A Century of Film


Sci-Fi


The Genre

Science Fiction on film goes back to the dawn of narrative feature film storytelling.  The first great film, A Trip to the Moon, was a Sci-Fi film complete with state of the art special effects.  But not everyone could be George Méliès and not very many people tried.  I’ve only seen three Sci-Fi films made before the advent of sound (and there’s not much out there at feature length that I haven’t seen) and all of them were foreign (A Trip to Mars, Aelita: Queen of Mars, Metropolis).

The genre mostly lay dormant in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  If you click on those links, the vast majority of what is listed there (and even what is listed there isn’t very long) is either a serial (which I don’t count) or something I list as another genre (often Horror).  I’ve seen just 11 films from those two decades which I count (and none after 1941).  Then came the 50’s.

Right from the start, this decade was different.  The serials were starting to go away and studios were willing to actually make films, starting in 1950 with Destination Moon and Rocketship X-M.  Starting with 1951, things exploded, with alien invasion films, low-budget films from independent studios and, later in the decade, the idea of exploring out into space with films like Forbidden Planet.  There are entire books (see way below) just on the Sci-Fi films released in this decade and it only increased once Sputnik launched the space race.

However, while the occasional real gem (like Forbidden Planet) would burst forth and there would be solid bigger budget films like War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and Fantastic Voyage, for the most part, the genre was still dominated by lower budget films, cheesy effects and really bad acting.

The dual success in 1968 of 2001 and Planet of the Apes proved that the genre could actually be taken seriously, that there were some ideas as well as the potential for massive box office if studios were willing to invest in it.  However, the franchising of Apes lead to continually diminishing returns and studios again moved away from it.  Until 1977.

It wasn’t just Star Wars.  Yes, Star Wars, combined with Jaws, had changed the way movies are made and how people go to see them, but for Sci-Fi, it was Star Wars combined with Close EncountersStar Wars showed that a Sci-Fi film could be taken seriously (massive awards haul) while not needing to be as high-brow as 2001 while Close Encounters proved there was room for high-brow as well and proved that Star Wars hadn’t sucked all the air from the room.  The producers of the first Star Trek film said that it was the success of Close Encounters and showing that there was room for several Sci-Fi films to be successful at the box office that allowed them to get the greenlight.  It’s not a surprise then, that 1979 would be the first (and until 2010, the only) year to have more than 3 nominees for Visual Effects.

Since 1979, it has been rare for a Sci-Fi film not to be near the top of the box office (though there are dud years like 1988 and 1992).  Though it would still take a while to really gain the respect of the awards groups (after ET became the second Sci-Fi film to earn a Best Picture nomination it would be another 27 years before a third film earned one), Sci-Fi had finally became a massive part of the film industry.

Of course part of it as well was the other thing that Star Wars had shown: that visual effects had finally reached the point where a vision on-screen could match the imagination, something that would continue to grow in leaps and bounds with films Terminator 2 and Avatar as well.

Science Fiction had come a long way, not just from the pulps that earned no respect, but all the way back to its origins in the novels of Jules Verne and even before that.

I will say this last word about where I hope Sci-Fi films can go from here.  This has been a mostly male-dominated genre (of my Top 50 the only ones that really have a female as the primary lead are Alien and Aliens) and both the people who make the films and those who go to them have often not been welcoming of gender equality in the genre.  I will just put forth this idea recently posted by my wife’s friend Maddy, though ironically, what she’s referring to I classify in films as Horror, but the same sentiment stands: “Sometimes I want to go up to people who insist that feminism and progressive values are Ruining Science Fiction and remind them that their genre exists because a teenaged girl was stuck at a house party and decided that inventing science fiction sounded more appealing than yet another tiresome threesome with Lord Byron.”

Sub-Genres

There are a lot of different types of Sci-Fi films.

Alien Arrival

  • Best Film:  Close Encounters of the Third Kind

This is different from the sub-genre listed just below because these aliens aren’t malevolent.  They are simply arriving.  These films can range in tone from E.T. to District 9 to Cocoon to Starman (listing the best ones).  It’s a lot smaller sub-genre than Alien Invasion (17 films to 67) but much better (57.4 to 36.0).

Alien Invasion

  • Best Film:  The Thing from Another World

This sub-genre is what helped kick off the Sci-Fi films of the 50’s with what is by far the best film in the sub-genre and it has continued all the way through 2011 (Cowboys and Aliens, Battle: Los Angeles).  But most of them aren’t that good and the only two since the 60’s that I even rate at *** are Independence Day and They Live.  The 50’s and 60’s saw a lot of really, really bad films here (It Conquered the World, Queen of Outer Space, Rocket Attack U.S.A., Robot Monster, Plan Nine, Teenagers from Outer Space, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians).

Animated (Anime)

  • Best Film:  Metropolis

Though there are a few Animated films that I classify as Sci-Fi that aren’t Anime, there aren’t very many and only Fantastic Planet and Plague Dogs even make it to ***.  But all five films in my Top 5 for Animated Film below are Anime films and even aside from those, Japan has a long, solid tradition of making interesting animated Sci-Fi films for adults.

Comedy

  • Best Film:  Back to the Future

Many of the films in this category including the best ones (Ghostbusters is the other main one) I used to have listed in Comedy and could easily go there.

Disaster

  • Best Film:  Deep Impact

Most Disaster films get listed under Action and the only ones I specifically list here have some sort of Sci-Fi element to them (Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon, Meteor, The Core).  Like the Action Disaster films, they generally suck.

Dystopia

  • Best Film:  Metropolis

This has been a part of Sci-Fi films since the beginning and include some of the best films in the genre (Brazil, Minority Report).

Lit Adaptation

  • Best Film:  The War of the Worlds (2005)

There are five Wells films (two each of Time Machine and War of the Worlds plus Things to Come), only four Verne because even though he is thought of as a Sci-Fi writer I classify most film versions as Adventure (two versions of Mysterious Island, Master of the World, Valley of the Dragons) and Dune.

Planet of the Apes

  • Best Film:  Planet of the Apes  (1968)

There are seven films here through 2011.  I’m not a big fan of the newest one (Rise) but think higher of the Burton film than most people do.  They average a 59.

Post-Apocalyptic

  • Best Film:  Le Dernier Combat

A lot of other sub-genres could fit here; many Dystopia films take place after an apocalypse as do almost all Planet of the Apes films.  But these are films where things are generally still a wasteland after the apocalypse.  There are mostly terrible with a 40.3 average and only a handful of films even reaching ***.

Space Travel

  • Best Film:  2001: A Space Odyssey

Ever since A Trip to the Moon, films have been made about going to other worlds.  All of the Star Trek films could easily go here.  In general, films about traveling between planets that aren’t in other categories go here.  The Fifth Element (which barely belongs here) is the only other film above ***.

Star Trek

  • Best Film:  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

These, of course, are Space Travel films but with 11 films and counting they deserve their own list.  At a 74.6 average they are pretty strong as well although not as strong as the next one.

Star Wars

  • Best Film:  Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Six films through 2011 (Clone Wars is counted as a Kids film) and the average stands at 89.5  The franchise that changed not only the genre, but all of film.

Technology

  • Best Film:  Inception

As I was filling in sub-genres for the Sci-Fi films I found a common theme that ran through the top films that didn’t have one listed: Inception, AI, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Existenz, Dreamscape.  All of them deal with the development of new technology, which is what brings in the Sci-Fi element.  Going through the rest of the list I found an astounding 88 films that fit this sub-genre, the largest in Sci-Fi.  Outside of those top ones (I listed all the films above ***) it starts to drop and there are a lot of bad films in this sub-genre that have an interesting idea and not much else to support it so the sub-genre averages a 44.4.

Time Travel

  • Best Film:  12 Monkeys

Only 11 films through 2011 because some films with time travel at the core (Star Trek IV, Star Trek: First Contact, Back to the Future Trilogy, The Time Machine) belong in other sub-genres.  But Wells brought time travel to the genre and it has been a prominent part ever since.

Assorted

  • Best Film:  Forbidden Planet  (Shakespeare)

I could have listed Men in Black under Comedy.  But it’s one of three films through 2011 that I have listed as Comic Book (Men in Black II and Flash Gordon are the others) because most comic book adaptations I have listed under Action, even when they have Sci-Fi elements (like all the Superman films).  There are a couple of franchises that don’t have enough films to bother to list them up above through 2011 (Alien, Predator) and also two Stephen King films (The Running Man, The Lawnmower Man).  Through 2011, Forbidden Planet is the only Sci-Fi film I classify as Shakespeare.  There are also non-Anime Animated films like Chronopolis and Fantastic Planet.  It is also worth remembering that Sci-Fi itself is a sub-genre of Horror with over 30 films (though only two of them, Village of the Damned and Horror Express even reaching low ***) in which the Horror element is, to me at least, more prominent than the Sci-Fi elements.


The Directors

James Cameron

  • Films:  5
  • Years:  1984 – 2009
  • Average Film:  75.20
  • Best Film:  Aliens
  • Worst Film:  The Abyss

Thanks to Titanic (non-Sci-Fi) and Avatar, Cameron is thought of as the king of the box office.  But that really only began with Terminator 2 (the #1 film of 1991).  The original Terminator wasn’t a huge hit (less than $40 million gross), Aliens was a solid hit but not a blockbuster (less than $100 million and #7 for the year) and until the international grosses came in, The Abyss actually lost money.  But he’s had a big imagination (even if his screenwriting isn’t very good) and all of his Sci-Fi films are generally quite highly regarded among critics.  What’s more, he has been at the forefront of increasing quality in Visual Effects and that alone has done a lot for improving Sci-Fi films.

George Lucas

  • Films:  5
  • Years:  1970 – 2005
  • Average Film:  81.40
  • Best Film:  Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Worst Film:  THX-1138

Lucas is the opposite of Cameron.  While THX didn’t make money, Star Wars made money hand over foot and it’s his critical estimation that has fallen over the years.  But there’s no denying the massive influence of the Star Wars saga on the genre and while he only directed four of the six films, he was the creative force behind all of them.

Steven Spielberg

  • Films:  5
  • Years:  1977  –  2005
  • Average Film:  91.00
  • Best Film:  Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Worst Film:  The War of the Worlds

Spielberg couldn’t manage a Best Picture nomination for Close Encounters but he was Best Director nominated (which he wasn’t for Jaws).  He’s a lot more prolific director than either Cameron or Lucas so his Sci-Fi work has been a much smaller part of his output but what he has done (Close Encounters, E.T., A.I., Minority Report, War of the Worlds) has been fantastic.

Best Sci-Fi Director  (weighted points system)

  1. Steven Spielberg  (212)
  2. Terry Gilliam  (126)
  3. Ridley Scott  (124)
  4. Stanley Kubrick  (90)
  5. George Lucas  /  Christopher Nolan  (90)

Analysis:  This adds up points on a weighted scale (90-1) for placing in the Top 20 at the Nighthawk Awards for Best Director in any given year.



The Stars

 

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford is Han Solo, of course, and that alone is enough to place him here.  But he is also Rick Deckard in Blade Runner and that gives him a boost over his Star Wars co-stars.
Essential Viewing:  Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner

John Williams

You can just go down to the Original Score section in the Nighthawk Awards below and see how much Williams dominates here.  By doing the score, not just for the Star Wars films but also for his pal Steven Spielberg’s films as well, he’s got a place at the top of the list that no one can deny.
Essential Listening:  Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

George Pal

As a producer, George Pal was responsible for three of the most important films of the early 50’s that helped usher in Sci-Fi as a legitimate genre that studios would be willing to invest in.  Then he turned to directing and directed a seminal Sci-Fi film of the early 60’s as well.
Essential Viewing:  The Time Machine, Destination Moon, War of the Worlds, When Worlds Collide

Arnold Schwarzenegger

When James Cameron cast Arnold as an unstoppable killing machine, he also set him on a trajectory that would make him a box office star and a Sci-Fi staple.  He’s not just the Terminator, but he’s done a whole slough of Sci-Fi hits through the years.
Essential Viewing:  Terminator 2, Total Recall, Terminator, Predator

Will Smith

Independence Day made him a film star (he was already a star) and Men in Black proved that he could deftly balance the Sci-Fi and the comedy.  Since then, even aside from the films listed below, he’s also done films that I don’t classify as Sci-Fi but definitely fit the model in some ways like I Legend and Hancock.
Essential Viewing:  Men in Black, Independence Day, I Robot

Sigourney Weaver

There really is no other female who has been a Sci-Fi star like this.  Not only is she the only true female lead in the top films in the genre, she has single-handedly carried a franchise through four films while pretty much everyone else changed over.  Then, she also showed she could do a balance like Will Smith with Sci-Fi and comedy in Galaxy Quest.
Essential Viewing:  Alien, Aliens, Avatar

 

The Studios

Because they were using independent productions and then distributing them rather than paying to produce them, United Artists was the first studio to really embrace Sci-Fi in the 50’s, releasing an array of cheap, fairly bad Sci-Fi films.  But really the genre has belonged to 20th Century-Fox.  Not only did they make one of the first important Sci-Fi films of the 50’s (The Day the Earth Stood Still), but they were the first to establish a Sci-Fi franchise (Planet of the Apes) and of the four biggest franchises, Fox has three of them (Apes, Star Wars, Alien – Paramount has Star Trek).  Fox has nine of the great Sci-Fi films while no other studio has more than three.  In 2002 alone, Fox had Minority Report, Solaris and Attack of the Clones.

Countries

Sci-Fi hasn’t been a big genre outside of the States.  I’ve seen a little more than 50 foreign Sci-Fi films and the vast majority of them are from Japan and most of those are Anime films.

Oscar Submissions

Of all the Oscar submissions I have seen through 2011, the only one I classify as Sci-Fi is Goodbye, 20th Century!, the Macedonia submission in 1998 and even that film is only partially a Sci-Fi film (it’s got three short parts and only the first part is Sci-Fi).

note:  For the next few lists, any links are to reviews I have written.  Some of them go to the Adapted Screenplay posts that discuss the film and the literary source but don’t actually review the film (but link to places where I had already reviewed the film).  There are a few that are not linked now but will be in the coming months as I get to more of the Adapted Screenplay posts.  The middle list deliberately includes any Horror films I have already reviewed as well as any Horror film I saw in the theater.  I try to include significant films in the middle list.  I have deliberately not included sequels so as to not clog the bottom of the list but I try to include first films in franchises and remakes (as well as originals) for some good comparisons.
note:  Please don’t try to make the following list match up with other lists I have made.  All my lists are fluid and they change.

The Top 50 Sci-Fi Films

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Metropolis
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  4. Alien
  5. Inception
  6. The Fountain
  7. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  9. Minority Report
  10. Brazil
  11. Solyaris
  12. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  13. Solaris
  14. E.T.
  15. Forbidden Planet
  16. Back to the Future
  17. 12 Monkeys
  18. District 9
  19. A.I.
  20. Ghostbusters
  21. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  22. Aliens
  23. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  24. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
    ***.5
  25. The Fifth Element
  26. Star Trek: First Contact
  27. Blade Runner
  28. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  29. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  30. The Thing from Another World
  31. Total Recall
  32. Dark City
  33. Star Trek
  34. Existenz
  35. Cocoon
  36. The War of the Worlds  (2005)
  37. Men in Black
  38. Back to the Future Part III
  39. Metropolis  (2001)
  40. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  41. Steamboy
  42. Perfect Blue
  43. Aelita: Queen of Mars
  44. Dreamscape
  45. 1984  (1984)
  46. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
  47. Paprika
    ***
  48. The Day the Earth Stood Still  (1951)
  49. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  50. 2046

Notable Sci-Fi Films Not in the Top 50

The Bottom 10 Sci-Fi Films, #491-500
(worst being #10, which is #500 overall)

  1. Rocket Attack U.S.A.
  2. The Eye Creatures
  3. The Creeping Terror
  4. Beginning of the End
    0 stars
  5. Teenagers from Outer Space
  6. Battlefield Earth
  7. Robot Monster
  8. Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster
  9. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
  10. Plan Nine from Outer Space

The 5 Most Underrated Sci-Fi Films

These are all films that I rate at high ***.5 that have never appeared in TSPDT’s Top 1000 (now 2000) or their Top 250 21st Century Films (now 1000) and none of these were in any of the three books that had lists of the best of the genres (Essential Horrors Movies, Best Worst and Most Unusual, Rough Guide).  They are listed here in chronological order.

  1. Cocoon
  2. Star Trek: First Contact
  3. The Fifth Element
  4. Men in Black
  5. Dark City

Best Sci-Fi Films By Decade

  • 1920’s:  Metropolis
  • 1950’s:  Forbidden Planet
  • 1960’s:  2001: A Space Odyssey
  • 1970’s:  Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • 1980’s:  Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • 1990’s:  12 Monkeys
  • 2000’s:  The Fountain
  • 2010’s:  Inception

Worst Sci-Fi Films By Decade

  • 1940’s:  The Monster and the Girl
  • 1950’s:  Plan Nine from Outer Space
  • 1960’s:  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
  • 1970’s:  The Thing with Two Heads
  • 1980’s:  Galaxina
  • 1990’s:  American Cyborg: Steel Warrior
  • 2000’s:  Battlefield Earth
  • 2010’s:  I Am Number Four

The Most Over-Rated Sci-Fi Films

  1. The Man who Fell to Earth
    Slow and ponderous.  So very, very slow.  Bowie is interesting but the film kills any overall interest with the pace.
  2. The Matrix
    From the same year as Fight Club and both movies mask shallow ideas with a pretend philosophy.  A solid film (mid ***) but a terrible performance from Reeves and the fact that it’s not as revolutionary as people think brings it down.  And that was all before the horrible, horrible sequels.  Given that Avatar was the biggest film of all-time when it was released and was nominated for Best Picture (and won at the Globes), it could have also been here.  I think both films are good films (solid ***) but don’t deserve all the accolades they get.
  3. Logan’s Run
    Was quite popular and lead to a TV series and a comic book but it’s just awful.
  4. Tron
    Like The Matrix, it had some really good effects but there’s just nothing beneath the surface.
  5. Starship Troopers
    It boggles my mind that some people think this film has the intelligence to be a satire.  Even if it is a satire, that’s no excuse for the acting.

The Statistics

Total Films 1912-2011:  500  (11th)

Total Percentage of All Films 1912-2011:  2.90%

  • 1912-1929:  8  (8th)  –  1.86%
  • 1930-1939:  12  (12th)  –  0.75%
  • 1940-1949:  6  (13th – tie)  –  0.39%
  • 1950-1959:  99  (6th)  –  5.66%
  • 1960-1969:  80  (9th)  –  4.35%
  • 1970-1979:  53  (11th)  –  2.93%
  • 1980-1989:  77  (8th)  –  3.72%
  • 1990-1999:  70  (8th)  –  2.63%
  • 2000-2011:  95  (10th)  –  2.67%

Stars:

  • ****:  4.80%
  • ***.5:  4.60%
  • ***:  19.80%
  • **.5:  18.60%
  • **:  20.00%
  • *.5:  9.00%
  • *:  13.60%
  • .5:  8.40%
  • 0:  1.20%

Biggest Years:

  • 19:  1958
  • 17:  1957
  • 15:  1960, 1984, 2011

Biggest Years by Percentage of All Films:

  • 1958:  9.64%
  • 1957:  8.42%
  • 1960:  8.02%
  • 1953:  7.74%
  • 1956:  7.07%

Best Years:

  • 1982:  2 Top 10, 3 Top 20
  • 1985:  2 Top 10, 3 Top 20
  • 1977:  2 Top 10

The Top Films:

  • Nighthawk Winner:  1968, 1977, 1979, 2010
  • Top 10 Films:  22
  • First Year in the Top 10:  1928
  • Latest Year in the Top 10:  2010
  • Longest Streak with at least one Top 10 Film:  1982-86
  • Longest Streak without a Top 10 Film:  1932-50
  • Best Decade for Top 10 Films:  1980’s  (8)
  • Worst Decade for Top 10 Films:  1940’s  (0)
  • Top 20 Films:  36
  • Longest Streak with at least one Top 20 Film:  1982-86
  • Longest Streak without a Top 20 Film:  1932-50
  • Best Decade for Top 20 Films:  1980’s  (12)
  • Worst Decade for Top 20 Films:  1940’s  (0)

Nighthawk Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  91
  • Number of Films That Have Won Nighthawks:  32
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  58
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  15
  • Best Picture Nominations:  12
  • Total Number of Nominations:  321
  • Total Number of Wins:  87
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Visual Effects  (76)
  • Director with Most Nighthawk Nominated Films:  Steven Spielberg  (5)
  • Best Film with No Nighthawks:  Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Best Film with No Nighthawk Nominations:  n/a
  • Number of Films That Have Earned Drama Nominations:  21
  • Number of Films That Have Earned Comedy Nominations:  5
  • Number of Films That Have Won Drama Awards:  6
  • Number of Films That Have Won Comedy Awards:  2
  • Drama Picture Nominations:  13
  • Comedy Picture Nominations:  4
  • Total Number of Drama Nominations:  64
  • Total Number of Comedy Nominations:  18
  • Total Number of Drama Wins:  16
  • Total Number of Comedy Wins:  3
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Picture  (13 – Drama  /  4 – Comedy)
  • Best Drama Film With No Nominations:  Solaris
  • Best Comedy Film With No Nominations:  n/a
  • Most 2nd Place Finishes:  Close Encounters of the Third Kind  (6)
  • Most 6th Place Finishes:  Brazil  (3)
  • Most Top 10 Finishes:  Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  (15)
  • Most Top 20 Finishes:  Alien  (16)
  • Best Film Without a Top 10 Finish:  n/a
  • Best Film Without a Top 20 Finish:  n/a

notes:

  • The Thing from Another World and 1984 are the only films to receive multiple nominations without a Visual Effects nomination.
  • Only 5 of the 32 films to win a Nighthawk don’t win Visual Effects.  Three of those films (Star Trek, Star Trek II, Blade Runner) were in years where a different Sci-Fi film (Alien, ET) won Visual Effects.
  • Star Trek II is the only film to win multiple awards (Editing, Score) without winning Visual Effects.
  • Every Sci-Fi film that earns ***.5 or **** earns at least one Nighthawk nom.

Most Nighthawk Nominations:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  14
  2. Alien  –  13
  3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  11
  4. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back  –  11
  5. The Fountain  –  11
  6. Inception  –  11
  7. Metropolis  –  10
  8. 2001: A Space Odyssey  –  10
  9. Solyaris  –  10
  10. Brazil  –  10

Most Nighthawks:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  12
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey  –  9
  3. Inception  –  9
  4. Alien  –  8
  5. Metropolis  /  Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace  –  5

Most Nighthawk Points:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  680
  2. Inception  –  590
  3. Alien  –  570
  4. 2001: A Space Odyssey  –  510
  5. Metropolis  –  435
  6. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back  –  345
  7. The Fountain  –  335
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  310
  9. Brazil  –  280
  10. Solyaris  –  270

Most Drama Nominations:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  6
  2. Alien  –  6
  3. Metropolis  –  5
  4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  5
  5. The Fountain  –  5

Most Comedy Nominations:

  1. Brazil  –  6
  2. Ghostbusters  –  4
  3. Back to the Future  –  4
  4. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home  –  3
  5. Men in Black  –  1

Most Drama Wins:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  4
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey  –  3
  3. Alien  –  3
  4. Inception  –  3
  5. Metropolis  –  2

Most Comedy Wins:

  1. Brazil  –  2
  2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home  –  1

Most Drama Points:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  390
  2. Alien  –  365
  3. Inception  –  305
  4. 2001: A Space Odyssey  –  270
  5. Metropolis  –  265

Most Comedy Points:

  1. Brazil  –  305
  2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home  –  175
  3. Ghostbusters  –  170
  4. Back to the Future  –  165
  5. Men in Black  –  40

All-Time Nighthawk Awards

note:  These are my all-time Top 5 in each category.  But in the Analysis section, I discuss not only how Horror films have done in the Nighthawks but also in-depth discussions of how they have done in all the awards groups.  Films in red won the Oscar.  Films in blue were Oscar nominated.  There are a few lists here that aren’t in my usual Nighthawk Awards.

  • Best Picture
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Metropolis
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  4. Alien
  5. Inception

Analysis:  Four of those films win the Nighthawk (Metropolis used to be my winner but has been bumped, just barely, by Sunrise).  Aside from those five films, seven more films earn Nighthawk noms, five of them in the course of one decade (Solyaris, Close Encounters, Empire, Star Trek II, Brazil) and then two more later (12 Monkeys, Fountain).  In all, 23 films land in the Top 10 and 35 in the Top 20.  The same four films win the Drama award with nine other nominees (the same except Brazil as well as Forbidden Planet and Return of the Jedi).  In Comedy, there are no Comedy winners but four nominees (Ghostbusters, Brazil, Back to the Future, Star Trek IV).
Traditionally, Sci-Fi has not done well here, at least until recently.  Before the Best Picture expansion in 2009 the only Oscar nominees were Star Wars and ET while afterwards at least District 9, Avatar and Inception earned nominations.  ET and Avatar won the Globe – Drama while Star Wars, Close Encounters, Cocoon and Inception earned nominations and Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and Men in Black earned Comedy noms.  Seven films have earned BAFTA noms (2001, Star Wars, Close Encounters, ET, Back to the Future, Avatar, Inception) but none have won the award.  Moon is the only film to earn a British Film nomination.  Two films earn BFCA noms (Avatar, Inception).  Four films have earned PGA noms (Avatar, Star Trek, District 9, Inception).  ET won two critics awards (LAFC, BSFC) while Star Wars (LAFC) and Brazil (LAFC) win one each.

  • Best Director
  1. Stanley Kubrick  (2001: A Space Odyssey)
  2. Ridley Scott  (Alien)
  3. George Lucas  (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
  4. Fritz Lang  (Metropolis)
  5. Christopher Nolan  (Inception)

Analysis:  Four directors win the Nighthawk (not Lang).  Another eight earn a nomination, but not the same eight as for Picture.  Instead of Empire and Star Trek II we have two nominations for Spielberg (E.T., Minority Report).  The same four directors win the Drama award while Gilliam (Brazil) wins Comedy.  Seven films earn Drama noms (Lang, Tarkovsky (Solyaris), Spielberg (three), Gilliam (12 Monkeys) and Aranofsky (Fountain)).  In Comedy there are three nominees: Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters), Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek IV).
There have been five Oscar nominees, two of them Spielberg, two of them in 1977 (also Kubrick and Cameron).
Cameron actually won the Globe for Avatar.  Lucas, Spielberg (three times – Close Encounters, ET, AI) and Nolan (Inception) all earned noms.  No BAFTA winners but Spielberg (Close Encounters, ET), Cameron, Neill Blomkamp (District 9) and Nolan earned noms.  Spielberg won the BFCA for Minority Report while Cameron and Nolan have earned noms.  There have been seven DGA nominees but no winners: Kubrick, Spielberg and Lucas in 77, Spielberg again for ET, Ron Howard (Cocoon), Cameron and Nolan.
Spielberg won three awards for ET (LAFC, NSFC, BSFC) while Gilliam won the LAFC for Brazil.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Minority Report
  2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Solaris
  4. 12 Monkeys
  5. Solyaris

Analysis:  There are no Nighthawk winners and barely more than a handful of nominees (Solyaris, Empire, Star Trek II and IV, 12 Monkeys, Minority Report).  Though I rate the remake’s script higher for Solaris, 2002 is a much tougher year than 1976.  Star Trek IV does win the Comedy award while Men in Black earns a nomination while nine films (the five mentioned above as well as 1984, T2, AI and District 9) earn Drama noms.
District 9 is the only Adapted nominee at the Oscars, Globes, BAFTAs and BFCA.  It wasn’t eligible for a WGA nom but Star Trek earned one that same year and Empire was nominated for Adapted Comedy in 1980.

  • Best Novel Adapted into a Sci-Fi Film:
  1. 1984  (twice)
  2. Dune
  3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  4. The War of the Worlds  (twice)
  5. The Time Machine  (twice)

Analysis:  It’s notable that of my Top 5 Adapted Screenplays, only two are adapted from a novel and it’s the same novel.  My sixth and seventh place choices in this category (Solaris (twice), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) are well worth reading as well.  It’s also notable that the two films that haven’t been filmed twice have also been made into a television series.

Best Original Screenplay:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Inception
  3. The Fountain
  4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  5. Alien

Analysis:  The two Nighthawk winners are about as far apart as you can get (Metropolis – 1928, Inception – 2010).  There are also 10 nominees, spread from 1956 (Forbidden Planet – which I do list as original) to 2006.  There are six Drama winners (Metropolis, 2001, Star Wars, Alien, ET, Inception) which shows that those other four all lost the Nighthawk to extremely brilliant comedies (Producers, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Tootsie) and three other Drama nominees (Forbidden Planet, Close Encounters, Fountain).  There are no Comedy winners and just three nominees (Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Brazil).
There have been six Oscar nominees (2001, Star Wars, ET, Back to the Future, Brazil, Inception) but no winners.  The same four films earned Globe noms and BAFTA noms (Close Encounters, ET, Back to the Future, Inception).  Inception earned a BFCA nom.  ET and Inception both won the WGA with five other films earning noms (Star Wars, Close Encounters, Back to the Future, Cocoon, Avatar).  Brazil won the LAFC while Inception won the CFC.

  • Best Actor:
  1. Hugh Jackman  (The Fountain)
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio  (Inception)
  3. Jonathan Pryce  (Brazil)
  4. Richard Dreyfuss  (Close Encounters of the Third Kind)
  5. Tom Cruise  (Minority Report)

Analysis:  Only Jackman and DiCaprio manage Nighthawk noms.  For Drama, Dreyfuss and Cruise also manage noms while in Comedy, Pryce and Bill Murray (Ghostbusters) earn noms.
The only Oscar nominee is Jeff Bridges (Starman).  Bridges (in Drama), Murray and Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future (Comedy) earn Globe noms.  There have been no BAFTA, BFCA, SAG noms or critics awards.

  • Best Actress
  1. Sigourney Weaver  (Aliens)
  2. Sigourney Weaver  (Alien)
  3. Rachel Weisz  (The Fountain)
  4. Jodie Foster  (Contact)
  5. Carrie Fisher  (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)

Analysis:  Weaver (both times) and Fisher (in a weak year) earn Nighthawk noms.  In addition, Weisz joins them as a Drama nom.
Weaver in Aliens is the only Oscar nominee.  Weaver (Aliens) and Foster are Globe nominees. There have been no BAFTA, BFCA, SAG noms or critics awards.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Alec Guinness  (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
  2. Brad Pitt  (12 Monkeys)
  3. Richard Burton  (1984)
  4. Peter Cushing  (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
  5. Ian Holm  (Alien)

Analysis:  Guinness is the only Nighthawk winner.  The other four earn Nighthawk noms as do Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Metropolis), Michael Palin (Brazil) and Jude Law (AI).  Add to that James Earl Jones (Star Wars) and Don Ameche (Cocoon) as Drama nominees, Palin as a Comedy winner and Ian Holm (Brazil) and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) as Comedy nominees.
Ameche won the Oscar while Guinness and Pitt earned nominations.  Guinness (along with Dillon – see below) was the first ever acting nominee from a Sci-Fi film and through 2011 Ameche is the only acting Oscar.  Guinness was the first ever Globe nominee as well while Pitt was the first ever winner and Law also earned a nomination.  The only two Sci-Fi BAFTA acting nominees ever are Francois Truffaut (Close Encounters) and Holm (Alien).  Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) is the only ever BFCA acting nominee.  There have been no SAG nominees.  Ian Holm won the BSFC for several films in 1985 including Brazil, the only critics award for acting for a Sci-Fi film through 2011.

  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Brigitte Helm  (Metropolis)
  2. Zhang Ziyi  (2046)
  3. Melinda Dillon  (Close Encounters of the Third Kind)
  4. Samantha Morton  (Minority Report)
  5. Suzannah Hamilton  (1984)

Analysis:  Even more than Actress, this is a weak category.  Helm is the only Nighthawk winner while Dillon and Hamilton (in a weak year) are the only nominees.  In addition, Morton and Veronica Cartwright (Alien) manage Drama noms.
Dillon’s Oscar nomination (tied with Guinness for the first ever acting nomination for a Sci-Fi film) is the only awards attention in this category.

  • Best Ensemble
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Alien
  3. Brazil
  4. A.I.
  5. 1984

Analysis:  This simply totals up all the acting points that I assign to a film.  It’s probably not surprising that the numbers for these films are far below almost any other genre.

  • Best Editing:
  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  3. Inception
  4. Alien
  5. The Fountain

Analysis:  Those are the five perfect 9’s in this category.  The Fountain doesn’t win the Nighthawk (because of The Departed) but Star Trek II does.  There are also 11 other Nighthawk nominees.
Though only Star Wars and The Matrix have won the Oscar this is one of the categories that embraced Sci-Fi first with The War of the Worlds earning a nomination back in 1953 and then Fantastic Voyage in 1966 making it the only category with just five nominees each year to have two nominated Sci-Fi films before 2001 was released.  In all, 11 films have earned nominations including the two winners with 1977 (Star Wars, Close Encounters) and 2009 (Avatar, District 9) having two each.
No Sci-Fi film has won the BAFTA although ten have been nominated including two each in 1978 (Star Wars, Close Encounters), 1982 (ET, Blade Runner) and 2009 (Avatar, District 9).  Avatar and Inception both won the BFCA.  Two films have won the ACE (Fantastic Voyage, The Matrix) while nine others have earned nominations including two in 1977 (Star Wars, Close Encounters) and three in 2009 (Avatar, District 9, Star Trek).

  • Best Cinematography:
  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  3. Alien
  4. Inception
  5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Analysis:  The first three earn perfect 9’s.  Alien, however, doesn’t win the Nighthawk (because of Apocalypse Now).  The Nighthawk winners are 2001, Star Wars, ET and Inception.  There are only six other Nighthawk nominees.  Of the 10 nominated films, there is a Spielberg winner and two other nominees (Close Encounters, Minority Report).
Three films have won the Oscar including back-to-back winners in 2009 (Avatar) and 2010 (Inception) while Close Encounters is the other winner.  There have been nine other nominees including The Black Hole which was nominated over Alien.  To show how backwards the Oscar voters have been, here are other films nominated over my Top 3 on this list: Funny Girl, Ice Station Zebra, Star!, The Turning Point.
The BAFTAs have been better: 2001 and Blade Runner both won the award while six others have earned noms including two in 2009 (Avatar, District 9).  Like with Editing, Avatar and Inception both won the BFCA.  Inception is the only ASC winner with only four other nominees (Star Trek IV, Abyss, T2, Avatar), three of which are Cameron films.  2046 won both the NYFC and NSFC while ET (BSFC), Blade Runner (LAFC) and Inception (CFC) won one award each.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. John Williams  (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
  2. John Williams  (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
  3. Jerry Goldsmith  (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
  4. James Horner  (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
  5. John Williams  (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)

Analysis:  ALL HAIL JOHN WILLIAMS!!!  You might say I over-rate the Star Wars scores but they are all different (yes, they all use the main title score but they all are very different through the films themselves) and they are all brilliant.  Plus, the awards list down below makes it clear that Williams is just massively dominant in this category.  All six Star Wars films (even the ones not in the Top 5) earn perfect 9’s.  It was very difficult to decide what that third Williams score would be in the Top 5 although it was just as hard to eliminate the other perfect 9 (Back to the Future).  The two Star Trek scores are a perfect example of the difficulty in ranking this category.  The Goldsmith has the better title score (which is so brilliant it later became the theme for TNG) but Horner’s is the better score all the way through (probably in the Top 5 non-Williams soundtracks I have listened to from start to finish in my life).
Only four of the Star Wars scores win the Nighthawk (Jedi loses to Terms of Endearment and The Right Stuff, Clones loses out to Two Towers) but so do the two Star Trek scores and Back to the Future.  In total, there are 19 nominees including the seven winners and eight of them are scored by Williams (also Close Encounters and ET).
Two films have won the Oscar, both scored by Williams (Star Wars, ET).  Another 12 films have earned noms, four of them by Williams (Close Encounters, Empire, Jedi, AI) with two nominations each for Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes, Star Trek) and James Horner (Aliens, Avatar).
Score is far and away the best category for Sci-Fi at the Globes with 16 of the 24 Sci-Fi films that have ever earned a Globe nom getting a nomination though, like the Oscars, the only winner is Williams, twice (Star Wars, ET).
Williams wins three BAFTAs (Star Wars, Empire, ET) and earns a nom for Close Encounters leaving just five other noms in the category, including one for Queen for Flash Gordon!  Williams wins the BFCA (Minority Report) while The Fountain and Inception earn noms.  He also wins the LAFC for Star Wars while Clint Mansell becomes the only Sci-Fi composer to win something other than Williams, winning the CFC for The Fountain.

  • Best Sound:
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  4. Alien
  5. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Analysis:  Four other films earn perfect 9’s (Jedi, Phantom Menace, Sith, Minority Report).  The top four films win the Nighthawk as do Phantom Menace and Inception.  Another 23 films earn nominations including three in 2009 (Avatar, District 9, Star Trek).
Three films won the Oscar in close succession (Star Wars, Empire, ET) then three more with big gaps (T2, Matrix, Inception).  Another 25 films have earned nominations with only War of the Worlds and Marooned before 1977.  The peaks were the three nominations in 2009 (Avatar, District 9, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) and the 3 winners and 11 more nominees from 1977 to 1986.
Six films have also won the BAFTA though it’s 2001 and Alien instead of Empire and ET.  Another 11 have earned nominations with three in 2009 (Avatar, District 9, Star Trek).  Avatar and Inception have won the BFCA with District 9, Star Trek and Super 8 earning noms.  Surprisingly, The Matrix is the only CAS winner though there have been 14 nominees including four in 2009 (all four with other nominations).

  • Best Art Direction:
  1. Metropolis
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  4. Blade Runner
  5. Inception

Analysis:  These are all perfect 9’s as are Alien and Brazil.  Six of those win the Nighthawk (Brazil loses to Ran).  There are also 10 nominees including Brazil, three of which are Star Wars films.
There have been three Oscar winners (Fantastic Voyage, Star Wars, Inception) and 18 nominees including Just Imagine, the first (1931) Sci-Fi film to earn an Oscar nomination and the only one to earn one during the 30’s.  The best stretch, by far, was 1976 to 1989 with one winner and 11 other nominees.
This has been a strong category for the genre at the BAFTAs with seven winners (2001, Close Encounters, Alien, Blade Runner, Brazil, Avatar, Inception) and another 11 nominees, with most of them (4 wins, 8 other noms) from 1978 to 1986.
Avatar and Inception win the BFCA and the ADG while 10 other films earn ADG noms.  Three films win critics awards: 2046, District 9 and Inception.

  • Best Visual Effects
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  4. District 9
  5. Avatar

Analysis:  I’m not going to list all of the perfect 9’s in this category because there are 18 of them.  That accounts for over 60% of the 9’s in this category through 2011 with most of the rest in Fantasy (and four outliers: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Jurassic Park, Titanic, King Kong).  I thought for quite a while on the Top 5 and I decided based, not only on the effects and how well they looked originally and how well they looked now, but how important they were at the time and in the history of the genre and the history of film.  As discussed in the 2009 Nighthawk Awards, I actually think the way District 9 seamlessly works in the effects to live action to the point where you can’t tell when it’s effects and when it’s makeup is more impressive than Avatar’s creation of a world that is all effects.  The #6 and 7 on the list would be Inception and The Fifth Element.
Sci-Fi dominates this category at the Nighthawks, of course.  It wins the award 27 times and earns 49 more nominations.  Indeed, of the 91 Sci-Fi films that earn at least one Nighthawk nomination, only 15 of them aren’t nominated for Visual Effects and five of those are animated films.  The only Sci-Fi films to earn more than one nomination and not a VE nom are The Thing from Another World, 1984 and Solaris.  While the six Star Wars films win four awards and two noms (losing to Two Towers and King Kong) the Star Trek films only manage five nominations losing to massive Sci-Fi films every time (Alien, ET, Aliens, T2, Independence Day).  In 1984, Sci-Fi accounts for all four nominees but not the winner (Temple of Doom).
Twenty three Sci-Fi films have won the Oscar, including seven films in the 80’s but only one (Avatar) in the 00’s.  Additionally, 24 films have earned nominations.  Oddly, in the 70’s and 80’s, the only Sci-Fi film to lose to a film that wasn’t Sci-Fi was Ghostbusters while since then, of the 15 nominees that lost, the only two to lose to another Sci-Fi film were Star Trek and District 9.  This category includes 47 of the 73 Sci-Fi films that have ever earned Oscar nominations.  Also, only five films have won an Oscar without winning in Visual Effects (see Oscar piece below).  James Cameron dominates here, having directed four different films that won the Oscar (Aliens, Abyss, T2, Avatar) aside from having won it as well with a Drama.
Nine films have won the BAFTA and 15 more have earned a nomination and that’s only because it took until 1982 before they began the award.  Since 1982, only three Sci-Fi films have earned a BAFTA nom without earning a VE nom (1984, Planet of the Apes, Moon).  Ironically, in 1982, the first year of the award, three Sci-Fi films were nominated (ET, Tron, Blade Runner) and they all lost (to Poltergeist).
The BFCA award began in 2009 and all three winners (Avatar, Inception, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) have been Sci-Fi as well as four other nominees.  The VES began in 2002 and Sci-Fi has been the most dominant genre with Avatar (340 points, 6 wins, 5 more noms) tied for the most points and Transformers (180 points, 4 wins, one more nom) also near the top.  Four films have won the biggest award (Visual Effects in an Effects Driven Film): Transformers, Avatar, Inception, Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

  • Best Sound Editing
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  3. Alien
  4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Analysis:  That’s only five of 12 perfect 9’s in this category (the others, in chronological order are 2001, Empire, Jedi, Fifth Element, AotC, Minority Report and Sith).  Only nine films win the Nighthawk though (Thing from Another World, 2001, Star Wars, Alien, Empire, Aliens, T2, Phantom Menace, Inception) with all of this films except Thing also winning VE with a whopping 43 other nominees.  Like with VE, that includes all of the nominees in 1984 but not the winner.  Thing from Another World, Star Trek III and Solaris are the only Sci-Fi films that earn a SE nom but not a VE nom.
There have been eight Oscar winners (Star Wars and Close Encounters won two special awards, ET, Back to the Future, Aliens, T2, Matrix, Inception).  There have been 15 other nominees.  Surprisingly, as recently as 1992-96, the genre went five straight years without a nominee.  A ridiculous number of Sci-Fi films have won the MPSE (in excess of 20) and with the increase in categories, even more have won multiple awards and received multiple nominations in recent years.  In total, 45 Sci-Fi films have earned at least one MPSE nomination.  Since the expansion in categories in 1997, the only years that haven’t had at least one Sci-Fi nominee are 2006 and 2008.

  • Best Costume Design:
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  3. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  4. The Fountain
  5. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Analysis:  Star Wars is the only Nighthawk winner with Empire and Phantom Menace the only other nominees.
Star Wars is also the only Oscar winner though the original Planet of the Apes, Tron, 2010 and 12 Monkeys were all nominated.
Blade Runner won the BAFTA while Star Wars, Alien, Flash Gordon and the 2001 Planet of the Apes all earned noms.  Seven films have managed CDG nominations but none of them have won the award.

  • Best Makeup
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  4. Alien
  5. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Analysis:  Nine films win the Nighthawk (2001, Star Wars, Alien, Jedi, Aliens, T2, Fifth Element, Phantom Menace, District 9).  Another 23 films earn nominations (including the other three Star Wars films).
Four films have won the Oscar (Planet of the Apes (the original), T2, Men in Black, Star Trek).  In addition, six more films have been nominated, though, to be fair, none of my Top 5 were eligible (three predate the award, one was in a year where Planet of the Apes won a special award and the final one had no award given that year).
There were four early BAFTA nominees (ET, Blade Runner, Jedi, Aliens) and the only since is the 2001 Planet of the ApesAvatar, Star Trek and District 9 all received BFCA noms in 2009 but lost.  Bicentennial Man, Planet of the Apes and AI won MUAHSG awards while Terminator 3 was nominated.

  • Best Technical Aspects
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Alien
  3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  5. The Fountain

Analysis:  A tallying up of all the Tech categories.  2001 is hurt by the lack of an original score while both Alien and 2001 are held back by weaker costumes as well.  The next four films on the list are the other four Star Wars films.  Perhaps not surprisingly, there are only four Sci-Fi films that have earned points from me at all without earning any Tech points.  Three of those are Animated films that just barely earn points for Picture (and thus Animated Film).  The other is Tank Girl which earns points for Song.

  • Best Original Song:
  1. “The Power of Love”  (Back to the Future)
  2. “Ghostbusters”  (Ghosbusters)
  3. “Mockingbird Girl”  (Tank Girl)
  4. “Back in Time”  (Back to the Future)
  5. “Flash”  (Flash Gordon)

Analysis:  Three of these songs earn Nighthawk noms (the first three).
The only three Oscar nominees are the first two as well as “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from Armageddon (a song, I must admit, that has grown on me considerably since the initial release).  The top two also earned Globe noms as well as some song from Avatar I can’t even remember.  “Ghostbusters” actually won the BAFTA during their short-lived category.

  • Best Animated Film:
  1. Metropolis (2001)
  2. Steamboy
  3. Perfect Blue
  4. Paprika
  5. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Analysis:  These are the only five animated films I classify as Sci-FI and earn more than *** (they are all low ***.5).  They all also earn Nighthawk noms.
Even though four of these films (all but Perfect Blue) were eligible for Animated Film, none of them earned Oscar noms.  Ghost in the Shell 2 did earn an Annie nom.

  • Best Foreign Film:
  1. Metropolis
  2. Solyaris
  3. Metropolis (2001)
  4. Steamboy
  5. Perfect Blue

note:  The original Metropolis is the only Nighthawk winner and Solyaris is the only other nominee (and certainly was worthy of the award but ran up against Aguirre).  They are both high **** while the other three are low ***.5.
There have been no Oscar nominees (and indeed, only one Oscar submission) and 2046‘s LAFC win is the only award for any film.

  • Best Film (by my points system):
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Alien
  3. The Fountain
  4. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  5. Inception

Analysis:  The top four films are all among the (relatively) rare number of films with over 100 total points with Star Wars in 9th place all-time, first among Sci-Fi (obviously) and second for the 70’s (behind only The Godfather).

  • Best Film  (weighted points system)
  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Alien
  3. The Fountain
  4. Inception
  5. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Analysis:  With better scores in the bigger categories, Inception moves past Empire here.

Best Films With No Top 5 Finishes:

  • E.T.
  • Forbidden Planet

note:  The only medium **** films to not earn any Top 5 finishes.

Worst Film with a Top 5 Finish:

  • Tank Girl

Note:  A full 28 points worse than any other Top 5 finisher.

Nighthawk Notables

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “You stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerfherder!”  “Who’s scruffy-looking?” (Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “I am your father.”  (James Earl Jones in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope)
  • Worst Line:  “Rico, I’m dying.”  “No Diz, you’ll be fine.”  “But it’s okay, because I got to have you.”  (Dina Meyer and Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers)
  • Best Opening:  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Best Ending:  Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Best Scene:  the Genesis countdown in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Most Terrifying Scene:  the barricade scene in Aliens
  • Most Gut-Wrenching Scene:  the stomach scene in Alien
  • Most Heart-Wrenching Scene:  Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Best Death Scene:  Alec Guinness in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Best Kiss:  Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford on the Falcon in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Johnny B. Goode”  (Back to the Future)
  • Best Use of Classical Music:  “Also Sprach Zarathustra”  (2001: A Space Odyssey)
  • Best Soundtrack:  Back to the Future
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  Battlestar Galactica
  • Funniest Film:  Ghostbusters
  • Most Terrifying Film:  Alien
  • Worst Film I Saw in the Theater:  Lost in Space
  • Worst Film by a Top 100 Director:  Quintet (Robert Altman)
  • Read the Book, SKIP the Film:  Sphere
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Carrie Fisher in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Sexiest Performance:  Zoe Saldana in Star Trek
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  Heather Graham in Lost in Space
  • Coolest Performance:  Harrison Ford in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Best Poster:  Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  • Best Tagline:  “In space no one can hear you scream”  (Alien)
  • Best Trailer:  Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Special Edition)
  • Best Voice Performance:  James Earl Jones in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Best Cameo:  Kate Mulgrew in Star Trek: Nemesis
  • Sexiest Cameo:  Rachel Nichols in Star Trek
  • Funniest Cameo:  Huey Lewis in Back to the Future

 

note:  It doesn’t include categories that are covered in some of the lists above like Worst Film, Most Over-rated Film, Best Ensemble, etc and some categories are covered in the Franchise list at the end of the post.

Soundtracks I Own:  2001, Star Wars (all of them, including the box set with the extras disc), Star Trek II, Star Trek (compilation), Back to the Future

At the Theater

By the end of 2011, I had probably seen over 1000 films in the theater at some point or another.  I had certainly been to the movies well over 1000 times.  And the list of Sci-Fi films I have seen in the theater is lengthy, far out of proportion to other genres that I have covered so far.

I will start with films I have seen at least 10 times in the theater: Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith.  Now we’ll do the chronological list of Sci-Fi films I have seen multiple times in the theaters: Metropolis, Back to the Future, Star Trek VI, Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones.  Here are the Sci-Fi films I saw in the theater but just once: Star Trek II, ET, Star Trek III, Star Trek IV, Star Trek V, Back to the Future Part II, Total Recall, Back to the Future Part III, Predator 2, Terminator 2, Alien3, Lawnmower Man, Star Trek: Generations, Stargate, 12 Monkeys, Strange Days, Star Trek: First Contact, Mars Attacks, Independence Day, The Fifth Element, Men in Black, Starship Troopers, Alien Resurrection, Star Trek: Insurrection, Armageddon, Lost in Space, AI, Planet of the Apes, Minority Report, Star Trek: Nemesis, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, War of the Worlds, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Star Trek.

So, that’s a total of 44 films and, by my count, about 115 trips to the theater.  Compare that to the 102 combined films (with 105 trips) for the six genres I have already covered (Crime, Horror, Mystery, Suspense, War, Western) which add up to something like 5 times as many total films that I have seen.

Awards


Academy Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  73
  • Number of Films That Have Won Oscars:  28
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  45
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  11
  • Best Picture Nominations:  5
  • Total Number of Nominations:  200
  • Total Number of Wins:  53
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Visual Effects  (47)
  • Number of Films with Nominations I Haven’t Seen:  0
  • Directors with Most Oscar Nominated Films:  Steven Spielberg  (5)
  • Best Film with No Oscar Nominations:  Metropolis
  • Best English Language Film with No Oscar Nominations:  The Fountain

Oscar Oddities:

  • Star Wars, the first Sci-Fi film ever nominated for Best Picture is still, through 2011, the only Sci-Fi film ever nominated for Picture, Director, Screenplay and an acting category.
  • The only other film even with Picture, Director and Screenplay is ET while no other film has managed any three of the four.
  • Only a handful even have two.  Avatar has Picture and Director.  District 9 and Inception have Picture and Screenplay.  2001 has Director and Screenplay.  Close Encounters has Director and Supporting Actress.
  • Cocoon is the only film to win a major category (Supporting Actor).
  • The only films with more than one nomination to win all of their nominations are The Matrix (4 for 4) and Cocoon (2 for 2).
  • 34 of the 45 films with multiple nominations earned a VE nom.  Every film with more than 4 noms earned a VE nom.  Oddly, the only films with 4 noms to not earn a VE nom were in three successive years (1984, 1985, 1986 – 2010, Back to the Future, Star Trek IV).
  • Of the 28 films to win at least one Oscar, 23 of them won VE.
  • The only Sci-Fi film to win more than one Oscar and not win VE is Close Encounters which, of course, lost VE to Star Wars.
  • Thanks to several franchises (Star Wars, Alien, Apes), 20th Century-Fox dominates the Oscars, accounting for nearly a third of the nominations (64) and over 40% of the wins (23) including 10 in VE.

Most Oscar Nominations

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  11
  2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  9
  3. E.T.  –  9
  4. Avatar  –  9
  5. Inception  –  8
  6. Aliens  –  7
  7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  6
  8. Fantastic Voyage  –  5
  9. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi  –  5
  10. ten films  –  4

note:  You will see in most places that Star Wars earned 10 Oscar nominations.  But you will also see it listed with 7 wins and it lost Picture, Director, Screenplay and Supporting Actor.  The answer is that Star Wars won a special award for its Sound Editing which is considered an Oscar but not one of its nominations.  I include special awards as a nomination if they are in a category that is given out as a regular award in other years so I count it with 11 nominations.  Likewise, They Shoot Horses Don’t They is often listed as the film with the most Oscar nominations without a Best Picture nomination (9) but since Close Encounters also earned a special Sound Editing award in 1977, I count it with 9 as well.

Most Oscar Wins:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  7
  2. E.T.  –  4
  3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  4
  4. The Matrix  –  4
  5. Inception  –  4

note:  All five of these films won Sound, VE and SE.  Of the four that won four, they were four different awards (Score for ET, Makeup for T2, Editing for Matrix, Cinematography for Inception while Star Wars‘ other three Oscars were in those first three listed).

Most Oscar Points:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  455
  2. E.T.  –  355
  3. Avatar  –  315
  4. Inception  –  305
  5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  275
  6. Aliens  –  205
  7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  190
  8. The Matrix  –  170
  9. Fantastic Voyage  –  150
  10. 2001: A Space Odyssey  –  145

Most Films Nominated in a Franchise:

  1. Star Wars  –  6
  2. Star Trek  –  5
  3. Alien  /  Transformers  –  3

Most Nominations for a Franchise:

  1. Star Wars  –  25
  2. Star Trek  –  14
  3. Alien  –  10

Most Films Nominated for a Director:

  1. Steven Spielberg  –  5
  2. George Lucas  –  4
  3. James Cameron  –  4
  4. Michael Bay  –  4

Most Nominations for a Director:

  1. James Cameron  –  26
  2. Steven Spielberg  –  24
  3. George Lucas  –  16
  4. Michael Bay  –  11

Most Oscars for a Director:

  1. James Cameron  –  10
  2. George Lucas  –  7
  3. Steven Spielberg  –  6

Critics Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Won Critics Awards:  8
  • Number of Films With Multiple Awards:  5
  • Best Picture Wins:  4
  • Total Number of Awards:  21
  • Category With the Most Awards:  Cinematography  (5)

Most Awards:

  1. E.T.  –  6
  2. Brazil  –  4
  3. 2046  –  4
  4. Inception  –  3
  5. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  2

Most Points:

  1. E.T.  –  487
  2. Brazil  –  324
  3. 2046  –  175
  4. Inception  –  157
  5. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  150

Most Points by Critics Group:

  • NYFC:  2046  –  90
  • LAFC:  Brazil  –  270
  • NSFC:  E.T.  –  90
  • BSFC:  E.T.  –  240
  • CFC:  Inception  –  130
  • NBR:  n/a

Notes:

  • Though the NYFC dates back to 1935, 2046, which was released in 2005, is the only Sci-Fi film to win any awards.
  • The NBR dates back to 1932 and no Sci-Fi film has won an award there.
  • By contrast, the LAFC began in 1975 and two years later they gave Best Picture to Star Wars, the first Sci-Fi film to win any critics awards.
  • Over half of the 21 awards given to Sci-Fi films have come from the LAFC (11).

Golden Globes

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  24
  • Number of Films That Have Won Globes:  4
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  9
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  2
  • Best Picture Nominations:  9
  • Total Number of Nominations:  47
  • Total Number of Wins:  6
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Score  (16)
  • Best Film with No Globe Nominations:  2001: A Space Odyssey

notes:

  • 24 films earn Globe noms – the exact same as Horror – and 47 noms – 1 short of Horror.
  • With Sci-Fi films traditionally not doing well in major categories, it should be no surprise that 19 of the 47 nominations are in Score or Song.

Most Globe Nominations:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  4
  2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  4
  3. E.T.  –  4
  4. Back to the Future  –  4
  5. Avatar  /  Inception  –  4

Most Globes:

  1. E.T.  –  2
  2. Avatar  –  2
  3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  1
  4. 12 Monkeys  –  1

Most Globe Points:

  1. E.T.  –  235
  2. Avatar  –  225
  3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  175
  4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  160
  5. Inception  –  160

Guild Awards

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  64
  • Number of Films That Have Won Guild Awards:  36
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  17
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  11
  • Best Picture Nominations:  4
  • Total Number of Nominations:  211
  • Total Number of Wins:  57
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Sound Editing  (45) *
  • Best Film with No Guild Nominations:  Alien

notes:

  • Because the VES and MPSE have so many categories, I decided to do the “most” category by film number rather than total nominations.  Avatar, for instance, won 6 VES awards among 11 nominations.
  • As mentioned, of Avatar‘s record 22 nominations (which ties the all-time record with Return of the King), 11 were from the VES and 3 more from the MPSE.
  • While Avatar and Inception won the same number of guild awards, Avatar‘s were only from three different guilds while Inception‘s were from five.

Most Guild Nominations:

  1. Avatar  –  22
  2. Inception  –  15
  3. Star Trek  –  11
  4. Transformers  –  8
  5. District 9  –  8

Most Guild Wins:

  1. Avatar  –  9
  2. Inception  –  9
  3. The War of the Worlds (2005)  –  4
  4. Transformers  –  4
  5. The Matrix  –  3

Most Guild Points:

  1. Avatar  –  700
  2. Inception  –  585
  3. Star Trek  –  270
  4. Transformers  –  240
  5. District 9  –  235
  6. The Matrix  –  205
  7. The War of the Worlds (2005)  –  200
  8. E.T.  –  190
  9. Transformers: Dark of the Moon  –  180
  10. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones  /  Rise of the Planet of the Apes  –  160

Most Guild Points (adjusted):

note:  By “adjusted”, I mean a maximum of 40 points each from the VES or MPSE.

  1. Inception  –  405
  2. Avatar  –  340
  3. Star Trek  –  250
  4. District 9  –  195
  5. E.T.  –  190
  6. The Matrix  –  165
  7. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  150
  8. Minority Report  –  125
  9. Tron: Legacy  –  115
  10. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  110

Highest Guild Point Percentage:

  1. E.T.  –  16.24%
  2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  12.40%
  3. Avatar  –  11.99%
  4. Inception  –  10.02%
  5. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  9.09%

The BAFTAs

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  33
  • Number of Films That Have Won BAFTAs:  17
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  22
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  9
  • Best Picture Nominations:  7
  • Total Number of Nominations:  117
  • Total Number of Wins:  29
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Visual Effects  (24)
  • Best Film with No BAFTA Nominations:  The Fountain

notes:

  • Of the 29 BAFTA wins, all of them are in Tech categories (9 – VE, 7 – AD, 6 – Sound, 3 – Score, 2 – Cinematography, 1 – CD, 1 – Makeup).
  • Of the 9 films to win multiple BAFTAs, all of them won either Sound or Art Direction and of the 21 BAFTAs those films won, all but 4 of them were VE, AD or Sound.
  • Though only seven films have earned a Picture nomination, two of them (Star Wars, Close Encounters) were in the same year.
  • Like the Oscars, only one film has earned Picture, Director, Screenplay and an acting nomination but it wasn’t Star Wars, it was Close Encounters.
  • Five films have earned the big 5 Tech noms (Editing, Cinematography, Score, Sound, AD) and two of them were in the same year but it wasn’t the same year as Picture (ET, Blade Runner).
  • Blade Runner is the only Sci-Fi film nominated in all eight Tech categories.  It was the first film that could do it (VE and Makeup began in 1982) and until 1988 was the only film at all to do it.  It remains the only film to earn all eight noms but no other noms.

Most BAFTA Noms:

  1. E.T.  –  10
  2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  9
  3. Inception  –  9
  4. Blade Runner  –  8
  5. Avatar  –  8
  6. District 9  –  7
  7. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  6
  8. Alien  –  6
  9. Back to the Future  –  5
  10. The Matrix  –  5

Most BAFTA Wins:

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey  –  3
  2. Blade Runner  –  3
  3. Inception  –  3
  4. six films  –  2

Most BAFTA Points:

  1. Inception  –  330
  2. E.T.  –  305
  3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  300
  4. Avatar  –  270
  5. Blade Runner  –  220
  6. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  200
  7. District 9  –  195
  8. 2001: A Space Odyssey  –  180
  9. Alien  –  175
  10. Back to the Future  –  155

Broadcast Film Critics Awards
(Critic’s Choice Awards)

  • Number of Films That Have Earned Nominations:  10
  • Number of Films That Have Won BFCA:  5
  • Number of Films With Multiple Nominations:  7
  • Number of Films With Multiple Wins:  3
  • Best Picture Nominations:  2
  • Total Number of Nominations:  33
  • Total Number of Wins:  14
  • Category With the Most Nominations:  Visual Effects  (7)
  • Best Film with No BFCA Nominations:  Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Most Nominations:  Inception  (9)
  • Most Wins:  Inception  /  Avatar  (5)

BFCA Points:

  1. Inception  –  380
  2. Avatar  –  325
  3. Minority Report  –  140
  4. District 9  –  90
  5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes  –  70

All Awards

Most Nominations:

  1. Avatar  –  51
  2. Inception  –  48
  3. E.T.  –  33
  4. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  26
  5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  26
  6. District 9  –  25
  7. Star Trek  –  20
  8. The Matrix  –  16
  9. Back to the Future  –  14
  10. Aliens  –  13

Most Awards:

  1. Inception  –  24
  2. Avatar  –  22
  3. E.T.  –  13
  4. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  12
  5. The Matrix  –  9
  6. Brazil  –  6
  7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day  –  6
  8. eight films  –  4

note:  It’s worth noting that Star Wars won 7 Oscars, or more awards there than all but four other Sci-Fi films have won total.
note:  It’s also worth noting that Fantastic Voyage is the earliest film to win 4 awards and the first Sci-Fi film to win more than two awards.

Total Awards Points

  1. Inception  –  1751
  2. Avatar  –  1655
  3. E.T.  –  1506
  4. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  1044
  5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  838
  6. District 9  –  686
  7. The Matrix  –  505
  8. Brazil  –  464
  9. Back to the Future  –  409
  10. Star Trek  –  403

Highest Awards Points Percentage:

  1. E.T.  –  13.06%
  2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  9.43%
  3. Inception  –  8.30%
  4. Avatar  –  7.88%
  5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  7.57%
  6. Brazil  –  3.96%
  7. 2001: A Space Odyssey  –  3.67%
  8. Back to the Future  –  3.49%
  9. District 9  –  3.26%
  10. Aliens  –  3.03%

note:  This is why I do the percentage, because it gives a historical perspective.
note:  I should mention Blade Runner which isn’t on any of the four lists above but was 11th in noms (12), tied for 8th in wins (4), 14th in points (330) and 12th in percentage (2.86%).

Lists

I won’t do a lot of lists because that’s the whole point of TSPDT – they put a ridiculous amount of lists in the blender and come out with the “definitive” one.  Their lists includes lists by genre, so you can always go there and look at their source lists.

The TSPDT Top 25 Sci-Fi Films:

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (#3)
  2. Blade Runner (#38)
  3. Stalker (#52)
  4. Metropolis (#59)
  5. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (#115)
  6. E.T.  (#119)
  7. Alien (#129)
  8. Brazil (#183)
  9. Solaris (#190)
  10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (#203)
  11. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (#274)
  12. The Matrix (#290)
  13. Videodrome (#292)
  14. Back to the Future (#302)
  15. Aliens (#341)
  16. The Terminator (#446)
  17. A.I. (#522)
  18. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (#610)
  19. Ghostbusters (#704)
  20. Avatar (#737)
  21. Starship Troopers (#768)
  22. Akira (#822)
  23. The Day the Earth Stood Still (#841)
  24. The Incredible Shrinking Man (#867)
  25. Forbidden Planet (#872)

note:  These are the current (2019) rankings from TSPDT and there are several things to note so I will do them below as bullet points.

  • I used the Horror list as the template for writing this and while Horror is often thought of as a genre without a lot of respect, Horror managed 25 films in the Top 400.
  • There are only two films in the Top 1000 that didn’t make this list – 2046 (#875) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (#965).  2046 was, just a few years ago, higher than several films on this list.
  • I normally wouldn’t point this out until the post-2011 section but I’ll mention it here: the inclusion of Avatar but not Under the Skin which ranks considerably higher than Avatar on TSPDT’s 21st Century List (#56 as opposed to #106) shows how strange the way TSPDT makes their lists is.
  • That point is also made in that The Thing from Another World (which I personally rank much higher than several films on their list) used to be a Top 500 film and today isn’t even in the Top 1000.

AFI:

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  3. E.T.
  4. A Clockwork Orange
  5. The Day the Earth Stood Still
  6. Blade Runner
  7. Alien
  8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  10. Back to the Future

note:  Because the AFI did a straight list, I can’t adjust for the fact that two of their films (Clockwork, Body Snatchers) are films I classify as Horror.

The IMDb Voters Top 10 Sci-Fi Films:

  1. Inception
  2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. The Matrix
  4. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  5. Back to the Future
  6. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
  7. Alien
  8. Aliens
  9. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  10. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office  (through December 31, 2011)

  1. Avatar  –  $760.50 mil
  2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  $460.99 mil
  3. E.T.  –  $435.11 mil
  4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace  –  $431.08 mil
  5. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen  –  $402.11 mil
  6. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith  –  $380.27 mil
  7. Transformers: Dark of the Moon  –  $352.39 mil
  8. Transformers  –  $319.24 mil
  9. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones  –  $310.67 mil
  10. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi  –  $309.30 mil

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office (all-time, adjusted to December 31, 2011)

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope –  $1412.48 mil
  2. E.T. –  $1124.90 mil
  3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back –  $778.57 mil
  4. Avatar –  $771.66 mil
  5. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi –  $745.89 mil
  6. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace –  $676.17 mil
  7. Ghostbusters –  $564.40 mil
  8. Independence Day –  $549.30 mil
  9. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith –  $470.44 mil
  10. Back to the Future –  $468.27 mil

Not Sci-Fi

As mentioned below in my notes on some of the books, lots of people have larger classifications for what is a Sci-Fi film.  The AFI list had two films that I don’t classify in Sci-Fi and some of the books include a lots of films that have even marginal Sci-Fi elements and Fantasy elements.  Listed below are ten films that are often listed among the best Sci-Fi films but that I don’t classify as Sci-Fi.  They are listed chronologically.

  1. Frankenstein  (Horror)
  2. The Invisible Man  (Horror)
  3. Godzilla  (Horror)
  4. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea  (Fantasy)
  5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers  (Horror)
  6. The Fly  (Horror)
  7. A Clockwork Orange  (Horror)
  8. Sleeper  (Comedy)
  9. Jurassic Park  (Horror)
  10. Wall-E  (Kids)

Books

note:  As always, not a complete list but just the books I either own or was able to get from the library to write a piece on.  There are a lot more I could have gotten.

A Pictorial History of Science Fiction Films, Jeff Rovin, 1975

Not a bad book but rather ill-timed, coming just before the explosion of Sci-Fi films in the late 70’s.  Still, it does a good job of covering the films that had come up to that point and has a lot of stills.  This is part of a wave of coffee table books that started coming out around this time that covered both genres and great movies in general and can often be found in used bookstores (and especially libraries).

Science Fiction Gold: Film Classics of the 50s, Dennis Saleh, 1979

Because it specifically covers 50s films, it doesn’t matter that it was published so long ago.  Not a bad guide (soft cover coffee table style with plenty of stills) to the major Sci-Fi films of the decade.

Twenty All-Time Great Science Fiction Films, Kenneth Von Gunden and Stuart H. Stock, 1982

A terribly stupid book.  First of all, how can you consider Dr. Strangelove for this list and include The Magnetic Monster but not Metropolis?  There is nothing in the introduction that says it will be English language only.  It also gives no reason for stopping with 1971.  This book was published in 1982, after Star Wars, Close Encounters and Alien.  There is no excuse for them not being included.  A terrible book with a list not worth including.

A Pictorial History of Science Fiction Films, David Shipman, 1985

This book has a strange idea of what it considers Science Fiction, throwing in any Fantasy films it wants (like Sinbad films, for example).  But it’s a decent enough, if old coffee table book with plenty of color stills.

Vintage Science Fiction Films, 1896-1949, Michael Benson, 1985

One of a number of books from publisher McFarland & Company on this list.  Not all that useful partially because the amount of Sci-Fi films in that era is so small (meaning a lot of the films in the book are ones I don’t consider Sci-Fi but rather Horror or Fantasy) and because Benson just writes about all of them as a constant narrative, so it’s hard to focus on anything.

The Great Science Fiction Pictures II, James Robert Parish and Michael R. Pitts, 1990

When they wrote the first book, it was 1977 and so they missed out on the new wave of Sci-Fi films.  The problem is that for the purposes of their book the word “great” in the title has no real meaning.  It basically includes any Sci-Fi films.  Not a bad guide to what was available through 1990.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction, Phil Hardy, ed., 1991 (revised ed.)

The title of this book is a bit confusing.  The four volumes in the series (Westerns, Sci Fi, Horror, Gangster) were published as The Aurum Film Encyclopedia in the UK then published in the US as the Overlook Film Encyclopedia but with only the cover changed – the title page still says Aurum.  Either way, it’s an exhaustive look at the genre and a key book for any fan.  It organizes films by years which is tricky because it’s inconsistent (for instance, 1969 has The Love Bug and Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the former of which is a 1968 film and the latter is from 1970).  It’s best used to find more obscure foreign titles which it documents quite well.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Sequels, Series and Remakes, Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester, 1997

Another McFarland book, this one is quite useful though it would have been more useful in Horror (I found it just as I published that post).  It has pieces on almost anything that was a series and does you the favor of grouping them together under the original film (with notes under other films of where to look for the series).  The analysis part isn’t useful (they must be the only people who think that Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II are equally rated films) but that’s a small part of the book anyway.  A useful resource.  They recently published a second volume that goes up through 2016 but my library doesn’t have it so I haven’t read it.

Eye on Science Fiction: 20 Interviews with Classic SF and Horror Filmmakers, Tom Weaver, 2003

By “classic”, what Weaver means is films made in the 50’s and a lot of them are terrible.  It’s really a standard of time not quality.  But it is interesting to get interviews with more bit people involved with making those films.

The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, John Scalzi, 2005

Like all the Rough Guides, a perfect place to start.  Its Canon isn’t the best (and only 30 of the 50 on its list do I count as Sci-Fi) but it is a great place to figure out what movies you need to see and it mentions almost all major films in the genre somewhere in the book.

Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, Bill Warren, 2010

This is a voluminous work and an important one.  It was originally published over the course of time in two volumes but Warren went back and re-did the whole thing and published it in one giant volume in 2010.  He gives full weight to the films, not just capsule reviews, covering 283 films but giving them 900 pages with films deserving more getting more (Forbidden Planet, for example, gets 11 pages).  Warren is quite generous in his definition.  I found it quite odd that I had one film I classify as Sci-Fi that he dismissed as pure fantasy (The Flight That Disappeared) when well over half the films in the book I don’t consider Sci-Fi and he puts in such films as The Crimson Pirate and Road to Hong Kong.  But it’s a must for any fan of the genre because it gives you so much.  When I first went through it, in June of 2019, there were actually 111 films in it I hadn’t seen (now there are only 22) but of the 261 I have seen, I only classify just under half of them as Sci-Fi (129).

sci-fi chronicles, Guy Haley, ed., 2014

This is a really good book with a strong visual presentation that covers the entire history of Sci-Fi starting in 1818 with the publication of Frankenstein.  It presents major works, authors and franchises in a great way.  A must-have for any fan of Sci-Fi.  My only beef is that Robotech, which has been a highly lauded franchise across multiple platforms is nowhere to be found.

Hollywood Presents Jules Verne: The Father of Science Fiction on Screen, Brian Taves, 2015

The author is a film archivist for the Library of Congress so he knows what he’s talking about.  The problem is that because Verne doesn’t have a unifying character, the book kind of travels all over the place, especially since he presents it as a narrative rather than a film guide.

The Sci-Fi Movie Guide: The Universe of Film from Alien to Zardoz, Chris Barsanti, 2015

A useful guide in that it covers a wide range of films with a paragraph for each one.  On the other hand, it doesn’t use a star system so you have to actually read any review to find out what it thinks.  Also, while it has plenty of stills, many of them are generic and have nothing to do with the films they reference.

TCM: must-see Sci-Fi, Sloan de Forest, 2018

A fairly good selection of 50 Sci-Fi films.  It does use a bit too much from the 50’s and includes, of course, a number of films I don’t list as Sci-Fi.  The book was clearly designed to pass over sequels (so no Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Terminator 2) but there are still some odd exceptions towards the end, jumping from District 9 to Arrival without including Inception, Gravity or Interstellar, the former two a very odd omission given how few Sci-Fi films have been nominated for Best Picture.

Reviews

The Best Sci-Fi Film I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

Forbidden Planet  (1956, dir. Fred M. Wilcox)

Watching the opening credits of Forbidden Planet, you don’t necessarily have high hopes.  Yes, it’s MGM and they’ve clearly given it a budget as it’s one of the first major studio Sci-Fi films to be in color.  But its stars are Walter Pidgeon (long after his days as an Oscar nominee), Anne Francis (beautiful but not much of an actress) and Leslie Nielson (in his one of his first film roles and you might have trouble taking him seriously).  It was also the first film using an electronic score and the director, Fred M. Wilcox, was a low-level MGM contract director who used to work on Lassie films.

But then something happens.  You start to listen to the story and you think about when this film was made.  You look at the men on the ship traveling faster than light to another planet and you realize these were very new things at the time (Wikipedia claims it’s the first film to have either of those things) and that this is clearly a precursor to Star Trek.  Imagine what happens when you boldly go where you have never gone before.  Of course, as I have mentioned many times (usually in regard to Godard), just because something is new doesn’t make it good.  But this film isn’t just good, it’s great.  That’s because it has a boundless imagination.  This film doesn’t just go to another planet, it goes with some extraordinary visual effects (that still look good) and some really imaginative story-telling.

An expedition lead by Commander Adams lands on Altair IV even after being warned off by Dr. Morbius.  It turns out Morbius (and his beautiful, leggy daughter Altaira (who shows off those legs in almost every outfit she wears in the film)) are all that’s left of the previous expedition who were all torn apart by some unseen creature.  But after they land, the same kind of things start to happen again.  A monstrous invisible creature that leaves massive footprints and bends the metal stairway of the ship tears apart several men.  It even attacks through a force field and its horrible dimensions take a vague, blurry shape (provided by a Disney animator on loan to the visual effects team and it’s part of what is so brilliant about the film).

If the idea of a shipwrecked father and daughter (who has been raised apart from society) dealing with new arrivals sounds vaguely familiar then you’ve read Shakespeare’s The Tempest (or know the plot).  Indeed, this film opens up the idea of Science Fiction films by taking a plot that had been done before and simply moving it out into space.  This not only allows for some good story-telling, but because of the Sci-Fi aspects, it allows the filmmakers to expand on the ideas.  Instead of a nature sprite named Ariel helping the exiles, instead it’s a brilliant, strong robot named Robby who can carry 10 tons with ease, protect the doctor and his daughter or even synthesize 60 gallons of bourbon.  What’s more, Robby would continue to be used in Sci-Fi films and television shows for years after this.

I won’t fully explain what happens because if you haven’t seen it, you should.  It’s got an inventive score, fantastic visual effects and a really good story at its core.  But I will mention that the film was followed up, years later, by a brilliant stage jukebox musical (that mostly reuses the story rather than being a sequel like the title suggests) called Return to the Forbidden Planet which would use pre-existing 50’s and 60’s hits and a lot of Shakespeare jokes (“What light through yonder airlock breaks?”  “Beware the ids that march!”  That last one will make a lot more sense after you see the film as Veronica discovered when I said it twice while we were watching it) which I was lucky enough to see in a 1996 revival in London.  This is, quite frankly, a Sci-Fi treasure, the first great American Sci-Fi film and one that should be treasured (and in at least one sense is, because the Film Registry at the Library of Congress added it in 2013).

The Worst Sci-Fi Film I Haven’t Yet Reviewed

Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster  (1965, dir. Robert Gaffney)

According to Wikipedia, the budget on this film was $60,000.  I’m guessing that most of that went to actual film itself and if not, then the producers were ripped off.  The cast certainly didn’t deserve to be paid at all.  This is a Sci-Fi film but the visual effects look like they could have been taken care of with a couple of hundred bucks.  In high school, my friends and I used a friend’s video camera and made better films than this.

What is the plot of this film, you may ask.  Perhaps the writers might have deserved to be paid.  The answer to that is definitely no.  In some sort of atomic war, all of the women on Mars have died (why all the women you may ask and I’ll tell you – because then the plot can revolve around the Martians grabbing women from Earth and since they apparently land on the beaches of Puerto Rico, all the women they will grab will be in bikinis).  However, they will also bring along some kind of mutant being and they will shoot down an android astronaut and those two will battle and give the film a title, something I will deal with in a minute.

The presence of all the women in bikinis is a desperate ploy, of course, to have anything in this film that might appeal to anyone.  Indeed, at least it brings a measure of sex into the film which is a step above Plan 9, though not enough to move this film off a flat score of zero.  The film is just a complete and utter failure on every single level.

The final level of failure is in marketing.  The title of this film is Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster, something clearly thought of after the fact since the android (who is disfigured in the attack) has the first name of Frank.  The film has absolutely nothing to do with any version of the classic Shelley novel in any way shape or form.  What’s more, it has a slough of alternate titles (the U.K. title was a more appropriate Duel of the Space Monsters) including Frankenstein Meets the Space MenMars Attacks Puerto RicoMars Invades Puerto Rico and Operation San Juan.  All of them are losers and so is the film.

Bonus Review

Alien³  (1992, dir. David Fincher)

One of the nice things about the Alien trilogy back when it was still a trilogy was that the three films, all made by talented directors, were, in one sense, of different genres.  While they are all Sci-Fi films (and I classify them all as such), the first film was a Horror film, the second one was an Action-War film and the third film is a Prison Drama.  Yes, in all three of them you have an unstoppable killer alien, all three have solid performances from Sigourney Weaver (well this one has a solid performance while the first two had much better than that), an interesting supporting cast (this film does that much better than the second one) and some key moments involving androids (much less so in this film than the first two).

After the second film, there was a question over how the third one would come about, since they had pretty much blown up the planet.  Since it was starring Sigourney Weaver the likely answer was going to be that some alien stowed aboard (although that doesn’t actually work very well – a big plot hole in this film is what happened between the two films and how that would have ended up with what we get here).  But what was really interesting in the trailers and commercials was a scene that showed the alien coming right up to Sigourney’s face.  So either that was the conclusion (and Sigourney would find some way out of it because surely they wouldn’t kill off the main character and prevent further sequels) or there’s something more going on.

I won’t explain precisely what is going on because if you really haven’t seen the film, what is happening and what happens at the end are actually very bold moves that I thought showed some good thinking from the filmmakers.  There are in fact, some things to really recommend this film.  The first is that after working in commercials and videos (most notably “Express Yourself” and “Vogue”), this is the feature debut of David Fincher, one of the best and most important directors of the last quarter century.  Fincher provides a dark and dank atmosphere to the film that lets the horror creep along and suddenly grab you, much more like the first film than the non-stop action of the second.  Second, it has a talented British cast long before they were particularly known such as Charles Dance as a sympathetic doctor (as sympathetic as you can be when you have been exiled to a prison planet as a prisoner), Paul McGann as a psychopath and Pete Postlethwaite as one of the smarter inmates who still can’t outsmart the alien.  Plus, it has an interesting, unexpected performance from Lance Henriksen that will surprise people that remember him from the previous film.

It is far from a perfect film and as such is a big drop from the first two films which were high **** and low **** (this one is mid ***).  At times it is too dark, after some additional strong females in the previous film we’ve just got Weaver, it short-shrifts the ending of the previous one by undoing any good aspects of it and even at less than two hours it starts to drag.  But it’s an interesting film and it does have a bold ending even if the next group of filmmakers would give it short-shrift as well.

Post-2011

All-Time List:  With the other genres I have already done (Westerns, War, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Horror) there were no more than 4 new films in the Top 50 all-time.  But Sci-Fi has had a wave of really good films that have completely rewritten the Top 50.  So, I will do an entirely new Top 50.  The films in bold are the films released since 2011.

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Metropolis
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  4. Alien
  5. Gravity
  6. Inception
  7. The Fountain
  8. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  9. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  10. Minority Report
  11. Arrival
  12. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  13. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  14. Interstellar
  15. Brazil
  16. Solyaris
  17. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  18. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  19. The Martian
  20. Solaris
  21. E.T.
  22. Forbidden Planet
  23. Back to the Future
  24. 12 Monkeys
  25. District 9
  26. A.I.
  27. Prometheus
  28. Ghostbusters
  29. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  30. Aliens
  31. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  32. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
    ***.5
  33. The Fifth Element
  34. Star Trek: First Contact
  35. Blade Runner
  36. Ex Machina
  37. Tomorrowland
  38. Captain Marvel
  39. Blade Runner 2049
  40. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  41. Guardians of the Galaxy
  42. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  43. The Thing from Another World
  44. Passengers
  45. Total Recall
  46. Dark City
  47. Looper
  48. Star Trek
  49. Existenz
  50. Cocoon

note:  These are the other films I would have normally listed at the top anyway.  The first three are good enough to have made the original Top 50 but not the new one.  The next two I saw in the theater (and have been reviewed) and Jupiter Ascending will, at a future date, get a full review as the worst film of 2015.  The numbers listed include all Sci-Fi films, which now run to 586 total.

Directors:  Ridley Scott is now #1 with 197 points while Christopher Nolan is at #2 with 150 points.  Ridley Scott now has five Sci-Fi films with an average of 87.2 which means he definitely deserves mention.  Spielberg added a sixth Sci-Fi film but Ready Player One brought down his average.

Sub-Genres:  Arrival, of course, is one of the best of the Alien Arrival sub-genre.  The first films of the Comic Book-MCU franchise have been placed in Sci-Fi (Captain Marvel and the two Guardians films) although almost all of them could go here.  Dystopia has become huge with three separate YA franchises hitting screens (Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner).  Space Travel has had some of its best films (Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian).  Several franchises are starting to hit enough films to have their own listing (Alien, Predator, Terminator, Transformers) but all will be dealt with at the bottom while the three already listed have all gotten at least two new films each.

Nighthawks:  The top five changes a lot.  Gravity, obviously, is in for Picture and is in for Director as well.  Arrival is actually the winner in Adapted Screenplay while The Martian is also in the Top 5.  Matt Damon (The Martian) wins actor with Matthew McConaughey (Intersteller) in the Top 5.  Amy Adams (Arrival) barely wins Actress over Sandra Bullock (Gravity) with Anne Hathaway (Interstellar) also in the Top 5.  Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) is in the Top 5 of Supporting Actress (#2 actually).  Arrival sneaks into the Top 5 in Editing.  Gravity lands in the Top 5 in Cinematography and Score.  There have been six more perfect 9’s in Sound, eight more in Visual Effects and eight more in Sound Editing though none quite make the Top 5.  Force Awakens and Gravity sneak into 4th and 5th all-time in Tech points.  Interstellar ties Empire for 5th most total points with in weighted points, Intersteller comes in 3rd and Gravity in 4th while Arrival places in 6th (ahead of Inception).

Awards:  There is a lot here because there have been several prominent Sci-Fi films that have done very well with the awards groups.  Indeed, just Gravity and all the awards (and which specific awards) it won would be enough for a long piece here.
Gravity, of course, would be the big Oscar film post-2011.  It would tie the record for wins (7), come up one short for noms (10) and set a record for points (465).  It would be the first Sci-Fi film to win one of the big four awards (Director) and the first to win Editing, Cinematography and Score.  But it would be Arrival that would be the first film since ET to earn Picture, Director and Screenplay noms.  While John Williams would earn two more noms, Gravity would be the first film to win Score not scored by Williams (it’s Steven Price).  Visual Effects would continue to be the main category with four Sci-Fi films winning the award and only three of the 19 Sci-Fi films nominated since 2011 not nominated for VE (Arrival, Passengers, Star Trek Beyond – all in 2016).  Star Wars has added 4 more films and 12 more nominations to its franchise while Star Trek has added two of each.  The Alien franchise is still third in noms having earned none for its two new films but Planet of the Apes now has four nominated films.
The Martian would be the first Sci-Fi film to win Best Picture – Comedy at the Globes and Best Actor in either category.  Its two wins tie for the most while Gravity wins Director.  The Martian (215) and Gravity (200) would land in the Top 5 for points with Gravity’s 4 noms tied for the most.  Ex Machina would be the first film nominated for Supporting Actress.  While all three of the Sci-Fi films nominated for Song before 2011 also earned other noms (Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Avatar), the three nominated after 2011 (the first three Hunger Games films) would earn no other noms.
Gravity would become the first (and through 2018, the only) film to win a major BAFTA award (British Film, Director).  Its six wins are also over half of the total (11) Sci-Fi wins since 2011 and its 11 noms are a new high for a Sci-Fi film as are its 540 points.  Arrival (the only other Best Picture nominee) had nine noms.  Under the Skin is the only Sci-Fi film since 2011 to earn a nomination at all but not in VE.  VE accounts for three of the five BAFTAs that Gravity didn’t win (Interstellar, Force Awakens, Blade Runner) with Sound (Arrival) and Cinematography (Blade Runner) being the other two.  The Martian would be the first film nominated for Actor, Gravity the first for Actress (followed by Arrival) and Ex Machina the first for Supporting Actress.  The only major category no Sci-Fi film has been nominated for since 2011 is the only acting category it had been nominated in before 2011: Supporting Actor.  There have now been 40 Sci-Fi films nominated for VE.
Gravity sets a new high at the guilds with 740 points and there are also Force Awakens (390), Blade Runner 2049 (410), Arrival (365), War for the Planet of the Apes (300) and The Martian (295).  Gravity would be the first winner for both the PGA and DGA and Arrival would be the first to win the WGA in Adapted.  We get the first two SAG noms (Damon, Bullock).  Gravity earns the second most VES points (280).  Gravity tops with 18 noms and sets a new record with 12 wins while several films hit double digits in noms topped by Blade Runner (16) and Force Awakens (15).  Catching Fire becomes the first Sci-Fi film to win the CDG.  With the ADG having expanded, five years in a row (2013-2017) had Sci-Fi winners.  The VES continues to be dominant with 30 of the 44 Sci-Fi films that earn guild noms earning at least one VES nom.  Only four Sci-Fi films manage a guild nom without either the ADG, VES or CDG (Looper – WGA, Jupiter Ascending and Transformers: The Last Knight – MPSE, Ghost in the Shell – MUAHG).
The BFCA is vastly different now.  Gravity tied the wins record (5) and set a points record (385).  Arrival ties the nominations record (9).  Arrival became the first to win a Screenplay award and Gravity and Arrival were the first to be nominated for Actress.  Ex Machina is the first to be nominated for Supporting Actress.  VE continues to dominate (14 of the 20 Sci-Fi films nominated at the BFCA since 2011 earned a VE nom).
The LAFC continues to be the main critics award in terms of Sci-Fi films, awarding 7 of the 19 awards given since 2011, including the only Picture award since then (Gravity).  The NBR finally gave an award to a film starting in 2012 (Looper – Screenplay).  Gravity is now #1 for awards (8) and #2 for points (461).  Most of the awards given since 2011 are for Editing (2), Cinematography (5), Score (2) or Art Direction (3).  But the major awards won since 2011 are Director (Gravity, The Martian), Adapted Screenplay (The Martian), Original Screenplay (Looper) and the first critics awards in Sci-Fi for Actor (Damon), Actress (Adams) and Supporting Actress (two for Vikander).
For the all-time awards, Gravity sets a new high in nominations (59), wins (39) and points (2600) while coming second in percentage (11.75%).  Also in the Top for those are Arrival (39, 6, 1263, 5.64%), Blade Runner 2049 (39, 13, 1044, 4.63%) and The Martian (37, 6, 1208, 5.52%).  Interstellar (26 noms) and Force Awakens (25 noms) are high in noms but much less in the other three categories though the six wins each for Intersteller and War for the Planet of the Apes do land in the Top 10.

Nighthawk Notables

note:  I’m just going to do a whole new list just for post-2011.

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Best Line  (comedic):  “That’s not how the force works.” (Harrison Ford in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens)
  • Best Line  (dramatic):  “We’ll take the next chance, and the next, until we win, or the chances are spent.”  (Felicity Jones in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)
  • Best Opening:  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Best Ending:  Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Best Scene:  Rey calling the lightsaber in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Most Terrifying Scene:  the fire in Gravity
  • Most Gut-Wrenching Scene:  the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Most Heart-Wrenching Scene:  Han’s death in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Best Death Scene:  Harrison Ford in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Final Scene Way Better than the Rest of the Film:  Star Trek Beyond
  • Best Kiss:  Zoe Saldana and Zachary Quinto in Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Best Use of a Song:  “Just a Girl”  (Captain Marvel)
  • Best Guilty Pleasure:  John Carter
  • Funniest Film:  Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Most Terrifying Film:  Prometheus
  • Worst Film by a Top 100 Director:  The Zero Thereom (Terry Gilliam)
  • Watch the Film, SKIP the Book:  The Martian
  • Read the Story, SKIP the Film:  “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”  (Total Recall)
  • Performance to Fall in Love With:  Felicity Jones in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Sexiest Performance:  Brie Larson in Captain Marvel
  • Highest Attractiveness / Acting Ability Ratio:  Mila Kunis in Jupiter Ascending
  • Coolest Performance:  Donald Glover in Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Best Tagline:  “Help is only 140 million miles away”  (The Martian)
  • Best Trailer:  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Best Voice Performance:  Bradley Cooper in Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Best Mo-Cap Performance:  Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Best Cameo:  Mark Hamill in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Funniest Cameo:  Stan Lee in Captain Marvel

Soundtracks:  All four Star Wars films (with the fifth almost certainly in a few months), Gravity

Theater:  Of the first six genres covered, I have seen 10 films in the theater since 2011 which is also the same amount of times I saw Force Awakens.  So, I have been to the theater to see Star Wars films (23) far more times than those six other genres and that’s with the next Star Wars film not coming out until December.  However, aside from the four Star Wars films, the only Sci-Fi films I have seen in the theater since 2011 are Star Trek: Into Darkness, Gravity, Interstellar, Star Trek Beyond, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol II and Captain Marvel.  I could say that 2012 was the last year I didn’t see a Sci-Fi film in the theater but it’s just as relevant to point out that from when I moved to Boston in August of 2005 until the summer of 2013 the only Sci-Fi film I saw in the theater was Star Trek.

Lists

Interstellar ranks 5th on the IMDb Top 250 among Sci-Fi.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office  (through September 2019)

  1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens  –  $936.66 mil
  2. Avatar  –  $760.50 mil
  3. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi  –  $620.18 mil
  4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  –  $532.17 mil
  5. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace  –  $474.54 mil
  6. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  $460.99 mil
  7. E.T.  –  $435.11 mil
  8. Captain Marvel  –  $426.48 mil
  9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire  –  $424.66 mil
  10. The Hunger Games  –  $408.01 mil

note:  Since I am posting this before December 2019, the odds that this won’t change with the release of Rise of Skywalker are basically zero.  Also, since the third films in the previous two trilogies considerably outgrossed the second films there are good odds it will make the adjusted list below as well.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office  (no sequels)

  1. Avatar  –  $760.50 mil
  2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  $460.99 mil
  3. E.T.  –  $435.11 mil
  4. Transformers  –  $319.24 mil
  5. Independence Day  –  $306.16 mil
  6. Inception  –  $292.57 mil
  7. Gravity  –  $274.09 mil
  8. Men in Black  –  $250.69 mil
  9. Ghostbusters  –  $242.21 mil
  10. War of the Worlds  –  $234.80 mil

note:  For the purposes of this list, franchise films that aren’t direct sequels are still considered sequels.
note:  Interestingly, seven of these (all but Transformers, Men in Black and War of the Worlds) were completely original films.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office Adjusted  (through September 2019)

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  –  $1604.85 mil
  2. E.T. –  $1278.10 mil
  3. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens –  $974.11 mil
  4. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back  –  $884.60 mil
  5. Avatar –  $876.75 mil
  6. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi  –  $847.47 mil
  7. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace –  $813.71 mil
  8. Ghostbusters  –  $641.27 mil
  9. Independence Day  –  $624.11 mil
  10. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi –  $609.02 mil

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office Adjusted  (no Star Wars films)

  1. E.T. –  $1278.10 mil
  2. Avatar –  $876.75 mil
  3. Ghostbusters  –  $641.27 mil
  4. Independence Day  –  $624.11 mil
  5. Back to the Future  –  $532.04 mil
  6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind  –  $503.86 mil
  7. Men in Black  –  $492.09 mil
  8. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen  –  $485.64 mil
  9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire  –  $460.54 mil
  10. The Hunger Games  –  $458.27 mil

Franchises

Because so many Sci-Fi franchises are ongoing, I have decided to list them down here so I can cover films all the way up through today.  I am listing them in a variety of ways with a variety of statistics.

If a list below notes a franchise, that means something with at least four films.  Also, for a franchise, I consider something in a franchise to have multiple sequels at which point remakes count.  The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, in their various iterations aren’t included, but the Planet of the Apes remakes all count as parts of the larger franchise.  For the purposes, I only include films I classify as Sci-Fi (so, for example, Star Wars: Clone Wars, isn’t included in Star Wars because I list it as a Kids film).

Most Films:

  1. Star Trek  –  13
  2. Star Wars  –  10
  3. Planet of the Apes  –  9
  4. Alien  –  7
  5. Predator  –  6
  6. Transformers  –  6
  7. Terminator  –  5
  8. Hunger Games  –  4

note:  Two films fall into both Alien and Predator.
note:  I haven’t yet seen the fourth Men in Black yet.

Most Nighthawk Nominations:

  1. Star Wars  –  71
  2. Star Trek  –  27
  3. Alien  –  21
  4. Back to the Future  –  7
  5. Planet of the Apes  –  6

Most Nighthawk Awards:

  1. Star Wars  –  31
  2. Alien  –  11
  3. Terminator  –  4
  4. Star Trek  –  3
  5. Back to the Future  –  2

Ten Best Films That Earned a Sequel or Started a Franchise:

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  3. Alien
  4. Back to the Future
  5. Ghostbusters
  6. Blade Runner
  7. Cocoon
  8. Men in Black
  9. Ghost in the Shell
  10. Planet of the Apes

Ten Best Sequels / Franchise Films:

  1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  3. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  4. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  5. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  6. Prometheus
  7. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  8. Aliens
  9. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  10. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Ten Worst Sequels (#10 being the worst)

  1. Independence Day: Resurgence
  2. Predator 2
  3. The Matrix Revolutions
  4. Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
  5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  6. Transformers: Age of Extinction
  7. Transformers: The Last Knight
  8. Universal Soldier: The Return
  9. Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace
  10. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Five Best Films to Earn a Remake:

  1. Metropolis
  2. Solyaris
  3. Ghostbusters
  4. The Thing from Another World
  5. Total Recall

Five Best Remakes:

  1. Solaris
  2. 12 Monkeys
  3. District 9
  4. The War of the Worlds  (2005)
  5. Metropolis  (2001)  (loosely)

Franchises by Average Film Score:

  1. Star Wars  (90.2)
  2. Star Trek  (73.8)
  3. Alien  (70.0)
  4. Hunger Games  (65.0)
  5. Planet of the Apes  (61.2)
  6. Terminator  (60.6)
  7. Predator  (37.2)
  8. Transformers  (20.3)

note:  Bumblebee literally doubled Transformers‘ average.

Sequel / Trilogy Lists:

  • Best Sequel in Relation to Original:  Blade Runner 2049 (0 point dif)
  • Worst Sequel in Relation to Original:  Independence Day: Resurgence  (50 point dif)
  • Best Trilogy:  Back to the Future  (81.0)
  • Worst Trilogy:  The Matrix  (45.0)

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office – Franchise / Trilogy Totals

  1. Star Wars –  $4520.57 mil
  2. Transformers –  $1576.55 mil
  3. Hunger Games  –  $1451.53 mil
  4. Star Trek  –  $1400.95 mil
  5. Marvel Cinematic Universe  –  $1149.81 mil
  6. Planet of the Apes  –  $794.02 mil
  7. Men in Black  –  $699.88 mil
  8. Terminator  –  $608.66 mil
  9. The Matrix  –  $592.37 mil
  10. Alien  –  $551.70 mil

note:  Includes Men in Black: International though I have not yet seen it (applies to all four lists).
note:  Both Star Wars and Terminator have new films coming out before the end of the year (applies to all four lists).
note:  Only includes three MCU films (the two Guardians films, Captain Marvel) (applies to all four lists).
note:  Was very surprised to realize how low the Predator films are (combined gross of $315 mil).
note:  Force Awakens would be #6 on this list and even taking it out Star Wars would still be #1 by a mile.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office – Franchise / Trilogy Adjusted Totals

  1. Star Wars –  $7487.38 mil
  2. Star Trek –  $2556.42 mil
  3. Transformers  –  $1834.44 mil
  4. Hunger Games  –  $1577.70 mil
  5. Planet of the Apes  –  $1362.83 mil
  6. Marvel Cinematic Universe  –  $1190.28 mil
  7. Alien  –  $1090.05 mil
  8. Men in Black  –  $1066.39 mil
  9. Ghostbusters  –  $1032.44 mil
  10. Terminator  –  $1015.23 mil

note:  Counting A New Hope alone, Star Wars would still be #1 and ANH would be #4.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office – Franchise / Trilogy Average

  1. Star Wars –  $452.05 mil
  2. Marvel Cinematic Universe –  $383.27 mil
  3. Hunger Games  –  $362.88 mil
  4. Transformers  –  $262.75 mil
  5. The Matrix  –  $197.45 mil
  6. Men in Black  –  $174.97 mil
  7. Ghostbusters  –  $161.01 mil
  8. Back to the Future  –  $138.92 mil
  9. Terminator  –  $121.73 mil
  10. Divergent  –  $115.77 mil

note:  Avatar made so much that they could do six sequels without making any money and still make this list but they still have to make the films.
note:  Terminator: Dark Fate has to make $236 mil in order for the average to pass Back to the Future.

Top 10 U.S. Domestic Box Office – Franchise / Trilogy Adjusted Average

  1. Star Wars –  $748.73 mil
  2. Marvel Cinematic Universe –  $396.76 mil
  3. Hunger Games  –  $394.42 mil
  4. Ghostbusters  –  $344.14 mil
  5. Back to the Future  –  $327.78 mil
  6. The Matrix  –  $310.98 mil
  7. Transformers  –  $305.74 mil
  8. Men in Black  –  $266.59 mil
  9. Terminator  –  $203.04 mil
  10. Star Trek  –  $196.64 mil

note:  I looked at 15 franchises and trilogies for these lists and Maze Runner ($242 total, $80 avg) and Predator ($315 total, $52 avg) were the only ones to not make any of the four Top 10 lists.

And, just for fun:

Best Actual Ad from a Magazine:

Best Mid-riff:

Funniest Behind the Scenes Shot:

Cutest Behind the Scenes Shot:

Best Bumper Sticker:

Best Cosplay from Someone Who Wants to Be in the Movies:

Best Toy Collection:

Best Looking Group of Guys in 2019:

Best Snarky Response on Twitter:

Best Meme:

Happiest Kid:

Best Obsession:

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