There is always a debate that breaks out any time genre fans are together. Eventually someone at some point will bring up the age old argument… name you Top 5 Essential Nerd films.
It is always way harder than it should be. There is always some weird criteria we add to the list to make it fair one way or the other. The reality is that it is the Holy Grail of lists. Always just out of our reach but so close we can see it. Ohhh, we want it. In the end, it’s just a list of what we think are the best options in a particular area of film.
Without further ado lets get to the list, but first a quick note on my rules. Here are the rules…
- Must be a movie I have seen
- Must be typical of it’s genre
- Must meet one of my criteria (important, classic, emotional attachment)
Sadly, while there are many nerdy films, only a few are worth our time. With that in mind, I wanted to highlight my picks for Essential Nerd films.
The classic sci-fi film that warns us of the dangers we put ourselves in almost every day. Even after 50 years, we continue to fight wars and pollute the environment. The world that was left to us by the watchers of this film is no different than the world we are leaving for the next generation. While we continue down this dark path, films like this are needed every so often. In the film Michael Rennie plays Klaatu who comes to Earth to warn us of the pending doom at our own hands. He also lets us know that the other worlds are watching what we are doing and are worried that we will bring our thirst for bloodshed to the stars. Well I think that is safe to say that’s going to be the case regardless now. Even with the help of his robot Gort, he still can’t convince the world to change. It is such a great movie but is also typical of the era it was born in, the 1950’s. While it may feel a little dated today, it is still solid storytelling and whatever you do, don’t watch the Keanu Reeves remake… it is terrible.
The original summer blockbuster. This is the film that redefined film to include summer blockbusters or event movies. Steven Spielberg wanted to adapt Peter Benchley’s book of the same name. What he ended up creating was far beyond his original vision. This film actually scared people so much that they wouldn’t go to the beach that year. Yes, in 1975 it was just that scary to see. The story of the killer shark that attacks Amity Island through it’s running time is one mean S.O.B. When Chief Brody is the only one who believes there is a threat, he is overruled by the greedy Mayor until another person loses their life. That young boy’s death causes the ripple effect that gives us one the best second halves in movie history. The scenes between Brody, Quint and Hooper are intense and so good to listen to even today almost 40 years later. The story of the Indianapolis as told by Quint is awe inspiring. And we wouldn’t have “We’re going to need a bigger boat.” in our collective quote banks without this classic film.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is quintessential “thinking” sci-fi. A New Hope is the polar opposite. Sure, we can talk about the hero’s journey or religion or any of the other subtexts that are here but the reality is that this is a love letter to Flash Gordon serials. George Lucas has admitted that was the goal here. To recapture the fun of those serials he enjoyed as a child growing up. The production of the film was riddled with veteran British filmmakers who simply didn’t understand what was being done. It had never been done like this before. What was finally put together DESTROYED the box office at the time. The lines were massive for an entire summer as people went back again and again and again. This film changed the role of sci-fi in film FOREVER. Sure, there were celebrated classics but until this film, nobody had managed to have a classic sci-fi story that was also financially rock solid. Regardless of what film inspires any film after, this film made all of that possible. It also launched the idea of sci-fi franchises and made toy profits key to all future marketing successes.
Ridley Scott made Alien and redefined sci-fi and horror by combining them into one amazing film. However, when Ridley came out with his dystopian vision of the future where Asia is a huge influence on the world, people were stunned. He captured a very palpable feeling during the 1980’s of a disaffected, lost generation of people who were realizing that things weren’t like Star Trek anymore. The world may not turn out like Roddenberry had shown us. Here was a world where androids were running around killing people and causing havoc. When Harrison Ford shows up, the first thought is “GREAT! Han is here to save us.” What we get is a Deckard who is as screwed up as the androids he is chasing. By the time we get to the end of this tale, the last android gives us some of the best work ever by Rutger Hauer. The movie ends and we are left wondering is Dekkard an android too and is anything worth living for? The future is that dark here. It is also one of the first cyberpunk renderings of the future on film at the time.
The seminal work regarding time travel. To many, this is the best and only time travel story worth talking about. Us Whovians would disagree on that but you get the picture. With the help of Doc Brown, Marty goes back in time to when his parents first meet. Things go wrong in typical 80’s comedy fashion and Michael J. Fox as Marty must fix it. Either that or he fades away to nothing. The film boasts great performances by everyone in the cast and rocks a solid 80’s soundtrack with Huey Lewis bringing the tunes and Alan Silvestri giving us one of the most recognizable music cues next to Star Wars. As Marty and the Doc in the past work together to correct everything, you are treated to a great action comedy with a time travel centre. Delicious. It is also the most family friendly film on this list. While it’s message about family, responsibility and triumphing over adversity are well handled, it’s the fun, non-preachy way the cast and crew handle it which makes it so beloved.
So there it is, my list. There are so many more that I could have added but I wanted to go with what I think of as the best representatives of the group. If you are looking for something to watch this coming weekend, give some of these a shot.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!