Space is Deep

I like the idea of “space” movies. The science fiction tag has grown so broad over the years that films as disparate as Terminator and 2001 are considered to be in the same genre. Recently I’ve been on a quest to watch as many bona fide space movies as I can find, and it’s annoying having to sift through all the often unrelated sci-fi detritus.

Nothing beats the alienation of deep space for atmosphere and tension. Also, a lot of the visual elements associated with space movies are downright psychedelic. I am especially interested in films from the early 1980s, because I love the way the effects looked back then. For the most part, films from the past two decades are either focused too heavily on action or CGI to interest me. A couple notable exceptions were Sunshine and Moon. I also don’t mind action if it’s done in a fun pulpy style like Flash Gordon. And I love Alien ripoffs, as long as they are ripoffs of the first film only!

What I’m looking for are films with the following qualities:

1. Film must take place primarily in outer space or on an alien planet.
2. There must be lots of special effects, preferably of the old school pre-CGI variety.
3. The film should emphasize atmosphere over action whenever possible.

I’m going to rattle off a list of films I’ve seen that have most or all of these qualities. I’m pretty much focusing on the mid 70s to mid 80s. I’d love to know if there are any similar movies out there that I haven’t seen yet.

In random order:

1. Outland
2. The Black Hole
3. Flash Gordon (heavy on action, but too awesome not to list)
4. 2010
5. Battle Beyond the Stars
6. Alien
7. Starcrash
8. Sunshine
9. Moon
10. Galaxy of Terror
11. Forbidden World/Mutant
12. Enemy Mine (qualifies despite awkward hermaphrodite birth subplot)
13. The Last Starfighter (lots of Earth scenes, but we’ll give it a pass for awesome 80s effects)
14. Tron (same as above, and not in space, but too awesome not to list)
15. Silent Running
16. 2001
17. Saturn 3
18. Dark Star
19. Logan’s Run (probably closer to Dystopia than outer space, but bonus points for space cars and Jenny Agutter in a tunic)
20. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and to a lesser extent the next two)
21. The Empire Strikes Back (and to a lesser extent Star Wars and Return of the Jedi)

I’ll update this list as I find more films.

And remember: Beards cannot grow in space!

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One Response to “Space is Deep”

  1. Hmm. I’m a huge Firefly fan, so I’d have to include Serenity here. Event Horizon is a good one. Others that might fit your criteria: Planet of the Vampires, Solaris (the original), Jason X (seriously, it’s fun), Message from Space (fun Japanese Star Wars knock-off).

    And if you don’t mind going back a little further: Robinson Crusoe on Mars, It! The Terror from Beyond Space, First Men in the Moon, This Island Earth, The Angry Red Planet, Antonio Margheriti’s Gamma Quadrilogy, Battle in Outer Space.

    You’ve probably seen all of these.

    By the way, I’ll just be posting random comments as I go through your work. Don’t mind me.

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