I gave you a visual taste of what I thought constitutes Badass Sci Fi in my post WHAT IS BADASS SCI FI?.
Now I’m gonna give you some examples. If you’re into Badass Sci Fi, or mind-blowing cinema of any kind, these movies NEED to be in your regular rotation. They need to be part of your soul.
Am I overselling it? Hell no! These movies inspired me, driven me in my own creative endeavors, and shown me what’s possible when you have vision.
I’m not a film school grad, or even much of a fanboy, but I know what I like. I know what makes my senses quiver, and I’m pretty in tune with the collective. Meaning, you and I probably dig the same shit. If you don’t believe me (spoiler!), Rotten Tomatoes and I have the same #1 Science Fiction movie of all time. All of mine appear somewhere on the list.
Whether you consider that relevant or a knock is ancillary. The movies on my list have been elevated to true Badass Sci Fi status.
The criteria are pretty simple, but require mentioning. I want a visual assault; big spaceships, big explosions, Badass characters, and amazing aliens! I want these movies to slam me into another universe. And I want an audio blitz; incredible sound effects, killer dialogue, and most of all, an epic score. What am I listening to right now? The score to the #1 movie on my list.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get on that express elevator to hell, going down!
#5- TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991) [#41 on RT’s list]
Like other movies on the list, T2 succeeds as both a sequel and a reimagining of the creator’s original vision. I’ll be the first one to cry about how cineplexes are overstuffed with sequels and reboots, but I also understand the need for an artist to perfect his craft. That’s what James Cameron did here. He took his expanded arsenal of effects and brought Badass Sci Fi into the digital world.
T2 is recognized for its revolutionary CGI, but the way its incorporated into the human narrative is remarkable. Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor was the next evolution of a strong female protagonist, Arnie brought humanity and humor to his cyborg character, and Robert Patrick is perfectly menacing as the T-1000.
T2‘s action sequences are phenomenal, its message resonating, and the Brad Fiedel score is absolutely fantastic!
#4- THE THING (1982) [#82 on RT’s list]
John Carpenter is the master of bleak, sparse atmosphere. Rob Bottin is the king of gruesome make-up effects. Kurt Russel is the prince of nonchalant heroism. Put them together, you get The Thing. Equal parts Badass Sci Fi, horror, and paranoid thriller, The Thing succeeds on every level at creating a claustrophobic, blood-soaked Hell from where there is no escape.
The shifty interplay of human characters, including Russel’s Macready, Blair (Wilford Brimley), Childs (Keith David), Palmer (David Clennon), and the rest, counterbalances perfectly with the outright nastiness of The Thing. The effects are brutal, and the mood stifling, but there is no better example of dreadful isolation on film.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Carpenter inspired, Ennio Morricone score. It’s an ominous, brooding storm of doom that blankets the entire film.
#3- ALIENS (1986) [#15 on RT’s list]
Another example of Cameron reimagining a vision, thought this time he did it with Ridley Scott’s original Alien universe. Everything about Aliens pops! The visual effects, from Stan Winston’s creatures, to the Skotak brothers’ sets, are spectacular.
Cameron’s script morphs with energy. Every line in the movie seems utterly quotable. Hudson (Bill Paxton), Hicks (Michael Biehn), Burke (Paul Reiser), Bishop (Lance Henriksen), and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) work so well together that you forget you’re watching a movie. That’s the point, isn’t it?
Weaver’s role as Ripley shattered the boundaries of the strong female protagonist, especially set against the backdrop of dark, military science fiction. She paved the way for Sarah Connor and Katniss.
The James Horner score electrifies! From the snares of combat, to the screeching strings of aliens, it magnifies every mood of the film. I was shocked to read how dysfunctional the creation of this score was. See Aliens Music .
#2- ROBOCOP (1987) [#62 on RT’s list]
What? An original movie on the list? Shut up. Robocop is the shit! With Paul Verhoeven’s direction and Edward Neumeier’s script, Robocop defies all expectation. Oddly marketed as more of a comic book movie, Robocop is an ultra-violent, dystopian, cyberpunk masterpiece. But what sets Robocop apart from would-be peers is its subversive, satirical, black sense of humor. This movie kills!
Like Aliens, Robocop is wildly quotable. From Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) to Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) to Emil (Paul McCrane), Badass baddies blast memorable lines in every scene.
Rob Bottin and the other FX artists achieved marvels on their limited budget. And Basil Poledouris’ score is one of the most unique and memorable compositions in cinematic history. His masterful blend of electronic and orchestral elements add an uneasy mood and odd humanity to the film.
#1- MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) [#1 on RT’s list]
So shiny, so chrome. George Miller has devoted his whole life to bringing a perfect incarnation of his vision for Mad Max to the screen. With Fury Road, he did it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original Mad Max. It was revolutionary. And I LOVE The Road Warrior, which redefined cinema and set the bar for post-apocalyptic storytelling. It’s definitely in my top 10. Beyond Thunderdome? Meh. But Fury Road, FURY FUCKING ROAD, is as close to cinematic perfection as I have ever experienced.
This movie doesn’t fuck around. It’s not worried (too much) about backstories, or continuity, or plausibility. It just wants to throw you into the cockpit of a rampaging war rig and take you to Valhalla!
Every frame of this film screams with vibrancy. If Miller used a filter to film this, he cranked the brightness and contrast to the max. To the Mad…Max… Sorry, I had to. Every action sequence is vivid, spectacular, and immaculate. Every shot is, I gotta say, perfect. This movie speaks to me. Every second seems to be sculpted by Michelangelo.
Okay, I have to admit, I identify with the recurring theme of redemption, but from an unlikely source. Of course Max (Tom Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) are on a seek and destroy mission to redeem themselves. But for me, Nux’s (Nicholas Hoult) wrenching journey to find his place in the wasteland landed the strongest blow.
“Where must we go, we who wander this wasteland, in search of our better selves?”
-The First History Man
And here’s the chrome plating. Junkie XL’s score is the best I’ve ever heard. I know the word is amazing is so overused and underappreciated as to remove all meaning, but I am truly amazed by this soundtrack. I can’t stop listening to it, and yes, I’m still listening to it right now. Check it out for yourself down below.
Alright! That was Badass! Thank you for indulging me. Hope you enjoyed it.
Unit next time, watch these movies again. I’m envisioning my book as a movie.