Ten Sci-Fi Flicks for the Thinking Man

...or woman.

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Blade Runner

Decades before Dolly the sheep grabbed headlines, Philip K. Dick pontificated on the thorny ethical implications -- and possible effects -- of cloning and genetic tinkering in his 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It took nearly 15 years to reach the screen (and wasn't all that enthusiastically received by critics once it finally arrived), but Androids eventually inspired Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, a sci-fi/noir blend that pits humans against bio-engineered workers called replicants in a grimy future version of L.A. Though it tanked at the box office and was initially shrugged off by many critics (the Los Angeles Times' Sheila Benson famously called it "Blade Crawler"), Blade Runner's stock rose steadily over the years, eventually attaining classic status. It's been reissued more times than Elvis Costello's back catalog -- including 2007's mammoth five-disc "Ultimate Collector's Edition" -- but this is one film that arguably deserves multiple versions. In the words of the Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum, Blade Runner is "the most remarkably and densely imagined and visualized SF film since 2001: A Space Odyssey, a hauntingly erotic meditation on the difference between the human and the nonhuman."




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2001: A Space Odyssey

In making 2001: A Space Odyssey with Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick set out to make what he called "the proverbial good science fiction movie," and although critics were divided at the time as to whether or not he achieved his goal, 2001 has aged exceptionally well -- in fact, it's hard to imagine any list of smart sci-fi movies without it. As for what it all means, well...part of 2001's enduring appeal is how open to interpretation it all is, something surely recognized by Kubrick, who rebuffed all attempts to get him to explain the film's heavy symbolism. And even if you find yourself shaking your head at some of the more difficult-to-understand moments, it's hard to argue with the attention to technical detail, the stunning visuals, or the way Clarke and Kubrick presaged decades of computer-related anxiety. It also helped bring sci-fi out of the margins; in the words of the BBC's Almar Haflidason, "its triumph lies in its scope of cinematic splendour and the attempt to marry some of man's most beautiful music to the infinite mystery of space."



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