My Favorite SciFi Movies of the 80s

Actually, from the period 1978 to 1989, the sorta decade after Star Wars came out. I need to pick my top ten faves for a special podcast tomorrow night so I’m going to work out my thoughts here.


The Fury – Man, it’s really hard to defend loving this movie that can’t tell if it wants to be an action or horror movie. Part Scanners, part 70s CIA Conspiracy, it’s all cheese all the time, BUT I had the best time when I watched it in the theater. So it’s probably not going to make the final list, but it gets an honorable mention.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers – I grew up haunted by the B&W version playing endlessly on Saturday Action Theater and Friday Night Creature Features. This probably going on the list. It’s a damn good movie, the performances are excellent, and the cinematography is world class. Plus, the ending…


Mad Max – Definitely going on the list as long as the list remains “Speculative Fiction” rather than “Science Fiction”. If I have to batton down the hatches on that, Body Snatchers has to go, too.

Alien – I mean, c’mon. It’s scifi and horror and it’s all great. This will be close to the top.

Star Trek 1 – Most people don’t like this movie because it’s slow and overly in love with its own special effects. But for me, someone who had been watching the show on a tiny TV screen for my whole life, seeing it on the big screen was a moment. Still, objectively, it’s not that great a movie.

Time After Time – H. G. Wells using his Time Machine to track Jack The Ripper across time? This is a great movie. Definitely going on the list, probably near the top.


Final Countdown – Time travel movies are my favorite and even though this one includes some real scene chewing by habitual over actor, James Farentino, this one ties a nice bow and also was the first time I understood the true power of a carrier force.

Empire Strikes Back – The best Star Wars movie. Must go on the list.

Altered States – Such a trippy movie and seriously invaded the zeitgeist at the time. One of the greatest music videos ever even does a shout out to it. Maybe.


Scanners – A red-headed step-child if there ever was one. This movie changed the way we look at telepaths and had Patrick McGoohan, but Cronenberg also nonsensically cast a non-actor to play the lead role and had to dub his entire part. Still, it rocked. Maybe.

Escape From New York – Man, I love this movie. I still watch it today. And knowing what John Carpenter pulled off on such a low budget just makes all the more enjoyable. Definitely.

Outland – Actually a western starring Sean Connery as the law west of Saturn’s rings, it’s kind of a remake of any number of Sheriff-faces-one-last-showdown movies. But it had excellent SFX, Connery, and a good story. And it was serious.

Mad Max 2 – Never thought that much of this installment. Actually, I never thought much of any of the sequels until Fury Road which is by far the best entry. No.


Star Trek 2 – Arguably the best Star Trek movie, it had all the SFX of the first one with an actual story. Maybe.

Blade Runner – Absolutley.

The Thing – Mandatory.

Tron – Tron was a video game movie before video game movies, but it always felt a little shallow to me, like a video game movie written by people who didn’t play video games. Probably not.


Videodrome – Like Mad Max, this is a situation where you have to discard your feelings about the star so you can be objective about the movie. This was a must see for both horror and science fiction fans at the time. Maybe.

Brainstorm – A beautiful and intense movie and maybe the first one about the process of technological innovation. I loved it, saw it several times, but they made one critical mistake at the end: Never try to show people what Heaven looks like. Maybe.

The Dead Zone – Definitely.


Ghostbusters – It’s always hard to put a comedy on a list like this because comedies are first and foremost comedies that happen within a framework provided by a genre. But, man, I love this movie. Maybe.

The Last Starfighter – Being in my mid-twenties, I was a little old for this movie when it came out, but I was there for it, nonetheless. Maybe.

Buckaroo Bonzai – Mandatory.

The Terminator – Absolutely Mandatory.

Night of the Comet – You have to love this movie for its absolute abandonment of logic. This is the kind of story that springs out of a teenage boy’s brain unbidden in the middle of Algebra and they forking went for it. So much fun. Maybe.

Starman – Sweet but too sentimental and it contains the worst line in movie history: “What I love about humans is they are at their best when things are at their worst.” Look around, pal, things are at their worst. Do we look like we’re at our best right now?

2010 – Good science fiction, an excellent followup to 2001 that actually plugged a few holes and didn’t end with an acid trip. Maybe.


Brazil – Mandatory

Back To the Future – Again, this is a comedy more than a science fiction movie so even though it’s a straight up classic, probably not going to make it into the top ten.


Aliens – Absolutely Mandatory.

Flight of the Navigator – This is a surprisingly good movie and one I loved watching with my kids, but it’s a bit too sweet to make this list.

The Fly – The only movie to bring me to the edge of vomiting. Maybe.


Predator – Cheeseball, loved it, not going on the list.

Innerspace – Comedy.

RoboCop – Maybe. We’re getting into that part of the 80s where everything gets covered in cheese.

The Hidden – A good science fiction movie about aliens. Good, but not great. Maybe.

The Running Man – Cheeseball, loved it, not going on the list.


Alien Nation – Maybe. It’s a good movie, but it’s more allegory than science fiction.


The Abyss – This will be one of my favorite movies that doesn’t make the list. Honorable Mention.

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