The Best Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time As Chosen By Scientists

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The internet loves a good list. Best of lists. Worst of lists. The top 10 lists about lists about lists. We’re not immune to the appeal: it’s an easily digestible way to examine a subject, and they can be a lot of fun to write. We’ve certainly made our share of lists here at GFR, and we cover science fiction enough that we hope we can share some insights you might not have thought of, or at least make you laugh at the occasional poop joke. Still, we may have just been outclassed in the area of science fiction-related lists, because a group of scientists and engineers have gathered together and revealed their picks for the 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time. (Of all time!)

The Best Sci-Fi Movies According To Scientists

war of the worlds poster
10. War of the Worlds (1953)

9. Star Wars (1977)

8. Blade Runner (1982)

7. Jurassic Park (1993)

6. WALL-E (2008)

5. Fantastic Voyage (1966)

4. Alien (1979)

3. Brazil (1985)

2. The Matrix (1999)

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

All in all it’s a solid line-up, with a few surprises. I wouldn’t have expected Fantastic Voyage to make the cut, but then again it’s been ages since I’ve seen it so maybe my memories of it have degraded. I do have to call shenanigans on Blade Runner being that far down the list though. In my opinion it ought to be at least neck-in-neck with Alien, and there’s no way both of those films should be below The Matrix. For that matter, WALL-E seems unnaturally high compared to Blade Runner and Star Wars. Then again, this isn’t a “most influential” list, so it’s all up for debate.

Here’s what Popular Mechanics’ brain-trust of scientific experts had to say about Blade Runner, perhaps my very favorite science fiction movie of all time:

Humanlike robots can be a good thing. But in this sci-fi classic, androids called replicants get too lifelike for comfort and are banished to space colonies. If they escape and return to Earth, special cops, or blade runners, who can tell humans from replicants, hunt them down and neutralize them. Our experts give the film high marks, in part, for its humanization of advanced robots. ‘Blade Runner has probably done more to ready the world for artificial life than [any other film],’ says Daniel Novy, a scientist at MIT’s Media Lab. ‘Inspiration is important, even at the expense of some accuracy.’

Wait a minute, Mr. Novy. Are you telling me that Blade Runner’s replicants aren’t exactly what we can expect within the next few decades? I bet you’re just pissed that Batty came up with that awesome “Tears in rain” speech and you didn’t. (No wait, that’s me that feels that way.)

And what about Fantastic Voyage, the dark horse I didn’t expect? We may not be on the verge of shrinking humans down and injecting them into our bodies, but that’s just a thematic predecessor to the idea of nanotech. Here’s Popular Mechanics again:

A miniature spacecraft and crew are injected into a comatose scientist to remove a life-threatening blood clot, so that he can survive to share vital secrets. The movie’s lavishly depicted workings of the human body garnered two Academy Awards and three additional nominations — and got James Giordano thinking about medicine at the tiniest scale. Now a professor of neuroscience at Georgetown University, Giordano examines the mechanics of the brain’s response to pain. ‘The film has been a lifelong inspiration for me to work on developing neurotechnology,’ he says. David Carroll, director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University, says that the movie’s minuscule technology, although physically impossible, is echoed in his current work. ‘It’s exactly what we are working on: Injecting nanobots that find a cancerous tumor, tell us when they have found it, and destroy it,’ he says. Now that’s fantastic.

Another pick that seems like it should be higher on the list, here’s the entry for Ridley Scott’s classic, massively influential Alien (which thankfully hasn’t been damaged by retroactive association with Prometheus):

Sigourney Weaver proved that a woman can be a bad-ass sci-fi action hero. But our experts saw the gooey, exoskeletal villain — which uses living humans as hosts for its nasty progeny — as a pioneer of fictional biology. ‘The Alien franchise bases its xenomorph life cycle on parasitic wasps on Earth,’ says Terry Johnson, a bioengineering researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘It’s a pleasure to see a film that acknowledges just how weird life can be.’

As long as nobody brings up the damned albino critter from Alien: Resurrection. Or Alien: Resurrection at all, for that matter.

You can read the rest of the list entries over at Popular Mechanics. What do you think of their picks?


Alien: Isolation Leaked Game Concept Art Shows Female Protagonist — Possibly Ripley’s Daughter

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Video games based on the Alien franchise haven’t typically fared too well. That’s not really surprising, given that licensed games based on a pre-existing property typically suck with a force that would put a black hole to shame. But the bad Alien games always sting a little bit more, simply because that universe is so intriguing and the whole “space marines vs. critters in claustrophobic settings” has been riffed on countless times in other non-Alien games. Science fiction-loving gamers such as myself are still stinging from the bomb that was this year’s Aliens: Colonial Marines, a project that looked amazing but which failed utterly in its execution. Now our next best hope for an awesome Alien game is on the horizon, and leaked concept art may have provided our first look at it.


Discovery Channel’s DNews Names Their Top Five Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time

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The argument over the greatest science fiction movie of all time is a constant, heated debate among genre fans. There are always a few staples, including the likes of Star Wars, The Matrix, and War of the Worlds. Recently, the Discovery Channel’s DNews YouTube Channel explored some of the cinematic options in one of their latest videos, arriving on a top five. The results might just surprise you.

Host Anthony Carboni sat down with filmmaker and Film Riot host, Ryan Connolly, to talk about their top sci-fi movies. While the discussion was purely anecdotal, Carboni injected how the films link to real world situations and technology. The conversation, not only circled around the movies that form the core of the genre, but also how science fiction influenced hard science and the real world.


Star Wars, T2, And More Come To Life Via Cardboard, A Baby, And Two Awesome Parents

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StarWarsAlright, Nerdparents, the bar has been raised. You may think that you’re oh-so-clever for slapping an adorable Weyland-Yutani onesie on the spawn of your loins — actually, never mind, that sounds awesome. But even so, the simple fact is that you’re going to have to take things up a notch if you hope to compete with Lily and Leon, a creative couple who’ve taken to recreating famous movie moments with household supplies such as cardboard boxes, plates, yarn, plasticware, laundry baskets, and an ever-dwindling supply of time for outside excursions. Oh, and also their leading man, baby Orson.


Aliens, Predators, And Engineers: Four Things You Should Know About Dark Horse’s Shared Comics Continuity

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AlienWith the success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, the notion of franchises existing within a shared universe is very en vogue right now. (They’re giving the classic Universal monsters the treatment.) The same thing has been happening to a much less ambitious degree with the respective universes of Alien, Predator, and Prometheus. The Alien vs. Predator movies were the biggest direct crossover so far, but they’re also very much the black sheep of the bunch, typically not regarded nearly as well as the standalone films. Whether future movies in those franchises will tie together closer or not, Dark Horse Comics is about to take this notion and run with it, rebooting their Alien, Predator, and AvP titles in 2014, then launching an ongoing Prometheus series to form a cohesive shared comics universe.

Dark Horse has been publishing licensed comics for titles such as Aliens, Predator, RoboCop, and others for decades now. That’s a lot of years of stories shifting into the rearview mirror, but the nice thing about Dark Horse’s Aliens/Predator/Prometheus reboot is that it isn’t a reboot in the traditional sense. The movies still stand as canon, this is just making a fresh start for the comics side of things.

The folks over at io9 conducted some great interviews with Chris Roberson, Paul Tobin , Joshua Williamson, and Chris Sebela, the four series writers. We’ve sifted through the lot and picked out the biggest take-aways that should leave you excited for Dark Horse’s grand experiment.


Alien: Isolation Video Game Rumored To Focus On Ripley’s Daughter

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ChestbursterAfter being awoken from the cryogenic sleep she entered at the end of Ridley Scott’s Alien, Ellen Ripley learns that nearly 60 years have passed. Everyone she knows is gone. Her own daughter, Amanda, died during that time. Ripley’s mama-bear instincts would have kicked in to defend the orphaned Newt on LV-426 regardless, but with the young girl reminding Ripley of her lost daughter, the Alien Queen didn’t have a chance. In the expansive Alien mythology that’s continued to build over the years, we’ve never learned much else about Amanda Ripley-McClaren. That may change with a new video game called Alien: Isolation.

SiliconEra reports today that Twentieth Century Fox has filed a trademark for the title Alien: Isolation for use in “computer game and video game software, downloadable mobile software.” The title alone doesn’t tell us much, but the announcement spurred Kotaku’s Jason Schreirer to finally report on a story he’d been sitting on for some time now. Citing an anonymous source “familiar with goings-on at Sega,” Kotaku claims that Isolation is a first-person shooter game in development at the British studio Creative Assembly (Total War). More interestingly, the game will allegedly star Ripley’s daughter Amanda as the protagonist.