Articles The Empire Strikes Back

Published on March 12th, 2013 | by Chris

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10 Sci-Fi War Movies and Series

There's no denying that the Science Fiction genre and the War Movie genre are closely related.  I'm currently working on a piece which will chronicle the influence that war movies have had on scifi films and television.  (I'm a hardcore scifi guy first, believe it or not.)   But in the meantime, here are 10 movies and/or series that are undeniably connected to war movies...

  1. Star Wars (the entire series)

    Star Wars

    Probably the big "turnaround" moment when the genre crossover really took hold, Star Wars borrowed heavily (very) from classic war movies, classical literary models,  mythology, history, and made it something altogether new and different.  With Ralph McQuarrie's help, George Lucas brought us a new world of ancient lightsaber weapons and new-fangled blasters, starfighters, spaceships, and planet-sized superweapons to keep our young minds busy.

    Favorite moment: Toss-up between the Dam Busters inspired Death Star trench run and the Hoth ground invasion.  The Ewoks on Endor... not so much......

  2. Aliens (1986)

    Aliens

    Continuing the story from Ridley Scott's 1979 scifi-horror masterpiece Alien, Aliens (plural) pits a squad of gung-ho Space Marines, Ripley, and Newt against our favorite acid-bleeding chest-bursting monsters.  A pure bullet fest of epic proportions.  I think Hicks sums it up best in my...

    Favorite moment: "I'm ready, man, check it out. I am the ultimate badass! State of the badass art! You do NOT wanna fuck with me. Check it out! Hey Ripley, don't worry. Me and my squad of ultimate badasses will protect you! Check it out! Independently targeting particle beam phalanx. Vwap! Fry half a city with this puppy. We got tactical smart missiles, phase-plasma pulse rifles, RPGs, we got sonic electronic ball breakers! We got nukes, we got knives, sharp sticks... "

  3. War of the Worlds (1953)

    War of the Worlds

    A slight alteration of H.G. Wells' master work, this movie version puts the invading Martians at odds with the US military, who throw everything from tanks to nuclear weapons at them, to no avail... and in the process turning it into an unforgettable cold-war commentary.

    Favorite moment:  Don't look at the nuclear blast! At least we have these goggles! And check out the flying wing!

  4. Battlestar Galactica (2004)

    Battlestar Galactica

    Where the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica series was an attempt to cash in on the Star Wars wave (and this 8 year old ate that sh*t up), the remake took a much more hardcore stance.  The aircraft carrier atmosphere of the show was so much in the fore front, from the ready room to the flight deck and the bridge....  We'll forget about the whole Bob Dylan thing, and stick with the good stuff, thanks.

    Favorite moment:  The remake of the Pegasus episodes.  Hardcore.

  5. Starship Troopers (1997)

    Starship Troopers

    A controversial vision of Heinlein's novel, to be sure.  Less heady, and more action.  OK, all action.  But with just enough fascism to sour the milk.  Let's face it, hordes of giant alien bugs ripping the space marines into pieces....

    Favorite Moment: When that tank bug comes out of the ground... oooooh yeah.

  6. Star Trek (pick one)

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

    Oh come on.  You knew this would be here.  Spanning eleven films now and five television series, the Star Trek universe was (and continues to be) the dominant player in the scifi/war genre crossover.  Despite Starfleet's stated mission of peaceful exploration, time and time again we found ourselves engaged in mortal submarine-capital ship style combat with some hostile alien race.  Or fighting some alien lizard with sticks and makeshift gunpowder.

    Favorite moment:  The nebula battle in The Wrath of Khan. Followed by the Khitomer battle in The Undiscovered Country.

  7. Predator (1984)

    Predator

    Who can forget the first time Jesse Ventura whipped out "old painless" and mowed down an entire jungle with it?  Thus ingraining "the minigun" into pop culture mythology forever.  Forget the timeless and classic element of man vs. god in mortal combat, just the concept of an alien species hunting us for sport and no other reason is enough for me.  Underneath the action-movie-shootemup veneer are so many archetypes and mythological parallels....

    Favorite moment:  A primevil and mud-covered Arnold armed only with a stick uttering the most base and deathly war cry evar.  Doesn't get much more basic than that.

  8. The Final Countdown (1983)

    The Final Countdown (1980)

    Examining the implications of a time travel scenario where a modern day carrier gets transported to the Pacific just before Pearl Harbor, The Final Countdown asks those hard time-travel questions that scifi geeks like me love.  Do we interfere? What are the implications if we do?  See Also: Time Slip, aka GI Samurai

    Favorite Moment:  The reaction on the Japanese Zero pilot's face as he sees the F-14 Tomcat.

  9. Independence Day (1996)

    Independence Day

    Who can forget this one?  A slightly different tack on earlier War of the Worlds attempts, we find the Earth completely overpowered by giant hovering alien saucers, covered by superior fighters.  Thank God we have F-18 pilots like Wil Smith and Randy Quaid on our side!  How many times can we put "Fox 1!" into the script?  And President Bill Pullman's speech, come on, how can you not like that stuff?  Yeah, OK, it was pretty cheesy, but its a whole lot of fun.

    Favorite Moment: "Welcome to Earth!" Followed closely by "Payback is a bitch!" Oh come on, admit it, those are yours, too.

  10. Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007)

    Stargate: SG-1

    Probably my favorite example of how to do this the right way, Stargate SG-1 (and the original 1994 film) put the US Air Force in charge of a wormhole device which opened Earth up to attack from any number of alien enemies.  Borrowing heavily on the old cold-war-top-secret-missile-bunker formula, SG-1 saved the planet on countless occasions.   If you haven't seen this, then you really don't know what you're missing.  From small arms close combat and swordplay, to all out naval-style spaceship battles and everything inbetween, just about anything and everything went down, and with excellent effects for any television series.  Subsequent series lacked the same "war movie" element as SG-1.

    Favorite moment: Too many to choose from, although the episode where we lose Dr. Frasier is right up there in its sentiment.

  11. Honorable Mentions:

    Bablyon 5, The Terminator series, Farscape, Buck Rogers, Battle: Los Angeles, Battleship, Transformers, and countless others I have no doubt forgotten.  Feel free to make your own additions (or subtractions!) in the comments!


About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



2 Responses to 10 Sci-Fi War Movies and Series

  1. the war movie buff says:

    Sorry, but one of those is an absolutely ridiculous (even for sci-fi) piece of crap – Independence Day. My opinion, of course. I’m glad you chose the 1953 War of the Worlds – the recent one is is similar to Independence Day in insulting a person’s intelligence. Certainly agree with Aliens and Starship Troopers.

  2. Chris says:

    Of course ID4 was ridiculous. That’s why its fun! And its such a crass representation of mid-90s crap “technology” films to boot. Upload a virus? really?! At least there was no VR. (and agreed on Cruise’s WotW…)

    And Houston gets nuked. I don’t like Houston.

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