matrix: the news and media magazine of the british science fiction association
Issue 187
March 2008
- home
- guest editorial
FEATURES
- best SF movies ever!…1960s
- snatched moments
- year of the gamer - 2007
- i, zombie: a ghoulish icon
- marvel vs dc
- just two men...
- seduction of the innocent 9
- checkpoint
- a 'vision' of the future
REVIEWS
- i am legend
- the golden compass
- cloverfield
- sweeney todd
- southland tales
- in the shadow of the moon
- battlestar galactica - razor
- jumper
NEWS
- arthur c. clarke r.i.p
- world of science
- what controversy?
- reaching number 1
- the air of success
- ttacon 9
- picocon
- one in a million
- fans in orbit
- it's all a question of endings
EVENTS
- eastercon: orbital
- p-con 5
- alt.fiction
- sci-fi london
- fforde ffiesta
- eurocon/roscon
- ...all events
DVD RELEASES
- primeval
- beowulf
- theory of everything
- town called eureka
- the laughing man
- bender's big score
- ...view all
BOOK RELEASES
- myth-understandings
- the reef
- dark blood
- blue war
- deluge
- swiftly
- ...view all
MUSIC RELEASES
- dream theatre
- muse
- omd
- panic at the disco
- the gutter twins
- joy division
- ...view all
ARCHIVE
- more soon...

 

 

FEATURES: Best SF Movies Ever!…1960s
1960s by Tom Hunter

As we approach the end of this Best Ever series the original intentions behind the choices of what defines a best ever science fiction movie come more sharply into focus.

With the BSFA’s fiftieth birthday year now upon us this list was mainly intended as an affectionate look back through the reels of science fiction cinema rather than a fully researched and comprehensive compendium of all science fictional releases.

Choosing the best films of each decade is a fun way to spend some time. Sometimes the choices have been obvious and the classics still shine, whereas other choices have been more personal, or selections have been made based not just on the film itself but its continuing appeal, relevance or influence on other filmmakers and the science fiction genre, both for better and for worse. It’s always a mistake to ignore your heritage, and while perhaps the genre as a whole may well have been better off with slightly less B-Movie blunders, surely these are as iconic an image of science fictional history as any; and it is history that concerns us here.

The guiding thought behind our choice of movies has been to create the ultimate idealised DVD collection that when brought together will prove beyond doubt that science fiction is a major creative and commercial force in cinema as well as a genre where the quality of ideas can linger on long after the special effects have grown stale and the technology of the future has been surpassed or never managed to materialise.

In selecting the best movies of the 1960s we have chosen to review our criteria slightly, adjusting for the fact that while gems still shine over the years it is sometimes harder to be objective over those films that were perhaps much more of their time.

So for this, the penultimate list, our choices have been based not only on the original impact and quality of the films but also their enduring resonance over time.

David Cronenberg

1969, and a young David Cronenberg was laying the groundwork for his controversial cinematic career. While nowadays both Crimes of the Future and Stereo show all the signs of an overly earnest student director, they still offer a tantalising glimpse of things to come and form an essential part in charting the development of Cronenberg’s singular vision.


1968
is a triumphant year for cinematic science fiction, and while we’ve already tentatively suggested 1982 as perhaps the single best year for movies, this is definitely the other main contender. Not only was this the year of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which alone should mark this is a singular cinematic year, but it is also the year of Barbarella, which proved that sf cinema could still be fun and, hey, sometimes even sexy, as well as the year of perhaps the BEST EVER! ending in science fiction. We are, of course, referring to Planet of the Apes, a movie so continuingly influential that it can still be enjoyed decades and generations later when its desolate twist ending has been well and truly revealed across the breadth of popular culture and even Martian slime spores are probably quoting Chuck Heston’s immortal end line. Repeat after us: “Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
You Only Live Twice
1967 and You Only Live Twice rocketed James Bond back on to the screen. While always really a techno-thriller rather than out and out sf, this particular Bond adventure is notable for a space-based plot that sensibly kept Bond himself on Earth (pay attention Moonraker), its elaborate volcano lair and finally Little Nellie, the helicopter in a suitcase.
Fantastic Voyage1966 managed the tricky double-header of a highly successful adaptation of a genre classic, Fahrenheit 451, and the rather more pulpy and implausible Fantastic Voyage. However both are movies that play up the strengths of science fiction, whether for social commentary or the sheer sense of wonder of piloting a miniature submarine around inside a human body. Proof that genre can both have its cake and eat it, and all before quantum mechanics made that kind of trick all too easy.

Alphaville


1965
is mainly notable for Alphaville. A self-consciously artistic interpretation of key science fiction tropes that relied on the imagination of the viewer to create its apparently interstellar backdrop and thus ensuring the human brain received due recognition as the most effective special effects engine then in existence – a canny parallel given the plot’s featuring of an emotionless rogue computer intelligence.

 

 

 

 

1964 was a year of both firsts and lasts in which we managed to leave our planet behind and become The First Men in the Moon only to then witness the end of the human race through the eyes of The Last Man on Earth. Science fiction has always been a genre of extremes, pushing the boundaries of human experience and expectation as the highlights of this year clearly show.

The Birds

1963 saw iconic auteur Alfred Hitchcock venture into the world of environmental horror, ignoring the usual atomic theme for having nature take its revenge and replacing it with a more surreal and ultimately unexplained cause. The Birds sits most comfortably in the realm of horror thrillers but is still of interest to science fiction cinema for its themes of nature toppling the fragile human position at the top of the food chain.

La Jetee
1962 is the year of the iconic short film La Jetée, the strangely haunting and poetic time travel film composed almost entirely of still frames. Not only was this film the direct influence for the later modern classic Twelve Monkeys, it was also a resonant illustration of the ideas being put forward by writers like J.G. Ballard and the science fictional New Wave. In some ways this film plays like a lost fragment from some parallel universe where the realm of inner space eclipsed space opera as the key image of science fiction in popular culture, and it is perhaps all the more valuable for that.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire1961 should be remembered most for The Day the Earth Caught Fire, a surprisingly intelligent imagining of the Earth loosing its natural orbit and plunging us all straight towards the Sun. Most memorable for its iconic end scene of newspaper men producing two headlines – ‘The Earth is Saved’ and ‘The Earth is Doomed’ – while awaiting the news of a last ditch nuclear gambit to reposition the Earth in a stable orbit once again. This film is a classic example of science fiction’s ability to articulate mankind’s fragile position within the universe, and also his enduring ingenuity and will to survive.

1960
also showcased mankind’s technical ingenuity but also showed that where his will to survive is strong, he is still ultimately a creature under the sway of evolutionary pressures and consequences. The Time Machine projected our inventor Victorian hero forward into a far future world where the Earth was relatively unchanged but mankind itself had failed to withstand the test of time. This remains a classic version of H.G. Wells’ original classic story.
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