Weekend Roundable: Underrated Sci-Fi Movies

This weekend, after you’ve come back from seeing Christopher Nolan’s new space travel opus ‘Interstellar’ at the theater, perhaps you might be interested in checking out some underrated sci-fi gems you’ve overlooked? From movies that have been unfairly disparaged to those that simply never got the exposure they deserved, we’ll call out our picks in this week’s Roundtable.

Aaron Peck

If you’re into deep space sci-fi movies and you haven’t seen ‘Europa Report‘, you really should. I think it’s one of the best outer space isolation movies out there. It’s shot like a documentary, as a group of astronauts travel to Jupiter’s moon Europa to search for extraterrestrial life. What makes the film so compelling is that you don’t realize how tense it’s becoming until the climax, which is every bit as exciting and suspenseful as any big-budget space epic.

M. Enois Duarte

Geez Louise! Where to even start with this topic? From ‘Dark City’ and ‘The City of Lost Children’ to ‘Outland’ and ‘Hardware’, which movie should I suggest more people watch? I’m going with Kurt Wimmer’s dystopic martial-arts nightmare of the future, ‘Equilibrium‘. Taking inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’, Wimmer’s film envisions a time when all emotions and artistic expression have been outlawed and follows a top-ranking law enforcer, played by Christian Bale, as he doubts his role in the destruction of history. The plot is a fantastic idea that Wimmer brings to life with incredible action choreography, but the photography by Dione Beebe and the production design are arguably the movie’s most impressive aspects, like a dark, twisted dream of our future that sadly feels plausible.

Shannon Nutt

I’m going to raise the ire of quite a few sci-fi cans, and possibly a number of Trekkies, but I think it’s time we all took another look at ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier‘.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: the special effects are horrible for a movie released in 1989. Many stories have gone around about why ILM wasn’t used. While William Shatner has always claimed that the company wasn’t available, I’ve heard from a number of solid sources that a team was available but the producers thought that because other ILM teams were already working on other films at the time that they’d get shoddy work – even though ILM actually divides up its talent equally when working on multiple movies. Whatever the real truth is, I think we can all agree that the FX are dreadful.

What bothers me, however, is that most viewers see the shoddy effects work in the movie and immediately make the jump to saying that William Shatner is a horrible director. He’s not. Take a look at the movie again and try not to pay attention to the FX. Shatner’s direction is quite competent. He gets some good performances from his actors. DeForest Kelley’s flashback to his father’s death might be the best work he’s done as a ‘Star Trek’ actor. Shatner also frames some very interesting shots throughout the movie.

The actual story isn’t as bad as you remember, either. It’s just a story that is almost impossible to find a satisfying conclusion to. The Enterprise crew goes in search of God? Great idea, but how do you resolve that? You can’t REALLY show God on screen, but you can’t deny His existence either, so you’re forced into the rather lame conclusion that you have to make the “God” of your movie just a really powerful alien. But for a while, just as the Enterprise enters the Great Barrier, wasn’t there a moment of wonder about what the crew would find? THAT’S what ‘Star Trek’ is supposed to be about, and while I have no problem with people who call ‘Star Trek V’ a disappointment, I reject those who say it’s a terrible movie, because it’s not.

Brian Hoss

Many sci-fi movies are polarizing to audiences. Just look at ‘Sunshine’ or ‘Soylent Green’. But still, most decent sci-fi flicks can hang around and maintain at least a cult audience. In contrast, others just seem completely unloved. It may just be my soft spot for 1980s era Michael Crichton (‘Looker’, cough), but I’m continually surprised that 1984’s ‘Runaway‘ wasn’t more of a sci-fi hit.

The plot isn’t grandiose, but the domesticity of programmable electronics (and the correlating danger) portrayed in the film is really impressive, especially for a Hollywood movie. Tom Selleck and Kirstie Alley do very well, while Gene Simmons steals the show. Try watching ‘Runaway’, and then the recent ‘Total Recall’ and ‘Robocop’ remakes, and the relative quality of ‘Runaway’, which should be imitated more readily, becomes clear.

Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)

A few sci-fi movies have made an impression on me even though they never got much love by critics or audiences. ‘Gattaca‘ is one. Ethan Hawke plays Vincent Freeman, a natural-born, unmodified man in a world dominated by genetically tailored uber-humans. Although genetic discrimination is technically illegal, the genetically tweaked “Valids” generally hold the best jobs and have the most opportunities in life, based solely on their DNA. Meanwhile, the natural-born “In-valids” only qualify for menial jobs. Freeman aspires to travel to the stars and assumes the identity of a Valid (Jerome Morrow, played by Jude Law) who was paralyzed in an accident. Freeman keeps samples of Morrow’s hair and urine with him at all times, in order to pass random genetic testing. Freeman uses this identity to get a job at Gattaca Aerospace Corporation where he trains for an upcoming mission to space. Meanwhile, someone is murdered at Gattaca, and Freeman’s actual DNA is found on the scene thanks to a wayward eyelash. Can Freeman avoid detection long enough to escape to the moons of Jupiter?

‘Gattaca’ is interesting in the questions it poses. Do our genetics determine our destiny? What place does free will have in making our own success? What would the world be like if genetic engineering became commonplace? The film presents a sterile and dystopic “perfect” future that is at once technologically advanced but socially draconian. I don’t think I’d want to live there.

Another underrated gem – OK, maybe more of a guilty pleasure – is ‘The Last Starfighter‘. In this one, a popular videogame is actually a training simulation for a real interstellar war. When someone gets good enough at the game, a beacon is sent out to space for the player to be drafted into the Rylan Star League for battle against an evil alien horde. The game’s inventor Centauri (Robert Preston in his final role) comes to collect Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) to recruit him as a true Starfighter. But Alex, a teenager living in a trailer park, can’t accept the responsibility and asks to go home. Centauri obliges the request but gives him a transmitter to call him back if he changes his mind.

Meanwhile, hijinks ensues back home where Centauri had left an android copy of Alex named “Beta” behind so that no one would notice that Alex was gone. Some of the scenes where Beta tries to fit in, particularly with Alex’s girlfriend, are pretty funny.

I guess why the 17-year-old me liked this movie so much was that I was a huge video arcade freak back in the ’80s. I once played ‘Galaga’ for two hours on one quarter. And to think that all this wasted time might have prepared me for something important in life was a compelling idea. Turns out all it did was allow me to get high scores on ‘Galaga’ (and maybe serve as a minor navigation officer in S.H.I.E.L.D.). “That man is playing Galaga.” – Tony Stark

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

One of my all-time favorite creature features is ‘It! The Terror from Beyond Space‘. This underseen, underappreciated 1958 film is a lean, efficient and unnerving collision of sci-fi and horror. Quite a bit of carnage had already unfolded before ‘It!’ even opens. A rescue ship soars over Mars in search of the crew of an earlier mission but finds just one, sole survivor. They suspect Col. Carruthers of having slaughtered those under his command, dead certain that he murdered the rest of his crew to have as much of the mission’s dwindling food and water for himself. Carruthers makes the impossible claim that some monstrous creature native to the Red Planet sucked the life out of them.

Wholly unconvinced, the crew of the rescue ship take Carruthers in shackles back home to Earth to face justice for his crimes. You probably don’t need to me to tell you that Carruthers isn’t all that the rescue ship picks up on Mars, though. The murderous creature manages to slink onboard, and one by one, the desiccated corpses of the crew are discovered, most every trace of moisture drained from their lifeless bodies. Having finally accepted Carruthers’ grisly tale as the truth, the surviving crew band together, but everything from traditional sidearms to grenades to nuclear radiation fail to stop this walking nightmare.

If the general premise sounds familiar – the crew of a hopelessly remote ship are stalked and slaughtered by one, lone otherworldly creature – you’re probably as great a fan of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ as I am. ‘It! The Terror from Beyond Space’ has long been cited as one of the key inspirations behind ‘Alien’, and I haven’t even gotten to the part about the explosive decompression yet. Though ‘It!’ doesn’t benefit from anything resembling the spectacular effects work or legendary production design in ‘Alien’, this is still a remarkably effective and intense experience just the same.

Despite the underfunded creature suit and woefully dated spacecraft exteriors, its mood and unnerving atmosphere readily outclass the overwhelming majority of creature features of the era. Every time I sit down to watch ‘It!’, I’m impressed by how swiftly it moves, clocking in just over an hour in length. ‘It!’ has aired in high definition on MGM-HD and Monsters-HD, so maybe everything that Shout! Factory needs for a Blu-ray release is right there waiting. This’d be perfect for a double feature.

Mike Attebery

Is it too early to cite ‘Edge of Tomorrow‘? I’m not a huge science fiction fan, but this is one of the most fun movie-watching experiences I’ve had in a very long time. Most critics have compared it to ‘Groundhog Day’, but if there are any Ken Grimwood fans out there, this story touches on some of the great ideas in his book ‘Replay‘. I was almost bummed to see Tom Cruise hanging off the side of that plane in the behind-the-scenes footage released for ‘Mission: Impossible 5’, because he was so much fun to watch in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’. Rather than being Mr. High-Intensity Action man, he spends most of this film looking terrified, beaten and exhausted, and he’s the most human he has been in ages.

Luke Hickman

Technically, my pick qualifies as a science fiction film – although you’re unaware of that until the last 15 minutes. This could count as a major spoiler, but I figure that you’ve had 13 years to see the movie. Negative word of mouth may have told you to avoid it, but it’s not my fault if I spoil this for you. You’ve been warned to stop reading after seeing the title.

I know how hated it is, so bring on the heat. My pick is ‘Vanilla Sky‘. I love Cameron Crowe’s remake of the fantastic Spanish film ‘Abre Los Ojos’. As good as the original is, the Americanized pop culture-infused remake speaks to me.

I love that the first third of the film is a chick flick with spliced-in snippets of puzzling prison interviews. After Cameron Diaz takes a ‘Fatal Attraction’ turn on Tom Cruise, the remainder of the film is a ‘Brazil’-like dream. And just like a dream, for the longest time it’s confusing and unexplained. While the twist may be frustrating for some, due to Crowe’s direction and aesthetic, it’s absolutely riveting. I find myself emotionally connected to ‘Vanilla Sky’ more than 99% of the supposedly emotional movies out there – which is something I don’t typically get with science fiction flicks.

Josh Zyber

I bet that some of our readers assumed that I’d pick ‘Dune’ for this, didn’t you? No, I’ve defended that film enough. Likewise, when Shannon stood up for ‘Star Trek V’ (a movie I’ll agree has more merit than most viewers will admit, if not quite as much as Shannon sees), I briefly considered writing about ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’. But, again, my Blu-ray review covered that sufficiently.

Instead, I want to highlight a fun little Spanish movie called ‘Extraterrestrial‘ that I caught at the Toronto Film Festival back in 2011. From the director of the cult time travel flick ‘Timecrimes’, the movie is a very bizarre and unconventional take on the alien invasion genre. The story focuses on a man and a woman who’ve woken up from an ill-advised one night stand to discover that they slept through the evacuation of their entire city when giant flying saucers descended from the sky. Almost the entire movie takes place in an apartment, with next to no action scenes or visual effects. It turns into a really funny dark comedy as the two characters jump through bigger and bigger hoops to prevent the girl’s boyfriend from finding out that they slept together.

The film is small in scope, but very clever and frequently hilarious. Unfortunately, it barely got any distribution in the United States and was never released on Blu-ray here, though it may be available on streaming services. (Amazon Instant Streaming has it in HD.) Be warned not to confuse this with a recent American indie horror film of the same title.

What are some of your favorite underrated sci-fi movies? Tell us in the Comments.

63 comments

  1. Bill

    I agree that ST Final Frontier needs reconsideration. Unlike twenty years ago I now find FF easier to rewatch than ST III Search for Spock for example. There’s some very familial and collegial about FF and that has to be due to Shatner’s direction particularly in the folksy camping scenes that beautifully bookend the movie by bringing us full circle from peace to conflict and back to peace again.

    Two other films I’d liked to mention are Brainstorm and Meteor. Both have a strong science basis, Brainstorm’s concept of recording and translating brain waves into images is becoming more plausible with each passing year. Meteor’s premise has become the stuff of Discovery TV documentaries and some serious work by NASA. Both offer some excellent pre-digital special effects and some good performances with less than cerebral scripts. And to top it off both have stunning Natalie Wood in the cast.

    • EM

      Regarding Final Frontier, there are three points which frequently draw Trekkies’ ire:

      (1) Some fairly broad comedy, some of which strains character credibility, such as Scotty’s unconsciousness-inducing encounter with a bulkhead moments after his boasting anent his thorough knowledge of the ship, or Uhura’s amazing exotic dance that leaves one wondering whether she routinely takes those accessories on missions.

      (2) Some issues of technical continuity, such as the unusual numbering of the Enterprise’s decks.

      (3) An overly plot-convenient addition to the character mythology that raises questions as to certain revered figures’ personal integrity.

      I confess I agree the film is flawed, but I believe its merits far outweigh its faults.

  2. Mike H

    Just tossing some titles out there…..

    -Another Earth
    -The Arrival
    -Ender’s Game
    -Monsters
    -Soldier
    -Titan A.E.
    -Zathura

  3. If a movie gets good reviews but fails at the box office, is it ‘underrated’? There’s some films being mentioned here that got very good reviews (Edge of Tomorrow, The Last Starfighter, Europa Report, etc.). I took on this topic as picking a movie that got bad reviews that was worth a second look, as opposed to films that got good reviews but failed (or underperformed) at the box office.

    • Guy

      After Star Trek Into Darkness came out, I had a discussion with friends where I tried to impress upon them that The Final Frontier should have been the one Abrams and company riffed on if they were determined to go that route. It’s not necessarily my least favorite Star Trek film, but it’s certainly the one I consider the most shoddily made. Still, it had some very positive ideas going for it that were botched, undersold or outright ignored as often as they were executed well.

      The All Along The Watchtower, “[a rider] approaching, the wind began to howl” opening is possibly the most striking and intriguing starts to any Star Trek movie. It’s post-apocalyptic Lawrence of Arabia for a brief moment. Now we’re treated to a mysterious, sin eater-like nomad who heals a broken man of his mental anguish and OH MY GOODNESS, HE’S A VULCAN! A Vulcan who’s rejected Kolinahr only to embrace and master emotion is a great foil. After the embarrassingly bad rock climbing and stilted comedy, we’re introduced to Nimbus III and the Planet of Galactic Peace concept. That’s a rich notion in of itself. In many Star Trek movies, such an idea would drive the whole film. The flashbacks and Sybok’s abilities as well as his goal made him an especially sympathetic villain. The movie had all of this going for it, but put it together in such a messy fashion and mixed in the terrible attempts at comedy and an endgame it hadn’t thought out at all. There’s a great redemptive remake to be done.

  4. Chris B

    Luke, I think Vanilla Sky is a fantastic movie and have defended the shit out of it for the last 13 years. I saw it in a small theatre in a little Alberta town and I remember being in complete awe as we walked out into the rain after the show. The final scene in that movie is among the most emotionally resonant I’ve ever seen. I don’t understand all the hate it receives.

    As for my picks, I LOVE Event Horizon. Though it’s more of a horror-sci-fi it’s tottally inderrated. It’s screenplay is so lean and mean, it wastes no time in setting everything up, and then proceeds to scare the bejeezus out of you.

    I know I’ll probably get flak for this but I love Sky Captain and the World of Tommorow. I’m a sucker for golden age pulp material with heroes, villains, damsels in distress etc. This movie is a technological feat, a sly nod to films from a bygone era and just a hell of a lot of fun.

    • Remember our Deepstar Six / Leviathan conversation from a few months ago? I don’t know if you ever imported the blu, but Netflix has it ( Deepstar Six ) and it looks pretty damn sweet! 2:35 aspect ratio and all! I’m wondering if that’s the same source they used for the blu. It looks damn good.

  5. I don’t know what the critics thought of it, but I know it failed at the box office. The Island, from Michael Bay. I think it’s one of his best movies and although it goes way over the top when the action starts. The big sign letter dropping several stories, too ridiculous! The movie has some great ideas and Michael Bay actually takes his time before the “BAYHEM” begins. I love Ewan Mcgregor’s child like curiosity in this movie, he pulls it off perfectly! I’d like to see Bay try another sci-fi flick. ( i dont consider Transformers sci- fi). Another movie that reminds me of The Island but is waaay on the other side of the spectrum would be Never Let Me Go. It’s more drama romance but the idea of being harvested for body parts is very sci-fi. Sad little movie. Actually puts a lump in my throat.
    It’s been many years since I’ve last watched it, but Enemy Mine always stuck with me. The picture of The Last Starfighter alien dude reminds me of the aliens from Enemy Mine. Most of the people I know haven’t even heard of this movie. I dicked around too much and missed my window to get the bluray for this one from TT. I hope they double dip.

    • Chris B

      Haha I thought I was the only one who dug Enemy Mine. I saw it over 20 years ago though and haven’t watched it since. How does it hold up? I distinctly remember the part where the alien played by Lou Gosset Jr. tells Dennis Quaid he’s pregnant…wow, that is a weird sentence.

      • I saw it a little over 10 years ago at a friends house on dvd. I liked it then. I love the practical sets and the alien make up is awesome. If memory serves right, they got pregnant by choice, asexually, but it cost them their life. Louis Gossett Jr.’s alien voice is awesome. I love how Quaid becomes a father figure to the little alien kid. Now I’m really pissed at myself for not acting on that blu. I want to watch it now.
        By the way, I love Event Horizon, one of my favs. Sky Captain’s pretty awesome too. I only saw Vanilla Sky one time in the theater when it came out, but I remember feeling so strange when I left the theater. Kind of sad but peaceful. Hard to explain.

        • Chris B

          I may be wrong but I think the aliens just reproduce naturally regardless of gender and then die soon after, I don’t even think they have a choice in the matter. Not sure though, like I said it’s been a loooong time.

          I wish I had it on Bluray to. But I live in Canada so if I order something from TT I want it to be at least a few items to make the extra shipping charges worthwhile. If they put Enemy Mine and Christine up for sale I’m all over it!

    • Mike Kick

      Great call on the island, it’s one of my favorite scifi movies

      What about sunshine with cillian Murphy

      He’s proably one of the best actors of my time and one of the most underrated

      • Chris B

        Funny story about Sunshine. Me and the wife went to see it in this cool little Indie theatre downtown. It had some couches set up and a really cool vibe but no air conditiong. It was probably 25-30 degrees celsius in the room and all those shots of the astronauts sitting in that giant room watching the burning sun only worsened the brutal heat! We thought about leaving but the movie was so damn good I had to stay. I love the spacesuit designs in that flick, I was just kind of let down by the third act as most people were…

        • Guy

          The weekend it came to my town, all my friends went to see some comedy I had no interest in at the drive-in. I decided it was the perfect chance to go see the arthouse sci-fi movie none of them would be interested in. So I went by myself and, as it came to pass, nobody else in town wanted to see it. I was alone in the theater. You got the heat experience of the Sun. I got the lonely isolation of a long space voyage.

  6. Eric

    THE SIGNAL, fantastic low budget that wasn’t even a blip on the radar. By the time this film ends I fond my self wishing this was some sort of origin film for something bigger.

    Every Tom Cruise scifi movie is underrated. All of them are great and seem to get dissed by everyone.

    THE LAST DAYS ON MARS, another phenomenal low budget film.

    The last couple of years have been great for scifi fans.

      • eric

        I don’t mind wholesale ripoffs of films when the new one is still good or better than the original. Sometimes it is awesome just to see the same idea with a fresh new update. Also, any movie can be looked at as a ripoff or inspired by something else at some level. There are more bad sci-fi movies out there than good and I would watch good remake/ripoffs of any of those.

        If there was a limit on how many ideas could only be used once, we would not have very many movies to choose from. Once I have done an aliens attack the earth movie, can I not want to see another one? The ideas in Dark City are easily traceable back to several episodes of the Twilight Zone.

        I would much rather watch a good dose of heavy lifting from the Matrix than sit through its messy sequels. I am sure there is some site out there that has taken apart every but if story line from the Matrix and correlated it back to some other film that idea probably came from.

        I would like to see a film maker say “I am ripping this film off, but I am going to do it in a new, updated, smarter way.” I would be interested in that.

        When it is okay for a film to be remade or ripped off? If J.J. Abrams wanted tackle Dune, I am sure I would be skeptical, but if Cuaron was to do it… hmmm… or Guillermo or David Lynch took another whack at it, things start to get interesting.

        One of the most obvious ripoffs in recent memory is THE HUNGER GAMES, which is a blatant rip of BATTLE ROYALE, and the books THE HUNGER GAMES is based are even a more blatant ripoff of the original novel that BATTLE ROYALE was based on. On one had it would be nice for the author to acknowledge the similarities but on the other hand I have enjoyed the films and I still enjoy BATTLE ROYALE, and I hate the sequels of BATTLE ROYAL.

        I wish CONSTANTINE was just called THE MATRIX: JOHN CONSTATINE, or THE MATRIX: THE SIGNAL, or THE MATRIX:OBLIVION…

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          > I would like to see a film maker say “I am ripping this film off, but I am going to do it in a new, updated, smarter way.” I would be interested in that.

          So, anything Quentin Tarantino has ever made, then?

        • Elizabeth

          I had never even heard of Battle Royale until The Hunger Games was released. Because of that I could easily see the author having never heard of it either. It could just as easily be linked to the history of Ancient Rome (which it clearly is heavily based on) and short stories like The Most Dangerous Game.

          I mean does every fantasy movie automatically become a ripoff of Lord of the Rings if you have characters embarking on a journey? Or could I just call Lord of the Rings a ripoff of The Odyssey or any number or similarly themed mythological tales?

          What gets considered original and what gets considered a ripoff? I’m sure if you came up with an “original” movie idea and asked 20 people they’d give 20 different things it reminded them of, many you may never have heard of.

  7. EM

    Many good choices have been mentioned. I too stand up for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Outland, and The City of Lost Children (though I think of that last as fantasy cloaked in sci-fi raiments). But in the spirit of getting the word out, I’ll go with a different selection altogether.

    Years ago I was delighted when, thanks to the wonder of DVD rental, I was finally able to see John Carpenter’s cult SF comedy Dark Star. I had read about it years before in Starlog magazine and was thrilled by this Alien precursor that was so much more. True, it wasn’t quite everything that I had come to expect; but memory is faulty, and the movie (in both cuts) was still quite good…indeed, in some ways it was more than I had expected.

    So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a cheapie edition of Bruce Kimmel’s obscure sci-fi comedy variously known as. Spaceship, Naked Space, and The Creature Wasn’t Nice (Kimmel’s intended title) and realized that this Alien parody had gotten tangled up with Dark Star in the hazy memories of my youthful readings! A cheap and often silly romp, Creature nonetheless satisfies. With a show-stopping number like “I Want to Eat Your Face,” how can you go wrong?

  8. Bill McClain

    It’s hard to know what to consider underrated. Films popular with fans of a genre or period are unknown to the public at large.

    I’ll propose (a) “films I recommend to those who like that sort of thing” and (b) which are not on Blu-ray (which means the list leans to older films).

    Children of the Damned (1963)
    Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
    Day of the Triffids (1962)
    Day the Earth Caught Fire, The (1961)
    Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
    I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958)
    Incredible Shrinking Man, The (1957)
    It Came From Outer Space (1953)
    Quiet Earth, The (1985)
    Thing from Another World, The (1951)
    Village of the Damned (1960)

    Finally, for a contemporary film that got no respect, I really liked…

    John Carter (2012).

    -Bill

  9. Guy

    Star Trek Insurrection:
    This topic is so fitting because I just watched it last night. T’was only my second time ever seeing it. I watched it for the first time within the last year and enjoyed it before finding out it’s ridiculously maligned. It found itself placed in the mental “Watch Again” file so I could see if my liking it was some fluke. It definitely wasn’t. I think of it as the ST4 of the TNG films. It’s generally lighter and funnier in tone and, for the most part, it gives everyone on the crew a decent amount of shine. Geordi seeing a sunrise with his own eyes is terribly affecting. Flirty Riker and Troi was charming. Data trying to emulate the return to youth talk by asking Worf about their boobs may be my favorite laugh in any of the twelve movies. Solid character moments aside, I thought the main conflict was compelling and the machinations/eventual pathos of the plot caught me off guard. After two full viewings, I genuinely do not understand the reputation of this film. It’s one of my favorites in the series.

    Honorable Mentions
    – Alien 3: I sang its praises in another thread here this week. I like the setting, visual style and prison monk conceit.
    – Pandorum: I’ve seen many dismiss it as derivative, and it certainly wears a few influences on its sleeve, but it’s so well done and the core mystery of the film goes interesting places. Also, Antje Trau makes grimey look beautiful throughout.
    – Binary Domain (video game): After persevering past what may be the most terrible opening level in an otherwise pretty good game, I got treated to a dismissed, bargain bin game that held a lot of great sci-fi storytelling. Man vs. machine is nothing new, but the immersive quality of games mixed with it being a longer medium of storytelling allowed for more investment and breathing room than movies usually allow without the fatigue a years-long TV show can bring about. Also, check Singularity for Bioshock-esque time travel sci-fi game.
    – Battle for the Planet of the Apes: Great and interesting ideas are explored on an unfortunately small scale. Looking past the cheaper production of what’s supposed to be a grand battle in the end, I love it. It does a great job of tying up or connecting to a lot of disparate plot elements from the other films. You could skip 3 & 4 and it’d still work as a sequel to the first two. It obviously continues directly on from the time travel timeline set up on 3. It does its job of bringing all the film’s together. If Insurrection weren’t so fresh on my mind, I might have picked this one for my main choice. I think it’s that underrated.

  10. Took a look at my favourite films of all time to find a few sci-fi gems.

    ‘A.I.’ (I know the Zyber hates this one, but I loved ‘Casper’ and ‘The Flintstones’ too, so my HDD license card has been revoked for eternity)
    ‘Treasure Planet’: one of Disney’s best. Very happy the (then fired) directors are back on board for 2016.
    ‘The Faculty’: may be a stretch. Fairly big hit box office-wise, and very hip at the time, but seems a little forgotten. Still awesome.

  11. Jak Donark

    So many! And so many already listed here. I was thinking about the Final Countdown, with Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen. Time travel would be considered sci fi, right? A friend told me about it when I was about 11. The military and time travel? Right on! Not a lot of action, but the ideas generated from it are good. What choices would you make if you could go back in time? What would be the outcomes? Great cast too.

    Have to mention Time After Time as well. Written and directed by Nicholas Meyer, starring future Star Trek feature stars Malcom McDowell and David Warner as HG Wells and Jack the Ripper, respectively, as well as another future time traveller Mary Steenburgen, the idea is crazy and original, and I haven’t watched it in years (sold it, then re bought it!), but it was a fun movie.

    I got a Black Hole book when I was 4, and saw the movie a few years after. Revisiting it when I was older, I still enjoyed it. It is still Disney, but it has some very dark moments, some very creepy moments, a great John Barry score, and that cast! Anthony Perkins, Robert Forrester, Ernest Borgnine! When I saw Tron Legacy in the theater (the original is one of my all time favorites, and I love TL as well) I saw the book for The Black Hole on Sam’s shelf and went nuts. Hopefully Kosinski does a good job with the remake/ reboot. I’m actually part way through Oblivion and enjoying it a lot. There are a few people in Hollywood who I feel have talent and have been lucky to get in (unlike a lot I feel are untalented, lol) and Kosinski is one. Now if I can just get my break…

  12. Brett

    Great Roundtable topic, Josh!

    I’m gonna have to go with Alien 3 as well. What I love is how uncompromising it is in its vision. The movie’s delicious from start to finish, despite its flaws.

    And my runner-up: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension! This isn’t as underrated in the sense that it’s a definite love-it-or-hate-it flick. And I happen to love it. Shout! Factory — Blu-ray PLEASE!!!

    And I have to give a shout-out to Shannon on his Star Trek V pick. Is it the “worst” original-cast ST movie? Undoubtedly. But I happen to love it. I regard Wrath Of Khan and Search For Spock to be not only the greatest Trek movies ever made, but two of the greatest MOVIES ever made. And yet when all is said and done, I’ve probably watched Final Frontier more than any other Trek movie over the years. Why? Because it’s just so much damn fun. The humor among the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triumvirate is genuine and at times laugh-out-loud funny. (One of my favorite quotes in a series chock-full of memorable quotes: “Spock, be one with the horse.” “Yes, Captain.”) It also provides the movie with a very real emotional core. But on top of it all it’s just a rock-em sock-em good time with that original cast, like an expanded original series episode with feature-level production values (FX notwithstanding). And that’s ultimately why it’s my go-to Trek movie when I’m not in the mood for the emotional wringer of II and III, or the darkness of VI. It’s not a movie I’d ever defend, but I do happen to love it a lot. And let’s not forget Goldsmith’s stirring opening-credits climbing music, the highlight of one of the franchise’s best scores.

    • C.C. 95

      Get yourself an All Region Blu Ray player cuz Koch Media released a German Blu of BUCKAROO that is the bomb! Packed with extras (including an unused opening of home movies revealing that Buckaroo’s mother is none other than Jamie Lee Curtis!).

      • Brett

        Thanks, I’ll look into it. That unused opening is on the SE DVD as well. I’d settle for a nice transfer but a full set of ported-over extras sure would be sweet.

  13. Agreed about Star Trek V and Last Starfighter.

    Would like to add:
    Blade Runner (people have a love:hate for this one)
    District 9 (another love:hate movie)
    Galaxy Quest (I know I know, Tim Allen in a serious(ish) role but I enjoyed it)
    Mars Attacks! (There are a lot of haters of this one)
    The Matrix (This one makes you think deeply about the world we live in, is it real? Whoa!)
    Timecop (JCVD, but why is this always listed as a sub-B movie?)

  14. Jean-Denis

    A more recent film that deserved a bigger audience was Jaco Van Dormael’s MR. NOBODY with Jared Leto. It’s an existential drama that touches on some very heady concepts including the big bang and the big crunch. It contains some of the most stunning visuals, directorial and editorial ideas I’ve seen any film.

  15. C.C. 95

    DARK CITY is one of the best SCI-FI movies hands down. So underrated but so ripped off by other films.
    STARSHIP TROOPERS was a hugely misunderstood SCI-FI flick, as critics took the German director’s hilarious rip on Fascistic screed seriously! Not a great flick, but pretty damned entertaining and a great companion piece to ROBOCOP.(why critics understood the subversive black humor in ROBOCOP but Not TROOPERS?).
    Another underrated film is 2010. Really well done film that simply suffered from unfairly, but inevitably being compared to 2001. Hell, Hyams even went the extra step of getting KUBRICK’s blessing to make the film! It has a great cast, great FX, and a more literal but spectacular ending. Good stuff.
    Can I mention ICE PIRATES? C’mon- It has Angelica Huston and the Space Herpes Monster!

  16. William Henley

    My Stepmom is an Alien
    Batteries Not Included
    The Star Wars Prequels
    Logan’s Run
    Metropolis
    Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
    Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
    Pretty much any Sci-Fi movie made by Disney (The Black Hole, Absent-Minded Professor, Flight of the Navigator, John Carter, Escape to Witch Mountain, Return to Witch Mountain, Tron, THe Misadventures of Merlin Jones, The Rocketeer, Babes in Toyland, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Honey I Blew Up The Kid, etc)
    AI
    Star Trek 5
    Contact

  17. EM

    Another utterly crappy mass-market sci-fi movie that I consume like so much junk food is…oh, wait, that is the topic here, right?

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