Science fiction movies, taken as a whole, are a rather mixed lot. Some, like 2001 can be great works of art. Some, like Star Trek: Wrath of Khan can be great entertainment. And then there are movies like Plan 9 From Outer Space, a fathomless black hole of awfulness from which neither light, mass, nor hope can escape.
When I began to write my new science fiction romance novel Ladder to the Red Star, I took a lot of my inspiration from scifi movies and television—though just the good ones, hopefully. I tried to adapt cinematic elements like the sharp cuts between scenes, the wide scope of description for the setting, and the choreography of the action sequences to my narrative. In visual terms, I drew on movies like Gravity, which presents its science and space adventure in a highly plausible manner. I styled all my own fictional technology on ideas that are actually possible according to the laws of physics. However, when it comes to plotting and characterization, nothing can beat an authentic space opera like Star Wars for dramatic flair and romance. The exuberant hero’s journey, the terrifying villain, and the beautiful yet powerful princess all have a place in my book.
Star Wars and Star Trek will always be my scifi touchstones, even though light sabers and transport beams are never going to exist. (Sorry.) But though the best scifi films are truly inspiring, I still have a place in my heart for the mediocrities like Mission to Mars and Lost in Space. Even bad scifi movies sometimes reveal insights about the genre’s important themes—the fear and the awe our powerful technology inspires in us, the suspicion of alien people and the impulse to communicate with them anyway, and the wonder of the cosmos and the grand desire to explore it and make it our own.
Even Plan 9 From Outer Space… Never mind. There is no hidden theme that can make that movie redeemable. Trust me. So what are your most, or least, favorite scifi movies?