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Science Fiction Films As Allegory: Top 50, Part 1

  • Feb 4, 2010
The idea of using science fiction as an allegory for deeper issues has been around for quite a while. Whether taking a stand against racism, social and political conformity, totalitarianism, or industrialization, science fiction has provided the world with some of the best cautionary tales about the future of humanity gone wrong. So, prepare to enter a world where your identity and the fate of the human race may be endangered...
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The perfect science fiction film. It tells the story of a small American town being infiltrated by aliens who take the form of people and replace them with alien duplicates as they sleep. This film has been seen as both a critique of McCarthyism and the anti-Communist paranoia of the '50s, but also as an attack on the Soviet Union's conformity and subversive tactics.
Blade Runner (The Director's Cut) (1982)
A classic film that looks at the very nature of what it means to be human. A detective is on a mission to track down a group of androids and falls in love with one.
DVD front
Perhaps one of the most groundbreaking science fiction / action films ever. A man discovers that the world he lives in is a complex and expansive computer simulation and that all the people in it are being preyed upon by machines for their mechanical nourishment.
See the full review, "Simulation and Simulacrum".
12 Monkeys
Terry Gilliam's film about a man sent back in time to stop a deadly virus from being unleashed, but is in fact being manipulated in order to ensure it.
See the full review, "Beware the Army of the 12 Monkeys".
Metropolis (Kino On Video's Restored Authorized Edition DVD)
Fritz Lang's silent film about a future society that has been divided into two groups... the wealthy who live in skyscrapers and the poor who live and work in underground factories. Still stunning, even if dated.
The classic 1956 film adaptation of Orwell's dystopian novel and my personal favorite. It may be cheesy now, but it still rocks.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
A classic sci-fi B-film about an alien messenger coming to our planet to warn us of the destructive power of our own weapons. The film can be interpreted in a number of different ways, as an anti-war film or as a film for totalitarian control.
Collector's Edition DVD
This remake stands out as being as good as the original. Adds an edge of sex and violence.
Movie poster
Kubrick's powerful and controversial vision of a violent future.
THX 1138 (The George Lucas Director's Cut 2-disc Special Edition DVD)
A film about an underground conformist society, policed by robots, where emotions are outlawed . Lucas' first film.
See the full review, "A Stark Vision of a Future Where Love Is the Ultimate Crime".
Godzilla (Gojira)
The original classic Japanese film that uses the idea of a mutant dinosaur as an allegory for the destructive power of atomic warfare. Although the series lost its powerful message in the many, many later installments, this original is still great.
V for Vendetta (2006 film)
A film adaptation of the graphic novel about a fascist Britain and a vengeful revolutionary who intends to free the people and kill those who caused him pain.
A terrific rotoscoped animated film that features great performances. Takes place in the near future where the war against drugs has become so convoluted that paranoia and deception are the norm.
See the full review, "An Addictive Thriller".
A film adaptation of the graphic novel about an alternate history where superheroes exist and how that may not be a good thing for the free world.
See the full review, ""Who Watches the Watchmen?"".
An epic science fiction spectacle about greedy industrialists coming to a paradise-like planet in order to subjugate the native peoples with military forces so that they can mine a valuable resource.
Poster of the film.
A unique remake. This version definitely takes a leftist stance against militarism and conformity.
28 Days Later... (2002)
A powerful sci-fi / horror film about a deadly disease turning much of Britain's population into vicious zombies. Shows how one's attempts to survive often result in a downward spiral of violence and dehumanization. Brilliant.
Terry Gilliam's zany science fiction / dark comedy about a future Britain where the totalitarian government is as deadly as they are inept.
Logan's Run
Story about a future wherein people are killed after they reach a certain age in order to control the population. Things go to hell when two people go on the run in a desperate attempt to survive.
The 2000 film, which was based on the comics, tells the story of mutants who struggle to achieve equality with human beings while protecting them from mutant extremists. Misplaces many of the characters and themes of the comics, but still manages to be a powerful and exciting film.
Code 46 DVD
A powerful indictment of genetic engineering in humans and government control.
See the full review, "Violating the Code".
They Live
John Carpenter's scathing satire, which uses aliens in order to take a stand against commercialism, consumerism, and conformity. At times silly, but also great.
Enemy Mine
A science fiction update on the classic Civil War tale about a slave who befriends a Confederate soldier. In this film, a human fighter pilot finds himself reluctantly trapped on a hostile planet with an alien enemy. Although, the film hasn't aged particularly well, the message is as relevant as ever.
District 9
A film that uses the idea of aliens stranded on Earth and forced to live in slums as a metaphor for South African apartheid.
See the full review, "When Humanity Is the Real Monstrosity...".
While it may have suffered from some poor execution, Alien Nation did have an important message about bigotry and the necessity for inter-racial cooperation.

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February 09, 2010
nice list! Good thing I only haven't seen one movie--# 18, but I do have the dvd LOL!
February 09, 2010
If you're not a fan of Gilliam or weird British humor, you probably won't care for it. I love the ending though. Pretty dark.
February 05, 2010
28 DAYS LATER is clearly a horror film.
February 05, 2010
What about SUNSHINE? I guess it's not allegorical, but at least it's science fiction.
February 05, 2010
"28 Days Later" is a sci-fi / horror film since the origin of the zombies was a man-made virus, ergo zombies created by scientific means. It's a genre hybrid. One could also say that it is part action film too.
February 05, 2010
Big deal science origin. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD has one too-it came to eart as part of a space probe, Is that science fiction too? They run from zombies, sso that makes it an action flick? It's horror.
February 05, 2010
The horror in both "28 Days Later" and "Night of the Living Dead" comes from the gore and the fact that much of both films takes place at night, which adds to the atmosphere. And yes, the fact that the space probe caused the creation of the zombies does not mean that it's sci-fi, however, because that explanation was very brief and not elaborated upon. Had it been important to the plot then yes, it would be sci-fi. In "28 Days Later", it was an essential element of the plot. Mankind wipes itself out trying to create bio-chemical weapons.
February 06, 2010
Oh );-P. 3% IS MAX IS SPENT OF THAT SILLY PSEUDO-SCIENTIC EXPLANATION and the rest is spent on running from zombies who rip out your guts and eat you. it's horror.
February 06, 2010
So, are you agreeing with me... for some reason I can't tell with you.
February 07, 2010
Let's put it a little less obliquely then. No I'm not agreeing with you. It's a zombie flick with a minor set up that has no more science fiction to it that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD did..
February 09, 2010
So, let's just leave at we disagree about what films belong to what genres... now, let's hug and pretend this little argument never took place. : )
February 09, 2010
I've never taken "arguments" personally--everyone suggested I become a lawyer because to me it's just part of a reasonable discussion, nothing to do with fighting and definitely nothing personal. If I ever get personal, you'll know it!
February 09, 2010
Sounds fun. Can't wait. : P
February 10, 2010
It won't be fun. But you'll have to wait a VERY long time because we'll never be getting to that point. ;-)
February 05, 2010
I don't think Metropolis is dated at all.  It's OLD but man that's truly a movie that speaks about the Silent Movie era.  It's still awesome to me now and it's one of my favorite movies out there.  I may have to watch some of these again.
February 05, 2010
A lot of critics back in 1927 felt that it was dated then. You should read H. G. Wells scathing review. The man was a brilliant author, but a total grump.
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