This weekend marks the opening of what may be the most anticipated summer movie that doesn’t feature superheroes — “Prometheus.”
Why so anticipated? Well, in addition to a great cast headed by Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron, it’s a return to sci-fi for director Ridley Scott.
Scott is one of the premier purveyors of a brand of darker, more grown-up sci-fi, so we’re counting down some of the best examples of the subgenre.
“A Clockwork Orange” (1971)
Stanley Kubrick followed up his dark “2001” with an even darker adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ controversial novel. More than four decades have passed, and it still manages to shock.
“Logan’s Run” (1976)
One thing a lot of dark sci-fi movies have in common? Dystopian futures! Set in a city where all residents are exterminated at age 30, the film feels pretty dated, but “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn is attached to a possible remake starring Ryan Gosling.
Ridley Scott first taught us that, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” The dread from the isolation made this one terrifying, and the alien hatching during dinner made it squirm-worthy.
“Blade Runner” (1982)
Scott’s next film — and his last foray into sci-fi — was a dystopian (yes!) adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel about organic robots that are virtually indistinguishable from humans.
Terry Gilliam directed this dark satire featuring a dystopian (drink!) future featuring a government worker crippled by absurd bureaucracy. Good thing that could never happen!
Paul Verhoeven’s violent sci-fi cop flick featured an imaginary crime-ridden city called “Detroit” that turns to a ruthless corporation to save the day. Because nothing can go wrong when corporations and robots are involved.
“12 Monkeys” (1995)
Another great entry by Gilliam, this one features time travel, super-viruses and a delightfully unhinged supporting performance by Brad Pitt.
“Children of Men” (2006)
Alfonso Cuaron’s magnificent drama about a world nearing collapse after decades of infertility isn’t just a great sci-fi movie. It’s perhaps the best film of the past decade. Also? Dystopian!
“District 9” (2009)
Allegory is a recurring theme in sci-fi, but it was particularly brilliant here as the quarantine of an alien race turned a mirror on South Africa’s history of apartheid.
For my money, the next great sci-fi director is probably Duncan Jones. His “2001”-esque “Moon” was a killer tale of isolation and madness. His follow-up “Source Code” was also fantastic. And his dad is David Bowie, so he’s extra cool.