Science-fiction is essentially a catch-all term for “stuff that happens in an alternate reality where they have cooler technology than we do.” You have space-faring stuff like 2001: A Space Odyssey, where you can kind of imagine humanity ending up. Then there’s sci-fi horror like Aliens, twee sci-fi like Her, and the kind of sci-fi that fans don’t want to call sci-fi but totally is, like Star Wars.
But despite them being dependent on incredible technologies to tell their stories, not all sci-fi movies seem to like scientific progress. Some, for example, highlight its destructive capacities. Others, meanwhile, ask audiences to look to the “work” of the divine instead. These are the ten most anti-science sci-fi movies out there.
10. The Matrix trilogy
If you were just taking a glance at the Wachowskis’ iconic – if flawed – trilogy, you’d think that the vision of the world in The Matrix isn’t so bad. Neo, for example, seems to be having fun flying around like a stern ’90s Superman and beating up any agent that stands in his way.
But let’s not forget that in these movies humanity is actually enslaved by a race of machines that sap our energy while we’re stuck in a giant simulation of the world we call our own. If The Matrix Reloaded is anything to go by, however, the real way to live is go all caveman by raving away in an underground hole to the sound of tribal music.
Coming from Neill Blomkamp – director of the excellent District 9 – you’d probably expect Elysium to have a healthy smattering of social commentary. Set in the year 2154, it shows a world in which the super-rich live on a paradise-like space station orbiting Earth while the have-nots are stuck on the ruined planet.
Science and progress have essentially created a rift in humanity where the wealth gap is widened to literally cosmic proportions. Matt Damon plays one of the have-nots, and his character works on manufacturing robots that, ironically, are there to keep people like him oppressed. The message is clear: the rich will always gain the most from scientific progress while the rest get left behind.
8. The Terminator
Forget about the fact that each Terminator movie is basically about robots trying to chase down and kill a person who’s destined to save the human race. The crucial thing here is that Skynet, the artificial super-intelligence program and the primary antagonist, was created by people in the first place.
So that whole nuclear war and humans versus machines stuff in all the movies? Yep, it was all humanity’s fault for dabbling too much with science and creating something that decided people were surplus to earthly requirements. Who knows? Maybe Skynet was on to something – not that we’ll ever admit it.
Ah, Prometheus. Remember when we were actually excited by this one? In fairness, the long-anticipated prequel to the Alien franchise could’ve been a great movie. That is, if it had been well-written and if it wasn’t a weird pseudo-religious tale that spat in the face of all scientific reason. And… well, come to think of it, it was actually pretty bad across the board.
Prometheus’ plot explicitly throws evidence-based science and Darwin’s theory of evolution out the window. Instead, it champions the Scientology-esque theory that aliens placed humans on Earth, and then it rolls with a ludicrous plot whereby humanity needs to find out what it did to anger the alien gods lest they wreak biblical vengeance. It’s basically the New Testament in space.
6. Blade Runner
The world in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a technologically advanced but unhappy one. Indeed, it’s a place where human-like androids called “replicants” are used as slaves. Technology and science are used to oppress rather than liberate.
From the sirens hurrying people along in the street to the simplistic response tests that judge whether or not you’re a human, everything in Blade Runner has been manipulated to keep people on a tight leash. And as Harrison Ford goes around “retiring” rogue replicants, we end up seeing them as the victims of a tech-obsessed world that’s lost any semblance of humanity.
5. Jurassic Park
Steven Spielberg’s legendary dinosaur adventure needs no introduction, but the message of the whole movie is not to screw around with nature. The actual park exists only because of extreme genetic modification, which Jeff Goldblum’s character Malcolm calls “the rape of the natural world.”
Indeed, the movie stresses several times that science shouldn’t be messing around with the work of Mother Nature. You’d think they’d have learned their lesson after the T. rex ran rampant in the first movie, but then we got Jurassic World in 2015.
4. I Am Legend
Even the best scientific intentions can go horribly wrong, as evidenced in I Am Legend. In the movie, a vaccine that was meant to cure cancer ended up wiping out most of the world’s population (and turning the lucky ones into vampires). When science and reason let down humanity, what do you turn to?
Religion, of course! The movie sees Will Smith in the role of a kind of Messiah figure, reminding people that “God didn’t do this, we did” before proceeding to cure the world using his own blood. Obviously, giving blood is sort-of a scientific procedure, but with all the biblical referencing it takes on a much more “Blood of Christ” vibe.
Even though it was made back in 1997, dystopian sci-fi flick Gattaca feels as relevant as ever in its take on genetic modification and eugenics. In the movie, set in the near future, genetic selection is used to create perfect people who get all the best jobs and enjoy society’s perks. Those conceived using natural means, meanwhile, are more prone to genetic defects and are consigned to more menial positions.
In other words, thanks to the miracle of science and genetic modification, society has regressed to a good old-fashioned caste system, where those at the bottom have no hope of moving up the social ladder. Thanks, science; thanks a lot.
2. Minority Report
Everything seems rosy at the start of this Tom Cruise (Chief John Anderton) sci-fi movie, in which a trio of mutated women – the “precogs” – capable of seeing the future are plugged into a mega-machine that lets them predict crimes before they happen. People get arrested pre-emptively, murder rates are at zero, and all is well.
But when the psychics predict that Anderton himself will commit murder, things get complicated. In the end, indeed, it turns out there’s a tiny chance that the precogs aren’t right, which causes the whole system to fall apart. And thousands of prisoners, who were arrested pre-emptively, are let back on the streets.
For such a heart-warming movie, WALL-E is anti a lot of things. It’s anti-consumerist, as it depicts the Earth as having been ruined by excessive waste, leaving robots like WALL-E to clean up the mess. And it’s kind of anti-technology and anti-science, too, as the humans we see have been ruined by excessive high-tech comforts.
In a revealing moment, WALL-E finds himself in the commercial center of the human space station. Indeed, he’s surrounded by blobby people riding around in hover chairs, absorbed in the screens in front of their faces and flailing around like overturned beetles if they fall to the ground. Advanced technologies, it seems, have rendered people useless for anything other than mass consumption.