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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)

starwars
9. Star Wars (1977)

bladerunner
8. Blade Runner (1982)

jurassicpark
7. Jurassic Park (1993)

walle
6. WALL-E (2008)

fantastic-voyage
5. Fantastic Voyage (1966)

alien
4. Alien (1979)

brazil
3. Brazil (1985)

matrix
2. The Matrix (1999)

2001
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?

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Minimalist Book Covers For 2001, Dune, Neuromancer, And More

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2001The whole “minimalist art” thing has been applied to pop culture and science fiction quite a bit in recent years. There’s just something appealing about trying to break down an object or idea into its most basic components, to try and evoke its essence with as few elements as possible. We’ve seen the concept applied to iconic sci-fi weapons, famous scientists, and even the Doctor’s sonic screwdrivers. The latest spin on the idea: minimalist book cover designs for some of the genre’s most noteworthy tomes.

The minimalist designs are courtesy of graphic designer Nicolas Beaujouan, and are part of his so-called “Ultimate Geek Selection.” Up above we’ve got the ominous electronic eye of HAL 9000 from Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey — a pretty obvious choice, but a good one nonetheless. Some of Beaujouan’s other choices are similarly easy to grasp, such as H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness or Max Brooks’ World War Z.

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The Ultimate Sci-Fi Size Chart Shows You How The Enterprise Stacks Up Against Godzilla

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FaceOffTo tweak a quote from the late Douglas Adams, science fiction is big. Really big. When the potential span of your subject matter encompasses the entirety of space, time, and existence, it makes sense that science fiction often goes big. Giant robots. Giant starships. Giant monsters. But with all that enormity running amok across the genre, how’s a guy to keep track of precisely how big any of it is? Why, with the handy-dandy chart below, created by DeviantArtist lexinator117 and dubbed “Size Comparison of EVERYTHING.” Well, perhaps not “EVERYTHING,” but still enough things to be entertaining.

You can go see the full, ginormous image here, or you can the chart out in chunks below (via Popsci), along with our occasional commentary. You can also click each of the images below for larger versions. It’s also worth noting that Popsci’s editing seems to have left a few of the subjects trimmed out, but you can see the full-size image for where they fit in.

From smallest to largest (with a few exceptions noted), we’ve got:

Chart1Sm

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Welcome to Earth: Mankind’s Most Unusual Defenses Against Alien Invaders

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It’s Independence Day here in the States, where we honor our history by cooking dead animals, inflating enormous cartoon characters, and blowing stuff up. And then, of course, I’m sure some of you are sitting on the couch and revisiting Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, thrilling to Bill Pullman delivering stirring speeches, Will Smith punching aliens in the face, and those hippies on the rooftop getting vaporized in the midst of welcoming our new alien visitors.

Yes, science fiction loves a good alien invasion story. It’s a comforting thought that, if faced against far more advanced aliens determined to exterminate or enslave our entire race, we scrappy human might still be able to overcome and win the day. But let’s face it: we’d pretty much be screwed. It’s a story we’ve seen played out countless times here on our homeworld alone, and none of those oppressing forces were armed with mass drivers and plasma cannons. So when it comes to figuring out a way to defeat the alien invaders, science fiction has to think outside the box. Way outside the box. Not even in the same zip code as the box.

So here they are, some of the most unusual, audacious, ridiculous ways that mankind has sent our would-be alien overlords packing over the years.

Independence

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War Of The Worlds: The True Story Mockuments The Great Alien Attack Of 1900

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war
As you get older, you realize that many of the things that amazed you as a child weren’t necessarily delivered to your brain with all the facts intact. From Santa Claus to the cheese-constructed Moon, the world was full of mystery and excitement. I remember being baffled hearing about Americans going crazy after thinking Orson Welles’ radio play of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds was up-to-date news. Then, of course, I grew up and read that those reports were highly hyperbolic.

But it appears the “real real” story made it to DVD recently with War of the Worlds: The True Story releasing from Pendragon Pictures. To be clear, this is a mockumentary, not an actual documentary. The first sign of what appears to be a wacky sense of humor is present in calling the film an “85th Academy Awards Oscar contender,” with a “For Your Consideration” page as well. Voters beware!

Directed by Timothy Hines, the guy who shit out an actual War of the Worlds film in 2005 that lasted almost three hours, this film’s narrative “assumes the world knows there was a war between Earth and Mars in the year 1900 and is presented as the eyewitness account of Bertie Wells, the last living survivor of the Earth/Mars War as he struggles to find his wife amidst the destruction of humankind at the hands of terrifying alien invaders.”