This topic seems timely given the discovery of a full-length version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis that had been disregarded for years in the archives of a museum in Buenos Aires.
Image Source: Emory Libraries
Metropolis is a classic utopia revealed as dystopic narrative, with our hero leaving his life of idyll to discover the dark underbelly that makes the luxury of the elite possible – very Siddharta. I find even the disjointed fragments we currently have to be compelling, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing the complete restored version once it’s released. As we discussed regarding utopic/dystopic novels previously, this rude awakening of the protagonist in a seeming utopia is an enduring SF theme, and thus one that is explored in many sci-fi films e.g. Logan’s Run depicts an automated society with no underclass, but at the price of a shortened life disguised as “transfiguration”, The Matrix is literally a fantasy overlaying a horrific reality.
Many cult SF films depict full totalitarian dystopias that Our Protagonist strives to dismantle (a disturbing number of which in recent decades starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, because action + special effects = box office!). Arnieless examples: Blade Runner, Soylent Green, Brazil, The Handmaid’s Tale, V for Vendetta. Post-apocalyptic dystopias abound – e.g. A Boy and His Dog, Mad Max, The Quiet Earth, Tank Girl, 12 Monkeys, The Quiet Earth, Terminator, Children of Men. Corporate exploitation dystopias – RoboCop, Rollerball, The Truman Show, The Island.
Then there are the scary monster flicks – Alien/s (best ever?), Predator (Arnie again), The Thing, The Fly etc. Time travel/paradox – Terminator, The Time Machine,The Philadelphia experiment. etc. Time seems to make for the best (loosely defined as?) SF comedies – Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, Groundhog Day, Blackadder: Back and Forth, The Three Stooges meet Hercules…
And I haven’t even got onto alien contact yet! (My favourite is the under-rated Abyss, especially the director’s cut). Or the space operas of distant galaxies! Or the many films which tick several of the above boxes.
So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to share your favourite cult SF film. Is it the story or the cast or the cinematography that makes it for you? What films came so close to being great but “missed it by that much”? What about those ones where you loathe the narrative but love the scenario?
Bonus: what SF novel do you wish would be filmed? (or hope never is because they’ll only ruin it?)