Scarlett Johansson shoulders the heft of a new and impressive low key SciFi flick opening next weekend, Under the Skin. It got us to thinking about those understated genre gems that rethink science fiction cliches and wow us for it. You don’t need laser blasters, black holes or rankors to create a memorable fantasy film. Here are a handful of our favorite low-intensity yet high-impact SciFi flicks.
6. Another Earth (2011)
The first of two Brit Marling films to get the nod, Another Earth spins a science-sketchy but emotionally brave tale of a young woman, a car accident, and a duplicate Earth. Go in expecting a deliberately paced, moving and clever character study and you won’t be disappointed by errors in scientific data concerning gravitational pulls. Co-writer/star Marling delivers with understated authority.
5. The Sound of My Voice (2011)
Co-writing, starring and impressing a second time in the same year, Marling became a kind of low key SciFi goddess in 2011. Or a prophet – at least for this eerie, daring film. Two fledgeling documentarians go under cover to secretly film a cult whose leader (Marling) claims to be from the future. Surprising, evocative and captivating without so much as one second’s FX, the film hits its marks and keeps you guessing.
4. Timecrimes (2007)
This one is nutty, and absolutely required viewing for anyone with an interest in space/time continuum conundrums. So much can go wrong when you travel just one hour back in time. An always clever experiment in science fiction and irony, Timecrimes is a spare, unique and wild ride.
3. Primer (2004)
Made for $7000, this film is, in itself, an act of science fiction. Writer/director Shane Carruth, taking his first of two spots on the countdown, drums up all new ways to consider the havoc a time machine could wreak. It would be the most streamlined, absorbing and ingenious film of its kind if there were other films of its kind.
2. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
An outstanding premise, generous performances, and a director who knows when to go in for the comedic kill and when to lean on compassion add up to one of the most clever, most fun time-travel-and-slackers movies ever.
1. Upstream Color (2013)
He waited 9 years between films, but in 2013, writer/director Shane Carruth delivered an awe inspiring take on identity crisis. The film defies summarization and expectations, but its dreamlike tale of lovers rebuilding their shattered lives with more in common than they realize is a poignant, beautiful, lyrical wonder.