The Most Important Works In Science Fiction

Discussion in 'SciFi & Fantasy' started by Plazma Inferno!, Dec 3, 2015.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    People are making a big distinction between science fiction they liked and science fiction that they consider important.

    Whether I liked a book or a movie is far more important to me than whether the movie is 'important' in some sense that a literature professor might use. (I don't believe that literature professors are all that important.)

    For me, science fiction is a sub-genre of what I think of as imaginative fiction. (Fantasy and supernatural themes are others, along with disasters, actioners that imagine exotic political scenarios and religious films of various sorts. I suppose the historical novels might qualify too.) The common denominator is putting characters in imaginative counter-factual situations different than here-and-now, particularly situations that raise philosophical issues. (That's why the Matrix succeeded.)

    I liked Clarke's 1956 novel The City and the Stars. It was important to me. Besides being the most beautifully written science fiction novel that I've ever read, it was philosophically deep. It was basically about the question 'What does humanity want?' and what might be the implications of actually getting it. The "science" in the novel (the science of a billion years from now) was basically a deus ex machina way of introducing the idea of omnipotence, the idea of being able to accomplish anything. No explanation of how. So in a way it was probably more akin to fantasy than to The Martian-style real science science-fiction. Just no quasi-medieval magical trappings. (The future science of a billion years hence filled the role of magic.)

    But this 1956 novel did succeed in anticipating many of the interests of the early 21st century such as super-human AIs and humans' relationship with them, along with recording and storing human personalities in computer memory so that physical death means nothing, where people are reincarnated over and over into fresh new artificial cloned bodies endlessly for millions of years. The importance (as I see it) is the exploration of the question, What would that do to people? Would these individuals even be entirely human any longer? Having gained so much, what would they have lost?

    That's what the protagonist, the first brand new self to have emerged from the computer memory in a hundred million years, the first individual with a desire to learn rather than to forget, sets out to discover...
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  3. birch Valued Senior Member

    My favourite quote about this film, by film critic mark kermode:

    "Sunshine harks back to a time when sci-fi turned its attention not toward the hallowed teen market but toward the heavens."

    "Sunshine never the got the credit it deserved."

    "This movie is soo underrated it's sickening".

    "Sunshine is a terribly underrated movie"

    "This film is massively underrated"

    "Such an under rated sci-fi movie. One of the best in the last 20 years."

    "Phenomenal score"

    "fantastic scifi movie"

    "the metaphors..."

    "Criminally underrated, its themes are amazingly ambitious and the cast is wonderful"

    "This movie has one of the most beautiful ending scene i have ever seen."

    "So if you wake up in the morning and it's a particularly beautiful day you'll know we made it. OK. I'm signing out."

    " the end of time, a moment will come.. when just one man remains..."

    "Not enough words in this universe can ever exist to describe the true epicness and the beauty of this piece of music."

    "Only dream I ever have." "The surface of the sun?" "Every time I shut my eyes it's always the same." ♥ This is fantastic ♥

    "I don't know why this should get to me, like it does. It makes me cry like a baby. The movie was great and maybe the thought of a small handful of humans, giving it their all to save our small, little blue marble from becoming snowball Earth again, the struggles it took to get them there, it all just pours out of me when I listen to this song. It, the death of everything we know and love, hanging in the balance and the success or failure of the mission makes me yearn for a time when we humans, as a species, leave our stupid and petty differences behind and united, take that first step into the future, as a species. Seeing how divided we are in the US at the present, that thought seems about as distant as a mission to restart the Sun and thereby saving every last living creature on Earth. Sigh."
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
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  5. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Of course. But 2001, as you describe it, set the bar, and thus was more influential than later movies - thus was one of the most important (if not the most important) for movies that concentrate on that trope.. All movies, of course, have _some_ influence, even if it's small.
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  7. billvon Valued Senior Member


    My favorite science fiction movie of all time was Brazil. And while it's arguably Terry Gilliam's best movie, it just wasn't very important or influential. For one thing, it wasn't very popular, due mainly to some studio shenanigans that delayed its release and changed the ending into something nonsensical. (It was also a commentary on the war on terror, and in 1985, that wasn't a big thing.) For another it didn't introduce anything really new onto the cinematic scene. It was just a very well done movie by a great director/writer.

    Compare that to the Star Trek movie series. Not nearly as well done, but Star Trek had a lot more influence overall on the genre of sci-fi than Brazil did.
  8. birch Valued Senior Member

    yes, but even that will probably change one day.
  9. birch Valued Senior Member

    not exactly at all. look at some of the choices by others in the beginning of this thread. some of them can be very much debated.

    don't pretend that all those choices are important or can't be debated as to their importance.

    everyone knows how star trek influenced.
  10. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Sure they can. But again, you have to keep "what I like" separate from "what was important" and "what was influential."
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    If the criterion for a science fiction movie is believable science, then my favorite would have to be 2011's Contagion.

    Watch the trailer here:

    This is the one about a new strain of flu that spreads like the common cold but tends to turn into encephalitis and has a 25-30% mortality rate. It emerges from China and comes back to the US with an airline passenger who soon dies. Matt Damon plays her husband.

    The Center for Disease Control are the movie's heroes and I believe that part of the movie was filmed at the CDC. (The 'level 4 containment facility' in the movie was a real level 4 containment facility.) Parts of the movie were filmed at the WHO in Geneva. A lot of it takes place in Hong Kong and adjacent parts of China.

    I'm somewhat familiar with UC San Francisco's Mission Bay campus and parts of the movie (when a UCSF researcher figures out how to culture the virus in bat cells) were indeed filmed there.

    The beauty of the movie is that real biologists consulted on writing the screen play and the shop talk in the film is what biologists would really say.

    The movie is exceedingly realistic about what might happen as deaths start to multiply. Most of the movie takes place in Minneapolis and I assume that it was really filmed there. We watch increasing concern on TV news, then panic starts to set in as everyone stops going to work and stores begin to be looted. Firefighters fail to report and fires burn unchecked. Police become scarce and people start carrying guns. Calling 911 just gets a recording. Hospitals are overwhelmed.

    Martial law is declared and quarantines are put in effect, victims are buried in mass graves (they run out of body-bags) and military road blocks are put in place. The government retreats from Washington to an 'undislosed secure location'. The military and security types start calling the shots.

    And since it's America, there are the inevitable hustlers trying to get rich selling quack cures.

    Eventually our biologist heroes create a successful vaccine. But even then things only slowly get back to normal since there are limits on how quickly the vaccine can be manufactured. So there's a national lottery by birth-date to determine who gets it on what day.

    At the end several million people are dead in the US and tens of millions worldwide (especially in China where the disease originated).

    The scary thing is that all of this could really happen and it's not a worst-case scenario by any means. In the 14th century, up to half the population died in parts of Europe. There have been recorded epidemics that killed up to 80% of the population on some places.

    The movie dramatizes two simultaneous pandemics. Disease contagion results in mass deaths, while fear contagion results in social breakdown.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
  12. birch Valued Senior Member

  13. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Sort of both; zombie movies sit on that intersection between science fiction (although there isn't much science beyond "there's this infection that makes dead people zombies".) 28 Days, though, has the dubious distinction of bringing the term "fast zombie" to the silver screen. There are now officially two types - the traditional Romero one-step-per-second shambler and the faster-than-real-life monster that first showed up in 28 days, and has since spread to Resident Evil, House of the Dead, World War Z and (lately) Maze Runner.
  14. birch Valued Senior Member


    "Sunshine is unequivocally the best sci-fi movie in a very, very long time. Sunshine cost £20 million. Jerry Bruckheimer and his Hollywood cohorts must be shaking their heads in disbelief. Danny Boyle and Alex Garland, British born and bred, have outdone America's effects laden finest, and at a mere fraction of the price. Armageddon ($140 million) and Pirates of The Caribbean 2 ($225 million) have nothing, nothing on the majestic visuals that Sunshine offers. From the jaw dropping opening sequence to the fantastically realised final moments, Boyle's latest is a mighty treat for the eyes.

    But of course, effects do not make a film. You need only consider the two aforementioned Bruckheimer blowouts for proof. But happily, behind the blinding visuals, Sunshine has a violently beating heart. One that offers absolutely no let up, that gains speed and then gains a little more, before finally threatening cardiac arrest. You can't help but live and breath every moment of the crew's breathless existence.

    The CGI of the sun is extremely impressive, particularly considering the relatively low budget of the film, and the simple but intense story has viewers on the edge of the seat virtually from first act to last.

    Sunshine is, quite simply, brilliant. From the opening sequence - simple yet effective and revealing so much about the character in question - right through to the end.

    Oddly for a sci-fi film, the power isn't in the effects or the sheer fantastic nature of the plot, it's in the people. From scary-eyed Cillian Murphy to pretty-boy Chris Evans, every performance is believable. Their reactions to events are so much more genuine-seeming than in just about every other film I've seen in recent years; be it joy, shock or grief, you can share it with them and this is something that a perfectly-worked score and some very accomplished camera-work add to handsomely.

    Having racked up the tension and intrigued us with the premise, expertly fusing CGI with his own craft work along the way, Boyle's Sunshine lives or dies by it's last quarter; depending on your proclivity of course. It has proved to be a most divisive point with critics and fans alike. To say it's a genre shift accompanied with implausibility is being a touch unkind I feel, this is after all a sci-fi picture about a ship going to reignite the Sun!

    This is not a typical science fiction per se. There are no aliens, no space battles, and no ultra-advanced technology on show. Instead Boyle chooses a more philosophical tangent, leading to questions of exactly what defines humanity, and the value of a single life weighed against the future of mankind.

    This lack of star names, combined with a cast of only the eight crew somehow makes the loneliness and the feeling of being a huge distance from home with a long way to go seem even more real. We really begin to feel with the crew as they try to hold it together long enough to complete their vital mission. Cillian Murphy in particular is a piece of inspired casting, as in many of his roles he has always appeared on the very brink of insanity anyway, so he has the close-to-crazy act down to a tee.

    What you see being played by the characters are studies in Fatalism, Control-Freak, Suicidalness, Madness, Helpless Fear, Cravenness, Cold-heartedness, etc. What will NOT be there will be the standard Hollywood personality staples. As you already know-- Bruce Willis is NOT on board. There are no torrid sex scenes between the standard romantic set-ups. No improbably quirky-cute scenarios. Just people on edge.

    The Backdrop of it all is the fact that Space is not just Lethal-- it's Unforgiving of Mistakes. There is no leeway for design flaws. There's no rescue from Miscalculation. This is Hard-Sci-Fi at it's best. It's Dark.

    On top of this, Danny Boyle also dabbles in existentialism (a little too much if you ask me), making this into one of the most ambitious sci-fi turns ever made. In this way, maybe "Sunshine" is not primed to collect awards or even serve as meat for mainstream Hollywood, but I think it's safe to crown it the "Alien" of the 21st century.

    As such it's remarkably well shot, superbly rendered, occasionally poignant and occasionally flawed. Whatever the case, Sunshine is never far from entirely thrilling, and, all said and done, film recommendations don't come much higher than that.

    I watched this film twice. Both viewings left me with an entirely new experience. This is what I admire about the talented duo of Danny Boyle and Alex Garland. They both envision an entertainment encounter enhanced by a subversive message regarding human issues of today. As an intelligent film, Sunshine provides a slate of questions, which are answered by you, the viewer. There is no wrong way to view this film. It acts like a self-portrait, where the film becomes the paint and you become the painter.

    Sunshine is a religious experience. It is very personal and is a very unique experience to each member of the audience. It is incredible, awe-inspiring, intense, and one of the most beautiful pieces of film I have ever seen. Danny Boyle, Alex Garland and Andrew Macdonald have done it again. A+."


    Yes, yes, yes. Yes, I never said that this film was perfect. It could have changed some casting and parts of the script could have been reworked. I have never viewed a perfect film and think it does not exist. It's a film that could have been released just yesterday as some of the best films in sci-fi genre can attest. It's a film that I invariably come back to and it's as fresh as when I first viewed it. It's quite a taut, adrenaline-pumping film that grabs you by the jugular and your guts as well as your heart and smashes it to pieces, forcing you to evaluate and examine the microcosm of the raw/barest (nitty-gritty) essential motive of survival until the final redemptive end.It deals with the struggle of what it means to be human and the sacrifices and even self-sacrifice that have to me made in excruciating circumstances while trying to maintain your humanity. This film is a dark and ultimately fatalistic human drama out in space which is why it's compelling because real life often has extremely grim endings and along the way it may be brutal, painful, damaging, depressing, ugly and not at all pretty and the only redemption is the philosophical angle/understanding and how much of your humanity you didn't lose/forfeit to the very end. life will test, push and try you to the cruelest, gruesome, inhumane and unfair proportions on earth and out in space. to put it bluntly, how you deal with a situation when you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, you are truly fuked. It's difficult to be detached watching this film.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
  15. birch Valued Senior Member

    yeah, i read the book and liked the concept but i didn't think the film was well-done as it could have potentially been spectacular, depending on what producers and directors are at the helm.
  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    One can argue - if influence on subsequent science fiction is the measure - that no movie so far measures as large as any of several novels, or even short stories.
    And that cinematic presentations of scifi have been derivative, far more influenced than influence, so far. The movies are fifty years behind the books (they haven't caught up to even early Ursula LeGuin, say, RIP ) and it's hard to influence the past.
    That said, there is importance in the influence on large numbers of people, on a wider culture and the common conversation of shared experience, even if the genre moved on long ago. The soundtrack of "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly" may have been an insipid echo of 1880 Borodin musically, may not have had any influence on music, but it did on people. In that vein, we gotta say any list of single SF movies that seem to have altered things the most in the conversations and cultural references - made them different, not just relabelings, and spawned or inspired progeny - would have to include Groundhog Day. That lame-ass little movie has legs.
  17. birch Valued Senior Member


    my main criticism of the film was some of the cast choice. searle was not believable in the role of a ship psychiatrist -at all, not even a humorous one. everything about his character was off for that role, imo. i have no idea why the choice was for the botanist; i don't know what her role was for because she came off robotic, unless she was supposed to represent cold logic but that was filled in with mace. harvey was spot-on cast; so was cappa, the captain, and fairly good/okay choice for rose and benedict, especially his very human guilt and mistake from stress. i'm not sure chris evans was the best role for mace as he was a bit annoying and one-dimensional in the first half until the going got tough in the second, but not the worst choice, i suppose. the coolant scene was dead-on viscerally accurate (painful to watch), excellent acting there. of course, in real life, he would have succumbed to hypothermia sooner. the problem is, all of the crew doesn't come across as the people you would pick for a mission so important as an end of the world scenario, except for a few. granted, at least there are no stereotypical swashbucklers but part of this appeal is the crew comes across as 'regular', humble, unassuming, normal people to convey a sense of the everyday and all of humanity as a whole, so in that aspect it works. the conventional aspects of the crew, with some flaws, to represent society.

    chipo young is breathtaking as the voice of icarus.

    but the pros outweigh the cons, and so these mistakes can be overlooked to focus on the positives.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
  18. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Birch, for the love of whatever deity you might believe in: give it a rest with the love-in for Sunshine. Everyone now is patently aware of how much you like the film, but as I and others have repeatedly been trying to point out to you, there is a distinction between you liking a film and it being important. If you can't discuss why you think it is important to the sci-fi genre (rather than just to you) then either move on to a film that you can discuss, or simply don't post. This is not a thread for the likes/dislikes of any particular film, or in general, but what is considered important.
    Seriously, just stop with repeated comments of praise for Sunshine. We get it. You like it. For once, just discuss the importance of the film to the sci-fi genre. Can you do that? Please?
  19. birch Valued Senior Member

    i was already done with the last post. i think i've already covered it in almost excruciating detail.
  20. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I tried to cast a little doubt on that distinction in post #121.

    What does it mean to say that a novel or film was important? 'Important' how? To whom? Why?

    One criterion might be whether the film was influential, whether it influenced films that came after it. But that's probably of a lot more interest to film majors than it is to me. If a film was crappy (but lucrative) like a lot of the recent comic book movies, is it 'important' just because a lot of other studios copied it with comic book movies of their own?

    Another criterion is whether a film captured a cultural moment like '2001' did with its space airliners, its moon bases and its big rotating space station. That was important because it was precisely what many of us in the late 1960s expected the future to look like. Again, that's probably of most interest to cultural historians. (The failure of the future to arrive as promised is one of the great disappointments of my life. All I ended up getting was shitty little cell-phone.)

    Really, the primary thing that makes me me think that science-fiction books and movies are important is whether they grapple with big conceptual themes. First-contact (encounters with superior beings perhaps or beings with significantly different psychologies), mankind's ultimate destiny, the secrets of the universe, transcendence... stuff like that. 'Cosmic' themes that approach the science/metaphysics/religion nexus. I like science-fiction that explores a philosophical issue a little and leaves me thinking afterwards.

    But having said that, I'm not convinced that 'important' represents a more objective quality than whether or not I happened to like the book or film. Films and novels don't possess 'importance' like a hunk of metal possesses mass. It's more evaluative than that.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
  21. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    That seems to be the understanding that most here have taken and are looking to discuss.
    It is, in my view, also the most obvious understanding of the term.
    Had the thread been simply to discuss what we liked about certain films, I believe different language would have been used.
    And to others.
    If you're not interested in it then you have the option of not posting, of course.
    You could decide to simply keep asserting that you liked a certain film, and repeat what you liked about it, without ever actually trying to detail why it should be considered important to the genre.
    But that seems like trolling, given the understanding most have of the purpose of the thread.
    To an extent, yes.
    To the extent that it established that the majority of film goers would prefer a certain type of film.
    In that regard the original "X-Men" film can be considered highly important to sci-fi cinema as it set the tone, the style, for super-hero films that followed.
    Whether one considers the film "crappy" or not, one can not deny the importance to sci-fi cinema over the past 17+ years.

    However, I do believe this thread is rather focussed on cinema, whereas the vast majority of important sci-fi works are in written form, with the cinema really just putting that into a certain vision.
    But if one's only exposure to sci-fi is through cinema then that is fair enough, I guess.

    Still, going on and on about a single film without ever even trying to justify one's view of why it should be considered an important film to the genre, rather than just to one's self, does seem (to me) at odds to the thread purpose.
  22. psikeyhackr Live Long and Suffer Valued Senior Member

    Now that is funny! A two-year gap after my last post. I didn't recall it until I searched on 'Wells'.
  23. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I believe that the concept of AI as the next generation of computers is "important"!

    In fact if I could find 5 people who would be willing to invest $1000, I'll match it with $5000 of my own, and invest it in a diversified AI stock portfolio. From what I have read and from discussion here on SF, I am confident that this will be the future and not too far away.

    Hawking predicts it is the next boom and may be responsible for a 20 trillion dollar industry, similar to the time Microsoft and Apple were still working in their garages and now dominate every facet of our lives and industries.

    AI (learning computers) will be the most important step in the computer industry since the computer itself, now that they have solved the problem of vertical processors and Moore's law can continue its predictions.

    Anyone interested?
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018

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