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The Best Sci-fi Movies with a Social Message

The Best Sci-fi Movies with a Social Message

By Tim Butcher

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Sci-fi is simple. Just a load of special effects and cool sounds—the cinematic equivalent of a theme park ride. No deeper meanings to find. Right? Wrong! As we’re sure you’re all aware, some of the best sci-fi is not only super entertaining, it also has some pretty perceptive and interesting things to say about society, too. These are some of our favorite sci-fi movies with social messages.

Elysium

Although you might say that the social commentary in Elysium could benefit from a turning things down a couple of notches on the subtlety-o-meter, it’s still got some powerful stuff to say about inequality and the rights of all people to have a basic living standard. In the movie, the super elite of earth have left the planet behind, condemning the less moneyed to battle things out amongst themselves in a lawless, poverty stricken wasteland. But the rich are being mega selfish! Keeping all the money and life-saving medical technology to themselves. By the end (spoilers!), everybody’s getting a piece of the pie, but it takes a mecha-suit wearing Matt Damon to lead the insurrection and restore things to their rightful order. The message? Share the wealth, or the little people are going to rise up and cause some serious carnage.

Godzilla

It may be pretty hard to pick up in the latest movie, but there was a time when Godzilla was a pretty potent metaphor for anxiety about the nuclear age. And that’s not too surprising, considering the original film was a Japanese production made less than a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were decimated by atomic bombs. Godzilla is a towering symbol of all that can happen when humankind is reckless in its adaptation of powerful new energy sources—a roaring, awesome, fire-breathing reminder that if we’re not careful, we’re all gonna end up blowing each other up. He’s also a big dinosaur, obviously, but the double meanings are still there!

Her

There will probably be a time when Her won’t even seem that much like science fiction. The proliferation of super smart AI in our lives is accelerating at a truly impressive rate, something made all the more clear recently when, for the first time, a computer beat the Turing test, an experiment designed to find the point when a computer can pass as a human being in a text-based conversation. And while Her doesn’t necessarily see AIs as a threat, it does show us that, without real, human interaction, we’re going to be left feeling hollow and alone. So the next time Clippy asks if you need help with Microsoft Word, tell him to back off.

Wall-E

Wall-E may be a super adorable movie, it’s also a pretty damning morality tale about how lazy technology can make us. All the humans in it are gross, wobbly manatees that have long given up on looking after themselves because they’ve become so reliant on the gadgets that make their lives easier. And the planet they’ve abandoned? It’s become a giant, floating garbage heap. WALL-E makes it pretty clear that if we don’t make the effort to look after ourselves, things can start to spin rapidly out of control. It also shows us that it is incredibly sweet when robots fall in love.

Children of Men

Children of Men has possibly the most elementary message of all the movies on this list, but one that’s no less powerful for it. In the movie, all hell breaks lose after the human species mysteriously becomes infertile. Society crumbles, people start going nuts, there’s violence everywhere. But when one woman finds herself pregnant, humankind suddenly gets a chance to see a brighter tomorrow. What are we being told? Simple: don’t give up hope. Without fighting for a better future, we have nothing to live for and no reason to treat each other right. Heck, it’s hokey, but we don’t care! Keep on dreamin’ mankind!

What's the most socially conscious movie you've seen so far this summer?

Tags: movies, sci fi, lists, protests, socially conscious

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