Sunday, September 18, 2011

Top Five Sci-Fi Movies from the 90's

I wanted to do a sequel to my previous post Top Five 80s Fantasy Movies, this time about the nineties.  Only problem is that there weren't many true fantasy movies that decade.  Certainly very few in the style of Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, or Lord of the Rings, the kind of sword and sorcery fantasy that many of us grew up with.

The 90's was very much a sci-fi decade.  The technological advances which began revolutionizing life (Internet, email, the World Wide Web) may have had something to do with this sea change.  As it is, there were far too many ace Sci-Fi movies in the 90s to limit ourselves strictly to a top five, so I've got a few honorable mentions as well.

There are a few guiding principles that I used to narrow down the population of classic 90's sci-fi films.
  • Groundbreaking Special Effects
  • Intelligent Plot (Not a Michael Bay Movie explosion fest with poor acting and writing)
  • Rewatchability (Can a child of today watch this movie and enjoy it?)

5. eXistenZ - 1999
 David Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors, and this movie is no exception to his excellent reputation "mind-frack" movies.  This film questions the nature of reality and really keeps forcing you to revise your assessment of where it's going.  All the people who have watched this movie will understand when I say the restaurant scene is both very gross and rather awesome at the same time.  Sadly many people haven't even heard of this movie.  It had the misfortune to be released a month after The Matrix was released.

4. 12 Monkeys - 12 Monkeys - 1995

You wouldn't expect this convoluted movie to have come from one of the members of Monty Python.  Director Terry Gilliam keeps the audience guessing with a non-linear plot, hallucinations for the protagonist, and a disturbingly convincing Brad Pitt as a mental asylum patient in a decidedly non-pretty-boy role which presaged his success in Fight Club four years later.  You'll probably have to watch this one a few times, and make sure you're sober.  Probably the most philosophical film of the list, dealing with noetics, time travel, memory and future-self causation, this film was way before its time.

And now, the Top Three:
At this point the ranking system begins to break down.  Is it fair to compare the effects in The Matrix to those in T2, seeing as they're separated by almost a decade during a time when special effects were improving at an exponential rate?  I consider the top three films on the list to all be tied for first place.

3. The Matrix - 1999
Let's just point out that I grew up on Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (and Bogus Journey).  This is not the type of role you would have expected from him at the time.  The turn from goofy character actor to deadpan apathetic loner was surprising, even though he seems to have gotten stuck in that role since.

This film made such an impact on the world that it's hard to imagine it was over 12 years ago that it first hit the cinemas and blew us all away.  This was the first time I'd seen Keanu Reeves in a movie since Point Break. Whatever your opinion of the sequels, (I like them, but they don't have near the impact of the first one).  The effects were incredible.  Quickly count up the number of films that have used "bullet time" since 1999.  Yeah, you've probably run out of fingers already.  And The Matrix wasn't the first film to use the effect, being beaten by both Blade and several John Woo movies.  But mention "bullet time(Warner Bros Registered Trademark) and everyone immediately thinks of The Matrix.  That's how big of an impact this film had.  It's cyber punk, it had lots of tight leather (yum), awesome effects, and a kick-ass soundtrack.

2. Jurassic Park - 1993
I have always loved Dinosaurs.  As a kid I collected dinosaur magazines and tried to build those dinosaur models.  It was cool to see dinosaurs portrayed realistically and bloody terrifying on the big screen.  I was always destined to love Jurassic Park.  All that aside, it's a Stephen Spielberg film adapted from a Michael Crichton book... instant points, they're both genius!  The effects might not be perfect today, but I was 14 when this hit the cinemas, and it was EPIC.  I never, ever see a movie in the cinema twice.  I broke my own cardinal rule for this one.  Plus, the guy being eaten on the toilet was awesome, guaranteed laughs. 

1. Terminator 2 - Judgment Day - 1991

I fancied the pants off Edward Furlong, which makes me feel slightly wrong today, but at the time, when I was 12, he was a total BABE.
Moving on: This film breaks the rule that sequels always suck compared to the original. This film trumps the original Terminator in almost every way.
  • Less bad hair/80s clothing, 
  • Faster Pace because there's less exposition needed, they get right into it and start blowing stuff up
  • Being able to root for Arnie this time
  • Fast vehicles 
  • Big explosions

Watching the T-800 obliterate a bunch of cop cars without actually terminating anyone (because John Connor told him not to) was an awesome scene that will stick with me forever, even if John Connor was woefully naive to do so (but hey, it was the 90s, killing people was bad.)  Arnie has the same kill rate in this movie as the entire cast of the A-Team, ever (0).  And yet we love him for it.

T-800: "I swear I will not kill anyone...." (shoots guard in both knees) "He'll live"

Honorable Mentions

Dark City 1998
This film blends neo noir styling with a sci fi plot.  It's difficult to explain without giving away too much, but this film made black trenchcoats cool before The Matrix.  Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Rufus Sewall (lately seen in Pillars of the Earth) and the brilliant Richard O'Brien (Rif-Raf from Rocky Horror Picture Show).

Stargate 1994
The precursor to the series beloved by geeks everywhere, this film plays into the classic trope that Aliens built the pyramids.  Plus it involves space travel without long, boring starship flights.  Despite the presence of James Spader, this one is worth a watch.

Men in Black 1997
With more of a campy, humorous tone than many of the other films on this list, Men in Black is great family fun, and it doesn't take itself too seriously.  It parodies and references many other alien themes, and the combination of wise-cracking Will Smith and stoic Tommy Lee Jones makes this one a winner.

Tank Girl 1995
This little known cult film, based on a British punk comic, is just hilarious and fun.  Don't take it too seriously, and you'll enjoy yourself.  Ice-T as a mutant kangaroo, Lori Petty as the eponymous main character: Wardrobe: A riot grrl version of Madonna, lots of one-liners, and a fully customized riot makes this one a guilty comedy pleasure.

No comments:

Post a Comment