When it comes to badass women kicking butt on the big screen, few can even hold a candle to Scarlett Johansson. She’s the driving force behind this film about what it would be like if we could use our full brain capacity and how dangerous that could be. Dangerous to others? Sure, considering the harm she causes bad guys who have wronged her, but more importantly the danger it is to ourselves. This film comes in as a huge hit-or-miss to most casual viewers and that’s totally fair, but the action is great and Johansson is at her best. Whether you’ve seen it before or not, watching this now is a good way to get psyched for Black Widow, the long-awaited standalone film for one of cinema’s best Avengers.
READY PLAYER ONE (2018)
This is a film clearly aimed for the youth and future generations, while at the same time utilizing all types of nostalgia to make its ode to the ‘80s a worthwhile trip down memory lane. Like many films on this list, it is sure to make you question what the future has in store for us. That’s a topic we can think about until we’re blue in the face, but the use of virtual reality, something many of us still don’t know a ton about but realize it’s here to stay, makes Ready Player One feel more like a futuristic adventure than a scientifically fictional one. I guess that’s part of Spielberg’s brilliance.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
I’ll admit that I don’t view this as the flawless masterpiece many critics claim it to be, but Fury Road is still an undeniably fantastic piece of cinema that appeals to almost any type of audience. Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy are the perfect duo for this dystopian road flick, and while the film stands on its own without them, it’s hard to imagine any other actors fitting those roles the way these two do. Mel Gibson’s Mad Max character set an extremely high bar back in the day in the first three installments in George Miller’s acclaimed franchise. Even though Fury Road may not have eclipsed that bar, this fourth entry still deserves credit for its set design and action-packed, adrenaline-fueled narrative. If you’re a junkie for any kind of action movie, this one was made for you.
SOURCE CODE (2011)
There are all types of time travel films—plenty of great ones—but few really separate themselves from the pack. This one is interesting because it toes the line between iconic and run-of-the-mill. It’s not gonna crack the top ten of its genre by any stretch, but falls into that 5% of time travel films that just annihilate the rest. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character doesn’t travel through time by year or decade, but relives the same sequence over and over again like a puzzle or riddle that doesn’t stop until he finally figures it out. Even then it proves that some things in life aren’t black and white. We all have those memories we play back in our heads from time to time and imagine how things would’ve gone had we acted differently. That’s part of the fun on these types of time loop movies, knowing sadly we’ll never get that chance in real life, but can still live vicariously through these characters.
I get the feeling Christopher Nolan loves creating confusion. Maybe that’s not his intention, but I can’t imagine he’d do it just for his health. And I’ll be damned if I ever go to see one of his films and don’t expect one hell of a brain twist. The filmmaker is able to make audiences think in ways they never thought they would, and he does it time and time again while keeping us thoroughly entertained for two to three hours at a time. I wouldn’t rank Inception as his best film, but it probably does the best job of exemplifying the type of visionary Nolan is. This generational film is definitely not for everybody, and if the idea of being in a dream of a dream of another person’s dream is confusing, then I’ll warn you: That’s just the tip of the iceberg. For Nolan’s talent and mind, along with this all-star cast, Inception deserves at least one chance, but probably needs two.
This sure as hell isn’t the first, and damn sure wasn’t the last space horror movie we’ll ever see. Space horror is essentially a genre of its own at this point, but while most over the years have become riddled with tropes and derivative plots that are played out, Life is able to stand out with its strong cast, witty characters, and best of all, an ending that truly transforms this film from space exploration to potentially apocalyptic. Ryan Reynolds delivers the laughs, Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal the heart, and the alien(s) the horror. Aside from its ending nothing may necessarily jump out as unforgettable, but this is just a fun, solid watch for 105 minutes. When that 106th minute hits though… sh*t gets real.
PLANET OF THE APES REBOOT TRILOGY (2011 – 2017)
This entire reboot/prequel trilogy is an absolute must-see for sci-fi fans. The film series has been around for over 50 years, beginning with the iconic 1968 original. They’re a staple in the sci-fi movie genre whether you’re talking about the most recent installments or the preceding pentalogy from the ‘60s and ‘70s. 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is my favorite of the new series simply because I just love a good origin story, but you can’t go wrong with any one of them. I remember seeing installments from the original franchise as a kid and thinking they were kinda cool, but at the same time ridiculous and over the top. After seeing the latest trilogy, I have to admit, apes taking over the world one day sounds insane, obviously, but I won’t rule it out.
THE MARTIAN (2015)
This is the Silver Surfer of astronauts: A man stranded in space and left to feel completely on his own. This is a film like Cast Away, Moon, and Buried in the sense that it’s basically one character we’re along on this journey with as we watch him slowly self-destruct. These are films and characters we consistently connect with and we can’t help it. Even the most social butterfly has periods in their life where they feel all alone. It’s those universal feelings of loneliness and self-realization that make these movies work so well. With a superb filmmaker like Ridley Scott leading the way, slide an actor of Matt Damon’s caliber into the lead and you have a can’t-miss engagement.
A QUIET PLACE (2018)
I’m an advocate for the idea of “show, don’t tell” in any type of storytelling medium, but I was still skeptical of the effectiveness of this sort of silent horror film before I watched it. But being a fan of John Krasinski and his wife/co-star Emily Blunt I wanted to at least give it a chance. Helming a visually-driven “silent” movie about a family struggling to survive in extremely strenuous circumstances, Krasinski, who also co-writes and stars in the film, wanted this to show the extremes a man would go to in order to protect his family. You don’t need a single word or sound to feel that emotional drive through the screen.
Since Deadpool doesn’t fit into this list, as it’s more of a comedic crime-noir, Marvel’s Logan will serve to represent the quality R-rated superhero film that manchildren like myself have been wanting to see since we were little kids. Fans believed for years that it would work and finally we’re starting to see grittier projects that are actually really good. There’s just something dope about comic books and comic book movies that don’t have to hold back. Who says comics always have to be for children? Thanks to Logan (and Deadpool) we no longer have to wonder if we’re right because the box office numbers and Oscar nominations are all the proof the industry needs.
Time travel movies are usually pretty tricky. They can start out interesting, but then one small wrong turn and the next thing you know the audience is totally lost. There are rules and guidelines to time travel and even though each film kind of makes its own, they still need to make sense in order to work. This might be why a lot of movies that use time travel elements today either resort to a comedic approach or simply mock the rules that films like Back to the Future have laid out for us. Looper works so well, not only because it’s a fresh blend of time travel and criminal violence, but because it proves that audiences and fans of the genre can still be lead to believe an outcome is inevitable, just to be flipped in the end and thrown for a “loop”.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)
One of the longest-awaited sequels of all time, Blade Runner 2049 unexpectedly manages to live up to its hype. Visually stunning and arguably one of the most beautiful movies ever shot, it also delivers on its stunning action sequences and inventive futuristic technology. With a runtime of 2 hours and 44 minutes, it can definitely drag, but it’s a film that’s physically hard to look away from, especially for those fortunate enough to see this in theaters. Ryan Gosling kicks ass and Harrison Ford reprises his iconic role of Rick Deckard, thrilling fans of the 1982 original. However, Blade Runner 2049 can also be appreciated as a standalone film.
EX MACHINA (2014)
You can sit back, watch, and enjoy Ex Machina, not realizing until it’s over that the futuristic premise was not only mindnumbingly possible, but probably much closer to reality than we’d all like to think. This is a hard one to talk about without giving much away, and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, so if you have any interest in the science field, more specifically artificial intelligence, then just go and check this movie out ASAP. It’s sketchy and a real think piece, leaving you not knowing what the hell to think, but I’m yet to meet a single person who’s watched Ex Machina and told me they didn’t find it fascinating.
guardians of the galaxy (2014)
It’s extremely rare these days for a new superhero movie to come out and really change the game. It happens, but not often. Guardians of the Galaxy not only changed the game, but reinvented the wheel. A blend of Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, this lesser-known superhero universe had people of all ages quickly falling in love with it, thanks to the help of probably one of the most beloved soundtracks of all time. A strong script and a solid cast are musts, but this film proved that audiences can fall in love with obscure superheroes they’ve never heard of just as easily as they can with the same old Batman or Spider-Man, who we’ve seen save the day countless times already.
Surprised? Don’t be. This is more than your typical sci-fi thriller about post-apocalyptic societies. Bong Joon-ho’s film is an instant sci-fi classic for a variety of reasons, my favorite being the way it dives headfirst into classism and our desire to survive, even if we don’t know what’s in store if our plans ultimately come to fruition. Following a train that carries the last remnants of humanity following a failed attempt at climate engineering, the film is hard to dissect without giving anything away, and touches on various issues that humans are forced to live with whether we ever end up on the cusp of the apocalypse or not. At our core, we are all mefirst creatures, self-preserving at all costs. Human depictions and emotions like this are what make it easy for audiences to connect with a film, separating the average from the bad, and the good from the great. There’s an array of intriguing characters, and each one of them could have their own spin-off movie about how he or she ended up on the train. Wi th the new Snowpiercer TV show on TNT, produced by Joon-ho, the ins and outs of this universe are able to be explored on an even grander level.