Arthur C. Clarke Creates a List of His 12 Favorite Science-Fiction Movies (1984)

Many thinkers enjoy sci­ence fic­tion, and some even cre­ate it, but Arthur C. Clarke seemed to pos­sess a mind pre­ci­sion-engi­neered for every aspect of it. When not writ­ing such now-clas­sics of the tra­di­tion as Child­hood’s EndRen­dezvous with Rama, and 2001: a Space Odyssey, he pre­dict­ed such actu­al ele­ments of human­i­ty’s future as 3D print­ers and the inter­net. He must also have pos­sessed quite a dis­cern­ing ear and eye for oth­er works of sci­ence fic­tion — an abil­i­ty, in oth­er words, to sep­a­rate the art and the insight from the non­sense. (A use­ful abil­i­ty indeed, giv­en that, in the words of sci-fi author Theodore Stur­geon, “nine­ty per­cent of every­thing,” his and Clarke’s field not except­ed, “is crap.”)

Asked in 1984 to name his favorite sci­ence-fic­tion films, Clarke came up with this top-twelve:

  1. Metrop­o­lis (1927, watch it above)
  2. Things to Come (1936)
  3. Franken­stein (1931)
  4. King Kong (orig­i­nal ver­sion) (1933)
  5. For­bid­den Plan­et (1956)
  6. The Thing from Anoth­er World (orig­i­nal ver­sion) (1951)
  7. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  9. Star Wars (1977)
  10. Close Encoun­ters of the Third Kind (1980)
  11. Alien (1979)
  12. Blade Run­ner (1982)

The request came to him on the set of 2010: The Year We Make Con­tact, Peter Hyams’ sequel to Stan­ley Kubrick­’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which appears on Clarke’s list. This selec­tion may at first seem self-serv­ing, giv­en his own involve­ment in the film’s gen­e­sis, but Clarke’s 2001 and Kubrick­’s 2001, par­al­lel projects derived from a col­lab­o­ra­tive idea, end­ed up as very dif­fer­ent works of sci­ence fic­tion.

Clarke’s choic­es, “which include some obvi­ous titles, clas­sics and mod­ern sen­sa­tions, are a well-round­ed group that would serve any neo­phyte well in study­ing and expe­ri­enc­ing the best that Hol­ly­wood has to offer in that cor­ner of cin­e­ma,” writes Syfy­Wire’s Jeff Spry. He adds that Clarke could­n’t quite decide whether to include Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, the pic­ture cred­it­ed with turn­ing Star Trek movies into much more than a one-off propo­si­tion; and, in addi­tion to Star Wars, which had already made his list, he con­sid­ered Return of the Jedi — though not, intrigu­ing­ly, The Empire Strikes Back, now per­haps the most respect­ed Star Wars movie of them all.

This top-twelve list, in any case, shows that Clarke knew a clas­sic when he saw one, and that he must have had a fair­ly expan­sive def­i­n­i­tion of sci­ence fic­tion, one that encom­pass­es even “mon­ster movies” like Franken­stein and King Kong. (Some purists even insist that Star Wars belongs in the fan­ta­sy col­umn.) But he also showed, as always, a cer­tain pre­science, as evi­denced by his selec­tion of Rid­ley Scot­t’s Blade Run­ner, now rec­og­nized as one of the most influ­en­tial films of all time, sci-fi or oth­er­wise, but then still a fresh vic­tim of com­mer­cial and crit­i­cal dis­as­ter. Only Philip K. Dick him­self, author of the nov­el that pro­vid­ed Blade Run­ner its source mate­r­i­al, could see its future more clear­ly. Dick and Clarke’s work may have had lit­tle in com­mon, but great sci­ence-fic­tion­al minds, it seems, think alike.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

In 1964, Arthur C. Clarke Pre­dicts the Inter­net, 3D Print­ers and Trained Mon­key Ser­vants

Arthur C. Clarke Pre­dicts the Inter­net & PC in 1974

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts in 1964 What the World Will Look Like Today — in 2014

The Let­ter Between Stan­ley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke That Sparked the Great­est Sci­Fi Film Ever Made (1964)

Philip K. Dick Pre­views Blade Run­ner: “The Impact of the Film is Going to be Over­whelm­ing” (1981)

Metrop­o­lis: Watch Fritz Lang’s 1927 Mas­ter­piece

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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