Science Fiction + Nature + Movies
June 18, 2010 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm making a list of science fiction movies that have as a theme the relationship between humans and the natural world. Help me find more!

I am making a list of science fiction movies that are “future myths” or anti-utopian and which comment on the way in which we construct and interact with the natural world. This is for a class I'm teaching in the fall and I want to get the movies together so I can watch some of them this summer.

A few themes that illustrate what I’m looking for:
* Colonization as a way to “tame” a planet or people and acquire resources (Star Trek, Star Wars, Avatar)
* Technology as a way to control nature, affect natural systems (which sometimes creates problems). (Star Trek)
* Technology that simulates life, bionics, robots, artificial intelligence (Matrix, Total Recall)
* Post nuclear apocalypse (Planet of the Apes)

I know I’m missing some good movies and probably some recent ones that relate to these themes. What movies am I missing?

Here's the list so far:
- Total Recall (1990)
- Alien (1979)
- Aliens (1986)
- Forbidden Planet (1956)
- Planet of the Apes (1968)
- Star Trek (1979-2009)
- Star Wars (1977-2005)
- Demolition Man (1999)
- The Matrix (1999)
- 2001: A Space Odessey (1968)
- Planet of the Apes (1970)
- Avatar (2010)
posted by mulkey to Media & Arts (42 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by amethysts at 12:37 PM on June 18, 2010

Silent Running (1972)!
posted by circular at 12:37 PM on June 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

The Terminator movies! That's like 3/4.
posted by Lizsterr at 12:41 PM on June 18, 2010

- AI (Artificial Intelligence)
- 12 Monkeys
- Moon
- Waterworld
posted by BobbyVan at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2010

Oh, Moon should count too, I think.
posted by circular at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2010

Blade Runner, too
posted by Lizsterr at 12:43 PM on June 18, 2010

This is entirely what Eden Log is about!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2010

The Mad Max movies would fit your post-apocalyptic requirement.
posted by jquinby at 12:46 PM on June 18, 2010

I think you're pushing it with Star Wars (which is more of a faith vs. tech dichotomy) and Aliens, which uses colonization as a simple plot point (the antagonist is foreign to the planet as well, as opposed to Avatar). Ditto 2001.

I'd add:
Logan's Run
Blade Runner
posted by mkultra at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2010

Colonization - Dark City
Natural Systems - Dune, Sunshine, Moon, Dark Star
Simulation of Life - Blade Runner
Post-nuclear - A Boy and his Dog, The Mad Max trilogy

(Also, your "Star Wars" dates seem to end after 1980 for some reason.)
posted by griphus at 12:49 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Children of Men
posted by shakespeherian at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2010

1983 that is. Can't even snark right. Sigh.
posted by griphus at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with mkultra on those points.

The Mad Max movies aren't set in a nuclear apocalypse.
posted by Lizsterr at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2010

Swamp Thing (1982), in which a young woman has a relationship with Nature.
posted by bonehead at 12:54 PM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Surely Blade Runner qualifies:

* the premier dystopian sci-fi flick, with what appears to be a city devoid of nature and an eternally dark and cloudy place
* pollution from oil refining (flaming smoke stacks) appears to cause acid rain
* Earth is overpopulated to the point that offworld colonies are heavily promoted
* animals are largely extinct, and synthetics are sold to the rich for a premium for pets
* deals with artificial people
* such technology is used to control people, and
posted by pwnguin at 12:56 PM on June 18, 2010

A Boy and His Dog and Soylent Green are great post apocalypse movies, and a supporting vote for Silent Running. (SG and SR aren't nuclear holocaust though; environmental ruin.)

And didn't Spielberg do a robot movie a little while ago?
posted by Some1 at 12:59 PM on June 18, 2010

Err, technology has created a breed of people, replicants, that are forced to live short, nasty brutish lives. They're called robots, but it seems to mainly be to dehumanize this genetically engineered underclass if the only test to distinguish them is psychological.
posted by pwnguin at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2010

Without necessarily recommending any of them;

The Day the Earth Stood Still (recent remake). The original doesnt really have an 'enviromental' message.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

I, Robot.

Many zombie films may qualify actually, at least the apocalyptic ones; 28 Days Later etc..

Swamp Thing (1982), in which a young woman has a relationship with Nature.

*chuckle* Is that what they're calling it these days?
posted by elendil71 at 1:00 PM on June 18, 2010

Brazil is just a dystopian society. If anything, the technology is supposed to seem outdated, as though hindered by the ridiculous government.

I'm not really sure how Solaris fits in there. The way the aliens are "controlling" the humans is unknown to them. Am I wrong here?
posted by Lizsterr at 1:04 PM on June 18, 2010

Don't forget the classics:

Things to Come
posted by chrisulonic at 1:08 PM on June 18, 2010

District 9
posted by anoirmarie at 1:09 PM on June 18, 2010

Technology that simulates life, bionics, robots, artificial intelligence

Jurassic Park
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:11 PM on June 18, 2010

The Quiet Earth (1985)
posted by hydrophonic at 1:12 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, Day of the Triffids might fit into this category.
posted by chrisulonic at 1:12 PM on June 18, 2010

Serenity might be a bit of a stretch, but the fact that the government did what it did to Miranda in an attempt at population mind-control, and the results of said experiment, might have it fit your case.
posted by GJSchaller at 1:21 PM on June 18, 2010

Nausicaä, or any of Miyazaki's movies, really.
posted by emyd at 1:26 PM on June 18, 2010

The Ultimate Warrior might fit the bill, and even Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
posted by steef at 1:35 PM on June 18, 2010

It's actually hard to think of a science fiction film that doesn't touch on at least one of the themes you give. You could (or maybe one of your students will!) argue that this is something intrinsic and defining to the genre.
posted by Premeditated Symmetry Breaking at 1:36 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Gattaca (1997) --technology as a way to affect natural systems, in this case genetic selection.
posted by castlebravo at 2:04 PM on June 18, 2010

The made-for-TV movie "The Day After" was the defining post-nuclear-war movie, I think. Scared the crap out of a lot of people when it aired.

I never bothered seeing "The Postman" but the novel on which the movie was based was set in a post-nuclear-exchange USA.

Johny Mnemonic involves an AI character, lots of technologically enhanced characters, and some ecologically dystopian themes. Plus, it features Keanu Reeves, who deserves a little kindness.
posted by richyoung at 2:29 PM on June 18, 2010

The Time Machine hasn't been mentioned and has a post apocalypse theme.

Starman and E.T. are two that don't fit any of these themes -- maybe Starman is taming a people but that's a stretch. Non-confrontational interstellar contact might be a fifth theme. (I like Starman, and don't think it should be as forgotten as it is (but then I like smooshy)).
posted by Some1 at 2:59 PM on June 18, 2010

Nthing "Blade Runner."
posted by SuzB at 3:01 PM on June 18, 2010

Titan A.E. - haven't seen it in years, but didn't they use technology to create a new planet?
eXistenZ - humans using organic video games, or something weird like that
In Superman III Robert Vaughn used technology to control the weather in order to monopolize global coffee supply.
posted by fso at 3:33 PM on June 18, 2010

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
posted by Artw at 4:47 PM on June 18, 2010

Any number of creature features, from Godzilla to Eight Legged Freaks, would fit your second bullet item. Most recently Splice.

Hell, King Kong would fit #s one and two.
posted by brundlefly at 4:55 PM on June 18, 2010

The Fountain (2006)
posted by zueod at 5:58 PM on June 18, 2010

Stalker has been interpreted that way, and I feel that it's a pretty plausible way to think about it.
posted by Kattullus at 8:49 PM on June 18, 2010

Came in to suggest The Fountain.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:05 PM on June 18, 2010

Werner Herzog's The Wild Blue Yonder (2005).
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
posted by oulipian at 9:23 PM on June 18, 2010

Oh gawd, voting against Wild Blue Yonder. If you're wondering why, see my review of the film on Amazon.
posted by richyoung at 9:43 PM on June 18, 2010

Oh, I agree completely that it's an awful movie. Still fits the list, though.
posted by oulipian at 3:25 AM on June 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all, this list really helps! I've got a lot of sci fi to watch this summer...
posted by mulkey at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2010

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