Sunday, August 22, 2010


My time-space shifting pal Phileas is always flitting around the Internet, hooked up - no doubt, Gibson style - downloading gigabytes of information a second into that weird A.I. of his. 9-K, that's his designation for the A.I., has this freaky habit of sending out emails in Phileas' name to all the people (and other things) in Phileas' address book. Most of the emails are info-dumps of complex mathematical equations that claim to explain the answers to Life, the Universe and Everything, which of course I immediately delete. However, sometimes they link me to things that I find of actual value and I read them, then promptly get either elated with joyous rapture or pissed off with raucous rage! When I received this latest email, linking me to a website for the NPR radio program On Point, [] which featured a podcast of the show that asked three "experts" what their top ten all-time sci-fi films were. Nothing gets my freaking dander up like pseudo intellectuals spouting hot gas on why their opinions are more important than anyone else's. I've listed their top ten lists and beside them I've posted my rants where I couldn't help myself. I've also posted my list of top ten sf films and finally Phileas' top ten list of science fiction films. I've done all this to prove that anyone's opinion of what the top ten sf films are is just as viable as any so-called expert's.

Here are my (not so) humble opinions on the top ten sf film lists. (All my opinions next to the lists are in italics):

Picks of A.O. Scott, New York Times: This idiot cheats like crazy! If it’s a top ten list; pick one film!
AI/ET/Close Encounters of the Third Kind All these films are bad sf. Spielberg is too visceral and not interested in sf ideas.
Alien/Aliens Pick one film!
Alphaville Boring!
Fahrenheit 451 Ditto!
Gattaca Double Ditto!
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kevin McCarthy and Donald Sutherland versions; not Nicole Kidman version) Pick one film! I prefer the original, but the ’78 version is good also. Still, neither is top 10 material.
Metropolis–Fritz Lang version and Rintaro anime Pick one film! One is too dated and the other is anime, which to me is a separate genre from live action films, no matter the quality.
Spaceballs/ The Empire Strikes Back Pick one film! How are these even in the same space?!
Robocop/Starship Troopers Pick one film! Robocop is maybe top 50 and Starship Troopers isn’t even top 100!

Picks of Annalee Newitz of This ditz includes ties (still cheating) and doesn’t know sf!
The Day the Earth Stood Still Definitely top 25, but not top ten… if she means the 1951 version.
Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (tie) Pick one! ST: TWoK This film hasn’t aged well, but is still on my top 20.
Blade Runner
Videodrome This is visceral crap! No David Cronenberg movie belongs on any top ten list!
Terminator 2 I prefer the original (just), but both are on my top 20.
Ghost in the Shell (Japanese version) Sorry, I can’t count anime.
Teknolust (Lynn Hershman-Leeson) I haven’t seen this, but it’s a freakin’ black comedy, not sf!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (I hadn’t thought of this as sci-fi but it makes sense) The reason she hadn’t thought of this as sf is that is not sf!
Honorable Mention: Primer (Shane Carruth) Once again, cheating! Once again…. boring!

Picks of Mike Brotherton, University of Wyoming: This twit has bad taste, but at least he knows how to count to ten.
Destination Moon Good science for the time, but dated. Unfortunately, (sorry Mr. Pal) also kind of dull.
2001: A Space Odyssey
2010 This makes my top 50, because it is good sf, but not a great film.
Predator This makes my top 25; but just barely.
The Abyss A very good, but flawed film. Also, not very good as an sf film.
Contact This alien jingoistic peace of crap belongs on the top ten worst sf films of all time!
Deep Impact Give me a break! This is not sf! It’s not a very good film either.
Red Planet What drugs was he on when he watched this? This is a bad film and mediocre sf.
Minority Report Bad sf! Once again, Spielberg is not a good sf film maker.
Primer Once again…. boring! The ridiculously low budget kills an interesting premise with poor acting, efx and… everything else!

Picks of Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein, Guardians of the Genre - feature writer 
My top five have remained the same, occasionally changing positions, for the past twenty years. I also refuse to count films that came out in the last ten years, because to be in a top ten list, it must stand up to the test of time.
Blade Runner (1982)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Alien (1979)
Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
War of the Worlds (1953)
The Fifth Element (1997)
The Matrix (1999)
The Thing (1951)
Stargate (1994)
The Time Machine (1960)

Picks of Professor Phileas Photon, University of the Universe
Blade Runner (1982)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Star Wars (1977)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
War of the Worlds (1953)
The Matrix (1999)
The Terminator (1984)
The Time Machine (1960)
Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)
THX 1138 (1971)

There you have it! The three "experts" top ten sf film lists and the two Guardians of the Genre's top ten sf film lists. What are your top ten sf films? List them... if you dare... or don't... 'cause I don't care! Okay, I do care! Let's see some lists people!


  1. Your post was great fun Doc. I absolutely cracked up regarding your commentary on the "experts." I loved your point about counting. It's so true. People simply cannot play it straight.

    A.O. Scott- never did much for me as a critic and, well, ironically brought an end to the series AT THE MOVIES on the air since 1975 as it came to an end this summer. Having said that, Scott's list is odd and all over the map. Does he actually watch science fiction. It makes you wonder. I think I agree with him on one film- it will be on my list. A couple of his selections are okay, but he is all over the place. Loved your commentary on the illogic of it all.

    I09- This one may be even weirder and I didn't think that was possible. And don't get me wrong, WE like weird, but this is weird in a non-sci-fi way. Does she watch true science fiction? Your commentary, especially on ETERNAL, had me in stitches. Anyway, so funny. I agree with her on a couple, but most not, some are just out there. I love Cronenberg, but apart from The Fly, not sure if he qualifies either.

    Mike Brotherton- HA! At least he can count to ten. That is funny stuff. Never cared for Contact either.

    GUARDIAN's Lists- I enjoyed them. I'm definitely more in your ballparks.

    Sci-Fi Fanatic Top Ten [off the top of my head and on the spot- these are films I happily watch over and over]:

    Blade Runner
    Star Wars [IV]
    The Thing
    The Abyss Director's Cut [more SF]
    Event Horizon
    Planet Of The Apes [original]
    Resident Evil [can't wait for the 4th film]
    Dark City
    District 9

    Okay, feel free to rip me. : ) Fun post and to each their own, but you are the guardians!

  2. I'm glad that you got a laugh out of my snarky comments regarding the top ten picks of the "experts", Sci-Fi Fanatic. Sometimes sarcastic humor doesn't translate well in the written word. If you have an hour to kill, listen to the podcast of the interview (I included the link in my post) with the "experts" and their reasoning for their picks. They don't give much of one, which I found very frustrating. As you may of noticed, I gave only a perfunctory explanation for my picks, as I was hoping I may have to defend them in the comments section. An opinion is just that - just an opinion. However, I do feel that you must have a reason (in this case sf films) for liking or disliking something. "I just liked it", or "I didn't like it, because it sucked", don't cut it with me, because the reason I like listening or reading someone else's opinion on something is to help me see said thing from a different perspective from mine. The problem I have with professional film critics is that they are either so jaded by watching films for a living that they only like films that stand out, so they usually pick oddly structured, experimental films, or darkly depressing films - instead of the more upbeat and entertaining films that the vast majority of us movie lovers like, because we watch films primarily for escapist entertainment. Still, I do read the critics reviews and cut through their crap so I can decide if I want to see a borderline film or not. I almost always go to science fiction, horror or fantasy films without reading professional reviews at all.

    I liked your list, S-F. because for the most part you picked entertaining films.
    Alien - Good choice, because it's on my list and just because it is still the best horror-sf hybrid film ever made.
    Blade Runner - This film is more visceral than the Dick novel (which I read after seeing the film) and is one of the best films ever.
    Star Wars [IV] - Despite the fact that this is actually a fantasy film with hardware, it is the first film to visualize and humanize Space Opera; one of my favorite sf sub-genres.
    The Thing - I prefer the original, so I'm hoping you meant that as well. However, I can see making a case for Carpenter's version as well; which I do like.
    The Abyss Director's Cut [more SF] - Yes, the DC of The Abyss is much improved over the butchered theatrical cut and better as sf too. Still, Cameron's focus is on the human reaction to the alien presence, and their regrettable awe of them, which I dislike. Still, a good movie, but not good sf.
    Event Horizon - I read your review of EH on your blog, S-F F, and I still don't understand your fascination with this film. You obviously made a connection with this film that I didn't.
    Planet Of The Apes [original] - This is the best of what became a terrible film series, but I still have a hard time with the basic premise. An entertaining film though.
    Resident Evil [can't wait for the 4th film] - I L-O-V-E all three RE films and I too can't wait to see RE: Afterlife. However, I'm going to have to wait a bit longer to see if even the first (and best) film holds up to the test of time. Right now I'd say that it would not make my top ten sf list, but it would make my top ten horror list.
    Dark City - This is #11 on my list and I think a very underappreciated and misunderstood film. The surprise ending - which makes it truly sf, could have been revealed earlier and made for better sf.
    District 9 - My second favorite film from last year - yes, Star Trek was my favorite - but I will have to wait on this one too. Still, this is one of the best human/alien films ever.

    Thanks for your list, Sci-Fi Fanatic. I was hoping that you'd participate in my little top ten post and you didn't disappoint me.

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  4. Thank you too Doc.
    Just a few follow ups.
    I was referring to John Carpenter's version of The Thing. I definitely love his film.

    I agree that Resident Evil falls more into the horror category, but I kind of slipped that one in there. I liked the entire series and the second one almost as much. In fact, I think Apocalypse is very Escape From New York in style and mood and I neglected to include that one on my list accidentally, but it wasn't pure sci-fi. They Live is another minor classic.

    District 9 will hold up. It's an awfully heartbreaking tale too. The human element is captured beautifully. It's crushing.

    Event Horizon scares me to death. I love that it takes place in outerspace.

    Ultimately, like The Abyss, the human element is important for me and I do agree with you The Abyss leans heavily on the Drama portion of its film, but I do find it endlessly fascinating.

    Dark City needs to make your top ten, but it is a dark film and may be the least rewatchable.

    If I did pick a classic sci fi film I would have included Them on my list. I love it.By the way The Matrix, Stargate and The Fifth Element would be in my top 20. Solid pictures especially The Matrix which may be #11 for me!

  5. Hi, Phileas Photon popping in here.

    @Freak: 9-K , has his positronic brain all in a tither because he clams that you lambasted the experts. Being even more artsy-fartsy than myself and insisting that science fictions films are based on “Real Science”, 9-K apparently agrees with said experts. He was so upset, he is still flashing colors like a sixties psychedelic light show! As you know I fall somewhere between you and 9-K. Although I enjoy an intellectual artsy-fartsy film, an action packed/special effects laden film is a lot of fun. Oh, and we all know the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is 42 but he just doesn't get it!

    @The Sci-Fi Fanatic: I agree with you on District 9. It has humans/aliens and a moral play. What more could you want. This may have made my top ten list except I was afraid Freak wouldn't let me into the club house if I chose a film presented after the 20th century. Well, 10 years actually.

    Well I better go. Maybe if I play some Greatfull Dead to go along with 9-K's light show it will distract him and he will calm down.

  6. Ha Professor. Comments are amusing as always!
    Exactly, District 9 is the perfect morality play. Perhaps Freak will soften on it soon.

  7. Sci-Fi Fanatic and Professor Phileas be tag teaming on the Freak! No fair! You guys are welcome to pick flicks from any decade. I self-impose the ten-year limit, because if I didn't my list would change nearly every year! Unlike my cerebral Genre Guardian counterpart, I know I would let my emotional reaction to a film influence my choices too much. District 9 and Star Trek from last year would be on my top ten for sure, but where would that leave The Thing or The Time Machine (the 50's classics - of course)?

    Hey, Prof! If 9-K agreed with the experts choices - as you claim - I think it is time for you to reboot his A.I. program H.A.L. style!