Obama's Favorite Sci-Fi Films
President Barack Obama shared his must-watch list of movies and TV shows to expand mind to new horizons in the November issue of Wired magazine. The selections include ground-breaking classics and contemporary hits, each taking you to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and the depths of the human psyche.
1. "2001: A Space Odyssey."
Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi epic is an undeniable classic that addressed the complexities of AI in 1968 with questions that remain relevant today. And the film still looks futuristic almost five decades later. 2001, as the president notes, "captures the grandeur and scale of the unknown." Kubrick created the longest flash-forward cut in film history, jumping from a pre-Homo sapien tribe to a world in which space travel is commonplace. And the final act remains as surreal and mystifying as the day the film premiered.
2. "Blade Runner"
In Ridley Scott's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Harrison Ford plays a gruff investigator tasked with tracking down genetically-engineered humanoids called replicants. But in a world where the droids he's looking for are indistinguishable from real people, the hunter may well be the hunted. "It asks what it means to be human," Obama says. Beyond that, the film is gorgeous, and with a vision of Los Angeles in 2019 that seemed entirely plausible way back in 1982. Sicario director Denis Villeneuve is filming a sequel starring Ford and Ryan Gosling.
3. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
Extra-terrestrials are rarely presented as personally, and humanly, as they are in Steven Spielberg's film, which POTUS chose "because it is fundamentally optimistic." It considers aliens a source of wonder to be welcomed, not feared. Almost 40 years after its release, Close Encounters remains one of Spielberg's best films, even if it isn't revered as highly as it ought to be. If nothing else, you'll never look at mashed potatoes the same way again.
4. "Star Wars."
George Lucas' first Star Wars film did more than transport audiences to a galaxy far, far away; it forever changed how people see sci-fi. From gold-plated droids and Wookiees to lightsabers and a mystic religion called The Force, A New Hope introduced so many concepts to the genre that its influence is immeasurable. Star Wars, which Obama praises "because it was fun and revolutionized special effects," is the ultimate science-fiction popcorn flick, and the franchise will entertain people for generations to come.
5. "Star Trek."
The best science fiction isn't about science, it's about people. Obama made this very point in awide-ranging interview with WIRED Editor-in-Chief Scott Dadich, when he discussed why he so loves Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry's pioneering show, he says, "wasn't actually about technology. It was about values and relationships." The original series, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, "uses science fiction to promote a humanistic ethic," Obama says. The USS Enterprise featured one of the most diverse casts on network television at the time, and the franchise remains steadfastly progressive in its representations of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
6. "The Martian."
Ridley Scott's whip-smart adaptation of Andy Weir's novel about saving an astronaut stranded on Mars "shows humans as problem solvers," the president says. An engaging story with totally believable science made being left behind on the Red Planet look almost fun, and seeing the world come together to save one person provided a measure of inspiration in a world that seems increasingly tumultuous and divided.
7. "The Matrix."
The Matrix blew people's minds with its riffs on simulated worlds and humans-as-batteries. Seventeen years later, it continues fueling discussions about the nature of reality and inspiring "bullet-time" action sequences. Obama chose the Wachowskis mind-bending action film "because it asks basic questions about our reality-and looks very cool.
Carl Sagan's legendary documentary seriesCosmos taught an entire generation invaluable lessons about astronomy while making people ponder the universe-and their place in it. One cannot look to the heavens and not wonder what's out there, and how it all came to be. That may be Sagan's greatest legacy. Cosmos rounds out the president's must-see list "because it fed [his] lifelong fascination with space." It will feed yours, too.