The greatest aspect of science fiction, in my opinion, is how it can tell a futuristic story made up with aliens and robots that have such importance and relevance today. True science-fiction isn’t a fiction at all but tackles real social issues that we face every day.
This has inspired me to do a list of what I feel is essential viewing for any sci-fi buff. To earn a place on this list, the film must tackle some real-life social issue and, naturally, have a sci-fi twist to it.
Never before had I considered “Prawn” a racial slur until this film was released. Playing on the clichéd trope of aliens visiting Earth with the slight twist that we have been visited by the stupid aliens, not the leaders and pioneers.
District 9 challenges our ideas of segregation, racial divides and sympathy for those that are different. It firmly lands itself a spot on this list.
Although it doesn’t feature a unique story, sharing the same storyline as films like Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves and even Smurfs, Avatar is the most well known social sci-fi film and has earned itself a spot on this list.
Tackling the misconceptions people have of perceived primitive people and then undergoing a change of impression to a better understanding of a different way of life. Throw in there the discussion of how war and resources are so closely tied you have a social sci-fi that will stand the test of time.
At first thought, The Purge is a film many would consider more of a horror than a sci-fi. However, due to its dystopian nature and some of the technologies involved in the film, this can be considered a sci-fi film.
The social commentary the film tackles is the attitudes towards violence and home invasion. The simple idea of there being no laws for one day a year writes itself.
Previously mentioned on our essential robot films list, Wall-E also ticks the box for social commentary.
If all humans had left earth, lived on a spacecraft for years and had every function catered to them by robots, how would they turn out? This is what Wall-E tackles and it handles it well.
Falling in love is difficult at the best of times, falling in love with the sweet A.I. voice of Scarlett Johnson is another thing.
What I consider a smart move by the director, Her removes the body of the robot to better explore the relationship and steer clear of sex-robot tropes. This gives attention to the dynamic between the two and the challenges they face.
2001: A Space Odyssey
A classic. A real challenge to the squeaky clean vision of the future most people have. A commentary on the relation between mankind and robotkind, the passing of the torch almost.
A well-earned place on a list of socially relevant sci-films.
The Truman Show
How far away are we actually from a Truman Show type TV series? That’s when science fiction is good. If it feels familiar.
Arguably Jim Carrey’s best performance and a real study of where the TV world is heading make this a firm sci-fi contender.
Now, I’ll admit, this film is an odd pick. It isn’t the best film, it isn’t the highest grossing film, it is more of a disappointing film than anything else.
However, the message, which I won’t spoil, was powerful and clear. This was an important film at its time of release and it’s a real shame it wasn’t better received or that the film was constructed differently.
Children of Men
Another great ‘what if’ film, this time, what if women stopped getting pregnant? 18 years later, we have Children of Men.
Littered with outstanding camera work and polluted by great performances, Children of Men stands the test of time and stays relevant with its observations.
Robocop is becoming more relevant by the second. With automation taking people’s jobs every day in the real world, a potential career path robots in the future may be that of policing.
Both the original and the remake focuses on the idea of public opinion on robot-led policing versus human and attempts a happy medium. Plus, loads of bloody action (at least in the original).
That’s my list. I recommend watching these films to get a little extra out of sci-fi and understand why the genre is so beloved.
Are there any essential films that I missed? Share your idea in the comments.
- 10 Essential Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Films
- 10 Essential Hard Sci-Fi Films
- 10 Essential Space Films
- 10 Essential Robot Films
- 10 Essential Time-Travel Films
- 10 Essential Alien Films
Never Miss An Article
Join our mailing list and recieve an email as soon as there is a new article.