Later this year, something that many of us never thought would happen is happening: a sequel to Blade Runner is coming out. It took 35 years and multiple director’s cuts of the original movie, but Blade Runner 2049 will finally hit theaters inÂ October. For years, Blade Runner was the best sci-fi movie never to have a sequel, and that got me thinking about all those other movies that belong to the ever-dwindling list of science fiction flicks that never got a follow-up. Below are my eight favorites (your star mileage may vary).
8. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
Admittedly, this one is just a personal favorite and proooooobably has never been in danger of actually getting a sequel, but in the years following Star Wars, when every third low-budget movie was a space opera, Roger Corman‘s Seven Samurai in space flick continued to delight me. It’s got a great script by John Sayles, amazing sets and special effects by the likes of James Cameron, and featuresÂ one of the great science fiction scores by a very young James Horner. I will never apologize for my love of this underseen gem.
7. Contact (1997)
It’s not exactly like Robert Zemeckis’ drama based on a Carl Sagan novel was begging for a sequel, but if Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey could get one, another heavy-science, heavy-philosophy movie from an equally revered hard-sci writer (and also, weirdly, about our place in the universe and interacting with alien life) seems perfect. Contact sadly didn’t do so hotÂ in ’97 when it was released, but has since gone on to become a minor cult classic. And if you can make it through the interminable pre-launch stuff, you’re treated to some bazoinkers trippy Fi de Sci.
6. Gattaca (1997)
Andrew Niccol has written and directed several films (and not all of them are great), but his 1997 debut remains a masterwork of dystopian fiction. In a future where genetics determines people’s lot in life–and who they’re allowed to see romantically–a guy of lower birth assumes the identity of one of superior genetics in order to realize his dream of space travel…and the fact that he falls in love with the genetically superior Uma Thurman in the process ain’t the worst thing. Great sci-fi is always an allegory to the present, and Gattaca reflects race and class struggles brilliantly. Plus any movie that casts prolific author and social scientist Gore Vidal as the villain is worthy of praise.
5. Minority Report 2002
Like Blade Runner, this movie was based on a Philip K. Dick novel. Unlike Blade Runner, it’s got gorgeous future-city vistas and also a high level of action. The idea of being able to use precognition to tell when a crime is going to happen and then arrest the perpetrator before they’ve done anything is a really rich and frankly scary prospect, wherein just thinking about committing a crime could get you locked up. Throw in a run-for-your-life conspiracy plot on top of it and you’ve got a winner. Sure, it was turned into a painfully short-lived TV series a couple years back, but let’s not pay much attention to that.
4. Brazil (1985)
There are two reasons why Terry Gilliam‘s 1985 magnum opus never really had a chance to get a sequel: 1) the movie itself is so incredibly dark and bleak that a sequel would really have to go back on a lot of what made the movie work; and 2) because Gilliam spent so much time bad mouthing the studio when they took control of the overlong editing process and cut a happier ending that neither party probably would be interested again. As it stands, though, Brazil is a Kafkaesque nightmare that starts out weird and funny and about bureaucracy and becomes about the terrifying inescapable Big Brother.
3. The Fifth Element (1997)
Man, 1997 was such a good year for sci-fi movies! I remember going to this movie on my 13th birthday with a group of friends and being utterly captivated. I’ve seen it roughly nine billion times since and I never get tired of it. An evil something or other is about to destroy all life in the universe and only a physicalized version of perfect celestial being can stop it, but first she’s going to need the help of a retired military man turned cab driver, a couple of monks, and the world’s most annoying DJ. And it’s got one of the best Gary Oldman performances ever. It doesn’t even need a sequel!
2. Dark City (1998)
This movie had the bad fortune of being overshadowed by The Matrix a year later–which used a lot of the same sets as Dark City even!–and in a lot of ways they’re similar, but where the Wachowskis went cyberpunk, Alex Proyas veered into the horror and film noir realm, with alien slugs taking over dead bodies in order to perform experiments on the humans they’ve abducted and forced to live in a floating, ever-changing city made of endless night. Rufus Sewell played this movie’s version of “The One” as an amnesiac who isn’t sure if he’s a murderer or not who slowly begins to display the same “tuning” abilities as the alien overlords. I cannot get over what a brilliant and perfect movie this is. Watch it once a year for religious purposes.
1. Akira (1988)
You shouldn’t be surprised at all that I’ve picked this movie as the best sci-fi movie never to get a sequel. There are hundreds of pages of Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga series about a post-post-apocalyptic Tokyo and the realization that telekinetic people exist, yet he only ever made that one perfect glimpse into the world of Akira in 1988, considered to be one of the best anime ever made and the movie that very nearly bankrupted the country of Japan. There has been talk for decades about doing a follow-up, or a live-action remake, but honestly, I don’t think any second attempt could be as evocative or as thought provoking as the one that we got. TETSUOOOOOOOOO!!!! KANEDAAAAAAAA!!!!
Speaking of Akira, here’s more anime to get you started!
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