale marred by unbelievably horrid dialogue. This could have been a top 10 or 20 sci-fi flick with some script doctoring to work out the leaden and cardboard banalities coming out of the characters' mouths. Only Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid come close to selling it.

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