What is hard sci-fi I hear you ask? Well, when a mummy sci-fi and a father sci-fi… I kid. Hard sci-fi’s are slowly gaining traction in this new era of grit and realism. When a film is set in a science-fiction world but is hard on the science part of that two-part equation, then you have a hard sci-fi. Not your Star Wars, but your Moon.
This is a list of hard sci-fi films that are required essential viewing for any film buff and sci-fi enthusiasts. To meet the criteria, the film must have a focus on scientific accuracy and stray away from techno mumbo-jumbo (looking at you, Jupiter Ascending).
Based on a book of the same name, The Martian is an excellent example of hard sci-fi. Both in the book and the film, the interesting moments come from the lead character, Watney, attempting to solve surviving on an alien planet with science. Don’t be deceived by the fact this movie won the Best Comedy at the Golden Globes. Funny? yes. Hard sci-fi goodness? Certainly.
A near perfect film, in my eyes, Ex Machina is why I love science-fiction. The film shows a set of ideas simply not possible in any other genre. What does it mean to be a robot? What does it mean to be human? And where do the two blur?
As previously mentioned on our 10 Essential Time-Travel Films, this film also passes the bar for a hard sci-fi epic. Although the device in this movie isn’t fully explained, the consequences and layered storytelling are. Strap yourself in for this one.
Somewhat too believable at times (who wouldn’t fall in love with Scarlett Johansson voice?) Her manages to explain love on a new level. When sci-fi takes the obvious (falling in love with a robot, in this case, an operating system) and pushes past those obvious conclusions we end in new terrain. That’s what Her does excellently and why I love good science-fiction.
An intelligent look into human endeavour and character, Sunshine offers us a seemingly effortless look into a mission heading toward the Sun. With each decision explained in full and an interesting ending, to say the least, Sunshine is one to watch.
Oh, the grand-daddy of them all. A look into the future that was fluid with technology. Ideas set in Minority Report are only now coming to fruition. From small ideas, like eye-scanning advertising, to grand schemes, such as the pre-cogs, Minority Report is a staple element in any sci-fi diet.
A technical feat in itself, Gravity took the world for a spin in one of the worst space-related nightmares imaginable. Be flung around in orbit of Earth and see the actual real threat that space debris could cause. Although the distances between key space stations and satellites were shortened for dramatic effect, still expect a rollercoaster of a ride exploiting the unique challenges faced in space.
Sam Rockwell playing a loveable astronaut and Kevin Spacey voicing a suspicious robot, what more could you want. Incredible sets, original ideas. The plausibility of the film is only achieved by the film’s slow pace and care with explanations. Highly recommend!
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Kudos for giving a better explanation for intelligent apes than the original classic. Rise of the Planet of the Apes kicks off a stellar reboot storyline which has a more real and easier to understand storyline than that of its predecessor.
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell is the perfect example of when science-fiction can get into an incredibly difficult territory and discuss new ideas otherwise not possible. So much more than just naked robots, Ghost in the Shell challenges what it means to be human. Simply put: what is a soul?
There you have it. 10 essential hard sci-fi films. Take your fill.
Are there any essential hard sci-fi films that I missed? Let us know in the comments below.
- 10 Essential Space Films
- 10 Essential Robot Films
- 10 Essential Time-Travel Films
- 10 Essential Alien Films