Despite the fact that we have the likes of 2001, Brazil, The Matrix and Inception in the bag, many critics look down on science fiction. Since time immemorial, sci-fi has been plagued by the fact that it is seen as 'genre fiction' and therefore not up to the task of serious cinema – a viewpoint exacerbated by the recent influx (by film history's measure) of conceptually and cinematically hollow Marvel and DC films.
And yet, science fiction is one of the richest genres out there precisely because it offers endless opportunities to turn political and social commentary into reality, and muse in a million ways on the human condition. Though this is far from always being the case: Oftentimes, the humble sci-fi movie exists to entertain us, providing visuals, characters, settings and scenarios that we could hitherto only have dreamed of.
Many such films go on to make a ton of money, become bona fide classics and even win Academy Awards (which are judged by the Academy's film industry professionals), in spite of the fact that the majority of critics panned them. So, whether its their cult status, their franchise building abilities or their home media success, here are 10 films that flipped the critics the bird and did it their own way.
10. The Fifth Element
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score: 71%
Metacritic Score: 52
Luc Besson has not had an easy run from critics throughout his career, and yet every film he makes contains a vibrant and kinetic auteur energy that is impossible to deny. There is perhaps no better example of this than The Fifth Element (1997). Despite a strong response from audiences, critics were very much split, and tended towards the negative in their appraisal of the film.
The first reviews out the gate were generally unfavourable, taking aim at the film's overblown, sometimes slapstick style, centring on Chris Tucker's performance as the loud, camp intergalactic radio host Ruby Rhod and working outwards from there.
Yet, it went on to become a commercial success – the best-selling French film at the international box office until 2011's Intouchables, in fact – and a cult film to boot, revered by fans of the genre to this day.
The Fifth Element inspired such a sea-change that it gradually won critics around post-release, as both they and the fans came to understand and appreciate the film's eccentric stylings. Yet, while critics now regard the film in a generally positive light, they have still yet to fully appreciate it on the same level as its dedicated fanbase.