“What do you mean you don’t know about [insert film here]?”
We’ve all had those friends, haughtily making reference to their own cinematic sensibilities while bringing yours into question, when a simple "this film's not bad" will do.
Which got us thinking. In case they aren’t already, we’ve whittled down a few lesser seen sci-fi greats which ought to be on your radar.
Imagine how much better Come Dine With Me bickering would be if brought about by a disturbance in Earth's atmosphere as opposed to too much red wine. If this has your attention piqued, allow us to fill you in on 2013’s Coherence, an utterly bonkers film about a worrying chain of reality bending events that start to transpire between friends at a dinner party when a comet passes overhead. We won’t spoil it for you but we will reveal that nobody goes home up in a taxi bemoaning an undercooked casserole.
Murderous robot spends 90 odd minutes attempting to kill a young woman who must use all her cunning to overcome the wiry onslaught?’ Sounds just like The Terminator, right? Wrong – Austrian bodybuilders would have looked wildly out of place in this claustrophobic thriller so darkly terrifying it makes Skynet look like Hello Kitty. Taking us deep into a dusty post-apocalyptic world where robots once curbed human overpopulation by whatever bloody means necessary, one artist accidentally reboots one of the blighters while using spare parts for her latest project. Trapped in her apartment while the machine eventually starts to piece itself together, it's a nerve-shredding affair.
You know those films which require a good mull over long after the credits finish? Ones which you can chew the fat over for days and day, forcing you to trawl IMDB message boards when your mate stops replying to your texts? Well expect plenty of head scratching after a viewing of Predestination: while it barely made a dent at the box office, so mind-bending are the twists involving the plot, in which Ethan Hawke’s time-travelling governmental agent armed with a special violin case portal jumps to seventies New York in the hope of stopping a bomber, it’ll haunt your memory banks for years to come.
La Jetée (1962)
Constructed almost entirely from still photos, at 28 minutes long, La Jetée is one of the most audacious, if not most important, pieces of science fiction ever committed to celluloid. Whizzing us through time in the eyes of a man who goes back and forth between times in history to find a solution to World War III and prevent the end of mankind, you won’t be too surprised to know it was the major influence for 12 Monkeys, which borrowed several themes from this black and white classic.
Strange Days (1995)
Ah the nineties, back when hackers dressed like members of Greenpeace, floppy discs didn’t look ridiculous and the flashier your modem looked the faster it ran. Indeed, The Net and Hackers are bloody excellent regardless of their tech accuracy, but did you catch this lesser remembered effort from Kathryn Bigelow, her follow-up to Point Break? On the eve of the millennium – because of course it is - Ralph Fiennes plays an ex-cop who stumbles on a plot of intrigue and blackmail when he finds data discs containing the memories and emotions of a murderer responsible for the death of a sex worker. Furthrrmore, it's better than you'd expect. The Fiennes-meister in a taut nineties thriller and tight leopard print shirt you didn't know about? Strange days indeed.
Made on a shoestring (theory) budget of $7,000, this Sundance winner sees a software engineer accidentally discover time travel. As you do. Though if you thought finding a gap in the space time continuum was impressive, Primer's director Shane Carruth (a former software engineer himself) wrote, produced, edited, scored and even starred in the film. Complex, thought-provoking, and probably knackering for the main man involved, it’s as good as experimental cinema gets.
Yes, we know you’ve seen the recent HBO show, but this may have slipped off your radar. From Lang to Kubrick to Nolan, there’s a long linage of directors who’ve made their mark with science fiction, propelling the possible in cinematic achievement in a genre which itself champions the futuristic. However, one person who might not fully get the credit he deserves as a director in this regard is Michael Crichton. Practically pioneering the use of digital effects with his 1973 flick Westworld, its concept was strong too: taking us smack bang into a theme park of the future, where visitors live out their wildest fantasies as cowboys in the Old West while eerily lifelike androids play the sex workers, townsfolk and villains, somewhat inevitably, all hell breaks loose, with two city slickers soon hunted by an android gunslinger (a superbly cast Yul Bryner), who isn’t firing blanks.