Five Sci-Fi Movies That Changed Cinema Forever!
Once every couple of years or so, we find ourselves lucky enough to see a movie that restores our faith in the art of cinema.
Once every decade or so, we’re presented with a movie that completely scrambles our expectations of what is possible, leaving us dumbfounded and excited beyond belief, while forever changing the way movies are made.
Naturally, science fiction is fertile ground for these sorts of technological and storytelling leaps.
Here are a handful of sci-fi gems that changed everything.
2001: A Space Odyssey 
Depictions of space travel in movies was, by and large, an awfully disappointing exercise until 1968. That’s the year Stanley Kubrick unleashed 2001.
Here was motion picture space travel that, for the first time ever, looked possible. No more junky special effects with spaceships on wires. No more hokey spacesuits with outlandishly domed helmets. No more community theater-level acting.
Despite confounding moviegoers monumentally, even to this day, 2001 was a watershed moment in what could be done. No longer would audiences be remotely satisfied with B-grade space opera.
Planet of the Apes 
1968 was a big year for science fiction. 2001 and Planet of the Apes both came out and I envision movie patrons wandering the streets with mouths agape, wondering what in the heck just happened to them.
Nothing was sacred anymore, nothing was safe. Audiences couldn’t count on loafing through sci-fi movies with their minds fully disengaged anymore. If they weren’t careful, they might be encouraged to think!
Planet of the Apes also contained the apex of surprise endings. It can’t be topped. Ever. It’s as if the filmmakers started and ended that game in one move.
Star Wars: A New Hope 
“What a piece of junk!”
Luke Skywalker spouted off like a spoiled brat when he first saw the Millennium Falcon, but inadvertently summed up some of what made Star Wars so unique: it looked used. The Falcon really was a bit of a jalopy (as our heroes would learn repeatedly in The Empire Strikes Back) and, aside from the Death Star, everything looked grungy and worn.
This was a dirty, dirty universe. A far cry from the ever-gleaming worlds of earlier space movies, it immediately paved the way for grittier sci-fi offerings such as Alien and Outland, carrying through to District 9, the filthiest alien invasion movie ever.
Whereas 2001 was more of a cerebral exercise, Star Wars proved that movies set in outer space could finally be a viable commercial endeavor, exciting as all get-out, and engaging every demographic across the board. Summer entertainment would never be the same.
The birth of modern visual effects.
The first-ever computer-generated images for a movie were in Young Sherlock Holmes (the stained glass knight), but in Tron, the effects were everything. The credits read like a Who’s Who of cutting edge computer science. You’ve never seen so many doctorates in closing credits.
As a story and an experience, it didn’t set the world on fire, but like 2001, the visual bar had been raised significantly. We were in awe of the effects that brought us Light Cycles, Recognizers, Solar Sailers, and the evil Master Control Program himself (looking more than a little like Jabba the Hutt, if you ask me). All we needed was a more entertaining movie.
We wouldn’t get it until Jurassic Park in 1993. That is how ahead-of-its-time Tron was.
The Matrix 
In 1999, the citizens of the world held their collective breath, waiting for Star Wars: Episode I to finally fulfill all of their hopes and dreams. If there was any movie that could have made us forget Jar Jar, The Matrix was the one (no pun intended).
The Matrix may have benefitted from a near-complete lack of buzz. Everyone was focused on Star Wars and the Wachowskis only had Bound on their resume. It’s safe to say that nobody saw Neo coming. What better situation to melt people’s minds than when their guard is down? In addition to packing a massive visual punch, The Matrix might also be the brainiest science-fiction movie ever.
So ubiquitous now, it might be hard to imagine a point in cinematic history where ‘bullet-time’ didn’t exist, but I assure you that it did.
Cabin in the Woods 
For those of you who’ve seen it, tell me if this sounds familiar.
You: “Oh, my god! You must see Cabin in the Woods! It’s unbeliiiievable!”
Your friend: “Meh. It looks like another dumb Friday the 13th or something.”
You: “I know, I know, but it’s not. I swear! It’s soooo good!”
Your friend: “So, what’s it about?”
You: “I can’t tell you. You just have to trust me.”
Cabin in the Woods belongs in the Pantheon of I-can’t-believe-what-I-just-saw movies. The filmmakers threw, quite literally, every nightmare imaginable onto the screen. Full-throttle terror in every shape and flavor. You couldn’t tell your friends anything, either. Not without giving something away.
The rulebook for what you can and can’t do in movies has been looking tattered and frayed for years, but Cabin in the Woods took the book, doused it in lamp oil, wrapped it in C-4 and bound it with duct tape and dynamite before dropping it into an active volcano.
The rules are there are are no more rules.