Nasa / Space

George R. R. Martin: 8 sci-fi films better than Star Wars


George R. R. Martin, author of the seminal A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy book series (which is getting turned into a series of miniseries by HBO), has some less than kind words for George Lucas' 800-pound gorilla of a space opera franchise:

Unlike STAR WARS, this is a film that only grows richer every time you watch it. A monster that makes sense, characters with a little psychological depth, science that isn't just empty technobabble, a sexy heroine, a tragic hero, the awesome caverns of the Krel... FORBIDDEN PLANET has it all.

Winner and still champion.

The best science fiction film of all time.

From the same blog post, here are the eight films (to name but a few) Martin claims are imminently superior to Star Wars:

Brought to my attention via SFSignal, I've seen six of these (no Charly or Stood Still for me, yet), but I can't say I enjoyed any of the other six more than Star Wars. I'd certainly concede Forbidden Planet, 2001, Alien and by a mile Aliens are better written and stronger artistic achievements than Star Wars, but "better" is a very subjective thing, and I like a little popcorn to go with my pathos. Anybody else got an opinion?

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

90 comments
birdtoes
birdtoes

Hm - I'd put the 60's film "Seconds" on that "Better than Star Wars" list - an amazing, low-key, low-budget and chilling sci-fi film.

rtaylor
rtaylor

Being older than many of your readers, I tend to lean towards fewer special effects and more thought production. My only beef with your list is that 'The Day The Earth Stood Still' should be higher. Rich

jcommunications
jcommunications

Some choices not mentioned already I'd pick: Runaway Krull Matrix (all 3) Trancers Millenium 12 Monkeys

merzion
merzion

"Better" is, of course, subjective. I like GRRM, but he's forgetting something undeniably too important to forget. Star Wars is not sci-fi. If GL was trying to pull off Sci-fi with Star Wars, it is undeniable that he would have done so.

poorrichard2005
poorrichard2005

Agree about most on list but not order. Alien & Aliens would be at bottom of list if on list at all.

dunnj
dunnj

RE: Greatness of Forbidden Planet Must admit I didn't read all the comments. Did anyone mention yet that FORBIDDEN PLANET was based on Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST? That would account for the depth of the characters, and the strength of the story. dunn36035@mon-cre.net

OldGuru
OldGuru

Everyone seems to have forgotten the most "plausible" and classic sci-fi movie: Close encounter of the third kind.

gthomas6
gthomas6

I don't think any of these films are in the same category as Star Wars. While I immeasurably enjoyed most all of the ones listed, I think these could be categorized as Sci Fi horror or some such sub category. Star Wars is an Epic adventure type Sci Fi film, a least in my mind anyway. Also agree with Blade Runner. Another Harison Ford flick. Most of the list could also be considered "Dark" Sci Fi. if you will. gthomas6

Kansan52
Kansan52

I would replace Alien with Silent Running and Aliens with Soylent Green because to me, all the Alien movies are horror shows, not SF. Kansan 52

RLG
RLG

I agree completely with George. I think I might substitute The Thing (James Arness version) for Aliens, but it would be a close call.

tw5848
tw5848

What???? Where's Blade Runner?????

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

As other posters have said, with all respect to a great author, but my own list would be quite, quite different. I won't bore you with the details of what it is, but suffice to say that it's a lot more modern - that is, it's made up mostly of newer films. But then, as has already been said, it's all subjective. I have my list, George has his, you guys all have yours. I'd wager if you got 50 geeks in a room and asked them what the 10 best sci-fi movies of all time were, you'd get *at least* 50 different lists in answer. Just the way it is, I guess.

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Oh shall I hear about this post, but straight ahead and be damned the slings and barbs of outrage (but if any of you throw any damned rotten veggies you are gonna wish it was Yoda and Darth Vader doing the smack down on your heinie instead of me! :)) While I agree with some of his choices, I have issues with others. There have been arguments about what science fiction is and isn't over the years. In my view, Alien is a horror movie. Aliens is an action adventure\horror movie. I will agree that Forbidden Planet, Charly, War of the Worlds and the Day the Earth Stood Still are all great horror movies. Unfortunately, I have always viewed 2001 as a glacier-paced auteur experiment that has been widley accepted as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. Now, having beat up on George's list, we have to recall that he did give us some excellent science fiction on television via the Beauty and the Beast television show; which had Ron Perlman in it and there ain't no bad movie with Ron it it, here's my list of movies George left off and are much better films than Star Wars: A Boy and his Dog A Clockwork Orange (A much better science fiction film than 2001) Blade Runner (how the hell that one wasn't on the list is amazing!) PBS's original Lathe of Heaven (another one I can't figure out how it didn't make the list!) The Quartermass Experiment (maybe British films weren't allowed?)

JamesRL
JamesRL

Star Wars films use the scifi environment to tell a non sci fi story. George Lucas admits that he fashioned much of the style from the old Republic serials, where heroes rescue damsels in distress, and basically go from one calamity to another. Note the unresolved issues that carry over and make it a series/serial. Some of those Republican serials were sci fi, some were western, some were 40s spy versus spy, it really didn't matter the context - you could have dragged the plotlines from one to another easily enough. The one movie that stands out from the rest is "The empire strikes back" which had a different director, and IMNSHO is the best of the set. James

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I have seen this movie many times. While it has a spaceship and a cool robot, it always seemed more of a political movie. The basic message from the spaceman was stop building nukes or we will destroy you -- you insignificant arrogant earthlings. That being said, the movie was pretty good, but it does suffer from the over-wrought dialog that plagued movies from that era. I am pretty sure someone actually says, "Why I ought a ..." Better than Star Wars -- they are so different that I don't think you can compare them like that. They both have merit, but you have to consider the time in which they were created. Of course this movie is where we get the famous phrase: Gort, Klaatu baradda nichto. (Forgive spelling)

shamanbobx
shamanbobx

I would have to hazard a guess that anyone into Sci-Fi, at any level, either fell asleep or got disgusted and walked out on the very first Dune movie adaptation. But, the re-released redone version helped out that problem child quite a bit. Then came along the "made for TV" mini-series that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel a while back 1-2 years. I avoided watching it for the most part at that time because I was afraid that they would do the very best chop job on the story that money could possably buy... but the more I watched it... the more I watched it even more! (forgive the redundancy - purely intentional I assure you) They really did a GREAT job with that series! It even began with the original movie (the re-released version) and then went on to really tell the story as well as any adaptation of such a far sweeping epic such as Dune could be done with todays CG effects and all that. I expected the worst and stood VERY corrected for my prejudgement. Tis True! The lists that we each would offer up as the "BEST" would each be as differant as is the lives we live are. I can say after reading this entire thread up to this point that "All you other geeks out there, no matter age, gender or location, you nerver disappoint me when it comes to remembering the good stuff in life!" There has been so many good (and not so good...) Sci-Fi movies mentioned here that I started down memory lane until my kids recognized the symptoms and retreated to their respective little lairs. hahaha lol hehehe It's time to whip out the VCR tapes and ride the Sci-Fi wave!! Ka Wa Bunga!! Let's face it, without us geeks the rest of the world wouldn't only come to a screeching halt because all their computers would quit doing what they are supposed to... But they would be bereft of some seriously entertaining and thought provokeing movies!!! We're all right! We're alright! Woops... gotta go my movie is starting! OMEGA MAN with Charelton Heston - now there's a goodie!!! Adapted from a story titled "I Vampire!"

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I love it, but when the mother ship rises up from behind Devil's Tower, how was that behemoth not seen by anybody on the other side of the monolith? "Hey, you humans, stay on that side of the rock, okay?" If I was trying to hide something that size, it wouldn't be in the middle of North America. Underwater would be a better bet, or Antarctica.

vin.reilly
vin.reilly

John Ludlow wrote >>> my own list would be quite, quite different. I won't bore you with the details of what it is Ah go ahead and *try* to bore us -- zeal in the support of geekdom is no vice!

richard.stroud
richard.stroud

I was going to mention Blade Runner when I finished reading your post, but what about the Terminator! T2 was the best in that series!

BFilmFan
BFilmFan

Was the director of Empire Strikes Back as well as Never Say Never Again, which is still one of my favorite Bond films. But he made the so-so sequel Robocop 2.

mmoran
mmoran

... although I don't know if I'd agree with the description of it as "political." A warning about the potentially fatal path down which humanity was headed (still is) isn't exactly a partisan issue. And remarkably for a film produced in the "Commies under your bed" 50's, it managed to avoid degenerating into a one-sided propaganda piece. Its chilling message was all the more effective as delivered by Michael Rennie's skillfully understated Klaatu. At the end, there is no doubt that his warning is meant for every nation on the planet, equally. My favorite moment is when Sam Jaffe asks him if the long, complex equation he'd written on the blackboard was valid, and he reveals who he is by replying "I find that it gets me from planet to planet well enough." But putting armed and autonomous robots in charge of everything? Given what we know about computers a half-century later, I've got some biiiiiiig problems with that. It could get real ugly if Gort blue-screened... ;>)

Sepius
Sepius

firstly, as I stated in an earlier post, this is science fiction ... fantasy is for non science non reality fiction. Sci Fi is for future istic styled stories. With an attempt at a possible future. Aliens is both Sci Fi and Horror, we have modern horror like future horror. Any how, and I bet this may get the genre definers moving ... What about Dune?. I name all my computers from fictional names from Dune, and of course my principle system is always called Padishah, after the emperor. Hey good call earlier on A clockwork Orange, fav book and movie of mine. Others include Contact (Carl Segan) both book and Movie (Jodie Foster ... hmmmm). Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. A Trip to the Moon based on the father of Sci Fi, Jules Verne. And of course Metropolis. When I was 9 I listened to War of the Worlds on Vinyl (late 70's) I had nightmares for years.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

...I'll just get flamed into oblivion. I've got my list, which I'm happy with. Let's just leave it at that.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

Gattaca is one. T2 and Blade Runner have been mentioned. I, Robot, Minority Report, Paycheck, Starship Troopers, Sunshine, Transformers (if we're including movies soon-to-be-released). If we go into fantasy, there's Lord Of The Rings, Willow, Narnia, etc. Not saying they're better than Star Wars, just throwing them in as examples of modern (as in, made after the 1970s) sci-fi.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Well who cares, good film anyway. Essentially Blade Runner was effectively if we made a machine that could pass a Turing test, how human would it be? That was it ! Terminator, a lot more ifs.....

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

along with the new Battlestar Galactica, Farscape and Babylon 5, but I see them as serials and this is movies. But good call anyway.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

.. and Firefly. Doesn't appear that the RD movie is ever going to appear - Pity! Someone must have mentoined Firefly, and I missed it, or forgot. As for Dune - it is still one of my favourite movies (the original) even if flawed. The sequals put out for TV, compliment the original. Between them they make up my favourite movie(s) of all time. Les.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

between SF and Fantasy - while SW is essentially an SF movie, I personally consider it to be Fantasy as well. Part of this is how you define the genres and part of it is your view of the world, I guess. I consider magic to be an aspect of Fantasy, so SW is at least in part Fantasy because it has the Jedi and the Force and so on. But then if you believe magic actually exists (if you believe in telekinesis and telepathy, for example) then you may argue that these are SF because it's just scientific concepts we haven't discovered yet. As for Dune, loved the books, hated the movie. I'd blotted the movie from my memory before you mentioned it, thank-you very much ;)

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

THX-1138 Silent Running Deep Impact Blade Runner Alien Alien 3 (special edition) (surprise !) 1984 2010 Gatacca Robinson Crusoe On Mars The day the earth stood still Starman Star Trek I War of the Worlds (remake) Empire Strikes Back The Abyss Close Encounter of the Third Kind Fantasy, not much. Fellowship was brilliant, but I like my fantasy a lot darker generally, the weirder the world the more real the characters.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

A GoTM movie would be great, even if a fully faithful rendition would be about three weeks in length... I guess they could cut a certain amount of the book out and still remain close enough to the story. But I think Deadhouse Gates would be better suited to conversion to a movie. As for Banks, not for everyone, and to be fair some of his books just annoy me with the jumping back and forth. But there's a few books that don't do it too much, and some that even use it well. Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons, Excession, Algebraist. Reynolds kinda does the same thing, but not as much. He's been a little off the boil lately, with Century Rain (didn't read because time travel stories aren't my thing) and Prefect (which just seemed a little basic - not up to the standard of Revelation Space). Pushing Ice was good, though. And Before They Are Hanged is a great follow-up to The Blade Itself. Recommended reading. Anyway, back to movies... I think the problem here is that, for me, a movie's primary function is to entertain me. If it can't do that, then it's obviously not very good. A bit like a car that can only drive backwards. But of course, that's as subjective as it can get. Alien was well-made, but I didn't enjoy it, not really. Just not my kind of thing. So I think the thing to do is make the word 'best' a taboo in these things. The correct word to use would be 'favourite'. The theory here being that no-one can disagree because these are the movies that *I* like, and I'm not trying to convince you guys to watch them. Well, that's the theory... So if you really want to see my 'favourite' SF movies list, here we go... * T2 * Blade Runner * Star Wars Eps 4-6 * Star Trek: Motion Picture (just for the opening sequence with the Klingon ships) * Star Trek 2: Wrath Of Khan * Spaceballs * I, Robot (actually closer to Caves of Steel, just given the name I, Robot) * Starship Troopers (no I didn't read the book) * Minority Report * B5: ThirdSpace * Serenity * Gattaca (though haven't seen it for ages, should pick it up on DVD somewhere) * Day After Tomorrow * Deep Impact * Batman The Movie & Batman Begins (hey, I think they get into the SF genre) For fantasy * Lord Of The Rings * Willow * Dark Crystal (loved that one when I was a kid) That's pretty much it straight off the top of my head. On the topic of genre-bending movies (is Alien horror or sci-fi?), that's partly down to the fact that sci-fi is sometimes a setting type, rather than a genre - kind of like "period" movies. Alien was a horror movie in an SF setting. I, Robot, Paycheck and Minority Report were crime/conspiracy movies in an SF setting.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Had to go back and read the entire series again. Just read Abercrombie's The Blade Itself, brilliant book. I read Banks often, tried Reynolds, couldn't get on with him. Hans up who want a faithful rendition of Gardens Of the Moon on the big screen.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

on the go at the mo: Divergence (Tony Ballantyne) and Lies Of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch) In the queue: Reaper's Gale (Steven Erikson), Starship Mutiny (Mike Resnick), and Peace & War (Joe Haldeman), Red Seas Under Red Skies (Scott Lynch) Eagerly awaited: Anything by Alastair Reynolds, Iain M Banks, or Joe Abercrombie.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

films. Question do you enjoy reading Sci-Fi and SF ?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the movie is anything like the book. I love Asimov and love Heinlein as well, plus most of the other Campbell authors.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Though I haven't read Starship Troopers, I'm an Asimov nut. He's likely writhing in his grave.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

was a little harsh I guess. I didn't get a personal attack slant in your comment, just the debate was getting more heated. While you didn't really flame me, flames probably aren't too far behind. I guess we (myself included) just need to take a deep breath, relax and remmeber it's just movies. You've got your opinion, for example that the Transformers is not an SF movie because it's commercialised (edit: assuming I didn't misread it in the first place...). My opinion on that one is that an SF movie doesn't have to be good, or original, or intelligent. IMHO, it's SF (maybe some fantasy as well) because cars don't really turn into robots with laser guns - if your car does that then I'm really jealous! ;) There's a lot of really bad SF movies, but it doesn't stop them being SF. I for one think TF looks awesome though.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

While I was critical of some of the movies listed, I hope you didn't take my comments personally. I've said the same things about these three movies in response to comments posted by others. If I disagree with your opinion, it doesn't mean I don't recognize it as valid. Some of us post on topics like this because we enjoyment trading disagreeing opinions on subjective topics. If I offended you personally, please accept my apologies.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

I'm saying I'm not making a comment either way.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

So you are saying Star Wars was such a bad movie, even these not good more modern movies are better than it?

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

Like I said, I wasn't saying they were any good, just that they were modern and (except a few at the end) sci-fi.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Minority Report, maybe Paycheck, drivel. Starship Troopers, awful I Robot, That was an advert with superstar Will in it. Sunshine not seen that, not sure I want to now either, we appear to have somewaht differing tastes. How about Twelve Monkeys ? Fellowship, is in my top ten films ever, Two Towers, and Return of The King, not even in the top 1000. Narnia, I enjoyed very much, Willow, nothing new to say and successfully said exactly that.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

This is why I made it clear that I wasn't posting a "best movies list". I'm not going to debate opinions on these movies, since it's just a waste of my time and will degenerate further into flaming. That's that. I'm not sure how I can make it any simpler...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Transformers isn't SF, it isn't even Sci-Fantasy. It's a two-hour toy advertisement. If it was SF, they'd have to account for how the mass of a three-story robot can fit in the volume of a sports car. Many fans of the original novels have problems with the movies titled "Starship Troopers" and "I, Robot". Notice I say "titled", because that's all these movies have in common with the books. Troopers is at best a poor adaptation, and Robot bears no resemblance to the original collection of short stories.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

The Matrix. Virtual reality and all... Hmmm... anyone remember Brainstorm? Or Colussus: The Forbin Project? edit - add a couple flicks

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

A future posited based on a single steps based on current knowledge. The fewer new bit's the better, the less ifs the better, and if you are going to call it sci-fi and it's hard sci-fi please make it relevant to today's science. So Star Wars fails on the Force, and the Terminator Series on time travel into your 'own' past. Good stories powerful characterisations, immensely enjoyable fiction, with future tech in them, not science.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

I did earlier in the thread, and T2 falls under the category. I even thought T1 was better than SW. I never really saw what the fuss was about. Les.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Linda Hamilton muscled up (unintenional justaxaposition) Or Rutger Hauer's exit. Depends on what mood you are in I suppose. :D Eight most enetertaining sf films, suspect there would be some changes.

bkinsey
bkinsey

I'll give you more "if's" in T2, but contend that Bladerunner answered its one question more effectively. (Or maybe I just like Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer better than Ahnold. . . ) That said, 7 times out of 10 I'd probably rather watch T2, just for the action fix. *shrug*