Ruined geek movies:
Part of science fiction is revelation: conveying a new, interesting point of view to the audience. A well-made science fiction work can often hinge on catching the audience off-guard. Unfortunately, in our increasingly digital age, it’s harder and harder to avoid spoilers. Here’s a list of science fiction films you might want to track down—if someone hasn’t already ruined the ending. If you haven’t seen them, avoid reading the descriptions; this article is a bit of a spoilerpaloza:
Alien is still a lot of fun to watch. But back in 1979, it was even better. People had no idea what to expect. Think back to the first time you saw the chestbuster scene. Now imagine you hadn’t heard what was going to happen beforehand. The fact that this film can still scare the crap out of an audience even when they know what’s going to happen is a testament to its high level of competence.
Also of note, when Alien came out, there was another big reveal, one that might not be remotely obvious to the modern viewer. The fact that Ripley would turn out to be the last man standing and kill the alien was revolutionary for its time. A strong female protagonist was a new thing back then, something we often take for granted now.
It’s almost impossible to not know what’s going to happen at the end. You probably heard dozens of Shattner-esque renditions of the final lines before seeing this movie. Fortunately, the plot largely hinges on other elements. The big reveal was just icing on the cake.
8. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
This film has become such an inspiration and institution to the genre that it’s hard for a modern audience to get that so much of it was revolutionary. Elements of this film have been (imitated/ripped off/homaged) to such an extent that they’re clichés. Back when it came out, they weren’t.
Also, like Alien, it was a big deal that the sole survivor, the last man standing was African-American. Back then, it was still considered a big deal that Star Trek had a black supporting character. Even today, it’s a cliché that the black guy dies first in many horror/sci-fi films. This film was way ahead of its time, and in some ways, ahead of our own.
It’s hard to make a good sequel. It’s even harder to follow-up a movie that relies on a big reveal. How do you recreate that? This film is the textbook on how to pull it off.
Again, our generation grew up with this movie. We knew Arnie was a good guy. But when it came out, you only had the original to go on. He looked just like the cold-blooded killing machine from the first film. Not knowing that Robert Patrick’s character was the antagonist, and trying to figure out what was going added a whole layer to this film that those of us exposed to spoilers missed out on.
This is another one where it’s hard to image not knowing the payoff. The idea of assassinating someone by time travel was a brand-new idea (sort of, it’s complicated). The big reveal that Kyle Reese was John’s father was also a huge twist. But like a lot of these movies, even knowing that doesn’t ruin the movie.
5. Anything by M. Night Shyamalanm pre-2002
M. Night Shyamalanm was great before he started trying to out-M. Night Shyamalanm himself. The reveals in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable were truly shocking. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on when his movies started to suck, though no one really disagrees that he went downhill pretty hard. Personally, I think of Signs as his last great movie, but others hate it, and still others will even support The Village. Here’s to hoping his next efforts are an improvement.
4. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
If you don’t know the big reveal, you are probably living in a cave somewhere. On another planet. Seriously, how are you reading this?
Fun fact: like many of the best parts of Star Wars, this little gem was ripped off from a slightly lesser-known sci-fi masterpiece, Dune, by Frank Herbert.
3. The Boys from Brazil (1978)
I recently watched this for the first time. And if you know the ending, it’s somewhat hard to sit through. The film has that pacing that was intended for audiences not brought up with ADD-inducing media like MTV and YouTube. This part isn’t a slight against the movie; general tastes have changed to the point that people can’t sit through a movie with such slow pacing anymore and that’s a shame. At any rate, it’s a detective story, and when you know the ending, it’s a lot harder to enjoy.
Unlike a lot of these movies, the big reveal isn’t a twist ending, it’s the premise. Also, unlike a lot of these movies, people my age can still remember being surprised by this one. In a way, this film franchise sums up the ideas of this article pretty well: without a big reveal comparable to the original, the second two were just a bunch of interesting visuals with a plot that manages to somehow be thin and convoluted at the same time.
This movie is a lot like Planet of the Apes. It has that old-school pacing that’s not seen anymore; it’s got some action but a lot of dialogue and long runtime. And when everyone already knows that “IT’S MADE OUT OF PEOPLE,” it’s hard to sit through everything that works up to that classic line.
Robert is a science geek with a passion for science fiction. He has a BS in general biology and currently works in an occupational health lab at The University of Arizona. Additionally, Boumis has published three short stories, all science fiction, and does costuming in his spare time. His interests include classic science fiction novels, sci-fi films, filmmaking, UFOs, and video games. Follow his Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robert-J-Boumis/142544852462290?ref=ts