I've bolded the ones I've seen (31 [Note: Corrected from 29 -- Ed] out of the 50 listed), and added some comments:
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! -- A fun movie, to be sure, but ultimately disappointing, and I'm not sure where its significance lies.
Alien -- Really a horror film, but very good.
Aliens -- My favorite of the Alien series.
Back to the Future -- I'd dispute the inclusion of this piece of schlock.
Blade Runner -- One of the best, ever. Many layers here.
Brazil -- Was the director's cut ever released?
Bride of Frankenstein -- But not Frankenstein?
Brother From Another Planet -- I've tried to like it, without success.
A Clockwork Orange -- A difficult film to watch, but very good.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind -- What's to say?
The Day The Earth Stood Still -- A classic, one of the best.
Escape From New York -- Huh? Scalzi is joking here?
ET: The Extraterrestrial -- Very entertaining.
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial) -- Update: In researching the release year for this, I realized it was one of the Flash Gordon serials I had seen as a kid.
The Fly (1985 version)
Forbidden Planet -- Almost, but not quite, sunk by its Freudian b.s.
Ghost in the Shell -- I'm totally unfamiliar with this 1995 anime film, also called Kôkaku kidôtai
The Incredibles -- You've got to be joking! One of the most significant science fiction films of all time!?! I have no doubt it's probably a very entertaining film, but, come on.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version) -- Another classic.
Jurassic Park -- Never got around to seeing it, and I don't particular feel like I'm missing anything.
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior -- I've seen large portions of it, and I'm certainly aware of its pervasive influence in terms of style.
Metropolis -- Worth watching again.
On the Beach -- I have a copy of this, but haven't watched it yet.
Planet of the Apes (1968 version) -- I've studiously avoided seeing this, or any of the others in the series.
Robocop - (snicker)
Sleeper - Funny, but I would dispute its inclusion here.
Solaris (1972 version) -- Have it, haven't seen it.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan -- All the Star Trek films have been disappointing to one extent or another. Probably the most entertaining of them has been Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (the one about the whales), but Wrath of Khan was surely the right one to include on this list.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back -- These two are clearly the best of the 6 Star Wars films.
The Stepford Wives -- Which version is Scalzi referring to, the 1975 original or the 2004 remake?
Superman -- Eh.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day -- Another I've seen large parts of, but was never interested in seeing the whole thing.
The Thing From Another World
Things to Come -- Disappointing. Influential, but not very watchable.
Tron -- I've seen a bt of it.
28 Days Later -- Also waiting for me to watch it.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea -- I've seen some of it.
2001: A Space Odyssey -- Hugely influential, at least until Star Wars came around. There's really nothing like it.
La Voyage Dans la Lune -- Update: I belatedly realized that this was the 1902 Georges Melies film, which I've seen
War of the Worlds (1953 version)
Films that probably should have been included:
Altered States (1980) -- An "inner space" movie.
Dark Star (1983) -- Very influential, if not nearly as funny as its supposed to be (it might help to watch it stoned).
Fahrenheit 451 (1967) -- A flawed film, but very stylish and strangely affecting.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) -- Mysterious and fairly non-linear.
THX 1138 (1971) -- George Lucas's dystopia is quite good looking, and not bad to watch.
As with much else to do with people's taste, there is a clear preference on my part for movies which came out when I was a teenager or young adult, and I suspect a similar bias is at play in Scalzi's list. When I have a moment I'll look up the dates for the films on his list and see if they have anything to say.
Update: In researching the dates of these films, I realized that I had seen two additional films, the Flash Gordon serial and The Voyage to the Moon, so I updated my comments above. Also, which version of The Stepford Wives is Scalzi referring to? I've assumed it's the original, 1975, version.
The 50 films that Scalzi chose range in date from 1902 to 2004. The average (mean) date is 1972.12, the median is 1978.5, and the mode is 1982.
The decade of 1980-1989 provided 30% of the films in the list (15 films), the most of any decade. The 1950's were next, with 18% (9), followed by the 1970's with 16% (8). Sixty percent of the films were released in the thirty years between 1970 and 1999 (inclusive).
Were there really no significant science fiction films released in the 1940's?
Update (10/18): Top answer my own question, apparently not. A check through Brian Aldiss' Trillion Year Spree and the John Clute & Peter Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction shows no significant sf films being released in the 1940's. The Encyclopedia calls that decade "empty years."
Some other films that might have been considered for inclusion: King Kong, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Barbarella and The Andromeda Strain -- depending, of course, on what "significant" means. Scalzi explains:
Note that "most significant" does not mean "best" or "most popular" or even "most influential." Some of the films may be all three of these, but not all of them are -- indeed, some films in The Canon aren't objectively very good, weren't blockbusters and may not have influenced other filmmakers to any significant degree. Be that as it may, I think they matter -- in one way or another, they are uniquely representative of some aspect of the science fiction film experience.
Suitably vague, allowing him quite a bit of leeway to include personal favorites and exclude those he disliked. Without a more rigorous definition, it's difficult to argue with his choices.
Data: Here's Scalzi's list of films with their US date of release:
1902 Voyage Dans la Lune, La 1927 Metropolis 1935 Bride of Frankenstein 1936 Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial) 1936 Things to Come 1950 Destination Moon 1951 Day The Earth Stood Still, The 1951 Thing From Another World, The 1953 War of the Worlds 1954 Gojira/Godzilla 1954 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea 1956 Forbidden Planet 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1959 On the Beach 1962 Damned, The 1965 Alphaville 1968 Planet of the Apes 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey 1971 Clockwork Orange, A 1972 Solaris 1973 Sleeper 1975 Stepford Wives, The 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977 Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 1978 Superman 1979 Alien 1980 Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back 1981 Escape From New York 1981 Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior 1982 Blade Runner 1982 ET: The Extraterrestrial 1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 1982 Tron 1984 Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The 1984 Brother From Another Planet 1985 Back to the Future 1985 Brazil 1985 Fly, The 1986 Aliens 1987 RoboCop 1988 Akira 1991 Delicatessen 1991 Terminator 2: Judgement Day 1993 Jurassic Park 1995 Ghost in the Shell 1995 Twelve Monkeys 1997 Contact 1999 Matrix, The 2002 28 Days Later 2004 Incredibles, The
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.