2017 was a challenging year for many reasons, but thankfully there was no shortage of fantastic stories to give us hope, strength, and courage. The science fiction genre in particular stepped up in a big way, and spun us tales that made us change our perceptions as well as realize our own places in the world.
Time and time again, these films taught us the power of sacrifice, and that sometimes the greatest thing that we can do is help someone else. It’s time to defend nature, steal some batteries, and light the spark— here is our list of the best science fiction films of 2017!
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Yes, we’re going there. To the surprise of nobody, the film is gorgeous to look at, and director Rian Johnson continues the “real sets and creatures” mandate that J.J. Abrams began in The Force Awakens. Let’s look past the spaceships, lightsabers, and blasters for a moment, because this is quite possibly the most thematically rich film in the Star Wars canon. Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker must let the past go, as this and the running current of sacrifice throughout the film underscore the tragic loss of Carrie Fisher. The performances, from old favorites and new, keep these heady ideas grounded and as fun as any Star Wars before it.
Blade Runner 2049
The sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic Blade Runner is an utter all-you-can-eat science fiction feast. Every frame is a painting that you’d hang on your wall and the story is full of bonkers payoffs for hardcore fans. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford’s Blade Runners deal with issues of identity while also coping with the passage of time and the creation of legend - continuances of the first film's grasping questions that only feel more at home in the loud drones of Blade Runner 2049's beauty.
War for the Planet of the Apes
The story of Caesar comes to a close on a cathartic, emotional note, bridging the gap between the prequel trilogy and the original Planet of the Apes - a complex, somber task requiring plenty of sci-fi power. Andy Serkis is giving an acting masterclass as some of the year's best digital effects compliment one of its best performances, all in service of a story as unexpectedly moving as it is epic.
A giant monster keeps attacking Seoul, and it turns out that the monster is actually…Gloria (Anne Hathaway). Just when you think the film is going to center on Gloria and her apparent alcoholism made manifest in this rampaging creature, the movie becomes something else entirely. Fragile masculinity proves to be the villain of the day, adding twist on top of twist as a film that swerves every single time you think you have it figured out wonderfully deconstructs creature films, proving once again that humans are the real monsters.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The band of A-holes is back, this timeexploring the mystery of Peter Quill’s parentage. Yes, Peter Quill’s father turns out to be a sentient planet. Kurt Russell’s Ego eventually reveals his true intentions and Quill has some hard realizations about family, while Nebula and Gamora do the same. The sci-fi imagery is bonkers, with everything from a psychotic space-jump sequence to Peter turning into a giant Pac-Man in the final battle. The soundtrack is once again perfectly set to the film and by the time Peter is listening to “Father and Son” on his new Zune device at the end, you’re hoping that the adventures of these cosmic nuts will never end.
Director/writer Joon-ho Bong’s confident and powerful follow-up to the masterful Snowpiercer, it's the classic story of a corporation creating genetically enhanced pig creatures to produce a healthy food source for a soul-bereft humanity, and the one girl who refuses to give in to them. Sounds classic to us, anyway. Issues of food shortages and animal cruelty are enhanced by the CGI creation of Okja while Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal both give unhinged performances that make the film unmissable.
What Happened to Monday
If you’re a fan of actress Noomi Rapace, then this is definitely a film for you. She plays identical septuplets: that's a lot of Rapace. The film is set in a future where the government has employed a strict “one child per family” policy, and so the seven sisters live out their days in hiding. They rotate public appearances based on the day of the week, which leads to a delicious sci-fi deep dive when Monday disappears. Rapace takes a page out of the “Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black” book, giving each of the sisters their own quirks and identities - which on its own is worth the price of admission.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
This Luc Besson epic follows through on the promises of The Fifth Element, giving us some of the most fantastic sci-fi images seen in 2017. Based on the French comics Valerian and Laureline, Besson takes us to a future that is bursting with imaginative settings, aliens, and sci-fi standbys. It’s definitely weird, make no mistake, but it’s the kind of space-weird that makes us instantly fall in love with it. With a straightfoward story and a Rhianna song and dance sequence that you won’t soon forget, Valerian is fantastical space opera that demands attention.