Science fiction is a wide and broad genre. So many classics have defined it, but sometimes, some of them are not recognized as such or they are overlooked. This list represents just the first step for bringing to light 10 movies that many film aficionados may not have seen. From different years and nations, these movies once again prove the immense power and versatility of sci-fi.
And of course, remember that there are many others out there that are ready to be discovered and enjoyed again.
1. The X From Outer Space (1967)
Late 20th century. A Japanese spaceship called AAB Gamma is traveling to Mars, in order to research on the possible presence of UFOs near the planet. During the mission, AAB Gamma runs into an unidentified alien spaceship that shoots a mysterious white liquid onto the hull of the vessel. The crew decides to take samples from the strange liquid and to bring them back on Earth. This decision will unleash a terrible creature.
With monsters, explosions, spaceships, mayhem and destruction, “The X from Outer Space” can be described by one word: cult. Directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu and starring Eiji Okada – who everybody will remember for the magnificent performance in “Hiroshima mon amour” (1959) – this Japanese kaiju movie is a classic monster movie that combines pure sci-fi moments with a great dose of comedy. For fans of B-movies and especially the great tradition of Japanese kaiju films, “The X from Outer Space” is a must see.
2. Silent Running (1972)
The orbit of Saturn. In order to protect vegetation and plants – in great danger of extinction on Earth – the spaceship Valley Forge is equipped with special domes that contain a variety of plants. However, an order imposes the spaceship crew to destroy the domes with everything inside; Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) – the botanist and ecologist who manages and takes care of the vegetation – decides to mutiny and rebel in order to save the plants and keep open the possibility of reforestation on Earth.
“Silent Running” is a classic gem that most people tend to forget about. It’s directed by the great Douglas Trumbull, mostly known for his ability in the special effects field; just to give you an idea, he worked on the visuals for “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), “Blade Runner” (1982) and “The Tree of Life” (2011).
Just like “Demon Seed” (1977), the topic and message of this movie are not only important, but also current; the deforestation and – more generally – the impact of humans’ action on planet Earth are widely recognized as harmful and possibly catastrophic for the ecosystem and for our survival. Trumbull – in conjunction with the screenwriters, including Michael Cimino – is able to convey this message, mixing an environmentalist tone with the canons of post-apocalyptic science fiction.
If you’re looking for conscious entertainment, look no further.
3. A Boy And His Dog (1975)
2024, America. World War 4 lasted only 5 days; after the nuclear destruction of the world, the last form of humankind tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Vic (Don Johnson) roams around a desert-like landscape, looking for food and sexual encounters; his approach is rude and essential, since he didn’t receive a proper education due to the death of his parents. Vic is helped by a dog named Blood, who’s able to communicate in human language through telepathy. During their journey, Vic and Blood meet a girl named Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton); the appearance of Quilla will change drastically the path of both.
“A Boy and His Dog” is a crazy movie. In the first part of the movie, it seems like a normal and stereotypical post-apocalyptic story, with all the required clichés. Don’t get fooled by the premises because in the second and third part, the movie explodes in a mixture of dark comedy, surrealism, and thriller.
Even though “A Boy and His Dog” is a low-budget movie, the production design was smart and accurate; the sapient use of the desert and also the indoor scenes were able to elevate what might have been just another average B-movie. If you want to experience a heterodox buddy movie with creepy humorous segments and an engaging story, look no further.
4. Demon Seed (1977)
Based on the book of the same name written by Dean Koontz, Demon Seed is a sci-fi movie with a sharp horror feel, which deals with the important and current theme of the relationship between human beings and technology.
Alex Harris (Fritz Weaver) is an inventor and developer of many technological devices; his house – where he lives with his soon-to-be divorced wife Susan (Julie Christie) – is totally automated and equipped with functioning technological computers.
Dr. Harris develops a revolutionary artificial intelligence program called Proteus IV with countless capacities. Increasingly autonomous, the AI device gains control of all the computers in the house and traps Susan inside. The super intelligent Proteus IV will drastically affect Alex and Susan’s lives.
For the low-budget profile, “Demon Seed” could be mistaken for another B-movie that combines science fiction premises with horror imagery. However, for the subject matter, it’s a highly challenging movie, forcing you to analyze and think about how impactful technology can be in our day-to-day life. “Demon Seed” makes you question the positive and meaningful role of technology and AI computer devices. The future doesn’t seem so bright anymore.
This highly underrated classic will stimulate your appreciation for science fiction and horror and make you think about important issues. Entertaining and educational.
5. Time Bandits (1981)
Terry Gilliam has one of the most creative and recognizable styles in modern cinema; his movies are always unpredictable and crazy. “Time Bandits” is no different.
Living with parents who don’t really care about him, Kevin (Craig Warnock) has a sweet spot for history. One night while he is laying in bed, in a dream-like appearance, six dwarves come out of his wardrobe, chased by the head of a strange creature. Kevin decides to join them and – pushing one side of his bedroom’s walls – he follows them through this unknown and mysterious passage. A long adventure will start for Kevin and the six dwarves, through different time periods.
The aforementioned trademark style of Gilliam is always visible in the movie; this would be a normal teenage movie – like many others in the 1980s – without him. Gilliam is able to twist the genre and to exploit it in order to make it functional to his peculiar vision of cinema. “Time Bandits” is unmissable for whoever loves Gilliam and sci-fi and fantasy mixtures. A classic that is sometimes wrongfully forgotten.