With the exception of one on this list, I feel like each one of these scenes can be enjoyed apart from its context, but more importantly, they make their respective movies all the more memorable for it. I’m sure there might be a scene in a SF movie that I had enjoyed more so than some on the list, but perhaps it didn’t stand alone. For example, I really like a lot of the sequences in Serenity, but they lose some of the effect out of context.
Some honorable mentions will follow, but I think this list sums up my thoughts…
11. Appleseed – Mobile Battle Fortress Army vs. Dozens of Robot Suits
Appleseed is probably best described as a sequence of amazing sci-fi action scenes, but as a whole, it kind of sucks. In fact, you could probably file this one under “guilty pleasure,” as they say, for its delusions of grandeur and wholly boring story outweigh the action. Surprising, as it did originate from the original mind behind Ghost in the Shell, even though I understand that Masamune Shirow is pretty crazy…
This scene is cool because, well, there are robots everywhere. Visually and philosophically, I feel like ‘Robots,’ as a whole are the most stimulating idea science-fiction has ever drummed up, and at least in terms of visuals, the robots here and what they do does not disappoint. Shinji Aramaki, who actually designed some of the stuff in Bubblegum Crisis, directs this movie, so I guess he has a proper background in design. These robots… they’re cool. The spider tanks roll through the streets, spraying bullets in every direction, there are robots on the ground, robots in the sky, robots on the rooftops… Good stuff despite the rest of the movie.
10. King Kong – Spider Pit Sequence
Everybody who knows anything about film has heard about the Spider Pit Sequence from the original King Kong. Fanboy/Master-Creator Peter Jackson lovingly recreates the lost piece of cinema history (Willis O’Brien said that the original Pit scene was the best he’d ever animated) with a passion that rivals that of Quentin Tarantino’s. Oh Quentin, you homage so many things…
No, there are no dinosaurs in this part of the movie, and perhaps the scene is worse for it, but there are some giant scorpion monsters, not to mention the fang-riddled slug monsters that eat Andy Serkis alive. This scene was a showcase of WETA’s sweet artwork and design jobs, and who doesn’t like to see people shooting over-sized bugs in what can ostensibly be seen as Hell?
9. The Host – The Monster Attacks
Man, I love tracking shots. This scene has one in particular that climaxes with some fool getting tossed into the Han River, but overall it makes the list for its unique sense of intensity. It also has a bit of comic charm, as the guy from Joint Security Area (who’s blonde in this movie) teams up with the American dude to… take out… the monster.
8. Avatar – Big Pterodactyl Monster Chase
Sitting in the IMAX theatre and watching this one scene in particular I just knew. I knew. I said to myself: yeah, everything is possible now. Something about this scene just struck a chord with me – it’s really quite breathtaking. The only drawback is that it’s like four seconds long. Cherish those four seconds. Cherish them.
7. Star Trek – Nero Attacks
To fall back on an old cliché, Star Trek for sure opens with a bang. This sequence almost had me in tears the both times I watched it (oh snap, I just wrote that) and it set the tone for the shape of things to come. This was going to be a dark, intense ride, and the rest of the movie sure as heck didn’t disappoint.
But this scene works on so many levels because it is not only a visual feast – lasers, space, lens flares – but it also establishes the emotional core that separates Star Trek 2009 from its contemporary sci-fi brethren. Maybe not that year though, because some pretty good movies came out, as we’ll find out later…
6. The Matrix Reloaded – Chateau
Like Appleseed, The Matrix Reloaded is a collection of fantastic, visual-effects-laden scenes. The middle, I don’t know, 45 minutes of this movie are amazing. You kick it off with Chateau, where Neo fights with the super-powered programs that pick up different archaic weapons. The dynamics of the fight are… never mind, I don’t understand what I just wrote there, but I do know something about cinematography, and the Wachowski Brothers sure know how to photograph action. Start taking notes, Christopher Nolan.
So we get some cool kung-fu high flying stuff with guys swinging axes and swords while jumping off balconies, all set to Rob Dougan’s pretty banging track, Chateau. It all works together to create something pretty rad. Rad. Then we transition into the freeway chase, which is also pretty spectacular. Then later on you get the Architect…
5. Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – Obi Wan vs. General Grievous
I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a huge fan of Star Wars as a whole. Ask me my favorite overall SF film series and I’ll say Alien, which at one point had Ron Perlman shooting a torpedo at an underwater phallic-shaped monster. Star Wars on the other hand has Episode I and Episode VI and ¾ of Episode II. That reminds me, the ending of Episode II could’ve made this list…
Anyway, I do enjoy the first movie, and Star Wars 3 was also pretty good. General Grievous was also a highlight of the series. Even though the ending fight scene was longer and probably had better ahem, dynamics, but General Grievous was a super cool robot for several reasons. First of all, he looks like a four armed skeleton made out of metal, but second, well I guess that was it. He’s got an awesome design, and his movements are crazy and wild. The fight scene itself is well-animated and staged, even though Grievous goes out like a punk. It was probably just a product of his design though – must have been a pain to animate and render and stuff.
4. District 9 – Mech Suit Massacre
No Mech Suits are massacred here, make no mistake. Rather, the mercenaries and warlords get massacred. To death. It’s crazy how brutal this scene is. I swear, every time Sharlto Copley blasts some fool with a laser, their head explodes. It goes all over the place. Like if you shot a watermelon with a shotgun up close. I mean, why does he always hit the head?
But for real, this scene works because the whole movie our hero Wikus van der Merwe (?) has been put down by the Man, man, and he finally gets his bloody revenge. District 9 is a surprisingly emotional ride, so by the time he straps into that robot suit (whose explosive tendencies were already demonstrated, thanks Warlord dude) you’re 100% with him, spiritually and psychologically. It’s one of those times that you just want to jump up and punch somebody… in the face.
3. The Mist – Thomas Jane, he cries (SUPER THE MIST SPOILERS OMGG)
The Mist is a crazy good movie. It’s an intense study of the human condition, but above all, it’s a great sci-fi horror drama. Thomas Jane is a really good actor, and towards the end here where he’s got to make the decision to do it… it’s hard to explain, but it’s really quite harrowing. Thrilling.
Pretty heart-breaking stuff, and when he goes to turn the gun on himself and nothing comes out, it really hurts. Man, that sucks dude. And then it just gets worse, of course, as the military comes in and deus ex machinas the whole situation. But not for Thomas Jane, because he’s just killed the whole van. Not to mention he just saw his wife all dead and stuff. You need to see this movie, for real. Although if you just read this paragraph, maybe not. BUT STILL YOU SHOULD. God this is dumb how I keep writing this paragraph…
2. Children of Men – The Scene
Yeah, there are a lot of good scenes in Children of Men. A lot of great scenes. But you probably know what I’m talking about here. Let me set it up for you. Clive Owen opens the car door and smashes that motorcycle, sending it flying into the hood of the car. I guess I skipped ahead a little bit, but I can’t help it.
This is the ‘car scene,’ one long, tracking shot that rivals anything out of Hard-Boiled. The tension and intensity and panic portrayed here create one astounding whole. The look on The Operative from Serenity’s face says it all, and my God, does she get shot through the throat. Brutal. Not to mention you get that ringing in your ear right after (that’s your ear cells dying, as she tells us earlier). Children of Men, man, some good stuff. Movies like this do a whole lot to justify my beloved genre.
- The Matrix Revolutions – Defense of Zion
Okay so you picked a scene from one of those crappy Matrix sequels, where ONLY THE FIRST ONE IS GOOD AND THE REST IS CRAP. You probably saw this coming, but yeah I’m going to have to qualify this choice. Why exactly? Because the geeks and fans point out that getting into giant mech suits and just standing there shooting up seems… dumb. I understand that, I’m a geeks and fans. But seriously, this sixteen minute sequence is a hardcore flurry of metal tentacles and muzzle flashes. The robot designs on both sides ooze H.R. Giger, and the environment this mess of a battle takes place in is insane. Just insane. There’s bridges stretching over infinity, and walls of city shelves a mile in every direction. You put some robot suits down there and tell them to go to town on some cyborg squid monsters, and well, that sounds like a good time to me. This scene is honestly a visual technological feat, I’ve never seen anything like it before or since (sorry Avatar). The fact that this whole movie gets slammed just gets my blood up, because the Matrix 2 and 3 are really quite good. And this scene is just like pure science-fiction dreamer dreams. It captured my imagination, and inspired me to dream up fantastic worlds just like Zion, and amazing science-fiction action violence like its defense.
Doom – FPS Sequence
Sunshine – Kaneda vs. Sun
Deep Blue Sea – Sam Jackson, that’s all I have to say
Serenity – Mal vs. Operative Part I
Appleseed Ex Machina – Opening
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence – 50. cal vs. Yakuza
The Matrix Revolutions – Neo vs. Bane
Jurassic Park III – T-Rex fights a Spinosaurus
Star Wars 2 – The Ending with the Clone Troopers and the Droids and Sam Jackson