The last few years have seen the return of science fiction cinema in a big way. Not since the early 80′s have there seemingly been so many sci-fi movies released in such a short time. Movies like Avatar have set box office records, and visionary directors such as Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuaron, and Guillermo Del Toro have turned to the genre as a way to tell their stories.
Although not as prevalent before about 2009, science fiction has been fairly well represented at the movies ever since the turn of the century, with the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix bringing more attention to the genre.
Even though many of the sci-fi movies released this year have been disappointing either critically or financially, there are many potentially fascinating examples of the genre left to come in the next few months and years.
Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity has received significant pre-release buzz, celebrated cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut Transcendence comes out early next year with one of the most interesting plot ideas in quite a while, and Christopher Nolan’s potentially groundbreaking Interstellar looms over almost every movie coming out in 2014. Many other projects are sure to come out over the next few years, hopefully continuing sci-fi’s second golden age.
What constitutes science fiction is up for debate but generally, I would list the prerequisites as being something that either depicts a future society, advanced technology, or uses a technical or scientific idea as a springboard to tell a story.
For this list, movies that contained elements of science fiction, but primarily belonged to a different genre were not considered, which is why no superhero movies appear and great films such as The Prestige, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Fountain are not listed even though they are better than many of the movies on here.
20. Pitch Black
It’s cheap, derivative, uninspired, and certainly did not need an overblown sequel, but Pitch Black is one of the more underrated sci-fi films of the millennium so far.
When a cargo ship carrying the notorious criminal Riddick crashes on an uninhabited world, Vin Diesel’s hulking criminal escapes, much to the chagrin of the crew. However, after the dark secret of the planet is revealed, Riddick must join forces with the other survivors to have a chance at escaping the planet alive.
Pitch Black, while hardly a masterpiece, is a surprisingly clever film that has an unexpected number of ideas for what is essentially a B-movie. Vin Diesel plays the role he was born to as Riddick, a killer who shows no fear, empathy, or emotion, and the bleak landscape of the film sets just the right tone.
Sure, the special effects are pretty poor and there’s nothing particularly original about any aspect of it, but Pitch Black is a well executed, above average horror/action/sci-fi film that is just good enough to crack this list.
This article was first posted on September 1, 2013