Introduction to the Sci-Fi Face-Off:
Science fiction is perhaps the most broadly engaging movie genre because it can do what every other genre does and even elevate the types of stories and plots which emerge naturally from those genres. For example, a science fiction pretext can easily facilitate and justify the most spectacular of action bonanzas as in the case of Aliens, The Terminator, Mad Max, The Road warrior, The Matrix, or Predator. The concepts which science fiction teases apart, extrapolates, and hypothesise around are intrinsically exciting to behold and so many a thriller (e.g., Total Recall, The Running Man, etc) has had its ability to thrill bolstered even before the plot begins to emerge. Science Fiction provides the context for some of the best horror stories because it intuitively works on a primal, visceral, and/or unconscious level. Thus, thanks to sci-fi, we have Alien, The Thing, The Fly and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 & 1978). Even the conventions which inform the fantasy and adventure genres are core conventions of science fiction and so some of the very best fantasy (The Empire Strikes Back, Brazil) and adventure (Planet of the Apes) have naturally arisen out straight-shooting sci-fi premises. Of course, the absurd has always prompted and even necessitated laughter and so far-flung science fiction can facilitate great comedy. No surprise then that some of our most sophisticated comedies like Repo Man and Brazil have hailed from the science fiction quarter. For similar reasons, sci-fi and satire make great bedfellows as one informs the other. RoboCop, Escape From New York, and They Live are testament to this. Even the most straight-laced genre, the drama, offers a platform on which social and political issues (Gattaca) and subjective, personal, and human themes (Moon) can be laid out, decontextualised, and explored from a more objective standpoint. Finally, not only does science fiction provide the basis for some of the best visceral and emotional engagement but it seems unrivaled in its ability to intellectually engage. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dark City, Solaris (1972), and Blade Runner have stimulated and framed the most profound philosophical, existential, and conceptual contemplation and have, therefore, substantially helped the cinematic medium to compete with any other art form.
Science fiction is, therefore, as varied a genre as there is because its scope bridges the full range of cinematic story telling. However, with so much scope and variety, the question arises as to what feature of science fiction we value the most. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey may be peerless in their construction and ability to affect us on an intellectual level but does that really rival the visceral thrills of Alien or The Road Warrior? I for one couldn’t possibly say which type of science fiction I prefer or value the most, at least not explicitly. However, a base level of preference does reveal itself when it comes to choosing one movie over the other.
This is the question that I hope the sci-fi face off will help answer. By getting people to cut through the different kinds of values we attribute to the various films of the genre and tap that most essential quality of preference.
Note: I have omitted certain films such as Dark City, Ghost in the Shell, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Metropolis, Primer, A Scanner Darkly, & Solaris (1972) because I feel not enough people have seen them. Including them would preclude a lot of visitors from contributing to their Face-Offs.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) vs Planet of the Apes
The Empire Strikes Back vs Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes vs Predator
The Matrix vs Moon
Brazil vs The Empire Strikes Back
Moon vs Planet of the Apes
Mad Max 2: The Road warrior vs The Matrix
The Empire Strikes Back vs Escape From New York
Blade Runner vs Brazil
Sci-Fi Genre Set – Provisionally Ranked After 2 Rounds of Face-Offs
(note: these provisional rankings merely show the trend in voting after the first 2 rounds. As these rankings are the result of only a partial cross-comparison (2 rounds), they are not indicative of what the final rankings will be. For instance, some films will have had 2 difficult face-offs & some will have had 2 easy face-offs. Furthermore, all the face-offs opened in the first 2 rounds will remain open until every film has been faced-off with every other film, so even these provisional scores will continue to change. So keep voting!)
The Empire Strikes Back – 266
Moon – 250
Alien v- 210
Blade Runner -193
Planet of the Apes – 170
2001: A Space Odyssey – 168
Mad Max – 152
Predator – 148
Aliens – 142
The Fly – 139
The Terminator – 82
Gattaca – 74
RoboCop – 72
The Matrix – 58
Brazil – 57