A mysterious alien from a distant solar system wants to PUMP YOU UP
June 5, 2013 6:56 AM   Subscribe

The only thing that gets me to the gym is watching science fiction movies on my iPhone. Can you recommend some more based on the criteria inside?

I watch sci fi on the elliptical in 35 minute chunks. I'm looking for movies that are both exciting enough to keep me motivated in the workout itself and also engaging enough to make me want to go back to the gym to see the next installment. I'm not necessarily looking for the very best the genre has to offer--just a carrot to get me to the gym.

Some criteria--

--I prefer, I guess, hard science fiction (if that's the right term). My strong preference is for future time periods, spaceships, or alien civilizations, etc., rather than contemporary (so, Transformers may be sci-fi, but robots in LA leaves me cold). However, District 9 was excellent.

--Shoot'em ups are good; too much dialog, or too cerebral, is not so good (say, Primer).

--Lots of nudity is not so great for the gym (I'm looking at you, Mathilda May in Lifeforce).

--Should be in English, because reading subtitles on an iPhone on an elliptical is both difficult and impossible (so, Eden Log is out).

--Importantly, the movies don't need to be fantastic--just good enough to get me working out. (Of course, they don't need to be bad!)

Examples of stuff I've recently enjoyed at the gym:
Dredd (the 2012 one)
District 9
Minority Report
The Black Hole
Battlestar Galactica (TV, obvs)
Dr. Who (again, TV--but I started with some old Tom Bakers, and that was not a great choice)
Fifth Element

posted by Admiral Haddock to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Independence Day, Starship Troopers.

If you can get yourself hooked on Babylon V (or Stargate, Farscape, even some flavor of Trek) that'd give you a lot of available episodes.
posted by pie ninja at 7:05 AM on June 5, 2013

Looper was kind of gruesome but fun.
Also liked Inception.
Chain Reaction
Moon (Sam Rockwell)
If you want science, can you get the From Earth to The Moon series?
Apollo 13
John Carter was cute, but diff from the books
Starship Troopers (first one was good, diff from books, other couple were very meh)
Spaceballs ;)
posted by tilde at 7:05 AM on June 5, 2013

Perhaps I don't know who I'm dealing with here, but all of the Star Trek and Star Wars movies would fit the bill here quite nicely.
posted by telegraph at 7:06 AM on June 5, 2013

Watch Firefly!
posted by something something at 7:23 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Attack the Block (contemporary but still fantastic)
+1 to Moon, and the From the Earth to the Moon series (note, these are two very different things), and Firefly
posted by Lyn Never at 7:27 AM on June 5, 2013

Pitch Black was surprisingly good for a Vin Diesel movie. Ignore the sequel.
Alien Vs Predator was ... not good as such, but it might work for your purposes.
posted by gauche at 7:28 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Not sure when the DVD/digital version is available for sale, but I enjoyed Oblivion.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:34 AM on June 5, 2013

Lockout was a nice surprise. Space Truckers was not good by any reasonable definition, but I enjoyed watching it. Avatar?

And while it's not a spaceship future, Demolition Man is a classic.
posted by ODiV at 7:42 AM on June 5, 2013

Dark Star (it's comedic, but on a spaceship)
Lost in Space (the movie, which was not great, but had some cool bits)

There's a BBC(? British comedy in any case) series called "Hyperdrive" starring Nick Frost and a few other familiar faces. 2 seasons, 12ish episodes. It's about Britain's foray into space. This time they're a little late to the game, so the adventure-seeking captain is a little depressed over his mission...to sell British Spaceships. It it was BBC, the half-hour episodes should be right near 30 minutes.

Moon. The director's followup, "Source Code," is also good, but probably not good to break into 35-minute chunks.

TV show from the 1980s, "Blake's 7." It's about a group of 7 dissidents who live under an oppressive interplanetary regime, and happen to take possession a very advanced spaceship which allows them to strike back. 4 seasons. I haven't watched the whole thing, but it starts very strong.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:59 AM on June 5, 2013

A TV show, but you could watch an episode each workout. Star Blazers (also known as Space Battleship Yamato)
posted by Rob Rockets at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh the British TV show Red Dwarf willd deight.
posted by BenPens at 8:15 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, Babylon 5 would be almost ideal - except that the episodes are around 45 minutes rather than 35.

But if you're up to increasing to 45 minutes, Babylon 5 has five seasons to keep you in spaceship/alien cultures/epic heaven for a good long while.
posted by Katemonkey at 8:20 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the great suggestions so far--I had forgotten about things like Pitch Black. That's just the kind of stupid confection that I think will do well at the gym.

Moon is a great film, but is a little subdued for the gym. I'm thinking the same for some of the older Trek films (e.g., Voyage Home?), but the JJ Abrams reboot would be probably good to watch again. I am, in my own mind, Blake's 7 greatest booster on MeFi, but it's also not really great for the gym.

My level of interest in the gym really does require an exciting distraction.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:29 AM on June 5, 2013

Children of Men would fit very nicely on your list between "Minority Report" and "District 9".
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:41 AM on June 5, 2013

Event Horizon
Heavy Metal (the animated movie)
Mystery Science Theater 3000 the Movie (This Island Earth is the victim - a pretty good golden-age-of-hollywood sci-fi thriller, made sublime by the pillorying.)
Strange Days (Made in the '90, but takes place in the year 2000. Boy, were they ever optimistic.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:03 AM on June 5, 2013

Would humor work? And just how cheesy are we talking? Mystery Science 3000 would get me to the gym, and many of the episodes are science fictional. The movie (riffing on This Island Earth) would be a good place to start, because the movie itself is actually pretty good (though very 50's). Some episodes that may suit your criteria based on space-stuff or, um, comparatively good camera work:

-521, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
-807, Terror From The Year 5000
-810, Giant Spider Invasion
-819, Invasion of the Neptune Men
-820, Space Mutiny (featuring stolen special effects from the original Battlestar Gallactica)
-902, Phantom Planet
-1004, Future War
-1013, Diabolik

If you have any interest in anime but are not a subtitle purist, there are a number of shows that would be pretty much custom-made for this level of distraction and timeframe, and for which the dubs are okay. A few I like that suit your list, in approximate order of how strongly I'd recommend you check them out:

Ghost In The Shell: Standalone Complex
Eureka Seven
Oban Star Racers
Gurren Lagann
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:06 AM on June 5, 2013

I do this same thing with either BBC soap opera stuff (Downton Abbey) or political/mystery intrigue (House of Cards, Elementary). I think you'd really enjoy Farscape. Lots of action, not a lot of confusing plots to follow, weird characters and a muppet-type thing. Good vs Evil, in space with wormholes and a good female lead who keeps her clothes on. Firefly is also really perfect if you haven't seen it, and Serenity. A few other suggestions

- Lockout (space prison!)
- In Time (Justin Timberlake, dystopian dramaz)
- I Robot (may be too contemporary, definitely not that great)
- Logans Run (may be too talky)
- Time Bandits!
posted by jessamyn at 9:24 AM on June 5, 2013

the Metropolis ...enhanced version? was HIGHLY recommended to me by a huge nerd.


Lexx... don't remember how much raunchy stuff it has, so check that
posted by Jacen at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not really hard SF nor spaceships and aliens, but... you mentioned Minority Report; so try some other PKD adaptations: Total Recall, Paycheck, Next.

In the same vein there's The Island. A little slow starting but once Michael Bay warms up, it's non-stop action. Speaking of Michael Bay, I am Number Four is an alien movie that might work for you. Not set in the future though.

And not to argue with gauche, but The Chronicles of Riddick was stupid fun.

Other novel adaptations will probably work well. Like Jumper and I, Robot.

How do you feel about comic book movies? I'm thinking Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Then there's Surrogates, Push, Aeon Flux, Doom...

Wow I just recommend Doom, I'd better stop now.
posted by zinon at 10:08 AM on June 5, 2013

Men In Black. YMMV on the sequels.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:28 PM on June 5, 2013

Battle Beyond The Stars
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:34 PM on June 5, 2013

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