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 these lists are your favorites? Did we miss something? We welcome respectful debate and discussion, so please let us know in the comments!
In the last 25 years, we've had some amazing new creators of science fiction, fantasy, and horror emerge – but we've lost many true legends in the field along the way, as well. These writers, artists, actors, and visionaries helped to make our world a richer place with the power of their imaginations and continue to inspire us long after they're gone.
One of the most prolific and influential science fiction authors of the 20th century, Asimov has likely influenced everyone who has worked in the genre since. The Foundation series, Galactic Empire series, and more are each seminal works, but it's his Robot series, with his laws of robotics, that leave an indelible mark on science fiction as a whole.
David Bowie is, of course, best known for his decades of musicianship that pushed the limits of rock n' roll in many directions. But his time as an actor in films like The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger and The Prestige also puts him into the sci-fi and fantasy lexicon significantly. Most importantly, he made us dance, magic, dance as the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth. No Muppet, man, woman, or child could fight the power of his codpiece.
One of the few authors of the 20th century who could equally write horror and science fiction, Bradbury would dance between the genres, occasionally mashing them together. The Martian Chronicles remains one of the most in-depth and emotional sci-fi stories ever, but he’s of course best known for Fahrenheit 451, describing a dystopia where books are outlawed and burnt to prevent the spread of intelligence.
A trailblazer in science fiction, Butler was the first sci-fi writer ever to win the MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the "genius grant." Her Parable series fearlessly tackled religious issues, global warming, and corporatization. But Butler’s outreach and encouragement for more black writers, and specifically black female writers, to approach genre, is likely her even more lasting legacy. Her hope was that fans of color would see that she could write sci-fi and seek to do it themselves.
Arthur C. Clarke
Another of the "big three" of hard science fiction writers, Arthur C. Clarke was known for his ability to write science fiction in a scientific manner. His stories, dealing with extraterrestrials, alien worlds, and invading forces, did so with a nod towards real possibility, and that attention to detail made them feel that much more real. Writing the novel and collaborating on the screenplay of 2001: A Space Odyssey will likely be his most enduring legacy. He was a great predictor of technology, a lover of space exploration, and fascinated by the paranormal. May we all be so inquisitive.
A titan of cartooning and animation, Darwyn Cooke worked on Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Batman Beyond before he’d really make a name for himself in comics. He revamped Catwoman (those goggles! What a look), brought the DC Universe back to its early years in DC: The New Frontier, and took on Batman, Superman, Jonah Hex, Slam Bradley, and characters from Watchmen. His adaptations of the "Richard Stark's Parker" novels as graphic novels for IDW are some of the most beautiful to hit the printed page. His ability to balance subtle backgrounds with richly characterized individuals and express paragraphs of emotional delivery with a single frame of body language is unsurpassed.
Two of the horror genre's most popular and recognizable franchises came from the mind of Wes Craven. With A Nightmare on Elm Street, he created a character that could invade your very dreams, with deadly results. In the Scream series, he showed how horror films could invade the real world, if people took them a little too seriously. His ability to bend reality and to bring people into horror that otherwise would never have even entertained the genre was unmatched.
A master of the sci-fi thriller, Crichton had a penchant for technology, twists, and a breakdown of the world around you most well-known, of course, in Jurassic Park. The story that captured a generation through both the original novel and the film adaptation, Jurassic Park was science-heavy but told in a way that the layman could easily understand. His works before that book, like The Andromeda Strain, Congo, and the original film of Westworld, as well as after with Disclosure, Timeline, and many others, showed his deft abilities to entertain without ever dumbing down the science behind his fiction.
Another Star Trek legend, the original Scotty was known for "not having the power" to comply with the Captain's orders, but his contributions to Star Trek went beyond that. In addition to his acting, he helped develop the Klingon and Vulcan languages (the former is one of the most widely-spoken fictional languages in the world, seriously). While his acting career never took off much beyond Trek, he'll always be ready to beam us up.
Carrie Fisher's legacy, of course, includes her role as Princess (and eventually General) Leia, a character that was so completely a part of her, and vice versa. Leia gave us all a new kind of hero not often seen in fantasy or science fiction, and the biting wit that Fisher provided the character made her who we love. Her film career included acting as well as screenwriting (and script doctoring). Perhaps her greatest legacy, though, is speaking frankly and openly about her struggles with addiction and mental health, and the charity work she did to help others in those struggles. Eternally hilarious, emotional, loving, and irreverent, Fisher was one of a kind.
You wouldn't necessarily think of a Swiss painter as a major lost figure in science fiction, but Giger's work with sci-fi, fantasy, and the macabre drew the attention of the crew of Alien, for which he was brought in to design the titular creature, the Derelict, and more – and received an Academy Award for his work. He would work on other films, often doing creature designs, while continuing to do his sculptures and work with musicians that often blended technology and biology together.
Another horror legend, the director and producer behind The Texas Chain Saw Massacre essentially invented the modern slasher horror film. This was the first film to use power tools, present a near-unstoppable and essentially faceless killer, and, despite being gruesome, actually limit the on-screen gore. The "fake true story" conceit of the film has also been used by horror films in and out of the slasher sub-genre.
The co-creator of Batman and writer/artist of Detective Comics, a book so popular DC Comics renamed their entire company after it, Kane, with Bill Finger, brought to life arguably the most popular comic book character ever. The list then goes on and on: Robin, The Joker, Two-Face, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Clayface, Penguin, and many others came from the mind of Kane. While he left DC Comics in the mid-1960s, he would return to Batman as a consultant on the 1989 film. Kane and Finger's creations have been homaged, parodied, and inspired thousands of others since their inception.
It’s no stretch at all to say the world of comic books, and specifically superheroes, would be entirely different were it not for Jack Kirby. As creator and co-creator of thousands of characters including Marvel's X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, and so many more, and DC's New Gods, Darkseid, and others, Kirby brought life to entire universes with his pencil. His linework, with intricate details, larger-than-life science fiction explosions, and a kinetic sense to it that was unmatched, makes him an artist nearly everyone in the business today aspires to. He was truly The King.
A Wrinkle in Time will soon be at the forefront of the minds and imaginations of a new generation, thanks to the upcoming film, but the original book series, which spanned several novels, already established L'Engle as a talent who is definitely missed. Her science fantasy story has taken generations of children on fantastical journeys to save the universe from the Black Thing. Her concept of the Tesseract, wrinkling time and space to allow you to travel anywhere nearly instantaneously, is one that has been used in science fiction since, and the basis of many other "wormhole"-based sci-fi ideas.
The first woman to win a Hugo Award and Nebula Award, Anne McCaffrey was best known for the Dragonriders of Pern, winning her both awards in the late 1960s. Her work often mixed elements of science fiction and fantasy and she is largely credited as the first sci-fi writer who wrote primarily for a female audience.
In comic books and animation, there were seldom those more beloved that Dwayne McDuffie. His work in comics saw him edit at Marvel Comics and co-create the series Damage Control, recently immortalized in Spider-Man: Homecoming on the big screen. He wrote for several major publishers and recognized that mainstream comics were missing something: Diversity. He did something about it, co-founding Milestone Comics, which featured African American, Asian, and Latino heroes, many of whom he directly co-created, like Static. In animation, he worked on Static Shock, Justice League, Ben 10, and several DC Animated films, and he'd periodically come back to comics for runs on Justice League, Fantastic Four, and more. His desire for an inclusive superhero landscape and his ability to write deeply emotional stories that still had roaring fun and adventure will never be forgotten.
The founder of Namco and considered the "father of Pac-Man" (though Toru Iwatani was the designer behind that particular game), Nakamura started with child amusement rides before switching to arcade games in the 1970s. His vision for this fledgling – but growing – industry led to the development of Pac-Man, which led the arcade revolution into the '80s. Nakamura's role in making video games popular is so acknowledged that he was awarded the "Order of the Rising Sun" by the government of Japan.
He lived long, and he prospered, but it was never going to be long enough. Nimoy's brilliant acting career, known best for his role as Spock in Star Trek, gave science fiction fans several new types of characters. Spock's emotional detachment and penchant for logic represented something many fans needed, a way to escape and analyze any situation. Nimoy also starred on Mission: Impossible, spent years on the stage, directed films, narrated documentaries and video games, had a memorable role on Fringe, and voiced Galvatron in Transformers: The Movie (1986) and Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011). He will forever be our friend.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld series lasted 41 novels and it changed the way readers viewed fantasy. An unmatched epic, Pratchett's work created a world of wizards and witches and rogues that made fun of the works of Tolkien, Lovecraft, and ancient myth as much as it took inspiration from them. He also had his collaboration with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, which will make its way to television in 2018.
He made us believe a man could fly. The on-screen Superman that launched a generation of comic book fans in the late '70s and early '80s, Christopher Reeve seemed to embody Clark Kent and Superman in a way no other human ever could. After becoming paralyzed in a horse accident, Reeve only became more superheroic, founding the Christopher Reeve Foundation, seeking to find help and hope for those with spinal cord injuries and help those with disabilities live better, fuller lives. He will always be our Superman.
George A. Romero is the father of the modern zombie. If you like The Walking Dead or Shaun of the Dead or World War Z or any other zombie film or TV series of the recent explosion, it all goes back to Romero and Night of the Living Dead. He continued creating late into his life with movies, television, and comic book series; his legacy in horror is far-reaching and will never die.
If you grew up in the ‘70s or ‘80s, you owe at least a part of your childhood to Lou Scheimer, the founder of Filmation. The animation giant started with Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, but it was when Scheimer co-created He-Man and the Masters of the Universe that his legacy was cemented. Suddenly, children were running around in Underoos holding aloft their magic sword yelling “By the power of Grayskull!” or whatever words they could get out, while Scheimer wrote, helped to score, and even voiced series characters like Orko, King Randor, and more. He-Man would go on to inspire several imitators, while also still being a viable franchise today.
Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel
In Action Comics #1 in 1938, Siegel and Shuster introduced the world to Superman, who could leap buildings in a single bound, run faster than a speeding bullet, and was more powerful than a locomotive. In doing so, they essentially created the idea of the modern superhero – every other superhero in American comics after Superman owes at least a portion of their existence to the character. They also worked for creator's rights in the first public fashion, a battle that inspires current creators (and their contracts) today.
He’s Batman. It's really almost that simple – Adam West was the face behind the Batman that introduced the world to the character in a significant, albeit campy, way. We had fun with his quips, his correcting Robin, his POW and BAM, and of course his Batusi. His Bat-everything, really. West had this kind of smooth ease to everything he did, where even while being incredibly silly he still came off as cool. His sort of second career as a voice actor included appearances on The Simpsons, Futurama, Johnny Bravo, Batman: The Animated Series, Family Guy, and the recent Penn Zero, Part-Time Hero as Captain Super Captain. Before his death, he got to return to Batman in two animated films (along with Burt Ward voicing Robin), one of which will be released soon to cement the celebration of his legacy.
Those were OUR choices. What are yours? We've lost countless great ones over the last 25 years, so let us know who we missed in the comments.