We’ve almost made it to the roaring ‘20s, which means it’s time to analyze the past twenty years. The 2000s have been great to filmgoers so far. More jaded cinephiles may find something to complain about, but in reality, there have been some tremendous motion pictures. In fact, there have been too many tremendous motion pictures.
There’s an overabundance of great cinema being released, and that means that certain films are bound to be forgotten. That’s why this list exists. Below, you’ll find ten science fiction films that are, to one degree or another, underrated.
As with most “underrated” or “overrated” lists, it’s hard to define what makes something underrated or overrated. To simplify things, we’ll just say that the ten entries on this list deserve more recognition than they have gotten up until this point. This could mean that they are critically divisive. This could mean that they failed to find an audience. Regardless, something is holding them back.
In this political climate, it’s no wonder Snowpiercer is divisive among casual moviegoers. It’s a fiercely political piece of work that left viewers expecting escapism frustrated. Of course, it’s not only the political message that left a sour taste in peoples’ mouths. Roughly half a decade later, it has become clear that Snowpiercer didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations for one reason or another. While it has a strong enough fanbase, Snowpiercer really should be considered a science fiction classic rather than a polarizing slice of entertainment.
In other words, its placement on the list is relatively complicated. It’s hardly an unknown movie. On the contrary, it has done significantly better than one might expect from a movie that only got a sizeable release in Asian territories. At the same time, the division among viewers is as fascinating as it is frustrating.
It’s hard to talk about movies objectively because art is largely subjective. Still, it’s easy to get frustrated when people try to hurl insults at something so finely crafted. Bong Joon-ho’s direction is unparalleled, his script is razor sharp, and the visual effects are breathtaking. Put simply, this is how you make a sci-fi movie.
At the end of the day, Snowpiercer isn’t exactly a hidden gem, but it’s a movie that likely won’t be discussed in the inevitable “best of the decade” lists even though it fits the criteria. This is a sci-fi film with guts. It’s a movie that looks at Hollywood clichés and laughs at them. Something like this doesn’t come along often. Because of that, we need to cherish it rather than forget it.
Before Duncan Jones was given heaps of money to direct Warcraft, he made a little indie darling called Moon. Like most movies on this list, reviews were strong and the movie has its share of fans, but it never really caught on like it should have. It nabbed a BAFTA nomination and earned its money back at the box office, but it certainly wasn’t a smash hit.
Here’s the thing: it should have been. Moon is, to this day, the best movie Duncan Jones has directed. While Source Code was a decent follow up, it can’t measure up to the brilliance of this film. This is a directorial debut done right, even if it meant that every follow-up had the potential to be a let-down.
Jones delivers a thought-provoking script that gives star Sam Rockwell plenty to do. Rockwell is the heart and soul of this film, but he clearly works in conjunction with a well-thought-out screenplay. The small budget is hard to ignore from the opening scene, but it never takes away from a breathtaking experience.
3. The Endless
The Endless is a phenomenal science fiction movie by itself that’s only enhanced alongside it’s pseudo-prequel, Resolution. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have crafted a fascinating a sci-fi universe with layers upon layers of content. Strap in when viewing The Endless because you’ll need to do some serious rewinding to catch everything.
There’s one downside: nobody has really seen this movie. To be fair, it’s more popular than its predecessor, but it’s still relatively unknown outside of cinephile message boards. Considering the effort put into such a refined script, it needs to be more popular. The Endless rocks. Resolution rocks. The cohesion that comes from watching them back-to-back is borderline unforgettable.
The Endless is one of the best sci-fi movies of the decade. It’s brilliant from start to finish. The fact that so few people have seen it feels like a crime. Readers who haven’t seen it need to stop whatever they’re doing, track it down on a streaming service, and watch it in one glorious sitting. It’s worth the time investment.
Filmed on a budget of $50,000, Coherence puts the “micro” in “microbudget.” Unfortunately, Coherence didn’t get the Paranormal Activity treatment where it was given a wide release that helped it make over $100,000,000 at the box office. No, it got a very limited release before making its way to VOD hell. It’s time for it to make its way out of that hell though.
Spoiling Coherence is a big no-no, so we’ll have to keep this short. The less you know, the better. Just know that it’s big on science fiction ideas even with its tiny budget. It’ll make you think, but know that the mental exertion is worth it.
Sci-fi fanatics will label Sunshine a necessary viewing experience, while casual moviegoers will likely wonder what the hell it is. Like several films on this list, the decision to include Sunshine was tricky. It has a fiercely loyal fanbase, but it’s not nearly as popular when you factor in mainstream audiences. Because of that, its inclusion makes sense even if it may be controversial.
First, a little background. Sunshine came out after Danny Boyle had already established himself but before he really broke through with Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours. He had developed clout through releases like 28 Days Later and Trainspotting, but he wasn’t a household name. As such, handing him $40 million for an ambitious science fiction disaster movie turned out to be a poor decision.
Sunshine underperformed at the box office, and frankly, it never really recovered. As previously stated, a lot of people really love this movie. They love the mind-bending story that feels as fresh today as it did twelve years ago. They love the ambitious scale, which only adds to the complex themes and motifs. They love the entire thing, but that doesn’t make it a success.
Sunshine was a flop back in 2007, and it’s not doing much better by today’s standards. The ferocious defenders are wise to push this movie onto people. Hell, they should continue to do so. Danny Boyle’s creative journey should not be forgotten.