Monday, June 10, 2002

Science Fiction's greatest honored in the OFCS's first top 100 movies list

June 10, 2002

I have usually considered myself a less-than-cooperative participant in the past to vote-ins associated with lists like the "100 best or worst of the century," but when it came to my attention that the Online Film Critics Society, a gathering of more than a hundred professional (and influential) film critics which I happen to be part of, was putting together a list of the greatest Science Fiction movies ever made, something in the darkest corner of my mind jump-started an engine of enthusiasm. Each of us group members were asked to submit a list of our favorite 25 sci-fi endeavors, all of which would be tallied and combined to a final list of 100. A simple request like this might have easily gone over the head of a busy critic, but the society's governing committee persisted in getting everyone's contributions, sending out e-mail reminders at a pace that would only add weight to the importance of participation. For the society as a whole, everyone's involvement would have sent a message about how deeply everyone cared about the group they were affiliated with. But coming through on these requests was only partly about participating as a team; for some of us, like myself, it was more about the opportunity to connect with a specific division of cinema that is often the gateway for the biggest and brightest imaginations.

Think for a moment about what defines science fiction. Is it simply about sensationalism? Or is there an organic element somewhere deep within that anchors our intrigue? Does it have to be dark? Can it be a silent film or a musical? The answers all point to individual interpretation, but the wisest experts in the field will tell you that any question you ask regarding the genre is bound to wind up with a "yes" reply. This is a realm of moviemaking that is seeped in elasticity; it baffles, provokes, frustrates and intrigues to the point of obsession. Lines are drawn simply to be broken, and the foundation of an idea can often spread into new and exciting realms of reasoning.

With these concepts constantly fresh in the mind, I swallowed any possible ounce of refusal and gave in to the group's requests. Immediate difficulty, however, rose from this inquiry: how does one make a fair assessment of science fiction in a list of 25 with so many possible angles to choose from? The key seems to be in the diversity of choices, which allows us to emphasize several areas of the genre independently under one giant umbrella. Of course, it would be easy to simply slam space epics like "Star Wars" on a list and call it a day, but where does that leave everything else? Science Fiction offers us more than we realize; we should take it up on all its offers.

My final list attempts to balance the best of all worlds, although it may not be the most accurate reflection of what most industry analysts would vote as the greatest (none of the "Star Wars" films, for instance, received a personal mention). How did individual choices manage in the final list? 19 of my 25 selections made much-deserved appearances. Here are the respective results...

THE OFCS's TOP 100 GREATEST SCI-FI FILMS (in reverse order):
Of all the votes counted during the process, the most constant #1 choice among voters was the only obvious choice: Stanley Kubrick's unforgettable "2001: A Space Odyssey," which redefined the essence of the genre in the late 1960s. Obligatory follow-ups were made by "Blade Runner" and the very first "Star Wars" feature, but big surprises were made as films like "Dark City," "Back to the Future" and "A Clockwork Orange" made it into the final top 20. Movies like "Forbidden Planet," "Tron" and "Night of the Living Dead," meanwhile, settled for lower placements despite largely devoted followings. The most curious entries: "Highlander" at number 95, "Men in Black" at 92, "Starship Troopers" at 62, "Independence Day" at 49, "Contact" at 20 and "Aliens" at 11. All a small price to pay, I guess, for a handful of opinionated movie reviewers participating in a democratic vote.

100. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
99. Slaughterhouse Five (1973)
98. Escape from New York (1981)
97. Time After Time (1979)
96. Andromeda Strain, The (1971)
95. Highlander (1986)
94. Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (1975)
93. Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The (1984)
92. Men In Black (1997)
91. Fantastic Planet (1973)
90. Until the End of the World (1991)
89. Village of the Damned (1960)
88. Starman (1984)
87. Seconds (1966)
86. THX 1138 (1970)
85. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
84. Open Your Eyes (1997)
83. Total Recall (1990)
82. Silent Running (1971)
81. On the Beach (1959)
80. Invaders from Mars (1953)
79. eXistenZ (1999)
78. Time Bandits (1981)
77. Akira (1988)
76. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
75. Dead Zone, The (1983)
74. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
73. Fantastic Voyage (1966)
72. Cell, The (2000)
71. Mad Max (1979)
70. Sleeper (1973)
69. Things to Come (1936)
68. They Live (1988)
67. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
66. Quatermass and the Pit (a.k.a. Five Million Years To Earth) (1967)
65. Strange Days (1995)
64. Superman: The Movie (1978)
63. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
62. Starship Troopers (1997)
61. Man Who Fell to Earth, The (1976)
60. Them! (1954)
59. Tron (1982)
58. Thing From Another World, The (1951)
57. Fifth Element, The (1997)
56. Stalker (1979)
55. Ghostbusters (1984)
54. Trip to the Moon, A (1902)
53. Altered States (1980) (1)
52. Gattaca (1997)
51. Invisible Man, The (1933)
50. City of Lost Children, The (1995)
49. Independence Day (1996)
48. War of The Worlds, The (1953) (1)
47. Jacob's Ladder (1990)
46. Time Machine, The (1960)
45. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
44. Fly, The (1986)
43. Pi (1998)
42. Videodrome (1983)
41. Truman Show, The (1998)
40. Incredible Shrinking Man, The
39. Frankenstein (1931)
38. Iron Giant, The (1999)
37. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
36. Donnie Darko (2001)
35. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
34. Alphaville (1965)
33. Abyss, The (1989)
32. Forbidden Planet (1956)
31. Robocop (1987)
30. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
29. Jurassic Park (1993)
28. Thing, The (1982)
27. Road Warrior, The (1981)
26. Solaris (1972)
25. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
24. La Jetee (1962)
23. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
22. King Kong (1933)
21. 12 Monkeys (1995)
20. Contact (1997)
19. Dark City (1998)
18. Planet of the Apes (1968
17. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958)
16. Terminator, The (1984)
15. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
14. Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951)
13. Back to the Future (1985)
12. Matrix, The (1999)
11. Aliens (1986)
10. Alien (1979)
9. Clockwork Orange, A (1971)
8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
7. Brazil (1985)
6. Metropolis (1927)
5. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982)
4. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
2. Blade Runner (1982)
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

DAVID KEYES' Personal List (Top 25):

25. Rocky Horror Picture Show, The
24. Mimic
23. Cell, The
22. Dark Crystal, The
21. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
20. Total Recall
19. 12 Monkeys
18. Titan A.E.
17. Beneath the Planet of the Apes
16. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
15. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
14. Ghost in the Shell
13. Village of the Damned (1960)
12. Day the Earth Stood Still, The
11. Akira
10. Matrix, The
9. Escape from New York
8. Jacob's Ladder
7. King Kong (1933)
6. Dark City
5. City of Lost Children, The
4. Blade Runner
3. Planet of the Apes
2. Metropolis
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

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