The 21st century has brought us some of the poignant and riveting science-fiction films ever constructed, some being original creations and others having been adapted from spellbinding novels and novellas.
With the rapid rise of CGI, as well as independent entertainment companies such as A24 giving more freedom and money to filmmakers, the past 20 years has given us an overwhelming abundance of excellent science-fiction pictures, with the genre being more successful and main-stream then ever before. With that in mind, here is ten of the most thought-provoking science-fiction movies of the 21st century.
10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (United States, Michel Gondry, 2004)
Directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has hit a seemingly legendary status by fans of indie-cinema. Told in a jumbled, non-linear narrative, the film explores the human psyche and its relation to time and love, driven by excellent performances from Jim Carey and Kate Winslet.
Winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, the film has developed a cult following and is now regarded as one of the best films of the 21st century. Its thought-provoking nature derives from the unconventional plot and story-telling devices, about an estranged couple who erase each other from their memories, only to discover each other again. Poignant and beautiful.
9. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (United States, Steven Spielburg, 2001)
Originally a Stanley Kubrick film, director Steven Spielburg picked A.I. Artificial Intelligence up after the legendary director’s unfortunate and untimely demise. Still splitting audiences 18 years after its initial release, A.I.’s irregularity and eccentricity is behind lots of its consistent establishment within film discourse, especially when discussing science-fiction.
With a haunting central performance from Hayley Joel Osment, A.I. tells the story of David, a robotic boy who is adopted by a couple for an experiment. While the theme of artificial intelligence is present in many science fiction stories, what makes A.I. different is its more heartfelt and sensitive take on the subject, offering an unforgettable story which asks the audience what is means to be human.
8. Upstream Color (United Kingdom, Shane Carruth, 2013)
Having flown under many critics’ radars back in 2013 (mainly due to the plethora of many amazing films that year), Upstream Color is an unconventional romance about two people whose lives are hugely affected by a complicated parasite. It’s strange and touching and has to be seen to be believed.
7. Under the Skin (United Kingdom, Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
An inconspicuous van stalks the worn-out roads of Scotland, luring men into a black abyss where the laws of physics are a fantasy. At the helm of this seemingly innocent machine is the seductive alien known as Scarlett Johansson, who’s sensual but predative aura along with her growing empathy are the heart of Under the Skin. One of the most memorable and idiosyncratic films of the last decade, Jonathan Glazer’s controversial third feature film, and his first in nine years, is an unforgettable, uncomfortable and wholly unconventional effort, with a haunting score and perfect main performance.
6. Hard to Be a God (Russia, Aleksey German, 2013)
A film this grimy, polluted, and filthy should be quarantined indefinitely. Being sporadically filmed over a 6-year period, followed by extensive post-production and eventually premiering at the 2013 Rome Film Festival, Aleksey German’s Hard to Be a God is a 177-minute science-fiction epic detailing the story of 30 scientists who travel from Earth to an identical alien planet, 800 years behind, culturally and technologically.
Based on the novel of the same name by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (the same minds behind Tarkovsky’s Stalker) Hard to Be a God received universal acclaim from English-language and non-Russian-language critics alike and has remained a staple in thought-provoking 21st century science-fiction since its release.