Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens this weekend. It’s appropriate timing given that the fantasy franchise (no, it’s not science fiction) has a lot in common with Christmas:

  • Both are absurdly overhyped
  • Both inspire irrational devotional fervor
  • Both benefit from its audience’s nostalgic fixation on a romanticized past
  • Both involve a chubby graybeard who hasn’t delivered in years
  • Both are best suited for an audience of children

Sorry to piss in the midi-chlorians, but Star Wars is cosmically overrated. More overrated than The Beatles. More overrated than Ronald Reagan, the Olympics, sarcasm, bike lanes, and living past 75. More overrated than bread (the food, not the 70s soft rock band, which is rated quite accurately).

Hardcore fans will of course disagree. But for those of you who haven’t fallen for the ultimate Jedi mind trick and can see this franchise for what it is (an oversimplified and often boring moral fable set in space), here’s a list of real science fiction movies to enjoy while the children (adult and otherwise) are off enjoying their galactic fairy tale this weekend.

Eraserhead

It doesn’t fit the classic science fiction profile, but its relentlessly bleak, dystopian depiction of the future is a classic sci-fi trope, and the ear-assaulting industrial soundtrack puts John Williams’ schmaltz to shame. It’s the perfect antidote in case you experience accidental Star Wars exposure this weekend.

La Jette

Twelve Monkeys is a pretty great science fiction movie that you’ve probably seen. This is the equally great, deliciously weird French short film that inspired it. It’s black and white and comprised almost entirely of still photos, and still more emotionally resonant than Star Wars.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original 1956 version)

Imagine a world where large swathes of the human population are mysteriously robbed of their individuality, lose their ability to think critically, and willfully join others like them in bland groupthink. That could never happen, right?

Minority Report

Steven Spielberg was an uncredited producer on Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Looking back, one can see why he refused credit. This movie, though, is something he can be proud of. In fact it’s one of the best mainstream science fiction movies of the past 25 years.

2001: A Space Odyssey

If you live in Indianapolis, then be sure you get tickets to the screening of this Kubrick masterpiece in 70mm at the Downtown IMAX later this month. That’s what I call grown-up entertainment.