I was eating lunch recently with some of my colleagues who are software developers and researchers. They are super bright guys (even the Canadian and the Australian </joking>). It turns out all of us enjoy science fiction films. Although there were some films we all agreed on as being great films, there were differences of opinion too. Here is my list of the top 10 science fiction films of the 1990s, meaning, if I was going on a trip for three months and could only take ten scifi films from the 90s, these would be the ten.
1. The Fifth Element (1997) – One of my favorite films of all time. In the 23rd century, Bruce Willis must find the fifth element to save the Earth. Brilliantly imaginative story, and fantastic sets and design. Milla Jovovich as Leeloo, Gary Oldman as Zorg, and Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod are excellent, but so is all the supporting cast.
2. Galaxy Quest (1999) – Another all-time favorite, this is one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. A brilliant spoof of washed-up Star-Trek-like actors (Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman) who find themselves in a real space ship fighting real, nasty aliens. I laugh from start to finish when watching this film.
3. The Matrix (1999) – I was absolutely amazed by this film when I first saw it; it’s a shame I’ve seen it so many times on TV that’s it’s lost a lot of its punch. Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that robots have taken over control (don’t they always?) and breed humans as batteries. Yes, he is The One.
4. Stargate (1994) – The basis of the TV series. A team of soldiers led by Kurt Russell travels through a space-time portal to a desert planet ruled by not-so-kind Egyptian gods — or are they just mortal aliens?
5. Starship Troopers (1997) – The movie is nothing like the book by Robert Heinlein I read and loved as a young man but I think this movie is great. This movie seems to generate more extreme opinions, pro and con, than most science fiction films. Anyway, it’s Casper Van Dien and Denise Richards against big Bugs. Some of them really big.
6. Dark City (1998) – A lot of people have not seen this mystery scifi film. A man wakes up and can’t remember who he is. He is pursued by the Strangers. Who are they? Why is it always night time?
7. 12 Monkeys (1995) – Directed by Terry Gilliam. Bruce Willis travels back and forth in time to uncover the mystery of what, exactly, is/are the 12 monkeys and are they responsible for a viral plague that wiped out most of the planet? Nice crazy guy role by Brad Pitt.
8. Mimic (1997) – The story involves genetically altered insects that get a little bit too big and a little bit too smart. I like the dark and suspenseful atmosphere. Quite scary.
9. Species (1995) – Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, and other scientists create Sil (Natasha Henstridge) — half-human, half-alien and half-supermodel. Bad math and bad idea. Lots of tension and good special effects. Mating with Sil might be worth the consequences.
10. Independence Day (1996) – Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, and Bill Paxton save the Earth from an alien invasion. This is how aliens should be — not E.Ts. Nice scene where Brent Spiner is a researcher in Area 51 who gets a little too close to a captured alien.
Honorable Mention: Deep Blue Sea (1999) – When do genetically altered animals, especially sharks, ever work out? Total Recall (1990) – Arnold Schwarzenegger travels to Mars which is under the control of a corrupt (naturally) corporation. Cube (1997) – People with no memory try to escape a deadly prison. Escape from L.A. (1996) – Kurt Russell hams it up as a tough guy in the future. The City of Lost Children (1995) – Fantasy tale of where children’s dreams are stolen. Star Trek: First Contact (1996) – The best of the Star Trek films but still not quite in my top ten for the decade.
Some Big Films I Do Not Like: Star Wars Episode I (1999) – Annoying film from start to finish except for the sword fight. Lost in Space (1998) – Awful film. Godzilla (1998) – Big disappointment. The Puppet Masters (1994) – Great book; horrible adaptation. Sphere (1998) – Dustin Hoffman in a yawner. Men in Black (1997) – Good in parts but an uneven film. The Arrival (1996) – While watching this film I was counting down and waiting for My Departure.