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The 10 must-see geek movies of 2013

There are approximately 50 geek-centric movies set for major theatrical release in 2013, but these are the only 10 you need to care about.

Let's be honest; the title is a misnomer. You can't, won't, and probably shouldn't see all 10 of the sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and generally geek-related movies listed below. Nonetheless, these 10 films are expected to dominate the geek conversation over the next 12 months -- for better or for worse. As to which is which, our Geekend summaries and predictions are listed below.

  1. Oblivion | April 13 [trailer] Tom Cruise tries his hand at sci-fi again, this time as the guy who maintains the automated defense drones on an abandoned Earth -- until Morgan Freeman pulls him into a resistance movement that wants to expose the "real" reasons humans were forced off their homeworld. Like all such investigations, it involves lots of CGI-enhanced high-speed technoviolence. Plot is neither necessary nor expected.
  2. Iron Man 3 | May 3 [trailer] Robert Downey Jr. breaks in a new director for his third run at Tony Stark, as Shane Black -- the guy who wrote Lethal Weapon and directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang -- takes the helm. This is also the first Marvel Movieverse release after the megahit Avengers delivered on so many geek cinema hopes and dreams, so we'll soon learn if the franchise of franchises can keep the magic going. The real news is that Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley is finally bringing to life the superhero's arch-nemesis, The Mandarin. Suit up.
  3. Star Trek Into DarknessStar Trek Into Darkness | May 17 [trailer] We know this much about the madly anticipated second act of J.J. Abrams's blockbuster Trek reboot: Alice Eve is playing Dr. Carol Marcus -- the mother of Captain Kirk's son David in the prime Trek timeline. That's just the most tantalizing clue about the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch's lead villain, though all we know for certain is that he's a character "very familiar" to Trekkies. For those that don't recognize the name, Dr. Marcus first appeared in a little flick called Wrath of Khan. Whether Into Darkness shares a primary antagonist with the greatest Star Trek film ever made remains to be seen -- but the entire geek universe is dying to find out.
  4. After Earth | June 7 [trailer] Ten years ago, a collaboration between Will Smith and M. Night Shyamalan on a sci-fi spectacle would have been the unmissable event of the summer. Unfortunately, Shyamalan's last three films were Devil, The Last Airbender, and The Happening, and Smith's last three forays into sci-fi were Men in Black 3, Hancock, and I Am Legend. Hollywood, of course, hasn't gotten the message, so this film will be marketed down our throats until we're forced to deal with it. On the bright side, Smith's son Jaden looks to be carrying more than his share of the load here as the second lead, so this can't be worse than the Karate Kid remake. Yay?
  5. Man of SteelMan of Steel | June 14 [trailer] 300/Watchmen's Zack Snyder directs and The Dark Knight/Inception's Chris Nolan produces the latest (and much overdue) reboot of the Superman franchise. The good news is they've learned the glaring lesson that all but one Superman film has ignored: Supes needs to actually fight someone, physically. The bad news is that they're using the same worthy opponent -- General Zod -- we've seen before, and they're cramming in yet another retelling of Superman's origins to boot. However, if the rumors are true and Snyder has A) reined in his literalist impulses and B) the film is based on the outstanding Superman: Birthright comic series, this may be the Man of Steel we've been waiting 30 years to see.
  6. World War Z | June 21 [trailer] The Max Brooks novel upon which this film is based may be the greatest zombie story ever written -- seriously. Sadly, a half-decade of turnaround hell, a cavalcade of rewrites, and interminable studio meddling look to have turned Brooks's nuanced, self-aware reflection on the zombie apocalypse genre into just another overwrought action-horror vehicle for Brad Pitt. But, hey, at least it will look pretty.
  7. The Lone Ranger | July 3 [trailer] Director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and star Johnny Depp -- the same insane genius trio that turned a dated 1950s-era theme park ride into the irreverently fun Pirates of the Caribbean mega-franchise -- now set their sights on the dated 1950s-era Western hero with the catchiest theme music ever. This time Armie Hammer takes Orlando Bloom's place as the impossibly handsome protagonist who will be inevitably upstaged by Depp's trickster sidekick. More simply, Hammer plays the Ranger, who may or may not be a resurrected avenging angel, while Depp plays the nigh-offensive Indian stereotype Tonto, who serves as his spirit guide. Hi-ho, Silver!
  8. Pacific RimPacific Rim | July 12 [trailer] Guillermo Del Toro gave us Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth, so he's clearly a visual genius. He also spent no small part of his youth watching Japanese kaiju monster flicks and anime TV series, which he has attempted to distill into their ultimate essence -- a CGI blockbuster that is entirely giant mecha robots fighting giant alien monsters. I have no idea if there's even a storyline here, and doubt that one is even necessary. It's giant monsters fighting giant robots. Robots with rocket fists. I don't care if mecha are stupid, they're also awesome. Set your brain to "12-year-old boy" and go.
  9. Ender's Game | Nov. 1 [no trailer yet] They're finally putting one of the most significant military sci-fi novels ever written to film. Asa Butterfield -- who stole the show as the lead in Martin Scorsese's Hugo -- plays Ender Wiggin, the abused genius trained to save the human race from extinction at the hands of an implacable alien enemy. Harrison Ford is Colonel Graff, the monstrous military instructor charged with getting Ender ready for his mission by any means necessary. Ben Kingsley pops in as Mazer Rackham, the only man ever to defeat the "buggers," but who may have precious little to teach his callow successor. Whether director Gavin Hood -- whose only major previous credit was the middling X-Men Origins: Wolverine -- can deliver on this film's limitless potential is perhaps the greatest mystery of the 2013 geek movie season. If he can't, we nerds may finally burn Tinseltown to the ground.
  10. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug | Dec. 13 [no trailer yet] It's the next Hobbit movie, and it's the first one with the dragon. I'm pretty sure a few dozen of us are already in line.

Of course, any top 10 list is going to inspire debate. To foster the argument, here are the other 40 geek movies of 2013 that might plausibly belong in our lineup. I await your comments, critiques, and barely contained nerd-rage in the discussion section.

  1. 47 Ronin
  2. 300: Rise of an Empire
  3. The ABCs of Death
  4. About Time
  5. Beautiful Creatures
  6. Carrie
  7. The Conjuring
  8. The Croods
  9. Dark Skies
  10. Despicable Me 2
  11. Dorothy of Oz
  12. Elysium
  13. The End of the World
  14. Epic
  15. Escape from Planet Earth
  16. Evil Dead
  17. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  18. A Good Day to Die Hard
  19. Gravity
  20. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
  21. The Host
  22. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  23. I, Frankenstein
  24. Insidious Chapter 2
  25. Jack the Giant Slayer
  26. Jurassic Park 3D
  27. Kick-Ass 2
  28. Monsters University
  29. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
  30. Oz: The Great and Powerful
  31. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
  32. Red 2
  33. Riddick
  34. R.I.P.D.
  35. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
  36. Thor: The Dark World
  37. Warm Bodies
  38. Winter's Tale
  39. The Wolverine
  40. Zero Theorem

Editor's note: TechRepublic's Geekend blog is coming to an end this year in order for us to focus all of our resources on business technology topics. The Geekend blog has had a great run, thanks to our wonderful contributors and our loyal readers. We would love to hear which Geekend posts and/or discussions are your favorites.

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...

20 comments
RudHud
RudHud

Boy, that made me feel my age. I was actually subscribing to Analog in 1977 -- and if I read Ender's Game when it appeared then, I don't remember it now. I do have a faint memory of skipping the O.S. Card stories, though. I think I may have considered him a blowhard. Haven't read any of his stuff since, either. The Wikipedia article makes Ender's Game sound like a ripoff of Heinlein's Starship Trooper, complete with Bugs and raging Political Incorrectness.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

interest in any of the others. Way too many of the directors ignore the original story line and original characters now, so they aren't worth it.

PurpleSkys
PurpleSkys

top of my list is a toss up between Iron Man (and this is RDJ's forth run at Tony Stark; he was in the Avengers as well) and Star Trek - Into The Darkness. ST might win out; the reboot of the movies with the last one sparked my interest...the graffics were fantastic and I really enjoyed the new crew. Oblivion would be next; I like Tom Cruise in sci-fi, he rocked Minority Report. After Earth is number 4 for me. I'm not so much interested in Will Smith in this one (although I love him in sci-fi too) as I am interested in Jaden. I seen him in The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Karate Kid, I'm quite interested in how good an actor he becomes and if he surpasses his father. After these, ones, it'll be up in the air. I love sci-fi but not zombies so much and I don't really do animated sci-fi (unless it's something like James Cameron's Avatar). If I had to pick a fifth, it might be either the new Die Hard or GI Joe, meh, we'll see ;) . Thanks again Jay. edit to add: I will watch the Resident Evil series though, but that's about the only zombie type movies I watch.

journeygr
journeygr

That one, does not belong here. Make a Twilight list, and put it there...

myangeldust
myangeldust

We were raised on the awe-inspiring and new-concept works of Spielberg, Lucas, and Kubrick. Carpenter and Zemekis added some horror and comedy, respectively, to that mix. But then we were slowly corrupted by the flash-bang of Bruckheimer, Cameron, and the Scott brothers. All of whom have done nice films. However, they've influenced a new batch of movie makers who've settled for more flash-banging than awe-inspiration. Abrams, Bay, Whedon and many more have opted for sensory-overloading FX than mind-blowing plots. Save for some indie films, one no longer has to think, "What does this mean?" The story is easy enough for a small child to understand. And thanks to an overwhelming amound of remakes and reboots one no longer has to wonder, "How is this story going to end?"

Billb114
Billb114

If you throw out the remakes (which are always pale imitations of the originals IMHO), the usual Hollywood "Throw money at it" schlock, and anything with Tom Cruise - what's left? Seriously? I am finding anymore that southeast Asia seems to be doing the truly engrossing Sci-fi/ fantasy. Something with talented writers instead of overpaid actors and overpriced "guts and gore" special effects.

grammartroll
grammartroll

He didn't write it or direct it. "Devil" is a John Erick Dowdle film.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The rest of 'em, you couldn't pay me to watch. Oh and you made a spelling mistake in the comment about yet another superman film, the word boot does not start with re...

Marc Erickson
Marc Erickson

I liked 'em. Yes, I'm willing to concede my taste in in my mouth.

xangpow
xangpow

WoW 2013 look to have the potental of having good movies. I am both anxious and scared to see how things turn out. And Jay hope you have fun doing whatever you will be doing next. :)

pgit
pgit

The Hobbit is a short story, really. To stretch it into 3 films is the most obvious money grab yet to emanate from Hollyweed. Reviews indicate the 'filler' is just endless violence, as gratuitous as The Passion of Christ. I'd pick something else for a 'must see list.' Thanks for all the geekness, Jay. Best wishes wherever you end up.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I usually abhor this but ... 'FIRST!' Two 'Oz' movies, three Marvel films, but 'Monsters University' from Pixar is the only one that makes my 'Must See' list. I'll wait on 'Ender's Game' until I hear if torches and pitch are necessary.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

in that they were both military sci-fi that featured a lot about training, and included military dictatorships. The core ideas were very different, Starship Troopers with it's idea of a vote for service, and Ender was a child fooled into into genocide. As to what Hollywimps do with the story, well we'll see. I'll be amazed if they keep the core concept, because I can't see Speaker for the Dead happening at all. Got to agree about Card though, paragraphs of genius amongst a plethora of banality.

grammartroll
grammartroll

The Hobbit is a 300 page book. It is not a "short story."

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I enjoyed much of his 'Alvin Maker' series. While still too wordy, I found it more accessible than most Ender works, which I think are too political and philosophical. Heck, even Game went on a bit too long. His Homecoming series is definitely too wordy and long. I haven't tried anything else since. My wife has the same complaint about Anne Rice: authors who write just to see what lovely words they've written. Pat Conroy has the same professional affliction.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

it's substantially shorter than any of the Ring novels. Hollywood didn't inflate any of those longer works out to almost seven hours of film. Commercialism, unpure and simple.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I just found more of it in 'Speaker', 'Xenocide', etc than I enjoyed.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Ranges from brilliant to barely average, his other stuff, no hook for me, saying that political and philosophical challenges are the main things I read SF for. The science (or magic) aside from making sense and being consistent is just background to me.