First, let’s recognize the also-rans, #21-50, in chronological order.
#20 SPECIES (1995)
Species, directed by Roger Donaldson (Dante’s Peak, Cocktail), just beat out Guillermo Del Toro’s Mimic (1997), and Peter Hyams’ The Relic (1997) in the mid-’90s creature feature explosion category.
First, it’s got a great cast, including Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Slipstream), Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Thelma & Louise), Alfred Molina (Spiderman 2, Boogie Nights), Forest Whitaker (Repo Men, Rouge One), Marg Helgenberger (Bad Boys, Wonder Woman), Michelle Williams (Halloween H2O, Brokeback Mountain) as young Sil, and of course, Natasha Henstridge (Ghosts of Mars, Maximum Risk).
But, one reason above all others gets Species on the list…
Creepy sewer alien lizard baby.
#19 JUDGE DREDD (1995)
This one, directed by Danny Cannon (Geostorm, Nikita (TV series)), won in a coin toss with Demolition Man (1993) after almost ending up on the Guilty Pleasures list.
Honestly though, if you’ve been paying attention, you know we like things big here at BSF; big-ass monsters, big-ass guns, big-ass robots, big-ass spaceships, big-ass tacos with extra molecules. You get the idea.
Like many movies from the ’90s, Judge Dredd is big, garish, tacky, and loud.
But very few directors can pull off an epic; James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Paul Verhoeven, Ridley Scott, George Miller, and to a lesser degree, the Wachowskis, Roland Emmerich, and John McTiernan.
Everything’s gaudy and overblown in Judge Dredd. Sylvester Stallone tries to convey how big everything is by yelling his lines like he has a red hot poker in his eye. Then, Armand Assante takes the poker out of Sly’s eye, reheats it, and sticks it in own his eye to deliver his lines. It’s a joy to watch.
#18 ALIEN RESURRECTION (1997)
I don’t mind this Alien entry at all. Directed with some panache by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and written by Joss Whedon (Firefly, Serenity, The Avengers), the concepts and characters are always interesting.
Plus, the stellar cast includes Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder (Heathers, Stranger Things), Ron Pearlman (Pacific Rim, Blade II), Brad Dourif (Child’s Play series), Dan Hedaya (A Night at the Roxbury), and Raymond Cruz (Breaking Bad).
But yes, there are certain aspects that really suck.
#17 eXistenZ (1999)
Let me just start out by saying David Cronenberg is a fucking nut and I love him. Short list of Cronenberg favs; The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981), Videodrome & The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991), and of course, this one.
If you told me to name three directors who best epitomize the spirit of Badass Sci Fi, I’d have to say John Carpenter, Paul Verhoeven, and David Cronenberg.
eXistenZ has all the hallmarks of a Cronenberg flick; precarious and questionable reality, an askew, surreal atmosphere, and shitloads of steaming, writhing body horror.
Diving head-first into the new-new flesh are Jennifer Jason Leigh (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Jude Law (AI: Artificial Intelligence), Willem Defoe (Wild at Heart), and the recently departed Ian Holm (The Fifth Element).
#16 DARK CITY (1998)
Next on the list is a movie that was the Matrix before the Matrix and Inception before Inception.
Dark City, directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow), is a masterpiece of sci fi noir with brilliant special effects and a top notch cast including Rufus Sewell (A Knight’s Tale), Jennifer Connely (Labyrinth), William Hurt (Altered States), and Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys).
Well, it ranked 105th in cumulative gross in 1998, barely making back it’s $27M budget. This might have been due to the fact that the studio rescheduled its release twice and decided to open it against a little movie called Titanic. Damn you, James Cameron!
Also, the legitimacy of the Saturn Awards, the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films annual awards, is put into question, because in 1998, their Best Science Fiction Film award was a tie between Dark City and Armageddon. Damn you, Michael Bay!
#15 DARKMAN (1990)
From Dark City to Darkman and from cerebral and moody to bonkers and frantic. Sam Raimi gets a budget and he delivers. The success of Darkman made Army of Darkness possible, and we’re all thankful for that.
Liam Neeson does his best Bruce Campbell impression throughout. Raimi wanted Campbell for the role, but the studio weenies were scared of Bruce’s extreme awesomeness. Neeson nails it though, especially in the Tin Man and carnival scenes.
#14 PREDATOR 2 (1990)
In our next entry, Predator 2, it’s all about the fantastic ensemble cast. Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) provides a commanding lead, and he’s well supported by Bill Paxton (you already know), Gary Busey (Point Break), Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man), Ruben Blades (Color of Night), Robert Davi (Die Hard), Adam Baldwin (My Bodyguard, Firefly, Full Metal Jacket), Morton Downey, Jr. (Talk Show Host),and the late Kevin Peter Hall reprising (sort of) his role as a Hunter Predator and an Elder Predator at the end.
Stephen Hopkins (Highlander), does a great job of turning L.A. into a dingy, muggy concrete jungle, mirroring the Central American jungle from the first film. An aura of dread permeates the entire film.
And of course, a character played by Bill Paxton goes down swinging.
#13 EVENT HORIZON (1997)
I’ll tell you right now, I’m not a huge fan of the ‘slowly going mad’ sub-genre, and I can tell how effective a ‘slowly going mad’ movie is by how uncomfortable it makes me. So, the less I like a ‘slowly going mad’ movie, the better it is, right?
But Event Horizon is fucking insidious. I know I never want to see Sam Neill with his eyes gouged out again. But Event Horizon keeps creeping into my brain, begging me to watch it.
It’s the same damn thing with Cannibal Holocaust and pretty much any movie by Lars von Trier. These films left me scarred, but a part of me wants to watch them again.
No, I’d much rather see Sam Neill demonstrate one of my favorite tropes; explaining wormholes by thrusting a pen through a centerfold.
#12 UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (1992)
Universal Soldier was Roland Emmerich’s big break. He went on to direct Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998), and a multitude of disaster epics in the early 2000s. Love him or hate him, he knows how to create a spectacle.
Universal Soldier is modest in comparison. It’s all about the leads here. Jean-Claude Van Damme is appropriately athletic and wooden, but Dolph Lundgren gives a fascinating and scene-stealing performance. He’s great.
You throw in appearances by Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (Friday, The Fifth Element), Michael Jai White (Spawn), and Ralf Moller (Gladiator), and you have yourself an entertaining little Terminator knockoff, which ain’t a bad thing.
And if you haven’t already, you need to check out Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012). It has some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen.
#11 ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992)
I know what some of you are saying. Isn’t Army of Darkness, like, one of the most iconic movies of the ’90s? Why is it only #11?
And I know what the rest of you are saying. Isn’t Army of Darkness, like, a comedy/horror/fantasy movie? Why is it on this list?
Well, yes and yes and it’s a compromise and AOD and Bruce get honorary inclusion into the ranks of Badass Sci Fi because he’s the only one I’ve met.
Plus, you have this…
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the post. I can’t wait to share #1-10. It’s gonna blow your friggin mind!
Until next time, don’t bother me. I’m losing my head over a top ten list.