NASA's Best and Worst Sci-fi Movies
"Best" Sci-Fi Movies
1968 7.2 7.81. Gattaca (1997)
This classic film peers into a future where DNA predispositions are used to discriminate against potential job applicants. I confess that I have never seen this particular film, but in discussing it with a colleague of mine it seems to have more relevance now than when it was made. At the time of its release, he noted not caring for it because the premise seemed too far fetched, or at the very least part of a very distant future. But now, only 13 years later, the proposition doesn't seem unrealistic at all.
1804 6.7 7.42. Contact (1997)
The movie version of the Carl Sagan novel of the same name went to painstaking lengths to make sure the science was as accurate as possible. In few films have the political and technical realities of scientific research been captured so brilliantly. They went so far as to establish a manual, calling on researchers from some of the nations top institutions, to describe what wormhole travel and other future technologies might be like to experience.
1587 8.3 8.43. Metropolis (1927)
This is another film about which I know very little. But the basic plot is that of a future Earth in which people are separated into two classes: those with riches and power that live high above the ground in impressive skyscrapers, contrasted against those with little that toil at the pleasure of the aristocracy high above them. While we are not there yet, some economists believe that the United States is headed for just such a social structure. With the middle class dissipating, the distribution of wealth in this country is becoming increasingly bimodal. Anymore, Americans are either falling into category of those with much, or those without.
698 7.5 7.94. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
52 7.5 7.45. Woman in the Moon (1929)
268 7.1 7.36. The Thing from Another World (1951)
In 2001 the film was determined by the Library of Congress to be "culturally significant" and was therefore selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Aside from this, however, I am uncertain what sets this movie apart from others. Not sure I agree of its selection for this list. I may have to watch it completely to find out.
7063 7.2 87. Jurassic Park (1993)
This adventure movie was probably intended more for entertainment than a commentary on the potential dangers of genetic engineering. Nonetheless it painted a clever and scientifically plausible picture of what could be possible. And, of course, the "faster, must go faster" scene was truly anxiety inducing to my 13 year old self.
"Worst" Sci-Fi Movies
2103 5.3 5.88. 2012 (2009)
I've written extensively about the unfounded 2012 Doomsday scenarios, so it came is no surprise to me to find this movie on the list. The scientific premise of the movie borders on the ridiculous. However, the action sequences and visuals are exciting so it can be a decent movie to watch... just so long as you shut the brain off for certain parts.
656 4.9 5.49. The Core (2003)
4299 6.2 6.610. Armageddon (1998)
When I first saw this movie, as a senior in high school, I thought it was entertaining. Then over the years I began to think more and more about it. Big mistake. Kind of ruined it for me. The sheer number of scientific gaffs has given rise to a armada of websites dedicated to pointing out and discussing all the errors. In fact, NASA uses the movie as part of the management training program. How? The game, if you will, is to see how many of the 168 (168!) impossibilities they can find in the film. And by impossibilities I mean things that directly violate some law of physics or other scientific law. (And that 168 doesn't even include things that are extremely unlikely, it's only the things that are strictly impossible).
636 5 5.411. Volcano (1997)
544 5.1 5.512. Chain Reaction (1996)
When people think fusion they think massive energy and nuclear weapons. This sounds like a recipe for an exciting movie. Only the science used in the movie is way off base, and the descriptions of fusion, reactor designs and their dangers are, well, off. Interesting note: Bubble fusion (which is highly speculative, and probably impossible) wouldn't involve any sort of chain reaction at all.
992 5.4 5.913. The 6th Day (2000)
In the movie Gattaca, which made the "best" list above, the understanding and use of genetic knowledge was insightful and realistic. Where as the notions put forth about cloning abilities in this flick are neither of those things. I haven't checked to see if anyone has done this, but an interesting study would be to count how many physical and biological laws were violated in the plot of this movie. I can think of several off the top of my head, and I haven't seen the movie in a decade.
157 5.5 5.314. What the Bleep Do We Know!?
I actually thought the concept of the movie was ingenious: create a documentary style film to explore the connections between science and consciousness. And it could have been good, except that they tried to draw conclusions based on science that our current understanding doesn't warrant, and in some cases flat out misrepresents the truth. Honestly I'm not convinced that they were trying to get the science right, but rather just create an entertaining movie that, unless you were scientifically trained, you might not know it was hokum. Or perhaps someone was trying to push their pseudoscientific agenda. Who knows. Either way, it definitely makes the list.
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