Modern Sci-Fi That Gets It Right


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1
Sunshine 2007,  R)
Sunshine
I started this movie with low expectations, looking for a sci-fi action flick. When the movie was done, it had nearly brought me to tears twice and stamped itself firmly near the summit of my 'top ten movies of all time' list. An extremely intelligent, deeply philosophical, and eerily quiet story of eight astronauts sent to save everything, the tension comes from brilliant pacing and legitimate problems that would be faced with such a mission, rather than from non-stop action and flashy CGI. The last quarter or so of the movie is a sharp turn away from what had come before, and while many viewed the sudden shift as a deal-breaker, I appreciated the change in tone, as well as the sudden shock of a new element in play.

One of my very favorite movies; defeated only by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Adjustment Bureau, Inception, and Source Code.
2
Children of Men 2006,  R)
Children of Men
Saw this ages ago, watched it again just now, blown away all the same. This film is part of an elite few: a tiny group of modern sci-fi films that are more about the philosophy than the explosions, but still manage to convey a heart-thumping thrill ride. The only other titles like this I can think of right now are Inception, Source Code, Moon, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Brilliant stuff here.
3
District 9 2009,  R)
District 9
Often, when I watch and enjoy a movie, I nod approvingly, say, 'I liked that', then promptly forget about it. After District 9, I was picking myself up off the floor, and checking my jawline to make sure nothing was broken.
4
Moon 2009,  R)
Moon
Dark, immensely engrossing, and provocative, Moon is a quiet film that gently and soberly presents a series of ideas and asks: "What if?"
Moon is a piece of science fiction done right - a philosophical playground, pursuing ideas rather than action with its uniquely flexible setting - something that is all too rare in modern movies.
5
Inception 2010,  PG-13)
Inception
James Bond meets The Matrix, Incpetion is a shockingly intelligent thrill ride that feeds a healthy dose of philosophy and deeper metaphorical meaning to its audience in the sugar-coated guise of a summer action blockbuster.
6
Source Code 2011,  PG-13)
7
The Adjustment Bureau 2011,  PG-13)
The Adjustment Bureau
A sharp, smart, and thrilling movie that seems quite conventional at the start, then takes a dive off the deep end and becomes an immensely competent and engaging idea-fest, packed to bursting with concepts described just enough to be believable, but left just vague enough to be mysterious. Read into it if you like, or don't - it's just as enjoyable as an action-ey science-fiction romance splice as it is a philosophical playground.
8
Looper 2012,  R)
Looper
Blew my mind right out of my skull. Movie of the year, easily.
9
Gravity 2013,  PG-13)
Gravity
Thrilling, engaging, heartbreaking, and a lot more clever than I was expecting it to be, Gravity is a truly exceptional example of character-focused drama, and is a shining example of how to do science fiction properly - where the effects budget simply supports the story, rather than replacing it.

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