What is the greatest science fiction movie ever made? At io9, in their March Movie Madness poll to “pick the greatest science fiction movie ever made”, they’re giving readers the chance to vote in a knockout poll that started with a wide range of 64 movies from over the decades including Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Ghost in the Shell, Solaris, Wall-E and Inception.
But we’re down to the last four films now: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner and Serenity. And it seems to me that ‘greatest’ is being used as a synonym for ‘favourite’. Again.
It’s a tough choice when some really good movies appear in the same half of the table but is Empire Strikes Back really a greater movie than The Dark Knight, The Matrix, Brazil or Minority Report? I can see it being a better loved movie than the others, but greater? There’s just no way. In another part of the table Serenity has kicked the likes of Terminator, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Avatar and E.T. into touch. What the hell? Serenity‘s a good, fun, enjoyable movie but better than the others listed? Even io9 have thrown in the towel and dropped the ‘greatest’ bit and are now just telling readers to vote for whichever movie they want to win.
The trouble is what we know is a great movie artistically and creatively is not always a movie that would be our choice on a pizza night. Sometimes the great movies take several viewings to be appreciated. Some of them are slow-paced and you have to work to peel back the layers of dialogue to get to the meanings underneath. The film itself becomes part of the consideration. In short, they are movies to be admired, respected, loved but not necessarily loved wholeheartedly – they never quite reach the sweet spot.
Our favourite moves, on the other hand, are the ones we could watch over and over again and never tire of. The ones where you know the dialogue off by heart and can anticipate each scene as it unfolds. You know each character better than you know some of your family. A movie that short-circuits straight through to your emotional core and brings out all those fuzzy associational feel-goods.
Sometimes, for some of us, there will be movies that would fit into both descriptions. They’re both great and a favourite. But often there are classics you can watch and admire and love but will never adore. And some of your favourite movies are never going to top a critics list of top ten science fiction movies.
Based on io9’s 64 movies, my top three greatest movies and my top three favourite movies have only one title in both camps:
Top Three Greatest Movies
1. Blade Runner
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Top Three Favourite Movies
3. Blade Runner
And, no, there’s no room for Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back in either of my top three. I remember both of these films fondly but they just never quite got their emotional hooks into me and I don’t see how anyone could argue that they are greater movies than the likes of Blade Runner, 2001, The Dark Knight or Alien.
But you may disagree. The next round of the poll opens today so go and vote. But for God’s sake, make sure it’s for Blade Runner.