Thursday Movie Picks #53: Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy Thursday everyone! This is another entry to the weekly Thursday Movie Picks that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog. Here’s the gist:

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 

Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

It’s interesting that the requirement for this sci-fi genre is no space/aliens as a lot of my favorites in this genre aren’t the ones with aliens in them. In fact, I love sci-fis that don’t look or feel science fiction-y, in fact, intriguing sci-fis are those with rich layers of human drama that remind us what it means to be humans.

I immediately thought of including Ex Machina here, but I decided not to include something from this year. Instead, I’m selecting three from the past few years that have a small/modest budget (under $25 mil) that have made a big impression on me:

Predestination (2014)

The life of a time-traveling Temporal Agent. On his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time.


As I mentioned in my review, the less you know about the plot the better the experience. Since I was just talking about directing duos, I have to mention the Spierig Brothers who also made this vampire sci-fi Daybreakers. The premise is rather bizarre and definitely not an easy one to grasp, but it’s well worth a watch. I like how the film started out with a bang but then the pace slows down considerably in the first act as we’re introduced to the characters played by Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. The odd pacing seems deliberate and I actually think it’s pretty effective and engrossing in getting us to care about their journey. Snook is quite a revelation here and I kept hoping to see her getting prominent roles.

s I….

HER (2013)

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.


Once in a while, a film you hadn’t heard much about suddenly sneaked in and took your breath away. In 2013, that film for me was HER. That’s what I wrote in my review over a year ago, and there’s still very few films that affected me emotionally the way this one did.

There are many robot/human *love* stories that’s been done time and again but what Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) experienced with Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) is quite unlike any other. For one, there’s no physical presence of Samantha in the film but yet her presence is felt so viscerally. I’m going to borrow my from my own review… This is the kind of thought-provoking science fiction story that I wish Hollywood would make more of. Sci-fi is not always about aliens or cool-looking futuristic equipments or cars or what have you, but a good sci-fi should actually makes us ponder about our own humanity. I realize this film isn’t for everyone as there are a few people I recommended this to that aren’t wowed by it. That said, I think you owe it to yourself to at least give this one a shot.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

A love triangle develops between three friends who came of age at a mysterious, secluded boarding school and are destined to lead brief lives.


This is another film where the less you know about the plot the better. If you just look at still photos or even the poster (which you can see on my review post), you’d never thought this is a sci-fi. It looks more like a mystery drama, and I think that’s the vibe director Mark Romanek was going for. Working from Alex Garland’s script, who later made his directorial debut in Ex Machina, the pace is decidedly slow and graceful in the way things unfold. The romantic drama sensibilities offer a stark contrast to the cerebral sci-fi nature of the story. I really need to watch this again, but I remember being really absorbed by this film. Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are excellent here, it’s still one of my favorite performance from both of them even after seeing more of their work. It’s also exquisitely-shot in muted hues that perfectly match the somber tone of the film.


What do you think of my sci-fi picks this week? Have you seen any of these films?


37 thoughts on “Thursday Movie Picks #53: Science Fiction Movies (No Space/Aliens)

  1. GREAT picks! Predestination was a fantastic movie, and Aussie too ;D They made that on a tiny budget, but you can barely tell. I loved Her too, and thought Scarlett’s voice acting was amazing; it makes Bullock’s effort in Minions sound so bad!! I have never heard of that third one you chose, but it sounds pretty decent!

    1. Hi Jordan! Yeah I like the two movies by the Spierig Brothers. Have you seen Daybreakers? I really dug that one too. Yes I was impressed by Scarlett’s voice work, it adds so much to the character. Never Let Me Go is written by Alex Garland who also wrote 28 Days Later, so do check it out!

  2. Nice list of 3, and it is a bit creative topic too. Majority of Sci-Fi films are loaded with futuristic objects, a kid type villain :), and things you mentioned above. I agree with you, sci-fi films that looks real and have a normal atmosphere are more exciting. A great example of such films is “Frequency (2000)”. I think these kind of movies involves the audience more comparing to the aliens ones. I have not seen any of the films you mentioned above but after checking on IMDB, I will watch “Her” first.

    1. It’s too bad not many ppl have seen NLMG, it’s so beautiful n heartbreaking. Cinematography is top notch n it’s so atmospheric.

  3. Great Job, Ruth! I thought seriously about picking Her but realized that I could only choose one between that and Eternal Sunshine. Her really is nearly perfect though. And you’re right about never Let Me go. I knew almost nothing about it when I watched it (was completely unprepared for the sci-fi element) and was completely captivated by it. Your picks are so spot on that I feel like I need to check out Predestination despite my Ethan hawke hate-on.

    1. Thanks Matt! Believe it or not I still haven’t seen Eternal Sunshine yet but have heard great things. No love for Hawke? Y’know he’s not my fave actor but I like him in his scifi movies for some reason. Predestination is worth a look for Sarah Snook who’s simply amazing.

  4. Her is a wonderful film. I think I need to revisit Never Let me Go as wasn’t keen on it last time.

    Sarah Snook is incredible, I watched her Jesebelle and had no idea she was an Aussie as her Southern US accent was that good.

    1. Hi Myerla, glad you like my picks. So you’ve seen Predestination too then? I think the Aussies generally are great with accents, so not surprised miss Snook could pull off Southern accent beautifully.

  5. Brittani

    LOVE these picks! I also chose Never Let Me Go. Her is just brilliant and Predestination, while I’m not sure I 100% understood the ending was still a good watch.

    1. Yay! Glad to hear we have one in common. Yeah I feel the same way about Predestination but there’s still a lot in it that I really like.

  6. The only one of the three I’ve seen is Never Let Me Go which I didn’t much care for, disappointing since I love the two lead actresses so, but I just couldn’t get into it. HER is on my list just haven’t gotten to it yet. Never heard of Predestination, I like the description-wish it had another actor in the lead, Hawke is one of my least favorite performers. It sounds intriguing enough to put up with him though. Actually is seems to share the central theme of my first pick of the week just presented in a different aspect.

    Here’s the three I came up with for the week:

    Source Code (2011)-As part of a secret military operation Colter Stevens is placed repeatedly in the body of a man during the last eight minutes of his life to find out the identity of the terrorist who blew up a commuter train and prevent them from striking again. As he goes through the calamity time and again he begins to see a way to prevent the original tragedy. A clever premise excitingly directed with a strong lead performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.

    Back to the Future III (1990)-Marty McFly and Doc Brown head out to the Old West by way of the flux capacitor where Doc finds love but also runs afoul of gang of bandits. After the scattershot BTTFII the series finds its legs again recapturing its sense of wonder and winds up with this charming and fun comic sci-fi western.

    Fahrenheit 451 (1966)-François Truffaut’s only English language film is a terrifically chilly affair based on the Ray Bradbury classic. In the future Montag, a firemen whose job is to search for and burn books begins to question his existence. The masses, now called Cousins are under various degrees of mind control but there are still pockets of protesters who strive to keep knowledge alive. A perfectly cast film with amazing production design. Julie Christie is super in a dual role.

    1. Hi Joel! Bummer that you didn’t care for Never Let Me Go. I thought it was quite an intriguing and emotional film, though I have to admit I’m not too crazy about Keira Knightley’s casting. Her is such a beautiful film, hope you get to see it too. Y’know I was telling a previous commenter that I’m not really into Hawke generally but I quite like the scifi movies he’s been in.

      Oh, Source Code is a great pick! I really like that one and the twist took me by surprise. I like Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga in it. I have to admit I haven’t seen the other two you listed.

  7. Nice picks! I didn’t get to Predestination last year, but I was so close to picking both Her and Never Let Me Go this week. Both great! I liked Never Let Me Go better as a novel. That is just a beautifully written novel. One of the best I’ve read in the last few years. Still a great film.

    1. Thanks Kevin! I heard that Never Let Me Go’s novel is so superior, but I haven’t read it. I thought the film was beautifully atmospheric and emotional. Predestination is definitely worth a look!

  8. Gattaca fits most of your criteria, although it does focus on a space agency and technically goes to space at the end. Still, I tihnk it’s close enough that it’s worth a mention. Metropolis is definitely worth a mention here, too.

    There are also plenty of time travel movies that would qualify under these criteria. The Time Machine (the one from 1960), Time After Time, Triangle, Timecrimes, 12 Monkeys, Time Bandits… If you want something really unusual, look for Safety Not Guaranteed. Low budget and wildly entertaining, and focused on a time travel project.

    There’s also tons of post-apocalyptic stuff. The Mad Max movies, A Boy and His Dog, On the Beach, The Quiet Earth, The Omega Man… Plenty of horror movies would fit into this genre as well.

    1. I really like Gattaca, but I decided to select those from the past few years. There are a ton of time travel sci-fis. I have seen Safety Not Guaranteed, I like that one.

      I’ve seen On The Beach, such a heartbreaking film.

  9. I have to see Predestination and HER, I want to see them both, I think they’re on Netflix now. I just need to watch them sometime on a weekend.

    Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to watch Never Let Me Go, mostly because of how much I loved the book version and some reviewers said they totally botched what was great about the book. I’ll have to finally see it just to judge it for myself.

    1. You should give Predestination and HER a shot Ted, esp if you’re into scifi indies. I hear ya about Never Let Me Go, I have a feeling the book is probably still superior. But give it a shot anyway, who knows you might like it.

  10. Her is a wonderful film. Phoenix and ScarJo are both perfect. Never Let Me Go was enjoyable as well. Still haven’t seen Predestination, though. I hope to be fixing that soon.

    1. Hi Dell! Glad you’re a fan of HER too. Interesting though that some people don’t care for it. In a way it’s similar to Never Let Me Go as it’s kind of a slo-burn drama. Predestination is pretty bonkers, but the performances are good, esp. Sarah Snook.

  11. Very cool picks! Really want to see Predestination, wasn’t the biggest fan of HER but like seeing it here, and loved Never Let Me Go. Very underrated film and the three actors are phenomenal.

  12. Tom

    Terrific stuff Ruth, terrific. I really really want to see Never Let Me Go. And you’re right, I am totally surprised by it being classified as sci-fi. My impressions have always been that it’s a romantic drama. 🙂

    Love your thoughts on the first two films, as well. Predestination blew me away with its complex, ever-shifting narrative and a star-marking performance from Sarah Snook. And Her, well. That is quite possibly my favorite film ever. Haha. Crazy high praise, I know but it hit me deep in the feels. 😉

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