Cerebral Science Fiction movies?
February 21, 2017 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm not sure if there is a term for the category of movie I'm looking for, but I've lately been on a kick of thinking-person's science fiction movies, and I'm looking for more that fit the bill. Movies like the Martian, Contact, 2001, Interstellar, Solaris and I was especially moved by Arrival. Thoughtful, sort of technical, lyric, and slow. Limited violence and no sexual violence. Any suggestions?
posted by Think_Long to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
posted by theodolite at 11:45 AM on February 21, 2017 [18 favorites]

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Abyss
posted by bgrebs at 11:49 AM on February 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

Have you ever watched the original Metropolis? It holds up like you wouldn't believe.
posted by Mizu at 11:52 AM on February 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

Sunshine has a little action/violence, but I think it would be in your wheelhouse.
posted by clone boulevard at 11:53 AM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Her isn't set in space and glosses over the technical stuff but it might fit the bill.
posted by theodolite at 11:55 AM on February 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

The 1972 Solaris, by Tarkovsky
NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki; animated)
Lyrical & thoughtful but not at all technical: The Brother From Another Planet

Nthing Moon & Gattaca & Primer...
posted by miles per flower at 11:59 AM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Upside Down, maybe?

And yes, see Moon immediately.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:09 PM on February 21, 2017

Source Code? It might hit your limit for violence.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Europa Report
Predestination (no sexual *violence* necessarily but it's based on Heinlein so it's skeevy in places)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:11 PM on February 21, 2017

Response by poster: Just to keep things moving, Moon definitely fits the criteria, and I have already seen it. Thanks all for the recommendations.
posted by Think_Long at 12:11 PM on February 21, 2017

posted by Wobbuffet at 12:11 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by matildaben at 12:15 PM on February 21, 2017

posted by ldenneau at 12:15 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some not mentioned:

Ex Machina: Limited violence, no sexual violence, but objectification is one of the major subtexts and critics have been mixed on how well that aspect was handled. One of my favorites of the past decade.

Upstream Color: Not sure how to describe this one, but it's definitely thoughtful and unusual.

The Fountain: A bit more mystical than traditional sci fi.
posted by justkevin at 12:18 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding the original Metropolis. Also, Silent Running.
posted by tavegyl at 12:22 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Another Earth
I Origins
posted by wps98 at 12:22 PM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding Primer.
posted by nkknkk at 12:35 PM on February 21, 2017

The original The Day the Earth Stood Still.
posted by Devoidoid at 12:42 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding Silent Running - although I haven't seen it since its original release, and apparently it has some violence I didn't remember (maybe a more recent viewer can weigh in). I found it a very affecting movie.
posted by hsieu at 12:43 PM on February 21, 2017

Possibly Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Granted, it's faster-paced and more suspenseful for the first, what, two-thirds? But when we're finally at the landing site, everything slowwwwws down (in a good way), and it's no longer about action or explanation--it's just a long, thoughtful, beautiful, co-operative scene of waiting and hoping and communicating, humans and aliens reaching out to each other as best they can. I've always gotten an Arrival kind of feeling from that.
posted by theatro at 12:44 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Uh, I would skip Pi if you don't want violence. Self-inflicted, I guess (I had to watch that movie through my fingers over my eyes).
posted by janell at 12:55 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dark City
posted by biffa at 1:11 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I unabashedly love Silent Running and rewatched it just about 6 weeks ago. There is one mildly violent scene (a fight involving a shovel) and some off-screen deaths, but nothing particularly graphic. Solidly PG.

And, yes, I absolutely think it fits the category described.
posted by hanov3r at 1:12 PM on February 21, 2017

Melancholia, though it concentrates more on the psychological than the science fiction.
posted by fuse theorem at 1:14 PM on February 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Not a film but Babylon 5 the TV series has a heavy serious thread spread across a thousand years, a galactic war and smart plot rich number of issues, 120+ shows so grab a seat, "And so it begins"
posted by Freedomboy at 1:17 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Robot & Frank
No Maps for These Territories
posted by nickggully at 1:19 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by hanov3r at 1:27 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Definitely Midnight Special. There is tension and a little violence (mostly offscreen) but by the end of the movie I was full of nothing but gentle wonder and delight.
posted by esoterrica at 1:31 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Although I think you should probably watch the other suggestions first, a few somewhat out-of-the-box suggestions that come to mind are:

THX 1138 (yes, it's where that THX's name came from)
The Iron Giant
posted by saeculorum at 1:42 PM on February 21, 2017

Also It's a Disaster, for a micro view of big events.
posted by esoterrica at 1:45 PM on February 21, 2017

Stalker. A bit of violence, but not much. Very philosophical.

Kin-dza-dza! I will cop to having not finished this, but in the first hour it certainly fits the bill.

I would imagine that there is more Soviet and Central European sci-fi that would be great for this, but I don't have enough knowledge on my own to make any more recommendations than these too. I hope someone else chimes in though!
posted by Stilling Still Dreaming at 1:50 PM on February 21, 2017

posted by H21 at 1:52 PM on February 21, 2017

Brother from Another Planet (1984)
posted by H21 at 1:56 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

New Rose Hotel is a 1998 adaptation of William Gibson's short story of the same name.

Stars Christopher Walken and Willem Dafoe (and Asia Argento).

Slightly more 90's near-future speculative fiction than standard scifi movie fare.
posted by porpoise at 2:40 PM on February 21, 2017

I have seen Europa Report multiple times. I think it is excellent and meets all your criteria.
posted by Vatnesine at 3:48 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Man From Earth - At a small going away party the departing professor tells his colleagues that he is 14,000 years old, so they incredulously discuss his life. It was written by Jerome Bixby, who wrote 4 Star Trek episodes (TOS).
posted by Sophont at 5:40 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stalker is one of my favorites. Slow but richly textured. Oh, and the whole thing is on Youtube in HD!

Also from behind the ol' Iron Curtain, I recently rather enjoyed the Czech Ikarie XB-1. Some minor violence but I was a bit surprised at how good it was for a fifty-year-old sci-fi movie. More intellectual than your usual 60s fare (it's based on Lem so that's probably why).

A few caveats to the suggestions above:

- Pi arguably isn't even a sf film (it's more about an obsessed man losing his sanity) and it has a couple of scenes that tend to really squick people out.

- Ex Machina doesn't have any sexual violence but it is definitely skeevy. The women are literally objects.

- I liked Upstream Color a lot, but there's a bit at the beginning where a woman is assaulted, dominated, and exploited (not sexually) by a man. Also, parasites!

Ones I can recommend without reservation: Primer, Coherence, La JeteƩ.
posted by neckro23 at 5:44 PM on February 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Man Who Fell to Earth
The Lathe of Heaven (The 1980 version with Bruce Davidson)
Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 version)
posted by octothorpe at 5:46 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Reception is mixed, but A.I. is most of the things you mention.
posted by erikgrande at 8:44 PM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just FYI. Paprika and The Man Who Fell To Earth both suggested upthread, both do in fact contain sexual violence which I know you specifically asked to avoid
posted by Faintdreams at 2:43 AM on February 22, 2017

Things to Come, the original UK film from the 1936 never gets enough love but is an amazing, thought provoking, spectacular, and occasionally very silly film. It, like the original Wells novel, predicts of course the onset of World War II, but then it deviates in quite another direction.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 2:45 AM on February 22, 2017

Colossus the Forbin Project is retro, slow and has very little violence (I think one person gets shot).
posted by Calzephyr at 5:05 AM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

These are not very 'technical', and maybe closer to fantasy than sf, but:
The Quiet Earth
Man Facing Southeast
The Box

posted by Bron at 8:23 AM on February 22, 2017

Cargo is excellent. It's been a while since I watched it, but pretty sure there's no or very limited violence.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:28 PM on February 23, 2017

Dimensions - it's like if Merchant Ivory made a time-travel movie.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:16 PM on February 24, 2017

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