The best science fiction has always attempted to explore the most important cultural issues of its time. With several major U.S. cities on fire, it's time to look back at some of the best sci-fi social commentaries. And maybe think again about what it all means.
Following are 10 of my favorites:
"Metropolis": Fritz Lang's 1927 silent masterpiece is set in a world split between those who run things (the owners) and those make things run (the workers). Sound familiar?
"Fahrenheit 451": Most notably adapted by Francois Truffaut in 1966 (but remade in 2018 and starring Michael B. Jordan), Ray Bradbury's story revolves around the burning of books. Always something to consider — and fear.
"Soylent Green": Charlton Heston stars as a cop working in a dystopian world, and investigating the death of a rich guy. Best scene: Edward G. Robinson listening to Beethoven.
"A Boy and His Dog": Straight out of the '70s, this adaptation of Harlan Ellison's book stars Don Johnson in another look at a ruined world — one that doesn't fit very well in a "Me, too" world. Unless, of course, you value satire.
"Planet of the Apes": Reinvigorated by recent remakes, this story of humankind's self-destruction still boasts its most scintillating moment — the closing shot of Franklin J. Schaffer's 1968 original.
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers": Remade more than once, Don Siegel's 1956 original is still arguably the most frightening study of an alien invasion that is really just a mask for the psychology of mob violence.
"The Day the Earth Stood Still": Robert Wise's 1951 original offers up the classic struggle between militaristic fear and scientific deliberation (and despite being dated is far superior to the 2008 remake).
"The Matrix": No film has better explored the notion of reality better than this first in a series. Which pill would you choose: the red or the blue?
"Children of Men": Alfonso Cuarón's 2006 adaptation of the P.D. James novel is a masterful look at a future world in which humans have stopped reproducing. And, yes, the single ray of hope involves pure irony.
"Brazil": Say what you want about all the adaptations of George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four," I prefer Terry Gilliam's 1985 feature that uses Gilliam's offbeat sense of humor to tell Orwell's same basic story of a guy (Jonathan Pryce) trying to survive in an autocratic world.
Happy dystopic viewing.