10 – The Terminator (1984) – The flick that not only put James Cameron on the map, but proved Ah-nold could indeed carry the lead sans the loin-cloth and sword of ‘Conan’ fame. A talented supported cast (Biehn, Henriksen, Hamilton, Winfield), intriguing premise (‘borrowed’ from an old episode of ‘Outer Limits’…look it up) and thrill-ride action sequences all added up to a surprise hit, and set the stage for an even better sequel.
9 – Equilibrium (2002)– Equal parts Matrix actioner and 1984 mind-bender, this pre-Batman Christian Bale starrer barely registered a theatrical release but has since found a well-deserved cult following. As far as kick-ass action (director Kurt Winner’s ingenious creation, ‘Gun Kata’ plays a significant role), this particular gem takes a back seat to none before or since, including the aforementioned Keanu Reeves-led film. Hands-down, the best sci-fi/action movie in the past decade. Feel free to disagree….
8 – Terminator II: Judgment Day (1990) – Cameron’s follow-up was bigger, louder, and, if possible, more entertaining than the original. An ingenious script saw Arnold’s robotic assassin playing the role of good VS Robert Patrick’s evil, quasi-indestructible T-2000 model. Linda Hamilton’s transformation into Ripley-like bad-ass was a definite highlight. For the time, the special effects were groundbreaking.
7 – Avatar (2010) – Yep, here’s that Cameron dude yet again, treading uncharted Sci-Fi territory yet again. Despite the build-up and phenomenal box-office success, I didn’t see this flick until it was released on DVD. In truth, all the hype had soured me before the opening credits ever flashed across my big screen. A fine reminder that you can’t spell the word ‘assumption’ without the letters A S S. The ending is a thrill-ride akin to ‘Aliens’. Coming from me, that’s the ultimate compliment.
6 – Jurassic Park (1993) – Spielberg’s take on Crichton’s novel was almost flawless. Great cast (Sam Neil the standout), edge-of-your-seat sequences and effects (again, this was 20 years ago) unmatched at the time. Subsequent sequels have paled considerably.
5 – Star Wars (1978) – I was fifteen and felt myself literally float off the theater seat. It was that thrilling to a kid unaccustomed to such rich characterizations in his limited Sci-Fi experience. Lucas’ blockbuster had obviously struck a nerve at that time in our nation’s history. Despite countless rip-offs and the inevitable sequels and prequels, this set the bar impossibly high for all space operas to come. Pure cinematic magic for which the word ‘classic’ was created.
4 – The Blob (1988) – One of the first (and still to this day, best) Sci-Fi/horror remakes, director Chuck Russell’s reworking of the 1958 Steve McQueen teen-terrorizer was gooey, gory fun. A young Kevin Dillon does his best ‘James Dean’ amid a grouping of fine character actors (Candy Clark, Jeffrey Demunn, Joe Seneca). The screenplay, by Russell and Frank Darabont (‘Shawshank Redemption’, ‘The Mist’, ‘The Walking Dead’) proved a bit too grim, ghastly and humorless for moviegoers, who ignored its release in droves. Not this boy (25 at the time) who cherished every gory moment of it.
3 – Alien (1979) – Nostromo. Face- hugger. Chest-Burster. Acidic blood. The mutiny of Ash. The first appearance of H.G. Giger’s gorgeous creature of pure malevolence. Scott, Weaver, Dean Stanton, Cartwright, Hurt, Holm, Kotto. Skerrit. Flawless. Pulse-pounding. Unrelenting. Nuff ‘said.
2 – Aliens (1986) – Ditto. Bar none, the best sequel ever made. Perhaps the ultimate action thriller.
1 -The Thing (1982) – John Carpenter’s masterpiece of isolation and paranoia. Kurt Russell leads a stellar cast (Keith David, Wilford Brimley, TK Carter, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, et all). Rob Bottin’s practical effects (now 30 years past) still surpass any and all ‘modern’ CGI creations. Check ‘em out and see if I’m wrong. Some people, and critics alike, found the ending a downer. Personally, I found it the only logical conclusion.
Honorable Mention: The Thing (2011), Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, The Thing From Another World, District 9, Back to the Future, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Matrix, Planet of the Apes (1968), Blade Runner, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Silent Running, Star Trek (2010), Total Recall, Robocop, Starship Troopers, Soylent Green, The Fly (1986), The Fly (original), The Abyss, Escape From New York, Outland, Event Horizon, Predator, Terminator III, Terminator: Salvation, They Live, Prometheous (2012), Predators (2009), Alien Vs. Predator, The Omega Man, Body Snatchers, Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back, A Boy and His Dog.
Free feel to add your own choices….