Science Fiction is a genre that audiences have always hungered for. Futuristic visions, dystopian societies, and Alien menaces populate these unknown worlds that exist beyond our imaginations. This compilation represents the individuals central to bringing these stories to a celluloid life.
Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters (1984)
Bill Murray brought this wacky, spirit exorcist to life in this hit ’80’s blockbuster. He is a comical underdog who goes on to save the woman he wants to woo from the clutches of a sinister demonic presence. It’s not surprising the part was written for SNL alum Murray. He creates a boy-like persona relatable to kids and adults alike.
This weirdo wants to bring people back to life! This movie is campy, dark, and a cult classic. H.P. Lovecraft created this character in 1922 with his novella “Herbert West- Re-animator”. Dr. West, played by genre favorite Jeffrey Combs, discovers a peculiar solution to eternal living. His research is threatened when an unwelcome protagonist tries to steal his unearthly findings. This is low budget sci-fi at its highest level!
Scully from X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008)
Agent Scully, played iconically by Gillian Anderson, was a female character brought to popularity via television. Her presence was later equally well received on the big screen. She is Mulder’s right-hand woman. She’s the left one too when it comes down to it.
Optimus Prime from Transformers (2007)
This is the transformative machine most synonymous with the classic kid’s cartoon. Then on the silver screen, he was just as loved. He is a Cybertronian. A made-up extraterrestrial wunderkind with the innate ability to reconfigure into other forms. He is also a strong leader. He’s the head of the autobots. He’s a mechanical mind blower working to overcome his faction’s rivals, the Decepticons. The toy version of him is equally iconic in popular culture. He’s the ultimate nice guy robot.
Pinhead from Hellraiser (1989)
Maybe you’re thinking, really? Pinhead? For a sci-fi list?? Although this legendary Cenobite is popularly pinned to horror, the idea of his passing through the borders of space and time is a classic science fiction ideal. His character was arguably responsible for Clive Barker’s late ’80’s low budget outing Hellraiser becoming a cult classic. It spawned a gaggle of sequels. They aren’t as note-worthy but he’s always terrifying.
Dr. Emmett Brown from Back to the Future (1985)
Christopher Lloyd must have had so much fun portraying this wacky genius in Robert Zemeckis’s runaway blockbuster hit. He is an eccentric inventor with ideas that border on the unbelievable. When he introduced Michael J. Fox to his time traveling Delorian, both of their lives were changed forever. With his wacked-out white hair and ADHD like personality, audiences fell in love with his charm, charisma and brilliance.
James T. Kirk from Star Trek: The Movie (1979)
He’s one of the archetypal personalities to hit it big on the small screen, then hit it even bigger on the silver one! He’s the master of his domain. He is the captain of the USS Enterprise. Nerds all over the world commune regularly at conventions to worship the ground he walks on. Truth be told, some of his supporting characters often overshadow this nice guy. We’ll get into one of them later.
Maria from Metropolis (1927)
This is the story of a “utopian” world in which the rich run free, doing whatever they please. Sound familiar? Maria is a communist-like soul that advocates for the less-fortunate. The working class. She is the rescue squad for a marginalized society that is searching for something more.
Rocket and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Rocket is a genetically engineered racoon-like bounty hunter. He’s a master of weapons and battle tactics. The designers behind the scenes of this movie worked intensively with real life racoons to get a natural feel for their movements, motions, and demeanor. Groot is a tree with many human qualities. He’s Rocket’s right- hand man. The character was based on one of the visual designer’s own dogs. He’s also a character the director of Guardians wanted to show to be completely innocent but a bad ass at the same time!
Flash Gordan (1980)
He is the protagonist in this space soap opera. It’s crazy because world renowned auteur Federico Fellini originally optioned the rights to this character from producer Dino De Laurentiis. He’s the money man behind such flicks as Halloween 2 (1981), Blue Velvet (1986), and Hannibal (2001). This collaboration never came to fruition though.
When it was finally being made the eventual director, Mike Hodges, hired Playgirl centerfold Sam J. Jones to fill Flash’s underpants. He is a vintage comic book representation. It wouldn’t be surprising if this spacey superhero appeared again in a future film.
Data from Star Trek Generations (1994)
This film version of the hit show furthered our understanding of a wonderful character. He was discovered in 2338. He is an A.I. produced under the vision of his designer, Doctor Nooien Soong. He is a fully functioning robot. In fact, he’s smarter than all of the people we surround ourselves with presently on planet Earth.
He has a positronic brain. This allows him the capability of computer-like complexity. Although, it took him years to actually feel. To respond to human characteristics. Like emotions, love and connection. He is a beautiful creation who represents the ability to advance. This is whether you’re a robot or just a common person.
C-3PO from Star Wars (1979)
He’s just one of a few on this list from the most popular franchise in Hollywood history. He’s a humanoid robot adorned in gold. He’s the gay vision of androids of the future. With his trusty garbage can looking sidekick R2-D2, he serves to save a princess and the galaxy from evil forces. R2 is the comic relief. C-3 is the fussy, motherly, mature backbone.
Hal-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Hal is a computer with the disposition and charm of a human being. He is a machine of sound body and mind that controls the American spaceship Discovery One. Their mission becomes faltered, and the humans on board blame this on Hal. And Hal blames the humans! They decide to disconnect Hal for his “infraction”. Little do they know this robot genius is much smarter than they’d ever expected!
The Apes from Planet of the Apes (1968)
Mark Walberg attempted to bring this world back to life in Tim Burton’s 2001 remake but arguably failed miserably. This spawned numerous spin offs including Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), and War of the Planet of the Apes (2017). None of these hold a candle though to the original. Charleton Heston famously starred in this flick about a crew of astronauts that crash onto a planet in which talking apes are the dominant species and humans are their slaves!
Tony Stark from Ironman (2008)
He is a billionaire who created a weaponized suit of armor to fight evil. He’s the quintessential good guy, with money to burn. This movie sparked the global craze in Marvel characters and their depictions on Hollywood’s silver screens. This film lit a fire under audiences’ butts. It helped to create a franchise of superhero flicks unlike any we’d ever seen before!
Mad Max (1979)
Through the years, Australian movies have proven to be some of the most original, uncompromised visions from around the world. Mad Max depicts the country in a very unique light though. Criminals and deviants have taken over the outback after the country becomes a dystopian landscape. A police officer decides to take matters into his own hands. He is determined to bring civility back to the world. Mel Gibson plays this central character so well, it brought him Hollywood fame and unfortunately his eventual public, personal fall from grace.
Ava from Ex-Machina (2015)
She is the pet project of a very important CEO. An unsuspecting Google employee goes to his house to take a look. The film’s Oscar nominated screenplay begins with the story of a recluse. He’s living alone with his android. She is confined to a cell until she’s needed. Feelings begin to surface, and the Google visitor becomes determined to release this beautiful robotic stranger from her seclusion.
Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
For a non-Trekkie like me, the coolest thing about this series was the second movie! Khan is an escapee from a 15-year exile. He is determined. Seeking revenge on Captain Kirk. In this one, Spock was originally killed in the end! Test audiences hated it. Leonard Nemoy loved it. He was over the moon at the idea of his ironic character kicking the bucket. Otherwise, it is considered the best in the Star Trek film franchise. It is also the first movie in history to use a sequence created entirely with computer graphics. A trail blazer.
Kevin Flynn from Tron (1982)
This movie was crucial in reshaping the realm of Hollywood visual effects. It is loosely based on games of the era like Pong. It was originally supposed to be an animated flick. Once the imaginations of the producers started spinning, the final live action version was born. It garnered Academy Award nominations for Best Costume Design, and Sound. It was not, however, represented in the Visual Effects category. Hmmmm….
Flynn is the central protagonist. He was once a successful computer programmer but now runs an ’80’s video game arcade. He makes an effort to hack into a commercially in demand game company’s main frame. This results in changes that turn the gaming world upside down!
Seth Brundle from The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg’s adaptation of the beloved cult classic is an extravaganza of bizarre visuals, and makeup effects. It was a critical and audience success, earning $60.6 million at the box office. It also won the Academy Award for Best Makeup. This is the only Oscar garnered for a Cronenberg film ever!
Brundle is an eccentric scientist, misunderstood by his colleagues. He is on the verge of a major discovery though. His study of the foundations of living tissue turns grotesque when a common housefly enters his chamber as the clinical trial begins. He slowly morphs into a giant, well…. common housefly. This flick reeks of the essential Cronenberg macabre and stands as one of the better remakes of a science fiction classic.
Neo from The Matrix (1999)
Keanu Reeves brought a breath of fresh air to one of sci-fi ‘s most memorable movies. Humanity is stunted. It’s in a paused phase of simulated reality. This is a prime example of the cyberpunk genre within science fiction. It won four Academy Awards. Best Visual Effects, Film Editing, Sound, and Sound Design. Hardcore fans call it one of the greatest inventions in the genre.
The Invisible Man (1933)
A persistent man, his face tightly wrapped in bandages, begs for a room at an inn. He turns out to be a temperamental mad scientist with a flair for the dramatic. He’s cluttered his room with smelly chemicals. He runs out of money to pay the rent. And he’s an unpleasant bastard to boot. He’s a genius though who’s unearthed the secret to invisibility. He goes totally BONKERS as a result.
Luke Skywalker from Star Wars (1978)
Our hero Skywalker is the central protagonist of the original Stars Wars and its subsequent follow-ups. He is the crucial figurehead of the Rebal Alliance’s struggle against the whole Galactic Empire. Actor Mark Hamill played this guy three times over three decades. Luke is a hard worker with an organic-like urge to train in order to regain power for his underdog class.
Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
French writer Jules Verne invented this guy in his original science fiction novel by the same title. Nemo is a tall, self-contained man who despised hatred. He was a staunch supporter of the ease on oppression. He loves the sea and its BILLIONS of inhabitants. He sees independence in the vast spread of ocean life. He’s a naturalist in a world that’s slowly destroying itself.
Ellen Ripley from Alien (1979)
Sigourney Weaver was a little-known stage actress when she landed this iconic part. Ellen is a quintessential woman in power. This movie earned the performer her first Best Actress Academy Award nomination and a $1 million paycheck to reprise the role in Aliens (1986).
Ripley is the image of girl potential. She is a science fiction heroine that has inspired generations of ladies to be their true blooded, bad ass selves!
Leeloo from The Fifth Element (1997)
Set in the 23rd Century, this futuristic fiasco brought a special resurgence to the science fiction film genre. Although it won a prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, it also garnered nominations at the Annual Golden Raspberry Awards. These are the opposite of an Oscar.
Milla Jovovich plays Leeloo, a humanoid woman, who represents the fifth element needed by the government. A lowly cabbie named Dallas takes her to the authorities, expecting some kind of compensation. Leeloo turns out to be a free spirit. Full of spunk and the urge to purge from any form of confinement.
Spiderman from No Way Home (2021)
The biggest hit of 2021 was one of the biggest snubs when the Academy Award nominations were announced this February. He did receive a single nod though for Best Visual Effects. Get over it though Spidey fans! He didn’t get into Best Picture. But this ultimately led to the Academy’s stupid idea to add a Fan Favorite category voted for on Twitter. This movie will 100% win this bizarre title. Yet, they won’t get to go on stage, make a speech, or take home the coveted golden boy! It’s pretty ridiculous, but the network hopes it will bring in more viewers.
Never-the-less, Spidey is one of the most beloved Superheroes in the Marvel Universe. His mask is legendary, and his movies will continue on. Tom Holland has signed on for another, but that won’t last forever. They’ll find another to take his place. Spiderman won’t leave our Spider verse anytime in the near future.
Spock from Star Trek: The Movie (1979)
Leonard Nimoy is a superstar in the science fiction world. I once shared a cab with this guy when I was in college in Upstate New York. He made it clear that he appreciated the fame and fortune garnered from such a quintessential role. Yet, he went on to explain, he’d grown tired of the constant fan outs from hardcore Trekkies. He said Hollywood had pigeon-holed him. He’s since passed away, but I’ll always remember what a nice guy he ultimately was. He was more interested in hearing about my experiences in college than he was talking about his legendary persona.
This technologically advanced alien gives Arnold Schwarzenegger a severe run for his money! The creature effects by Stan Winston are ahead of their time. The image of the Predator’s worm-like mouth will forever be engrained in audience member’s minds. The movie’s eventual success introduced a litany of sequels, comic books, video games, and toys. It even crossed over the genre fighting another lauded sci-fi soul, Alien.
Boba Fett from The Return of the Jedi (1983)
This fully armored bounty hunter never removes his metallic mask. In this movie at least. His popularity as a Star Wars essential had studio executive’s spring at the chance to give him his own Disney + show. He is a solitary soul, disguised by his antagonistic outer shell and flavor for vengeance.
Hell boy (2004)
His mother was a witch. His father was the archduke of Hell. Poor Hell boy’s newborn hand was chopped off, then he was sentenced to freeze. He’s eventually taken off ice and adopted into a “normal” home environment. He grows up to become a Sci-Fi super monster. With a built physicality, this red demon is immune to all types of burns and brandings.
Yet, he’s always been tortured by his past. He can’t get over his origins. Can you blame him? Would you be able to move past that ancestry?
Donnie Darko (2001)
This American science fiction masterpiece helped to define a generation. Director Richard Kelly produced something totally original with his vision of a mentally ill teenager during the 1980’s. Donnie’s hallucinatory visions become our own as he sees disturbing rabbits and time traveling witches. The soundtrack is exceptional and thorough. It’s a movie experience unlike anything else you’re ever likely to see.
The Aliens from Aliens (1986)
The original conception of these exceptional creatures was created by H.R. Giger but rejuvenated with the unique vision of Stan Winston. He came aboard after the success of the original Alien movie, bringing a higher dimension to these out of this world brutes. With the use of puppetry and models, the mother of all aliens comes to life to fight actress Sigourney Weaver to the final, full blow.
The Terminator (1984)
Muscle bond Arnold Schwarzenegger, fresh off the body building circuit, famously said, “I’ll be back.” And he was. Time after time after time. He portrays a cyborg assassin sent through time to destroy Sarah Conner. She is a woman who could or could not change the progress of the world. The future becomes the past. The past morphs into the future. Hello Michael J. Fox……….
Darth Vader from Star Wars (1979)
He’s the ultimate Sci- Fi villain. Hands down. The sound of his breathing alone will forever be remembered. This helmet headed tyrant is the leader of the Galactic Republic which eventually becomes the Galactic Empire. His black mask is a design of genius and will go down in film and popular culture history books.
Although different actors suited up in Vader’s dark cloak for each of the three original films, James Earl Jones vocalized him eternally. His is an unforgettable performance delivered through only the sound of his voice.