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Top 10 Science Fiction Films of the 80s

by Eric Mount
Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home

The long fledgling Science Fiction genre suddenly flourished in the 80s, following the unprecedented success of Star Wars. Since there were so many memorable genre films at the time, here is another list of the next Top Ten Science Fiction Films of the decade that defined Special Effects!

1. Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home

The most popular and successful film in the long running series is a more audience friendly entry in the generally serious Trek canon. Blessed with a good natured script and easygoing direction by Leonerd Nimoy (Mr Spock), along with some wonderful interplay from the entire Trek cast, (as well as the fresh faced Cathrine Hicks), this delightful time travel/culture clash adventure brought new fans to the series and is one of the best examples of Sci/Fi/comedy done right!

2. Dune

This highly ambitious adaption of Frank Herbert’s epic novel was a big financial failure in its day and understandably so as the bizarre world and convoluted narrative of the source material, proved largely difficult for art house director David Lynch to translate to the screen, as well as proving incomprehensible to audiences who weren’t familiar with Herbert’s work. But there’s no denying Lynch and company certainly tried and the film has since become a cult classic, featuring lavish and imaginative sets, costumes and special effects, memorable music by TOTO and a large cast of veterans and future stars including Patrick Stewart, Brad Dorif, Virgina Madison, Kyle McLaughlin and Sting.

3. 2010

As a sequel to one of the greatest Science Fiction classics of all time (Stanley Kubrick’s immortal, 2001), this simple and low key film couldn’t possibly be anything less than a letdown, however taken on its own, Director Peter Hymes’s film version of 2001 author Arthur C Clarke’s sequel novel, is still a well worthwhile and riveting Sci/Fi adventure, featuring a fine cast (including future Oscar Winner Helen Mirren), tight direction and some nicely chilling, atmospheric sound design.

4. The Last Starfighter

While rather underrated in its day, this derivative, but highly enjoyable tale of a video game buff who becomes the last hope for the universe, is now regarded as a trailblazer for its extensive use of computer generated effects, and while the effects are primitive now, the film itself is still charming and entertaining, with a solid cast (including Robert Preston in one of his final roles), an exciting musical score and a free spirited sense of adventure!

5. Return of the Jedi

The final film of the Star Wars Trilogy, represents what 80s pop culture filmmaking is all about, a high tech fairy tale for children, complete with hero’s, villains, giant monsters, snarling creatures, laser blasts, space battles, swordfights, explosions and cute teddy bears who save the day… and sell toys, …not that that’s a bad thing! To put it simply, this is 80s Sci/Fi/fantasy at its best!

6. Predator

Here on the other hand is what 80s films for older kids are all about, meatheaded soldiers fighting for their lives against a savage alien beast who hides in the jungle, searching for fresh trophies to hang on his neck. Bloody and heart pumping, this surprisingly effective blend of (Alien) and (Rambo) is fueled by a great cast of Bad A…s characters (led by Arnold Schwarzenegger at the forefront of super stardom), tight pacing and nail biting direction from John McTiernin (Die Hard)!

7.  Brazil

One of the all time most bizarre cult classics, this still impressive and unpredictable blend of film Noir and cyberpunk science fiction is a true visual and cerebral feast. When a meek and lonely Government clerk sets out to help a mysterious young woman, he soon finds himself trapped in the ultimate mind bending dream. Silly and quirky, dark and satirical, (what else do you expect from director Terry Gilliam) and featuring a distinguished cast including Johnathon Pryce, Robert DeNiro, Ian Holm and Bob Hoskins, this is one head trip you won’t forget!

8. Tron

The one that started it all, this strange and astounding film unleashed the world of 3D computer generated effects! When a computer wizard is downloaded into cyberspace, he must fight for his life inside a deadly game. A true landmark in special effects, Disney’s unprecedented cult classic is still a dazzling achievement!

9. Cocoon

One of Director Ron Howard’s first great successes is the (E.T.) for adults. When a group of elderly retirees bathe in a strange pool of alien origin, they soon find themselves miraculously rejuvenated and filled with a renewed zest for life, until they must choose between their earthly mortality and everlasting enlightenment with the supreme beings. Offbeat and charmingly brought to life with a wonderful cast (including Don Ameche who won an Oscar for his role), this is one simple, but highly effective film.

10. The Abyss

Yet another James Cameron entry, this ambitious Sci/Fi tale is nevertheless different from what you might expect, there’s little action, but when there is, its awesome as always, but the real magic here is in an unusual story, blending underwater adventure and extraterrestrial contact. Fueled by a refreshingly innocent sense of wonder, this long but meticulously crafted film is also regarded as a special effects milestone, featuring one of the very first computer animated creatures ever put on film.

The final film of the Star Wars Trilogy, represents what 80s pop culture film-making is all about, a high tech fairy tale for children, complete with hero’s, villains, giant monsters, snarling creatures, laser blasts, space battles, sword-fights, explosions and cute teddy bears who save the day… and sell toys, …not that that’s a bad thing! To put it simply, this is 80s Sci/Fi/fantasy at its best!

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