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February 16 2008

Serenity Snubbed in AFI List. But Sci/Fi Wire gives us a chance to redeem ourselves. Within the Article, they give you an address to write with your choices for "The Most Under-appreciated" Sci/Fi Films.

Men In Black. Not sure what to think about that choice, besides "Hell Naaaaw."
They define Sci-Fi as "a genre that marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation."

You could argue that they view Serenity as a movie set in the future but not about the future and think it's just a mindless shoot em up action movie. I can see how they could have missed the whole Pax/population control aspect, which clearly meets their definition.
Independence Day? Really????? And Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome but not The Road Warrior or even the original? I can see some sort of rationale for a lot of the films listed (about half are gimmes), but...wow.
Just happy (but not surprised) to see both The Incredible Shrinking Man and Them!, the two films that probably sealed my childhood love of sci-fi/fantasy/horror, on the list. No Metropolis? And I'd leave out Minority Report and Independence Day, although both are fun. (Men in Black, on the other hand, rocks. IMO.)
I know some people'll say "damn internet browncoats always going on about how good serenity is", but that Serenity isn't on that list really is shocking.
Men in Black did rock. It was one of those rare scifi blockbusters that was fun and also surprised me by far exceeding my not-so-high expectations. I usually expect those kinds of movies to be kind of fun but also disappointing in most other ways. MIB convinced me that Will Smith's acting ability was vastly underrated.

I always get the distinct impression that SciFi is kind of faking their scifi love. This sort of reads like a list really casual scifi fans would make plus some stuff they pulled off of IMDB for scifi cred. No Return of the Jedi, but Independence Day? Wow.
but that Serenity isn't on that list really is shocking.


Not really. It didn't make much of an impression at the box office and it's not exactly captured the zeitgeist the way other sci films have. At the moment the public probably see it in the same light as Aeon Flux or Ultraviolet. Give Serenity another ten or twenty years and it'll be a different story. But right now Serenity is Battle Beyond the Stars. When Whedonesque 7.0 rolls around it'll be Star Wars.
I'm more shocked by the exclusion of Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stalker. And Teshigahara's Face of Another! And Lang's Metropolis (!!!!!!!)! That list is seriously bizarre...
I think this is the actual list from AFI, which make the exclusion of several landmark films (Metropolis etc) all the more surprising. And only two of the winning films are post 1970?
No way Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome should be on that list instead of Road Warrior. No way. Star Wars was great also, but The Empire Strikes Back is not listed. Don't understand that. It was hands down the better movie.
I think this is the actual list from AFI

Oh, true. Hmm, that's kind of weird then.
I'm more shocked by the exclusion of Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stalker. And Teshigahara's Face of Another! And Lang's Metropolis (!!!!!!!)!


While the scifi.com article doesn't mention it, I think the AFI usually only picks American films for its lists (it is the American Film Institute, after all). None of those films are American. For that matter, neither is The Road Warrior. (I guess Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome was financed by American money... it can be hard determining what is or isn't an American movie sometimes.)

Anyway, I'm not too suprised Serenity wasn't included on the list; they all look like big blockbuster movies, or movies that got a lot of critical raves, or older movies that are still well remembered. Maybe someday Serenity will fall into one of those categories; after all Blade Runner was a flop on release and wasn't that well reviewed at the time either.
I think "Independence Day" would have been a better leave than "Serenity" was, but there really isn't much deadweight on that list. I think AI was just terrible... or at least a half hour too long.

But, my favorite of all time is on the list ("Eternal Sunshine"), and the two movies I watched most growing up ("Star Wars" and "Star Trek II"), so I know what I'll be rooting for.
Total Recall? Really? That's...kinda scary.
Good call, Mad Axe - from this Press Release regarding the AFI's Best Films, we learn:

"AFI asks jurors to consider the following criteria in their selection process . . .

AMERICAN FILM

English-language film with significant creative and/or production elements from the United States. Additionally, only films released before January 1, 2008 will be considered."

Just grating that the list inevitably is trumpeted as "The Best SF Films," rather than the best American SF films.
Eternal Sunshine was a great movie, but somehow I don't think I would have considered it sci-fi, really. And I have to add to several other people's shock that Metropolis isn't on that list.
Just grating that the list inevitably is trumpeted as "The Best SF Films," rather than the best American SF films.
Perhaps, but not overly surprising. We bloody colonials are, after all, the world.

I feel less bad for not noticing Metropolis' omission since it doesn't qualify.
If those are the rules, I think it's pretty grating that A Clockwork Orange was included. Based on an English novel, English director, shot in the U.K. with a British cast - the American "creative" input seems to be creatively paying money. Of course, I guess I'd be more grated if British. Good movie. Ours. We paid for it.
Well, Kubrick was born in the Bronx, NYC, although he moved to England in the 60's and never left. But A Clockwork Orange seems like a British film to me, I agree.

Alien strikes me as being at least half-British too (Ridley Scott, John Hurt, Ian Holm, shot at Shepperton studios with largely British crew) - it just has that low-budget UK feel (although I suppose Dan O' Bannon's Dark Star also had a homemade vibe, in a slightly different way).
Sent in my list:

Serenity, Children of Men, Enemy Mine, Alien, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Matrix, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, Contact, Back to the Future, War Games

Honestly, most of the films on the list, I haven't yet seen. I know, I'm horrible...
I can understand anyone not from the U.S. being miffed. It would make at least some sense to make it "English Language" but would be even better to include anything that had an English language release.
The most glaring omission to me based on the U.S. films rule is Brazil.
And even among certifiably American productions .... no 12 Monkeys?? My vote for most glaring omission, along with Serenity. (I hated Independence Day with a passion, just had to throw that in). But I adore Will Smith and the rest of the cast.
And call me really weird but I loved the American Solaris.
Here's the List I sent to Sci/Fi Wire. Had to include a little Ray Harryhausen Love :)

1) Serenity
2) The Day The Earth Stood Still
3) 2001: A Space Oddysey
4) Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers
5) Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope
6) Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back
7) Planet of The Apes
8) Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
9) Close Encounters of The Third Kind
10) 1984 (the 1984 version)
The list is "under-appreciated," and some of the movies that are "missing," by the response to their omission, are not under-appreciated.
Got to back up the call for Brazil and 12 Monkeys. I'd have Aliens and Terminator as well as their prequel and sequel respectively. Can't leave Empire Strikes Back off either.

Ignoring the AFI's opinion that there's no sci-fi worth bothering about outside of the US, I'll go for the first Mad Max rather then Thunderdome plus Akira and Ghost in the Shell (and is there enough sci-fi in Battle Royale for it to qualify?).

Don't see why sci-fi comedy shouldn't be included too, so Ghostbusters and probably Galaxy Quest would make my top 50.

Of course, I'd have Serenity in there and also Cypher. ;)

Chelleatrix - only Sci-fi Wire is doing a list for under-appreciated films. The AFI's list is simply the best (American) sci-fi films. Hmmmm actually, I think I misunderstood what you meant. It is a bit confusing, because if Sci-fi Wire are going to count anything not on the AFI's list as under-appreciated, then their list could have Empire Strikes Back as the number one most under-appreciated sci-fi film. Which would be a tad silly.

[ edited by cypher on 2008-02-17 16:35 ]
I see that some people are criticizing the AFI's list for only including American films. I guess I don't really get that; since AFI stands for the American Film Institute, doesn't it follow that its lists would be about American films? It just doesn't make sense to me to say that because an organization about American films doesn't include non-American films in its lists, that therefore they must think there is "no sci-fi worth bothering about outside of the US".
What's rankling folks, I expect, is that AFI calls their final list "The 10 Best Sci/Fi Movies of All Time", instead of the "10 Best American Sci/Fi Movies of All Time".

[ edited by TDBrown on 2008-02-17 17:31 ]
Exactly TDBrown.

Yeah Apollo Gilgamesh, it follows that its lists would be about American films, it doesn't follow, however, that as SNT says, the article (and presumably AFI list) talks about "a list of 50 SF films that it deems among the best ever" (i.e. not 50 American SF films).

It's kind of like calling a sporting competition that only has North American entrants the "World Series" (and yes, i'm aware of the historical roots of the name, still tickles me though ;).

(and there're some very odd choices on there and even odder omissions - I mean, 'Total Recall' but no 'Solaris', even the US one ? To be honest, the list sounds more like the "50 Best American SF Films that the Mainstream American Public are Likely to Have Heard of" to me and so has even less merit than these lists usually do)

[ edited by Saje on 2008-02-17 17:31 ]
Without revealing my exact chronological age, I grew up on staples like Them! and The Incredible Shrinking Man, so nostalgically like SNT, glad to see them on there. But Westworld? A cheesy, dated old thing that ought to be thrown in the nearest galactic, robotic used-part heap. I'd much rather see an extremely well-crafted film like Serenity listed than that and a few other films the AFI deems worthy. I will give them a gold star though, for Altered States, for which I have almost an irrational liking and really in recent memory haven't seen it on any of these lists.
Well, BAFTA stands for British Academy of Film and Television Arts, but they give out awards to everyone (recently Tommy Lee Jones, Marion Cotillard and the Coens for example). They have categories for British stuff only, but they name it correctly - a Best British Film award as well as a Best Film award. Yes, there tends to be a bit of a bias towards British films, but that's just life and I'd expect the AFI to have a bias towards American films. The issue is with the naming of the list verses the entry requirements.

Btw, Saje, I'm pretty sure that the World Series thing in baseball actually is as bad as it sounds. That it had something to do with sponsorship is a myth (though I believed it until it came up on QI). Wikipedia has the right story, as far as I know.
Strange list, even of American films. But then "SciFi" has always been a troublesome phrase, who meaning wandered all over; it was eliminated as an abbreviation of "Science Fiction" in that Wikipedia article.

They probably considered "Serenity" to be television, not film.
Well, BAFTA stands for British Academy of Film and Television Arts, but they give out awards to everyone (recently Tommy Lee Jones, Marion Cotillard and the Coens for example)


True but the Baftas have been so desperate for Hollywood recognition in recent years that it's been embarrassing.
I predict Daniel Day-Lewis is going to win an Academy Award this year so I think it all evens out (and the Academy loves La Mirren).
It's kind of like calling a sporting competition that only has North American entrants the "World Series" ........

To be honest, the list sounds more like the "50 Best American SF Films that the Mainstream American Public are Likely to Have Heard of"
Saje | February 17, 17:30 CET


I totally agree, on both counts. We in the U.S., in the throes of the decline of our "empire", are as bad as the former British or Roman empires at their peak.
All too often in popular culture, we forget that just because we've become the biggest bullies on the block, doesn't make us "the only kids on the block".

I totally agree, on both counts. We in the U.S., in the throes of the decline of our "empire", are as bad as the former British or Roman empires at their peak.


The term "world series" dates to the 1880s. Whether or not you think it appropriate, it's hardly a symptom of "the decline of our empire".
I'll just chime in with Dark City like I do for every single one of these lists and fade back into the mists of predictability.
Oh, I'll back you up on Dark City, absolutely. And I'm going to throw in Gattaca which is always overlooked.
Btw, Saje, I'm pretty sure that the World Series thing in baseball actually is as bad as it sounds.

Ah, that's what I get for missing the odd episode of 'QI' cypher, cheers for the info. From reading Wikipedia though, you can still sort of understand it since back when it started no-one else played baseball (even if it's probably evidence of a mind-set that persists up to the present - with I should stress, in my experience at least, only a small minority of Americans). Guess we were guilty of it too, back when we mattered ;-).
"Contact"? Certainly the world's LONGEST scifi movie, at 12 hours. Oh wait, I take that back. It only *felt* like 12 hours watching it. A very, very boring movie, about VERY SERIOUS themes, and therefore an important movie.

I second the WTF for Westworld. A movie totally without redeeming social value, not to mention any semblance of a plot.

And "Planet of the Apes". I agree that it has been influential and it's fun in a truly cheesy B-movie way, but it is, let's be honest a cheesy B-movie.

I don't know if Serenity is one of the all-time greatest sci-fi movies (defined as those made in the U.S.). I'm of the opinion that it wasn't nearly as good as the series. However, it certainly beats the crap out of some of the ones on the list.

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