The 10 Best Space Operas of All Time, RankedBy Vika https://pictolic.com/article/the-10-best-space-operas-of-all-time-ranked.html
Space opera fans can usually only agree on one thing - that it's an awesome film genre. Here are our picks for the best space opera movies ever made.
Whether you're a die-hard fan of Star Wars, a hard-core Trekkie, or just a sci-fi lover in general, space operas have always been an iconic movie genre. Usually defined by epic films set in space, packed with diverse alien races, featuring sensational melodrama and usually some intergalactic warfare, this sub-genre of science-fiction has produced some of the most popular movie franchises of all time.
Even though the genre has become associated with some mind-bending effects and amazing cinematography, the genre in the history of film is thought to go as far back as the 1918 Danish film, Himmelskibet. Over time, the earliest renditions have progressed to include more modern film techniques that have made for some very immersive experiences.
While fans of this awesome film genre will surely have their own strong opinions, these are our picks for the best space opera movies of all time.
10. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
A true classic of the sci-fi world and a space opera of the more adventurous kind, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film saw a vast improvement from the 1981 series that suffered from some very slow pacing. Beginning life as a radio series, this beloved story went on to become a media franchise, featuring everything from novels, comics, stage productions, a TV series, and eventually a feature movie.
It starred a wonderfully eclectic cast that saw Sam Rockwell in the lead, as well as supporting roles from Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, a voice role from Alan Rickman, and even Helen Mirren and John Malkovich. Departing in some ways from the original stories, the film follows Arthur Dent and his delightful group of companions as they band together to escape a ruthless race of aliens and explore the galaxy together.
With brilliant doses of nostalgia, the story is a satire of sorts, but remains one of the most beloved and unique space operas around, and has a new series reputedly still on its way from Hulu.
9. The Fifth Element
Given her hiatus from acting after her early fame (and notoriety) from films like Return to the Blue Lagoon, it wasn't certain if audiences would still take to Milla Jovovich, or even remember her. However, her return to films came in 1997's The Fifth Element, instantly making her a star again, and a sex symbol too. The film saw her star alongside Bruce Willis as a living weapon meant to help protect the world against an ancient evil force.
The Luc Besson film featured a futuristic Earth with a motley bunch of human and alien characters driving it. It turned out to be a major commercial hit and has had a major cult following ever since. Backing up Willis and Jovovich, The Fifth Element also boasted a great supporting cast that included the likes of Gary Oldman and Chris Tucker.
While purists may not define this film series as part of the space opera genre, the first rendition from it that spawned a franchise, Alien, will always be a classic. However, its immediate sequel, Aliens was arguably one of the greatest follow-ups ever made. It was set in space, featured high drama, and some epic battle scenes, and saw the return of the now legendary Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, who became a sci-fi icon from her role in the franchise.
After being the only survivor of the first film, Ripley agrees to travel with a crew of colonial marines back to the site where her original crew was first attacked in the previous film. Finding a young girl as the only survivor, the crew are soon inundated by aliens that invade their ship - sparking off some epic battles and a harrowing fight for survival that once again sees Ripley being the one who has to take on the biggest threat.
Here's why Gerardo Velaro, writing for the famed Roger Ebert film review site agrees that this classic was better than the original.
"What truly makes “Aliens” even better than its predecessor is how it maintains a seemingly impossible fever pitch. You sit there in awe watching the film, realizing the great expectations that every sequence creates are invariably surpassed, and as much as you assure yourself that the following scene can’t possibly top the last, you are still astonished when it invariably does."
7. Flash Gordon
Based on the iconic comic book strip of the same name, and building on the popularity of the series from the '50s, in 1980, the Flash Gordon film was a critical and commercial success. It's also since become a cult classic, and usually ranks on most lists for the best sci-fi films through the ages.
Somewhere between a space opera and a superhero film, the movie centered on a football star quarterback (Greg "Flash" Gordon) and a travel agent who find themselves helping a former NASA scientist battle a despot from another planet. From the planet Mongo, Ming the Merciless has been remotely causing natural disasters on Earth out of boredom. Flash and his allies travel to space and have to battle Ming and his forces, with the fate of Earth hanging in the balance.
An all-time classic, the film and its characters have reached iconic status among lovers of sci-fi and remain popular to this day.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
This gem from the MCU kicked off its own franchise that now has three films to date, a holiday special, and crossover appearances in Avengers and Thor films. Guardians of the Galaxy was basically an experimental project that took off and became one of the MCU's most popular proponents. The original film first saw the rag-tag group of galactic heroes come together to form a team of superheroes that fight epic space battles and take on villains that are not of this world.
Filled with awesome characters, gorgeous cinematography, one of the best soundtracks, and amazing action sequences the MCU has to offer, the success of the Guardians films underscored much of why the entire MCU as a whole became such a worldwide phenomenon.
5. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
By 1979, the Star Trek TV series had already become legendary and an iconic show to its many fans. Acting as a game changer for the sci-fi world, the franchise was acclaimed for its brilliantly devised plots, astutely devised characters, and being ahead of its time in a multitude of ways.
The first film from the franchise, Star Trek: The Motion Picture may have divided critics, but most of that criticism came because the film was doomed to be compared with the show, which had already set some immaculate standards. Featuring the cast from the series, led by Admiral Kirk and chiefly backed up by Leonard Nimoy's Spock, it sees the crew of the refitted USS Enterprise take on a powerful alien entity known as V'ger; a space probe endowed with sentience by a race of machines.
The film may have been far from the most acclaimed one in the Star Trek universe, but it remains an iconic piece of cinematic history since it started the franchise's movie world, which now has 13 films to date, and a 14th on the way.
4. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope
The original film that created a media empire for George Lucas 1977's Star Wars (retroactively renamed Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope), remains one of the quintessential sci-fi films of an entire generation. Its legacy and impact on pop culture is almost indescribable, and it's gone on to spawn 11 more movies, TV series, spin-offs, and countless other renditions across various mediums.
The film first introduced us to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and the other iconic characters from it. Set against an ongoing galactic civil war, the plethora of unique characters, aliens, robots, and other creatures are now legendary the world over. The film also made icons out of its main stars and was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning six, together with a Special Achievement Award and a Scientific and Engineering Award for its groundbreaking technological advancements in cinema.
3. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
The second film from the Star Trek movie franchise, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is widely regarded as the best of them all. Featuring a brilliant plot that followed on from the original series, it sees Captain Kirk haunted by an enemy from his past. Khan is an infamous villain from the franchise, and a genetically engineered superhuman who was designed to be the best of them, but later becomes their most dangerous foe.
Through characters like Khan, the film was able to explore some poignant themes like aging, power's ability to corrupt, death, and resurrection in a brilliant manner. The film remains the one usually picked as the all-time best of all, even among ardent Trekkies. Its cultural influence on the genre, pop culture, and sci-fi in general has been significant and remains one of the best examples of how brilliantly nuanced space operas can be.
Far from the commercial and critical disappointment of the 1984 film, Dennis Villeneuve's 2021 remake of Dune was a massive success on both counts. Based on the globally popular novel series, which currently encompasses 30 books since Frank Hubert wrote the first one in 1964, the story is acclaimed for its vast and complex world-building.
The 2021 film finally did the novel franchise justice as it featured a ridiculously good ensemble cast that included Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, and Zendaya, among many others.
The film splits the first book into two parts and is envisioned to be part of a series with a sequel expected to be released in 2024, and possibly others after it. It tells the story of Paul Atreides, a gifted young man with the weight of an incredible destiny on his shoulders. Needing to travel to a distant planet to ensure his people's survival, an epic battle ensues over a precious resource.
Featuring some stunning effects, performances, directing, and a fantastic score, the film was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning five.
1. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
The second film to be released in the Star Wars movie universe, and the fifth in a chronological sense from the Skywalker Saga, this classic is regarded as the best film of all so far. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back is also often touted as one of the greatest sequels ever made and features some of the most iconic moments in cinematic history.
Between introducing characters like Yoda, Luke, and Darth Vader finally battling, and the iconic line "No, I am your father," (which often gets misquoted as "Luke, I am your father"), among many other unforgettable scenes, there aren't enough superlatives to describe just how legendary the film has become. Like many of the Star Wars films, this one was also critically acclaimed, in addition to being the "Nerdvana" of films for sci-fi geeks everywhere.