September 2017 is Syfy’s 25th anniversary, so we’re using it as an excuse to look back and celebrate the last 25 years of ALL science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a time that has seen the genres we love conquer the world of pop culture. For us, that means lists! ALL THE LISTS! We’ll be doing two “25 greatest” lists per day all throughout September, looking back at the moments, people, and characters that shaped the last quarter century. So keep checking back. Please note: Our lists are not ranked; all items have equal standing in our brains
What items in our lists were your favorites? Did we miss something? We welcome respectful debate and discussion, so please let us know in the comments!
The first decade of this century was very good to sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. These 25 moments show why.
Avatar becomes the highest grossing film ever.
Regardless of your opinions on James Cameron’s epic sci-fi adventure, Avatar was, and remains, a game changer in the world of cinema. The film, starring giant blue aliens with prehensile tails, brought with it not only a brand new way of making films featuring sweeping CGI environments and a brand new use of motion capture, but a massive box office that has been unmatched by any film before or since.
The Battlestar Galactica Mini Series
One of the most well produced and highly successful TV series of the last decade was, without a doubt, the reboot of Battlestar Galactica on SYFY back in 2004, and it all began with a surprisingly successful mini-series. Since it was based on a campy little show from the 1970s, many BSG fans were unsure how a new series, featuring gender swapped versions of some of the biggest characters, would fare, but they didn’t need to worry long. The mini-series introduced brand new, humanoid versions of the Cylons, and a brand new conflict, immediately capturing audiences’ attentions and marking the start of the show’s four season run.
The Musical Episode of Buffy
Buffy the Vampire Slayer had already broken down doors when creator Joss Whedon decided to take a massive risk. With the show on a brand new network, the sixth season began with the Slayer returning from the dead, and an entire episode dedicated to song and dance numbers. While other shows had taken a stab at musical episodes before, Buffy’s “Once More With Feeling” was easily the most successful, launching a million copycats that continue to this day.
Civil War Mini Series
No one likes it when friends fight, but when those friends are superheroes on opposite sides of a world-dividing conflict, things can get a little … heated. In 2006, Marvel Comics decided to once again shake up their entire line of comics, publishing a seven issue mini-series titled, Civil War. The series asked some big questions, posed a difficult debate about the conflict between freedom and security, outed Peter Parker as Spider-Man and pitted Iron Man against Captain America in a battle for the American conscience. While the series received mixed reviews when it was published, it has gone on to become one of the most widely celebrated stories ever published by Marvel.
The Clone Wars debuts
Star Wars has always been a franchise with a vast expanded universe, but until 2008, that universe largely existed in print. Enter Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which worked to fill the gaps between Star Wars Episodes II and III. The series introduced Ahsoka Tano, brought animation to the Star Wars universe, and was so popular it lead to the eventual debut of another series: Star Wars Rebels. For many fans, Clone Wars was what rekindled their fandom after the disappointment they felt in the prequel trilogy. Most impressive.
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition released
Dungeons & Dragons has been part of the standard geek package for decades. The groundbreaking role playing game has led to countless long nights of daring battles and caffeine fueled adventures through fantasy worlds all from the imaginations of its players. But in 2008, that mainstay underwent a massive overhaul with the release of the fourth edition of its rules, which brought with it changes to the way players interacted in encounters, used their abilities and performed in skill checks. While some players enjoyed the new rules, others criticized it for the sweeping changes and the fact that it required the purchase of extra books and the use of minis to make proper sense of gameplay.
Disney buys Marvel
In 2009, following the success of Iron Man, which promised the launch of a new cinematic universe of comic book films, a major shift occurred. Disney, home to Mickey Mouse and the Disney Princesses, took a risk, cutting a check for Marvel Comics to the tune of $4 billion dollars. That investment has paid off in spades, as the subsequent films have seen massive box office success, and the company has been given the opportunity for a whole new universe of merchandise, widening their demographic, and sparking a new trend in TV and movies.
Doctor Who is revived
While Doctor Who, the long running British science fiction show, went off the air in 1989, after originally premiering in 1963, the Doctor, his TARDIS, and his many companions never really stopped adventuring. The character was kept alive through radio plays and books, and in 2005, made his triumphant return to the small screen. This new Doctor had gone through some big changes but he was still that madman with a box he had always been and this new series not only introduced a whole new generation to his travels through time and space, but became a whole new chapter in a worldwide phenomenon.
It’s not often that a video game series becomes as popular as it’s bigger, flashier, and much more expensive big screen counterparts, but HALO certainly fits the bill. Launched in 2001 as HALO: Combat Evolved, the series became a new chapter in first-person shooters. More than that, though, it was the start of a brand new era in video game combat, changing the game (so to speak) and paving the way for similar series in the years to come.
1st Harry Potter film
The Harry Potter books were already a worldwide sensation in 2001, when the first film was released in theaters, but that movie franchise threw gasoline on the fire. Sure, Harry and his friends were massively popular characters to those children (and adults) who read the books, but the movies brought in a brand new audience for their adventures, and a brand new opportunity for merchandising. The films also took a group of unknown kids from England and launched them into worldwide fame overnight.
Heath Ledger wins an Oscar for playing the Joker
If you’re looking for the most memorable performance in a superhero movie you need look no further than Heath Ledger’s turn as Batman’s greatest foe. Ledger’s performance as The Joker was lauded by fans and critics alike, but before the film could hit theaters, tragedy struck as the actor was found dead in his home. That praise did not stop with just the reviews. Over the following awards season, Ledger’s performance received more than a dozen awards, including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The Hunger Games is published
Following the end of the Harry Potter books in 2007, many wondered if there would ever be another series of young adult books that could possibly cause as much excitement. Though many believed Twilight would be the series to fill that void, it wasn’t until 2008 that a new franchise would be born which would prove as thought provoking - and easily marketable. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games hit shelf that year, introducing the world to Panem and a young hero named Katniss Everdeen. Not only did it fill the void left by the end of the wizarding war, but it sparked the same revolutionary spirit in its young fans, and launched the film’s eventual star, Jennifer Lawrence, into superstardom.
Iron Man debuts
It's hard to imagine there was ever a time before the world of cinematic universes but, alas, there was. Sure there were plenty of movies with strings of sequels but we hadn’t really experienced an expansive web of multiple films starring many different characters all linked together in one massive story. Enter 2008’s Iron Man, and the final scene, which introduced the world to Nick Fury, the Avenger Initiative, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it.
Lost premiere's polar bear moment
It’s hard to think of a show that has sparked as much heated debate - or created such a shift in the way we watch television - as Lost. Premiering in 2004, the series followed a group of passengers aboard Oceanic Flight 815 as they crash landed on a mysterious island full of smoke monsters, time travel, and the occasional polar bear. It didn’t take long for viewers to discover just how insane the show would promise to be and those mysteries would pile up over the show’s six seasons on the air.
Lost fandom and internet speculation
What else did Lost bring with it? A brand new way to watch TV, and a whole new community of Internet sleuths. The writers o fLost never expected that the tiny, sometimes nonsensical, mysteries peppered throughout the show would fall under such scrutiny, but Lost’s fans were determined to piece together the puzzle even before they had all the pieces. While Lost may not have expected the reaction, it did set the bar for Internet speculation, a trend that has only grown over the intervening years.
Lord of the Rings sweeps the Oscars
The Academy Awards have a tendency to overlook genre movies. Rarely do they receive nominations at all, and when they do, they tend to be in categories like “Visual Effects” or “Sound Editing” or “Makeup”...not, you know, “Best Picture.” But then came the magical year of 2004, when Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was not only nominated for 11 Academy Awards, but won them all, tying for the most awards for a single film (with Titanic and Ben-Hur) and proving, at least for a time, that even fantasy movies deserve to be treated with respect.
Multiverse Returns (Infinite Crisis)
In the late 1980s, DC Comics published Crisis on Infinite Earthsin an attempt to simplify their increasingly complicated multiverse, collapsing the many Earths into a single world. But in 2006, DC would reintroduce the multiverse with the publication of Infinite Crisis, a series in which Superboy Prime punched the walls of reality, changing the history of the world as we knew it. The series was a commercial and critical success, and DC’s many Earths have remained a mainstay of the universe, though with much more oversight and planning than those pre-Crisis.
Nintendo introduces the Wii
When it was introduced in 2006, the Wii brought with it a brand new mode of home gaming, one featuring highly interactive controls and a system of gaming that got people out of their chairs and into the game. The Wii helped to pave the way for systems like Xbox’s Kinect and was the first step toward the advent of virtual reality in the home.
No More Mutants (House of M)
With her ability to alter reality, Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch), shepherded in a brand new world with 2005’s House of M. Driven insane by the trauma of losing her children, Wanda attempts to bring about a world in which all of the greatest desires of Marvel’s biggest heroes are revealed, resulting in a world where mutants are the ruling class who subjugate humans. While this world only existed for a short time, its effects were felt throughout the Marvel universe, especially as Wanda’s attempts to fix the universe led to the diminishment of the mutant population from millions to only a few hundred. That development altered the course of the X-Men (most notably Cyclops) to this day.
We might have more comic book TV shows than we can count these days, but there was a time when they were few and far between and the ones that did exist weren’t exactly serious endeavors. But in 2001, the WB Network, home to teen dramas like Buffy and Dawson’s Creek, decided to change that, giving birth to a series following a young Clark Kent as he discovered his powers, befriended a young Lex Luthor, met Lois Lane, and grew up to eventually become the Man of Tomorrow. The series aired for 10 years and brought with it a new age of superhero show, paving the way for the likes of Arrow, The Flash, Agents of SHIELD, Supergirl, and plenty more to come.
Spider-Woman is a Skrull
Following a period in which Spider-Woman’s Jessica Drew lost and subsequently regained her powers, the character was given a brand new role in the Marvel universe. She joined the New Avengers in 2005, donning her skin-tight costume once again and taking her place as a full-fledged member of the super group. Four years later, however, during the Secret Invasionstoryline, it was revealed that Spider-Woman was not, in fact, Jessica Drew, but Veranke, the Skrull Empress. Spider-Woman’s true identity was a slow burning storyline that was planned from the start and the reveal changed the way fans saw the character’s long running story up to that point.
Star Trek is rebooted
One of the most beloved and groundbreaking shows of the 20th century underwent a reboot in 2009, when the original Star Trek got a facelift and a brand new film shepherd in JJ Abrams. The film, which featured a more modern take on classic characters like Kirk, Spock, and Dr. McCoy, launched not only a new series of films, but a brand new generation of Star Trek fans.
Walking Dead comic debuts
Image Comics was launched in 1992 as an attempt to create a publishing house where the focus was on creators. While early series, like Spawn, Witchblade and Bone were big successes for the publisher, it was in 2003 that Image became known for creating high quality stories that brought with them a massive audience on their own. That was the year Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead debuted, a series that continues to publish to this day. Ever since, Image has become the HBO of comics, publishing high concept, widely praised creative work like Saga, The Wicked + The Divine, Chew, and others, while still remaining creator owned.
World of Warcraft debuts
If there is one game that has consumed more hours of its players lives than World of Warcraft, it would be shocking. Since the game’s debut in 2004, more than 100 million accounts have been created for the MMORPG, making it the biggest game of its kind, as players flock to Azeroth to fight monsters, embark on daring quests, and meet new friends (and foes) in the expansive world.
Y: The Last Man
What would the world look like if all the men suddenly died? That’s the genesis of Brian K. Vaughn’s award-winning series Y: The Last Man. The series follows, you guessed it, the last man on Earth following a plague that wiped out all mammals with a Y chromosome. The series received critical praise during its 60-issue run and has remained one of the most highly regarded comic book series of the modern age. It also appealed to non-regular readers of comics, introducing them to the medium and widening it's readership.
Those were OUR choices. What are yours? Keep in mind these lists are a celebration of sci-fi and fantasy in film, TV, and comics that have been a big deal since 1992. Let us know in the comments which moments from the '00s you’d put on your list? And check out our complete "25 Greatest" lists here.