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June 9, 2009

Science Fiction Films That Haven't Dated

Can you think of any Science Fiction films that haven't dated as the years have passed since its release? This conversation came about as a spin-off from the James Cameron conversation and was sparked by the statement that Aliens hasn't dated at all.

So off the top of my head, here are a selection of timeless SF films:

 

Aliens

The non-stop crazy scary action on an alien world is still futuristic and plausible. The setting is expertly timeless.

 

Back To The Future

Whilst definitely of it's time, Back To The Future never looks dated to me. Instead it looks like a wonderful comparison of two past eras.

 

The Matrix

Forget the terrible sequels, the original film still looks amazing, feels fresh and is stunningly cool

 

Star Wars

Episode 4? A New Hope? Or just Star Wars. The only thing looking slightly dated in the film are the haircuts. Otherwise the past in a galaxy far away still looks pretty good. Bizarrely the remixed Special Edition looks terribly dated due to horrible Jabba The Hutt CGI.

 

Planet Of The Apes

Still enjoyable and looking good. Circumvents the haircut issue by putting the astronauts on a ling trip. You'd expect the apes to look terrible, but they don't. And the ending is still cool.

10 Comments

Oooh! Good question!

I'd say the original Alien has aged well also. Blade Runner has also aged well, despite the overabundance of punkers in the crowd scenes, and all those Atari signs. Both of these took place entirely on soundstages, in well-thought-out, and somewhat inscrutable worlds, and I think that goes a long way towards giving a film a 'timeless' quality.

There's a little known Rock Hudson film called "Splinters" which is simultaneously 60s as hell and timeless, shot in moody, almost noir Black and White. That's held up well. I'd also say "Brazil" (Another 'the world on a soundstage' movie), and "12 Monkeys."

And there's the Disney "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," which was deliberately dated when it was made in such a way as to appear timeless, despite being in lurid technicolor.

I'd agree with the previous poster. All the Alien's films (not counting the excremental "Resurrection") still look great today.

How about 2001? Effects shots are still flawless today. To a lesser extent I think that 2010 would probably still look pretty solid too.

I have to agree with much of the above, particularly Aliens and Matrix.

However, Star Wars feels old. The camera work, cgi, costumes, everything just feels dated.

I'm wondering why Dune didn't make it on this list? Definitely timeless!

Re: previous comment: Star Wars' cgi--that's pretty funny. I assumed that was about the original. The lobotomized, cgi version is garbage.

I immediately thought of "Alien" and "2001."

Nice list. I would add Ai to this category as well as Until the End of the World. The latter especially is ahead of its time and pretty deep even today.

Not that anyone asked, but I think there's *two* ways a film can become dated. Take westerns as a genre - 90% of every western ever made is set during the 1880s, because that was the peak of westward expansion and if it's set before or after that very short period, it just doesn't look or feel right - the hats are goofier, or they're wearing ties instead of cravats, or they've got telephones instead of telegraphs, or they don't even have trains yet. Whatever. So the Genre is circumscribed in a very narrow window of time. So the story is inherently dated in that context.

However, no one is ever gonna' confuse a western from the 1970s with a western from the 1940s. The look, the feel, the art direction, the sensibilities, the film stock, the sound, the music, all massively different to the point where you can instantly recognize a 70s western from a 50s or 90s one, *even* if they're telling the same story! How many versions of the OK Corral story are there, and they all look and feel different, massively so. So that's the second way.

I'd say that while 2001 *looks* gorgeous, it's dated in both ways - it's literally awash in 60s style, fashion, and production design, and it's tied very solidly to a specific date.

2001 is mildly dated, if one ignores the -- well, the date. Saying fashions are dated is always problematic (as they come back around, with minor variations, every so often). The special effects are still outstanding, and rarely matched; the computer display screens, for example, look much more realistic than those in later films which used real computer displays, which dated far more rapidly as display technology improved.

That's one reason 2010 looked crap when it was made, and really looks crap now (the other is the incredibly shitty job they did on the pods, in which the wood grain was clearly visible when light reflected of the paint).