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My Top 5 Favorite Sci-Fi Movies

My Top 5 Favorite Sci-Fi Movies

I was going through my hard drive and found that some movies I had stored there needed a dedicated review. These were sci-fi movies and their release dates stretched to the end of time!

However, I managed to gather movies within a few decades of the current date and have talked about what I liked best about them.

Every one of you probably has a list of top 5 movies, so here are my top 5 favorite sci-fi movies.

My favorite sci-fi movie 1. The Fifth Element (1997)

One of the weirdest science fiction movies I have watched to date, The Fifth Element feels more like a rollercoaster ride than a movie. The movie starts with aliens known as the Mondoshawans visiting an ancient Egyptian temple in the 20th century to retrieve a powerful weapon. The weapon is meant to counter pre-historic evil that resurfaces every 5000 years. It is made of elemental stones representing Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind.

Cut to 2263 AD where a Mondoshawan ship is ambushed by an alien race of mercenaries named Mangalores. Before going further, I wonder what inspired the name for the mercenary race considering I live in a city named Bangalore which is close to a city named Mangalore in the state of Karnataka.

The Mangalore Aliens in The Fifth Element Movie

Humans, ever the clever innovators, salvage the crash where they find the hand of a super-being covered in armor. People from the military then reverse bioengineer the being in New York. Milia Jojovich plays Leeloo, the being that was genetically engineered from alien DNA to be perfect, basically a god.

Leeloo being created in the genetic cradle in the fifth Element movie

Taxi-cab driver Korben Dallas plays Bruce Willis whose life gets suddenly interesting when a genetically engineered god drops into his cab. Korben is a former major in the special forces unit of Earth, who makes a living driving cans.

Let's take a beat here to acknowledge that most fictional people in the military who are decorated soldiers and leaders take up terrible blue-collar jobs as a civilian. I mean Sylvester Stallone as Rambo faced the same problem with meaningful employment.

Is this a satire on how war heroes never receive their due when they rotate back into society? I mean in these movies people need to save the world or a hell lot of people just to get recognized again.

Korben Dallas' cab in the fifth Element movie

Koben Dallas, when pulled over by the cops in their floating cars, takes a call and zips outta there with Leeloo in tow. Next Korben delivers Leeloo to priests of the ancient order that know about the Mondoshawans.

Chris Tucker and Bruce Willis in the fifth Element movie

What follows is Korben going undercover as the winner of a cruise to retrieve the stones along with Leeloo. This is where we are introduced to Chris Tucker's comedic chops as the eccentric radio host named Ruby Rhod. Chris Tucker is a major selling point for the movie as Ruby Rod, who is forever scared, a bit crazy, and very very talkative.

Zorg Industries in the fifth Element movie

The end is a little predictable in retrospect, but still is enjoyable with great special and practical effects. I loved the branding for the evil corporation named Zorg Industries so much that I ordered a T-shirt with its brand name.

No one ever talks about this movie - and it bothers me. One of the best movies out there with the surface theme of sci-fi, Gattaca will always be a movie that is relevant.

Gattaca as a movie is driven by plot more than anything else. There are no grandiose CGI or practical effects, except for the ones that are absolutely essential. In a future society that favors eugenics, parents get to pick and choose the genes they want in their child.

Plot of Gattaca

The main plot itself is a social commentary on discrimination, which according to Ethan Hawke who plays Vincent says " Discrimination is now down to a science." The subplot of this movie and the underlying theme is hope, resilience, and hard work.

Vincent and Anton were born to Marie and Antonio a few years apart. While Vincent is conceived in the the conventional way without genetic manipulation, Anton is as their geneticist says "Simply the best of you as a couple."

While Vincent has lofty dreams of traveling into space, his parents and Anton both tell him to be more realistic. As a harmless form of sibling rivalry, both Vincent and Anton play chicken where each one swims as far away from the shore as possible. The one who stops swimming earlier to return to the shore loses.

On the day before Vincent runs away from home, he plays chicken with Anton one last time. That day, as Vincent says "was very different." Whenever Anton tried to pull away by swimming faster, Vincent was right next to him. That was the one day that Vincent was not as weak as he thought and Anton not as strong. It was the day as Vincent says made everything else possible.

This whole movie is filled with amazing writing that is closer to philosophy than actual screenwriting. Next, Vincent tries to find employment in his chosen field but gets turned down due to genetic discrimination. Until one day he employs the services of an unscrupulous man to fake his identity as a vitro or a genetically perfect being.

The process of transformation is painful and is studded with beautiful sayings and multi-level metaphors that simply have to be seen in context.

The end sees Vincent repeat the swimming race and win again, and when asked by Anton how he is doing this he says something iconic. "I never saved anything for the swim back." Vincent would sooner give up his life than acquiesce to physical constraints, which is how he found the strength to build his life with the resources available.

Themes in Gattaca

Gattaca's underlying message is complex and open to interpretation. However, its core theme remains relevant in today's world, where advancements in genetics raise ethical concerns about the potential manipulation of human life. The film encourages us to consider the importance of free will, individuality, and human connection in a world increasingly shaped by technology and scientific progress.

Genetic discrimination: In Gattaca's dystopian future, individuals conceived naturally are considered "Invalids" and face systemic discrimination in every aspect of life, from employment to healthcare. This starkly highlights the dangers of a society that prioritizes predetermined potential over individual choice and effort.

Fate and Free will: The protagonist, Vincent, is a "natural" who defies his genetic limitations and embarks on a journey to fulfill his dream of space travel. His struggle personifies the human spirit's ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable limitations and carve its path.

In the neo-noir sci-fi thriller "Dark City," John Murdoch played by Rufus Sewell awakens with amnesia in a strange city. This place is shrouded in perpetual night and ruled by shadowy figures known as the Strangers. As he desperately searches for answers about his identity and a series of grisly murders, John uncovers a startling truth: the city itself is a living experiment, its inhabitants mere constructs manipulated by the Strangers.

The spaceship in Dark City movie

This movie reminds me of Apple Computer's ad where it pokes fun at Microsoft computers. Its premise is that the world is going on the path to becoming the one in George Orwell's dystopia. Im sure Alex Pryos who directed this movie was inspired by this ad sufficiently considering how similar the visuals look.

The film's visual style is a breathtaking fusion of Expressionist architecture, noir lighting, and CGI wizardry. Buildings bleed and morph, streets twist and turn, and memories become unreliable. This constant flux of reality creates a palpable sense of unease, keeping you on the edge of your seat as John desperately tries to piece together his fractured identity.

Beyond the visual spectacle, Dark City grapples with profound questions about the nature of reality, free will, and the power of memory. Are we truly in control of our own destinies, or are we merely puppets manipulated by unseen forces? The film offers no easy answers, instead inviting viewers to ponder these existential questions alongside John.

The stellar cast brings the film's enigmatic characters to life. Sewell delivers a captivating performance as John, his confusion and desperation palpable on screen. Jennifer Connelly shines as Emma, a woman with a mysterious connection to John, while William Hurt exudes chilling authority as the enigmatic Stranger leader.

Dark City may not have been a box-office smash upon release, but it has since garnered a cult following and critical acclaim. Its unique blend of genres, thought-provoking themes, and stunning visuals have cemented its place as a modern sci-fi classic.

So, if you're looking for a film that will challenge your perception of reality, keep you guessing until the very end, and leave you pondering its mysteries long after the credits roll, then dive into the shadows of Dark City. You won't regret it.

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One of the best movies out there - regardless of genre is The Prestige. Usually when you are watching a movie your mind forms a basic framework for what to expect such as sci-fi, horror or murder mystery or drama. When you forget these expectations completely and open up to the possibility of anything while watching the same the movie is going to be fantastic.

Half hour into The Prestige, I completely forgot about what I was expecting to happen and was gripped by the narrative. I just wanted to know what would happen next. But make no mistake, this movie does fall clearly into the realm of science fiction, and rightfully so.

Plot of The Prestige

Two new magicians, Alfred Borden and Robert Angier played by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman respectively work for a magician as audience plants. Borden and Jackman turn rivals after Angier's girlfriend Julia McCullough is killed during a water escape trick. While Angier insists it was Borden's fault due to the knot he tied, Borden says he doesnt remember what knot he tied.

This is where the plot gets interesting as each magician tried to sabotage the other's act by showing up as volunteers. Things get progrssively more dangerous as Angier shoots off Borden's fingers, and Borden retaliates by getting Angier's audience injured in a trick.

Things come to a head when Angier is blown away by Borden's "The Transported Man" trick, and becomes obssessed with doing it himself. When all this is happening, John Cutter played by Michael Caine, is by Angier's side, telling him to drop his obsession and that Borden used a double.

Angier however settles for the body double approach to present Borden's trick in a flashier way, leading to full houses. This doesn't fulfill Angier as the double receives all the applause while Angier himself takes his bow below the stage, after falling through a trapdoor.

To ensure that Angier gets to do the trick in real life, he approaches Nikola Tesla who was the snake-oil salesman of his time although time has proven this wrong on every level.

Tesla's whole aura is mysterious right down to the point of mysticism and real magic. Considering Tesla's achievements, this portrayal is well-deserved indeed, with the audience feeling intrigued, titillated, and also scared.

After an unreasonably long time for Angier, he receives a machine from Tesla that apparently teleports anything from one place to another. Angier becomes a huge hit, and picks up significant wealth along the way using this machine.

Still being unsatisfied with his station in life and seeing Borden's happy life as a family man, Angier begins scheming again. He sends out his girlfriend Olivia Wenscombe to spy on Borden can steal his his journal. This hits a dead end.

Angier ends up framing Borden for his murder by tricking him into being backstage during one of his machine-powered teleportation tricks. What follows is spooky and even more entertaining.

The only other time I was this engrossed in a movie was during Endgame when Professor Hulk was about to snap his fingers.

Themes in The Prestige

The Prestige isn't a simple movie by any stretch of the imagination. Every character in this movie is fleshed out thoroughly and has nuances to their persona.

Angier is consumed by grief and anger that plays out as disruptive pranks and even kidnapping someone close to Borden. Next, he is gripped by envy and jealousy at Borden's life and spangly new trick. When Angier gains something superior to Borden's trick, he becomes drunk on power and does self-destructive things.

Coming to Borden's perspective, while he just wants a simple life with his wife and child, his methods to achieve the same make his life needlessly complicated. He is the simple and hardworking type.

You can see the characters of the magicians in the way they put up their acts as well. According to John Cutter, Angier is a much better showman and can draw crowds, being into pomp and show. While Borden is a simple man, therefore even when he has a great idea for a trick he fails to draw big crowds with his presentation style.

As far as sci-fi movies go, District 9 is on a whole other level entirely. Just the plot of the movie alone deserves a great deal of recognition, while addressing human issues at the same time.

District 9 Movie Poster

District 9 is set in an alternate version of Earth where aliens have crash landed on Earth in 1982 over Johannesberg, South Africa. Over time, the South African government create a seperate camp to section off the aliens called District 9. This is directly inspired from the District 6 event where people who were not white were forcibly removed from their homes to make room for a whites only area.

The prawn spaceship in District 9

The aliens who resemble marine life who are found in their spaceship at first are malnourished and needing help. These aliens are called "Prawns" in a derogatory manner, echoing various biases we as humans hold agianst our own. This can be Xenophobia, racism, socio-economic prejudices and more ugly stuff.

To reduce the unrest, the SA government hires Multinational United (MNU) who are a popular weapons manufacturer. A shy and passive MNU officer Wikus Van De Merve played by Sharlto Copley is hired to help relocate the aliens to a new site. Wikus gets into a lot of trouble when tries he to evict an alien named Christopher Johnson and his son.

Wikus accidentally gets contaminated by the alien's spaceship fuel he begins transforming into the alien lifeform. What follows is a mesmerizing plot twist where Wikus needs to work with the alien to turn back into a human.

There are so many references to human atrocities in this movie and so many meta moments that it would make sense just to watch the movie. That being said, District 9 details how ugly a human being can get when the situation goes bad.

Also, you can see that the human spirit endures the hardest of winters provided it is fueled by hope. The last scene of this movie is particularly beautiful where Wikus as a prawn builds his wife a rose out of scrap metal from a soda can and leaves it at her doorstep. This is in equal parts melancholic and hopeful as the wife knows immediately that the metal rose is from her husband, while also knowing that he might be dead by now.

What you can see is the hope in Wikus' eyes which never fades, even when he is completely transformed into a prawn. While you can't make out the expressions on his face as a prawn, the fact that he still can experience longing and love is evident from the rose he makes.

Why is District 9 a must-watch?

While District 9 draws heavily on real-life situations like apartheid and refugee crises, its meaningfulness transcends those specific contexts. Here are some ways the film remains impactful even without the real-world parallels:

Alien Relocation camp in District 9 movie

Universal themes of discrimination: The film explores themes of prejudice, dehumanization, and othering through the lens of alien refugees trapped in a slum. Wikus's gradual transformation into an alien and his connection with Christopher bridge the gap between species, urging viewers to question societal divisions and empathize with the marginalized.

Critique of power dynamics: District 9 criticizes the exploitation of vulnerable groups by powerful entities. The MNU's control over the Prawns and the use of their technology for corporate gain mirror real-world power imbalances and resource extraction. The film prompts viewers to question systems of oppression and exploitation, regardless of the specific context.

Wikus Van De Merve played by Sharlto Copley in District 9

Exploration of identity: Wikus's physical and psychological transformation into an alien forces him to confront his own identity and grapple with notions of belonging. This struggle resonates with viewers facing challenges to their own identities and sense of place, regardless of their background.

Humanity: Despite its sci-fi setting, District 9 uses gritty, found-footage style filmmaking to create a sense of realism and immediacy. The Prawns are depicted with complex emotions and motivations, making them relatable even with their alien appearance. This focus on human connection and emotional depth transcends the fantastical elements.

Timeless social commentary: The film's critique of xenophobia, corporate greed, and government overreach remains relevant even years after its release. These themes resonate with contemporary issues like immigration debates, environmental exploitation, and surveillance.

Therefore, while District 9 draws on real-world situations for inspiration, its impactful themes of empathy, social critique, identity exploration, and emotional depth transcend those specific contexts, making it a meaningful film for audiences across cultures and generations.

Remember, these are just some potential interpretations. The beauty of art lies in its ability to spark individual reflection and discover meaning, so feel free to explore your own interpretations of District 9 and its relevance in your life.

When a movie makes you think about your life and those around you, it is not to be taken lightly. Movies such as District 9 transcend any specific context and can be universally applied to socio-political scenarios globally. Such cinema is not made just for entertainment, but to educate and inform and as such should be encouraged.

The only other time I have watched such films is at the Bangalore International Film Festival. There were so many movies with amazing direction, highly meaningful plots, and amazing cinematography. What is sad is that I had never heard of such movies before, even though people keep making them around the world.

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