The seven ages of sci-fi (part four)

Five movies that expand your mind

As you might be aware, the latest issue of Total Film is celebrating the upcoming reimagining of The Day the Earth Stood Still, including an exclusive interview with Keanu Reeves. It’s only available for one more week (at the time of writing), so we think you ought to go to a newsagent now. If you haven't already, that is.

To tie-in, over the next seven days we’re looking back over the seven ages of cinema sci-fi.

See also:

Part One - Futureworlds (1927 - 2007)

Part Two - Nuclear paranoia (1951 - 1962)

Part Three - The Red Menace (1953 - 1964)

 
Part Three - Inner Visions

"Free your mind..." (1968-1984)

The '60s. LSD, free love, fresh political tension and awareness... Inspired by the likes of authors Philip K Dick and Kurt Vonnegut Jr, this is the era that explored the human condition, rummaging around inside our psyches, expanding our minds… And while we were busy peering into inner-space, the maturing outer-space race had us considering external forces...

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

How influential was Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C Clarke's little jaunt to Jupiter? It's referenced in everything from Notting Hill to The Simpsons. And while it is essentially about “man's place in the pecking order of cosmic intelligence”, according to Clarke, the subject matter journeys deep within ourselves.

This tale of a murderously logical computer and the monolithic representatives of an alien intelligence is an intuitively told tale of human endeavour driven by the brain and the heart.

Altered States (1980)

Ken Russell blends mind-altering substances with sci-fi styling to create a visual knockout. Penned by Network writer Paddy Chayefsky, AS channels both real-life work - researcher Dr John Lilley's experiments with LSD in an isolation tank - and Russell's unique style. Not to mention his own bad mushroom trip, experienced during the shoot…

Silent Running (1972)

Melancholic and dreamlike, Silent Running nails the '70s sci-fi  obsession for high, yet human, concepts as Bruce Dern's lonely eco-naut struggles to save the spaceship-borne forests he's ordered to destroy.

Director Donald Trumbull's heritage as the FX guru of 2001 pays off, nudging the genre from pure entertainment to something more thoughtful.

Solaris (1972)

Fascinated by the rigours of space travel and its effect on the mind, Andrei Tarkovsky's film took its thoughtful themes from Stanislaw Lem's acclaimed 1961 novel. And though Lem had his issues with the adaptation, it snagged a Special Jury Prize at Cannes and had enough impact to warrant a streamlined,
much-debated remake by Steven Soderbergh.

The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976)

Nicolas Roeg's film stars David Bowie as a visiting alien trying to save his people. This multi-layered work is a satirical take on '70s American culture and a metaphor for a generation being raised on TV. Bowie's co-star Buck Henry says it's also about the mistreatment of the artist in a corporate world.

Also see...

  • Slaughterhouse Five (1972) Kurt Vonnegut's bitterly funny humanist novel was faithfully adapted by George Roy Hill and explores fate, freewill and the
    nature of madness. So it goes…
  • The Omega Man (1972) Creeping madness and fear of disease are everywhere as Chuck Heston stars as the last survivor.
  • Somewhere In Time (1980) Jeannot Szwarc's version of Richard Matheson's novel has become a cult classic thanks to its quiet ponderings on life, love and death.
  • Videodrome (1983) Andy Warhol describes director David Cronenberg's body-horror media meditation as “A Clockwork Orange for the 1980s.” It's certainly as trippy - and prescient (reality TV, tech/gadget fetish…)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) George Orwell's stark warning about government spin and stealth totalitarianism feels more relevant than ever.