Science fiction has always remained a bit of a niche genre. Until recently, science fiction was always seen as an “outsider” genre, as they typically failed to reach mainstream audiences. Aside from mega blockbusters like Star Wars, very few science fiction films have become cultural phenomenons.
But that doesn’t make them any less reputable. There have been many science fiction films, both famous and not, that serve as legitimately great films. Not just great “sci-fi films,” but great films in general. And, as is always the case with something popular, they have been subjected to countless ripoffs. Without further delay, here are five great science fiction movies that revolutionized the genre, and five obvious rip offs.
10 REVOLUTIONIZED THE GENRE: Star Wars (1977)
People don’t need to be told how important and revolutionary Star Wars actually was. It’s one of those films that everyone knows through sheer cultural osmosis alone. Even those who have never seen the film or its sequels know the names of the characters, the planets, the sound that lightsabers make, and Darth Vader’s deep mechanical breaths.
While George Lucas was an inexperienced director at the time, he crafted what is arguably the most important and influential science fiction film ever made. It made science fiction and simple pulpy heroics cool again, and it rocketed the genre into the mainstream.
9 RIPPED OFF STAR WARS: Star Odyssey (1979)
Suffice to say, Star Wars launched a plethora of ripoffs: both cheap and expensive alike. One of the cheapest and most laughable ones is an Italian film called Star Odyssey.
This movie was released in its native Italy under the title Sette uomini d’oro nello spazio (or Seven Gold Men in Space), and it’s nothing but a blatant Star Wars ripoff. From the costumes to the “lightsabers” clearly made of painted cardboard, Star Odyssey serves as perhaps the most flagrant and shameless ripoff in the history of film. Turkish Star Wars may be the more infamous Star Wars clone, but Star Odyssey is a wonder to behold.
8 REVOLUTIONIZED THE GENRE: Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott changed horror forever with Alien. Alien was a stroke of sheer genius, thrillingly combining two of the hottest genres of the time: science fiction (popularized by Star Wars and Star Trek) and slashers (Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc.).
By combining the two, Scott essentially created his own genre; that being the space slasher, which has since been copied by the likes of Sunshine, Jason X, and Event Horizon, just to name a few. Not to mention all the literal “alien” ripoffs featuring lame space creatures stalking a bunch of hapless guys on a dimly lit spaceship. Speaking of which…
7 RIPPED OFF ALIEN: Creature (1985)
In 1985 – six years after the release of Alien – a movie directed by one William Malone was released, curiously titled Creature. That ripoff title is somehow even more ambiguous and encompassing than Alien. The only good thing that can be said of this movie is that it contains visual effects work by Robert and Dennis Skotak, who would work on Aliens just one year later.
Creature is nothing but a horrible Alien ripoff, complete with a scientific team examining mysterious artifacts on a distant planet and an alien slaughtering the entire cast. If anything, it only shows just how talented Ridley Scott is.
6 REVOLUTIONIZED THE GENRE: Iron Man (2008)
Perhaps Iron Man is more of a superhero film than a science fiction one, as the superhero has become its own genre in recent years. However, there’s no denying that Iron Man contains many qualities of a science fiction story, including a powerful suit and the Arc Reactor that keeps Tony Stark alive.
Iron Man single-handedly changed the way that superhero films were made. While the genre was certainly flourishing throughout the early 2000’s, Iron Man changed the game forever and gave rise to the larger MCU, and by extension, the DCEU. Superhero movies were never the same Tony Stark became Iron Man.
5 RIPPED OFF IRON MAN: Metal Man (2008)
Not long after Iron Man was released, the world was subjected to a blatant ripoff titled Metal Man. The movie was quickly assembled to capitalize on the wild success of Iron Man, and that is more than evident and obvious. The plot (and even the poster) is nearly identical, as this movie also sees a regular human fighting evil in a metallic suit that grants him superpowers. But that’s not the worst thing.
The worst thing is the design of Metal Man’s suit, which is virtually identical to Iron Man’s – red and yellow color scheme and all. It’s a horrible movie, as most cheaply and quickly assembled Z-grade ripoffs are.
4 REVOLUTIONIZED THE GENRE: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick has many masterpieces under his belt, but none are as influential and beloved as his sci-fi opus, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s short stories, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a science fiction movie with larger and more expansive ambitions than simply going to space.
It touches on and explores many universal themes, including human evolution, existentialism, and the use and possible dangers of artificial intelligence. The movie was far ahead of its time, encompassing everything which makes science fiction great.
3 RIPPED OFF 2001: Interstellar (2014)
It’s quite obvious that Christopher Nolan is a genius and master of his craft, but many comparisons have been made between Interstellar and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The former borrows heavily from the latter, including the use of organ music, delayed videophone communication with Earth, the robots/artificial intelligence, and even the designs of the respective ships.
That’s not to mention the very similar endings in which characters travel through weird, trippy wormhole things and end up as “otherworldly” beings that watch over the humans on Earth. The fact that Interstellar’s robot is basically a walking monolith from 2001 doesn’t help matters.
2 REVOLUTIONIZED THE GENRE: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)
Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind re-contextualized alien invasion movies like never before. In most cases, aliens are dangerous creatures who wreak havoc on Earth.
In Close Encounters, the aliens are peaceful creatures. Not only that, but humans are largely receptive of the aliens, using the allocated time to communicate with them rather than fight them. And not only that, but the story largely concerns Roy’s behavior and obsession with the impending arrival rather than the arrival and “invasion” itself. It was a “personal” alien invasion story, which was perfected in…
1 RIPPED OFF CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Maybe E.T. isn’t a direct one-to-one ripoff of Close Encounters, but they certainly share many similarities. Like Close Encounters, E.T. was directed by Spielberg, who was clearly going through an alien phase at the time.
Just like Close Encounters, E. T. is is more about a human on Earth than it is about the alien or the invasion. And like Close Encounters, the alien is a peaceful creature who learns to communicate with the humans. Long story short, E.T. is essentially Close Encounters of the Third Kind for children. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it’s still a masterpiece!
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