What's the most underated Sci-Fi movie?

I know this must have been discussed before, but maybe an update.

Not an update for a film in my case, but I’m watching the original The Planets of the Apes (1968-9?), which I haven’t seen in decades.

There was a lot being presented beside the surface story of an astronaut lost in space on a hostile world–Vietnam, religion, caste stratification, and evolution, just to name a few topics.

What holds up over the years? Blade Runner or* Alien(s)* seem to be the first movies to come to mind.

These are now recognized as classic SF, but what have we missed that’s worth seeing on that level?

Underrated as in critically panned, or underrated as in it tanked at the box office?

I rather liked Gattaca, and while it has good reviews on rottentomatoes (82%) and a solid 7.8 on IMDb, it didn’t even crack the top 100 grossing movies of 1997. ($12.5 million according to boxofficemojo, which also conveniently lists the top 100 grossing movies by year if you click a year on this page.)

I don’t know if I’d call Moon a classic sci-fi movie, but I think it’s underrated.

1982 The Thing is my absolute favorite movie. There are a bunch of us fanatics out there about it, but I feel it generally gets overlooked by the mainstream.

Conquest of Space, George Pal’s 1955 trip-to-Mars epic.

It usually gets panned for its “crew member goes nuts/gets space fever” plot. But it has very very nice model-on-wire type special effects, earnestly based on then-current space knowledge–and besides, fifty years later, “crew member goes nuts” plots are a staple of the genre. :wink:

Well, we can do both.

I’m pretty sure Blade Runner tanked at the box office, but now it’s considered a great movie.

And then GATTACA brought up some interesting themes that may actually be realized in the near future with genome editing techniques like CRISPR–the potential of which wasn’t fully recognized at the time.

I though Moon was good!

Yeah, agreed, Moon is an excellent choice.

Gattaca and Moon are both good.
Sunshine falls a bit flat in the second half but is still well worth watching, especially if you’re a Danny Boyle fan.

I was going to say Sunshine, but that third act falls apart so thoroughly I decided against it. (I still really liked it.) It turns out to be a good call: solid IMDb ratings, good score on rottentomatoes, and totally bombed at the box office.

That reminds me of a less good one that I also liked a lot: Solaris, with George Clooney and Natasha McElhone. Not particularly well rated or reviewed, but it did 5x the box office of Sunshine because Clooney was in it. I should probably check out the original.

The original Solaris was the most beautiful movie I’ve ever seen where not much happens. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Definitely not for everyone.

Underrated as in it doesn’t appear on top ten lists? “Collosus: The Forbin Project”

Underrated as in it gets grief for its tagline? “Soylent Green” is quite a good film.

Pandorum has a 28% at Rotten Tomatoes, and I agree the middle part is regurgitated schlock but the beginning is good and the end is fantastic. It deserves better even if it’s just as a sci-fi date movie thriller.

Moon was my first thought. Love that one!

I saw the Clooney version and really liked it but was reluctant to see the Tarkovsky version after the incoherent mess that was Stalker. Maybe I’ll give it a try.

I don’t know if it’s underrated or has just been forgotten (particularly after the questionable remake), but I’m a big fan of the 1975 original of Rollerball starring James Caan. Much of it still seems wearily relevant. It’s got that slow pace that was typical of a lot of 1970s movies but for all that I think it stands up well.

I’d have to agree with Gattaca. Loved that movie.


Either “The Black Hole” (1979) or “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”

The former was my “Star Wars,” as a little kid. I also have a family history of clinical depression, which I’m guessing is probably related—the gloomy melancholy of a gothic death ship teetering on the edge of Abaddon just “spoke” to me, more, even at a young age.

(Also, great music, cool robots.)

The latter? I guess I’m just a sucker for the bone-dry, almost procedural tone. It actually feels like a tale of exploration, to me, not “just” an action or a pure character piece. Are there better films, in the same franchise? Certainly—but a lot of worse ones, and increasingly shallower ones, too.

One? Damn – there are lots of them most people haven’t heard of.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space – 1950s epic by Jerome Bixby*. They absolutely stole the plot of Alien from this film**. Made on a low budget. Some of the things are hilariously outdated (The women in the crew are the ones who serve the food and coffee – but at least there are female crewmembers. The ship also carries guns and grenades. And they smoke cigarettes on board), but overall it’s till a good piece of work.

The Lost Missile – another 1950s Bixby film, about a missile from an undisclosed country (pretty obviously Russia) that goes astray and threatens to destroy things.

Panic in Year Zero – LA gets nuked, and Ray Milland and his family are lucky enough to be out of town at the time. They see the mushroom cloud and realize that Things Have Changed. It becomes a story about survival, with some nonobvious questions – how do you cross a line of traffic of panicked people escaping the city? --answered. This film feels to me like a Heinlkein short story, although he had nothing to do with it.

Quatermass 2 (AKA enemy from Space) – movie adatation of the second of Nigel Kneale’s “Quatermass” BBC serials. My only complaint is that they broughnt in American actor Brian Donleavy to play Quatermass (as they did in the first “Quatermass” film), and he talks and acts more like an American gangster than a British rocketry scientist. I stumbled across this late at night the first time I saw it, and had to sit through to the end.

Quatermass and the Pit (AKA Five Million Years to Earth***) They finally got someone appropriate (Edward Kier) to play Quatermass in this, arguably the best in the series. Shot in color, too. It addresses the same themes as 2001: A Space Odyssey (which came out the same year, 1968) – aliens influenced man’s development through artifacts they left behind.

Creation of the Humanoids – badly acted SF drama, and dated now, too. But it has some very interesting ideas and things to say about humans and how they relate to human-shaped robots.

Creator – a favorite of mine. Peter O’Toole plays a Nobel Laureate at a University Medical College (which seems to be in California somewhere) who is trying to clone his deceased wife. Utterly unlike any other movie about clones you’ve ever seen. It’s witty and fascinating. With Mariel Hemingway, Vincent Spano, Virginia Madsen, and David Ogden Stiers. Science Fiction with no special effects. But it’s the only movie I’ve seen where the Grad School looks and feels like grad school, right down to the Pauline Barnes Tolkien poster on the lab wall.
*Jerome Bixby was a 1950s SF writer of short stories and of movie scripts. His most familiar works are probably the story It’s a GOOD Life, about the little boy who can work miracles with his mind. It was made into one of the more chilling episodes of the original Twilight Zone. He also rewrote the screenplay for Fantastic Voyage. His films also include the 1950s Curse of the Faceless Man, a sort of weird take oin a “Mummy” movie, and the 1990s film The Man from Earth, which is interesting and overlooked, but overly talky.

** The Monster gets on board when they visit a planet. It stays in the shadows and gets around through the ventilation ducts. It picks off the crew one-by-one and the kill it by opening the airlock. It! actually makes a lot more sense than Alien – the creature kills its victims by draining them of water, which it needs, being from a very dry planet. It chases them from one end of the traditional cigar-shaped ship to the other. They ultimate kill it by suffocating it (having observed that it uses a lot of air), not by simply blowing it out the airlock. And, to answer those who claim that Bixby simply rippedc off A.E. van Vogt’s Black Destroyer – gp back and read it again. The only similarity is “Alien Monster on a Space Ship” The plots and motivations are wholly different.

*** The first Quatermass film is overlooked and worthwhile, too. The Quatermass Xperiment, realeased in the US as The Creeping Unknown. The fourth film isn’t worth watching. There have been numerous remakes since, but I haven’t seen these. The American title of the third film looks like a deliberate attempt to make people cons=fuse it with the Ray Harryhausen film Twenty Million Miles to Earth.

It may have stolen many of its ideas from Parts: The Clonus Horror, and Logan’s Run, but I think Michael Bay’s The Island is a fun film, better than most people say.

A Boy and his Dog