The boss of TigerBot Hesh (cassielsander) wrote,
The boss of TigerBot Hesh
cassielsander

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Our Space Future Through Movies

Watching Interstellar (and being greatly impressed by it), I'm mentally programming a Space Exploration Film Festival. So I'm putting together a list, and for fun I'm doing it in order of perceived chronology (i.e. how futuristic each film is).

To me, a good space exploration film requires the awestruck crew of a space ship or installation, isolated in a seemingly lifeless environment while confronting the wonder & terror of what is out there.

Therefore, a film is disqualified if it:

-Isn't immersive audiovisually (most pre-2001:ASO space films, and a bunch since).

-Spends too much time on Earth (comet movies, we-brought-something-back movies, most solar crisis movies, most astronauts-in-trouble movies, most getting-into-space movies) or another life-bearing planet (Stargate).

-Movies where space travel is too easy / routine (Star Wars & Star Trek movies).

-Not enough sense of wonder (Starship Troopers).

-Movies that concentrate too much on Mars (Red Planet, Total Recall, Mission To Mars, Ghosts Of Mars). It just never seems to work out.

The list follows, starting close to now and getting further and further into the future both within the sub-lists and between them. I've included some of the more significant disqualified films in parentheses for the sake of completeness and to give our future more detail.

-- Just Beyond Now: Space exploration with the tech we basically have. --

Gravity

(Species 2)

Europa Report

(Lifeforce)

2001: A Space Odyssey

(Oblivion)

2010: The Year We Make Contact

(Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun)

--New Steps: Today's tech plus a little leap, made from our own desperation or with the help of some new Friends. --

(Stargate)

(Contact)

Sunshine

(Macross, thanks cdk)

(Final Days Of Planet Earth)

Interstellar

--Solar Neighborhood: Space travel between permanent installations in our system is now routine enough to be almost, but not quite, mundane. --

(Elysium)

Moon

Silent Running

Outland

Event Horizon

(Blade Runner)

(Fifth Element)

--Bye Bye Sun: We transition from a developed solar system to interstellar travel, with some sort of tangible lasting result (if not the one we looked for).--

Pandorum

Prometheus

(Planet Of The Apes)

Solaris (both)

Lost in Space

--Star Truckin': Interstellar travel is pretty common, but still with severe enough conditions (cold sleep, uncomfortable warp jumps) that it's never for the faint of heart.--

The Black Hole

Alien

(Aliens)

Darkstar

(Alien3)

Supernova

--Closing Frontier: Even though space travel is still no picnic, the era approaches an end as it gets harder to be really alone, even in space.

(Starship Troopers)

(Cowboy Bebop)

(Alien 4)

(Star Trek: Enterprise)

(Firefly)

(Pitch Black / Chronicles Of Riddick / Riddick)

(Dune)

Suggested additions & alterations of course welcome.
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  • 6 comments
I'd add Enemy Mine as a significant disqualified film.
I'm entertained by thinking of Dark City as a disqualified film about space exploration.
Macross and the original Star Blazers both seem to not be disqualified except they are not movies, and they are not in an otherwise lifeless environment - but it's that sense of wonderful terror that makes them work for me as more than mere space war movies.
Yeah Star Blazers seems a little post this whole era, because they've already got interstellar travel and "normal" space travel is pretty routine, even though it has some of the same flavor just because they're going so much further out than they ever have before under desperate circumstances. Ditto many of the Earth vs. Baroque Aliens animes (which I always think of as Space Americans vs. Space Japanese, but might be meant as Space Modern Japan vs. Space Old Japan) such as Gundam and Irresponsible Captain Tyler.

Macross however I would place at the end of the New Steps category.

That's funny about Dark City. It fits and yet it does not fit. Guess I'd leave it off just because the listing itself would be a spoiler.
Oh, another weird outlier is Outland, which I suspect anticipated this list and took pains to not end up on it.
Oh good one! My memory of it is hazy but it seems like a fit for the Solar Neighborhood part.

There are a bunch of films I haven't seen so can't place precisely: Saturn 3, Space Truckers...
This list seems shorter than I expected, somehow. I keep thinking that I'm overlooking movies, but you've basically hit them all. I expect it will grow as Gravity-style filming becomes cheaper, though.

I'm thinking now about a contrasting list, the "galactic culture finds earth, does not attempt to systematically destroy it" list. So far, I'm up to The Last Starfighter, Contact, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Galaxy High, Guardians of the Galaxy, Men in Black, and The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Well there's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

You also got a lot of individual/accidental visitors with a tie to their home, such as E.T., Brother From Another Planet, Starman, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Paul, Green Lantern and Superman. And alien kidnappers like in Communion and Fire In The Sky.