Science fiction movies are among the most successful of all time, with movies like Star Wars, Avatar and Jurassic Park all setting box office records upon their release. But sometimes there are science fiction movies that fail to get the full recognition they deserve.
Some still become major blockbusters but there are also those which, at most, can only hope to become cult classics. From galactic adventures to first contact, here are five science fiction movies that are far better than you think and deserve to be seen.
Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones
A Star Wars movie? Underrated? Sadly, yes. Although Attack of the Clones was by no means a failure, its worldwide box office takings were under $650 million – almost $300 million below The Phantom Menace. When adjusted for inflation, that makes it by far the poorest performing Star Wars movie ever and also the first to not top the charts at the end of the year (although Revenge of the Sith would fail to do that as well the following year).
So why is that? Its overall rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 67% – not great but a lot better than The Phantom Menace. And yet Attack of the Clones is almost like the Star Wars movie everyone wants to forget about. There are certainly some things that don’t work in the movie – particularly Hayden Christensen’s performance and the ‘romance’ scenes between Anakin and Padme – but there’s also plenty to like.
At times it may look like a video game but the visual effects are spectacular throughout and it has a much better plot than its predecessor. It also has some fantastic action scenes, including the flying car chase on Coruscant, the space battle between Obi Wan and Jango Fett and the final battle on Geonosis.
Plus, it’s Star Wars. How can that ever be bad?
Three years after Aliens and two years before Terminator 2: Judgment Day, director James Cameron made one of the most ambitious science fiction movies of all time. Filmed almost entirely under water long before Titanic, The Abyss tells a tense tale of first contact with an advanced extraterrestrial species deep below the Caribbean Sea.
Featuring great performances and an intelligent plot, it should have been a blockbuster. And yet, despite many good reviews, The Abyss failed to find a big audience and only made $90 million at the worldwide box office. This wasn’t much more than its $70 million budget and a long way from the $130 million made by Aliens and the monster $520 million haul of T2.
By Cameron standards, The Abyss was a flop and it didn’t deserve to be as its one of the best alien encounter movies ever. Check out the Special Edition which provides even more glimpses of what the aliens can do.
So what happened here? A $250 million epic based on one of the most important science fiction novels of all time, directed by the guy who brought us WALL-E and released by Disney.
Plenty has been written about what went wrong with John Carter and a lot of people have made their mind up about it without even giving it a chance. It’s not the best science fiction movie ever made or even the best on this list but neither is it the worst, either. It’s better than the second and third Matrix movies and better than Transformers; Revenge of the Fallen. And that’s just for starters.
John Carter is actually a fun movie with some very cool special effects and a great performance from Lynn Collins as the princess Dejah Thoris. And it’s based on a book that inspired Star Wars, Superman and a whole lot more. It deserves kudos even for that.
And it’s far from being the biggest box office flop of all time. Yes, it did cost $250 million to make, plus advertising, but it’s worldwide box office takings will be close to $300 million. That’s a long way from turning profit but outside of the US it made more money than Captain America and Super 8 and almost as much as X-Men: First Class. Not bad for a movie that everyone thinks is a flop.
The Chronicles of Riddick
Pitch Black, released in 2000, was a minor hit upon release but grew to become a cult classic. Following a group of survivors from a downed starship on an alien world filled with predatory creatures, it was a tense and effective science fiction tale starring Vin Diesel. When the actor became a star in the years that followed with The Fast and the Furious and xXx, directed David Twohy got Diesel back in front of the camera for this expensive sequel.
Unlike Pitch Black, the Chronicles of Riddick was more of a big science fiction epic in the vein of Star Wars but mostly received very negative reviews and didn’t recoup its $120 million budget.
The movie does falter a bit with some rather hammy performances but it is action packed and often looks like every dollar of its big budget is up there on the screen. It also lead on to a rather good PC/Xbox video game and with Diesel hot property again after Fast Five became a huge hit last year, there’s now even a big screen sequel being filmed for release next year.
So catch this movie now before The Chronicles of Riddick: Dead Man Stalking.
This is a movie that should never have to be on this list because it should have been a blockbuster when released back in 1997. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, who found earlier fame with science fiction classics Robocop and Total Recall, and loosely based on the controversial 1959 novel by Robert A. Heinlein, it was billed as being “like Star Wars, for a new generation of thrill seekers.”.
In reality, it struggled at the box office and received very mixed reviews, especially in the US where its depiction of the good guys as almost being like a Nazi state didn’t go down well. But Starship Troopers is really a pedal to the metal science fiction epic with special effects that look amazing even today. Its story is a bit hokey and the acting wobbly at times but that’s really all part of the fun – and is that really any different to Star Wars?
Definitely worth a look at in HD for any science fiction fan!