Though the Space Race has long since come and gone, people are still fascinated by what lies beyond the sky. We gaze in wonder at the stars, admire beautiful photos of distant planets and galaxies, and dream up alien creatures (and hope they're of the "E.T." variety). It's amazing that a vacuum of empty space can so vividly fill our imaginations.
Of course, movies play a huge role in creating memorable images of space. Now, Ridley Scott's "Prometheus," the mysterious "Alien" semi-prequel, hopes to enter the pantheon of iconic intergalactic adventures, which includes these five classics.
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
To spend only a small paragraph talking about Stanley Kubrick's iconic space epic seems almost like an insult. What do I talk about? Should I talk time to discuss the strangely hypnotic opening third featuring ape-men discovering an ominous black monolith, and perhaps the first signs of evolution? Or perhaps the famous middle section, the haunting astronaut thriller that would still be considered intelligent beyond its years if it was released tomorrow? The fact that "2001: A Space Odyssey" offers all of those elements (and I haven't even mentioned HAL, the space baby or the legendary music) should speak to how incredible this masterpiece is.
Popping in a DVD of Ridley Scott's "Alien" today, it's kind of amazing to think that the film was made over 30 years ago. The sets still look grandiose, especially the discovery of a dead alien in a massive chair, and H.R. Giger's design of the title character is easily one of the most memorable and terrifying images of extraterrestrial life. But as audiences learned in "Snow White and the Huntsman," looking good can only get a movie so far. Luckily, "Alien" is still packed with surprises, enduring characters and truly horrifying sequences. Three words: John Hurt chestburster. It's scenes like those that explain why people are so excited about Scott's return to the series.
"Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back"
I would love to put all three of the original films in this countdown. The classic sci-fi trilogy, combined with "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and Legos, defined my childhood. Unfortunately, this is a top five article, so I'll have to choose my favorite of the three, "The Empire Strikes Back." The movie is just packed with unforgettable moments and visuals, such as the opening battle on Hoth and the dark, twist-filled ending. Just like "Alien," the movie was made before CGI became the default setting for filmmakers, so the effects look and move authentically. It's certainly more real than anything in the new trilogy, but then again, the only thing real in Episodes I through III was the audience's disappointment.
There comes a time in every child's life when he wants to be an astronaut. Then he sees 1995's "Apollo 13" and decides that maybe the heroic profession is just a bit too terrifyingly stressful for him. Director Ron Howard, who would later win Best Director and Best Picture for "A Beautiful Mind, terrifically balances the emotional elements of the story and creates a great tribute to the men who dangerously journeyed where most never will. Their story didn't need slimy aliens or a soullessly maniacal computer; space itself is a breathtaking horror. The only thing more horrifying? The fact that, less than a decade later, Howard directed "The Dilemma," a movie that humanity has completely forgotten.
In my last countdown article, I stated that any movie starring David Bowie is a cinematic classic. But what about a movie directed by his son? There may not be much to go on yet (his only other film is last year's "Source Code"), but Duncan Jones' 2009 debut "Moon" is certainly a sign of good things to come. The sci-fi existential indie drama stars Sam Rockwell as the lone worker on a lunar facility who, on a buggy trip, discovers an injured co-worker: himself. "Moon" isn't flawless, but it is an engrossing movie that, like it or not, you should see to stay relevant in film discussions. Plus, it was made for less than one-tenth of what it cost George Lucas to ruin "Star Wars."
Boozehound, I was going to say Sunshine should be on this list, but you beat me to it.
Explorers with a young River Phoenix. Look it up. Fantastic space film from the 80's.
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