Giant Freakin Robot has a list of 15 movies (or movie series) to use to introduce your kids to the Science Fiction genre. I agree with many of the movies here, though you may want to pre-screen some of them as it’s been pointed out that Ghostbusters has a bit of salty language and implied ‘ghostly fellatio’, the latter I don’t even remember. Anyway, my favorites from the list, and a few more suggestions:
1. The Iron Giant – If you liked The Incredibles, check out Brad Bird’s first feature, The Iron Giant. A giant robot crash lands on late 1950s Earth, and is befriended by a kid who tries to keep him secret from the government – and his mom. If it sounds like E.T. to you (another movie on their list), note that the story this is based on dates to 1968. It’s a shift from the Disney films of the era, with no musical numbers and no sidekicks. The Iron Giant provides a look into the Cold War mentality, and might prompt some interesting discussions with older kids. A great change of pace from Disney classics your kids are probably wearing out.
2. Meet The Robinsons – A loose adaptation of William Joyce’s “A Day with Wilbur Robinson“, Meet The Robinsons follows a nerdy orphan named Lewis on an adventure through time where he finds a family and gains confidence in himself. One of several Disney productions that went through significant changes after John Lasseter took over as head of Disney’s animation department. There is a lot of heart in this movie, great action, and cool 50’s inspired ‘futuristic’ designs.
3. Star Wars (The Original Trilogy) – Some smart-ass in the comments of the original article decries the author denigrating the new trilogy. Seriously, dude, did you see The Phantom Menace? Anyway, I don’t need to explain or introduce these to you, as it is extremely rare to meet someone who is not familar with these movies. Just be prepared to see your kids making lightsaber noises while waving sticks around after watching.
4. Titan AE – The movie that ‘killed’ Fox’s animation studio, is actually quite a good movie. Odd soundtrack, but it has writing from Ben Edlund (of The Tick) and Joss Whedon, and is the last Don Bluth feature. Solid, classic sci-fi story of the kid with a destiny, peppered with betrayals, redemption, and some good voice actors. Show your kids this, then show them Firefly in a few years.
5. WALL-E – Okay, so your kids will probably see this no matter what, but WALL-E can be used effectively as a gateway to other sci-fi materials. And it’s a genuinely good genre example, animated or not. Pixar shows their mastery here, making you love a square robot who makes a minimum of noise just as much as you do any of their human characters. As a plus, it can spawn a discussion of environmental issues if you are so inclined.
6. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie – If you don’t know what MST3k is, it will sound really odd, but here goes: a mad scientist shoots a human into space and forces him to watch bad movies until he finds the one that breaks his mind (at which point he will unleash it on an unsuspecting world and take over). To cope, Joel (and in this installment, Mike) have robot friends Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo, and they all make jokes and pop-culture observations while the movie is playing, with ‘host segments’ every once in a while that might be a skit playing off the movie, a musical number or who knows what else. There are better episodes of the TV show, but I was keeping the list to things released in theaters. “Into the Weeniemobile…Weenie man away!!” Ahem. There’s plenty of good jokes here, and if your kids want to see some other goofy black and white sci-fi movies afterwards, so much the better.
7. Galaxy Quest – It works both as a spoof of and a love letter to Star Trek, Galaxy Quest has quite the cast (Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell and Tony Shalhoub among others) playing the washed-up, typecast actors of a classic sci-fi show with obvious parallels to Star Trek. Aliens mistake the show’s broadcasts as historical documents, and gather the crew together to defeat an implacable foe. Plenty of clever jabs at fanatics, but it works well as a sci-fi story all it’s own. A fun way to spend an afternoon.
8. Lilo and Stitch – Yes, another animated movie, but it’s a sci-fi classic as well. A mad scientist that creates new life, aliens, spaceships, blasters, Men in Black references, all of which is wrapped around the story of a broken family. Another movie with surprising heart that might sneak a few tears out of you – when your kids aren’t looking, of course.
So that’s what I have. Are there any other movies you’ve used to get your kids to share your interest in science fiction? Has it led to them reading more? Any other movies you’d add to the list? Let’s hear it!