10 Sci Fi Films That Make You Ponder the Meaning of Reality or Kick Ass and Take Names

I used to read a lot of science fiction as a kid. Although most people associate sci fi with mainstream stuff like Star Wars and Star Trek (both of which I enjoy as well), there are other sci fi movies that also incorporate a lot meaning, mythology and social commentary. Most "sci fi" films are just crappy action/horror films with horrible special effects masquerading as science fiction films.

Here are 10 films (other than Star Wars, Star Trek and the Matrix) that show a lot of depth and complexity, as well as kick ass. The first 5 films involve future cops and/or a lot of action. The latter 5 films are much truer to the spirit of science fiction, which involves social commentary through the writer's imagined but fully realized universe.

1) Minority Report- Of all the Phillip K. Dick movie adaptations (Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Paycheck), Minority Report is the best. Although Blade Runner is a notable runner up and Total Recall is a complex and entertaining third. Thanks to Steven Spielberg and his futurist consultants, the world of Minority Report seems incredibly real, likely and relevant.

2) Blade Runner- This next Phillip K. Dick adaptation explores what happens in a world where we have "disposable people." How do we treat others who we consider property?

3) Robocop- This was a surprisingly great satire from Director Paul Verhoeven. Peter Weller also does a great job of bringing back humanity from a cop violently transformed into a cyborg.

4) Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome- Usually, films in a trilogy start off great and get progressively worse with each sequel. With the Mad Max films, it's the exact opposite. The films get better with each sequel, and of the 3 Mad Max films, this is the most polished. Mad Max gives you the template to survive a post-apocalyptic world: Have gun. Have wheels. Will travel.

5) Starship Troopers- Again, intelligent satire from Director Paul Verhoeven. This adaptation of Robert Heinlein's story manages to both glorify and mock war and war hawks. Best line in the movie: "An enemy who cannot utilize his hand, cannot press a button!"

6) Dune- Even though it was long and delved too much into the character's thoughts, the movie does a good job of depicting the world and time of Dune. David Lynch tried to pack in every aspect of the book into the movie, which works well for those who read the book, but overwhelmed those who didn't. Nevertheless, there is something quite hypnotic about the film.

7) Gattaca- My brother hated this movie, because the ending was so simple. But the ending was poignant and fit the tone of the movie (my bro is into more actioned packed finales). This is a very cerebral film, but there is still a sense of thrill, since Ethan Hawke lives in paranoia and could be have been caught at multiple times in the story.

8) The Martian Chronicles- This TV movie on the Ray Bradbury classic has got the worst special effects, but like the Bradbury novel, it has a dreamy feel. The story is an analogy for the colonization of the Americas, where the Martians represent Native Americans and the colonizing Earthlings represent the European hordes.

9) Lathe of Heaven- This is a PBS movie based on the Ursula LeGuin novel about a man whose dreams alter reality. Everytime he wakes up from a dream, reality becomes that which he dreamed. Talk about the Law of Attraction personified! The guy tries to stay awake as long as he can, because he doesn't like some of the dreams he's been getting and eventually seeks the help of a therapist. Since it's a PBS production, there are no real special effects. But the storytelling is solid and thought-provoking.

10) A.I. Artificial Intelligence- This movie could have dropped the last half hour, and it would have been a much better film. There are many different themes running through this film: parenting, adoption, racism, classism and the meaning of humanity.

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