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Brooks Peck’s 16 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Faves (of the Past 16 Years)

MoPOP Senior Curator Brooks Peck

In celebration of the 16th annual Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival (presented by SIFF and the Museum of Pop Culture), we asked MoPOP Senior Curator Brooks Peck for his favorite sci-fi/fantasy movies and TV shows of the past 16 years. What follows is his expert and truly excellent opinion. Read on!

Because, I believe, of my overly-lofty job title (MoPOP Senior Curator), people sometimes expect my tastes to be equally lofty or even snobbish. But the more senior I become, the more I appreciate whimsy, sense of wonder, and flat-out bonkersness. So while this list contains a number of works I consider important, mainly I’m sharing what gives me joy. Your joy may vary.

1. The Cloverfield Paradox

Taking the crown for so-bad-it's-good, this movie eschews giant monsters in favor of a disembodied crawling hand, among other terrible delights. Pairs well with cheap beer. 

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

So much joy. High-energy, rocking, mischievous, Canadian joy. This film is now a Valentine’s tradition for me. 

3. Star Trek: Short Treks - The Trouble With Edward

CBS created a number of short films when it rolled out the new Discovery series, and this one is tops. Learn, at last, the secret origin of tribbles! Includes a wonderful performance by H. Jon Benjamin, as well as a rare sighting of a tribble vacuum.

4. Edge of Tomorrow

Live. Die. Repeat. Any alien invasion movie starring Tom Cruise has hate me written all over it (looking at you, War of the Worlds.) But this film bundles in another old trope, the time loop, and the result is a really enjoyable actioner. Bonus: Tom Cruise dies 26 times.

5. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Time travel plus coming of age! This is a sweet, energetic exploration of how a teenage girl prioritizes her time travel abilities.

6. Doctor Strange

This isn’t one of the stronger Marvel films, and as for Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent . . . well, at last we found out that he isn’t perfect. But the climax, when the heroes move one way in time while the rest of the world goes in the opposite direction, is one of the most inventive sequences I’ve ever watched.

7. The Man from Earth

Sets a high bar for low-budget, people-talking-in-a-cabin movies. Seriously, this film combines an excellent script with great acting resulting in a compelling story. Features John Billingsly, whom Trekkies will remember as Doctor Phlox.

8. Moon

Another low budget gem, and the directorial debut of Duncan Jones. This film takes full advantage of Sam Rockwell’s ability to look bewildered, and harkens back to some of the thoughtful, less explosive sci-fi films of the ’70s. 

9. Mute

If you are curious about more of Jones’ work, check out Mute on Netflix. In it, Paul Rudd plays one of the most well-realized villains I’ve ever seen. 

10. Ex Machina

This film’s minimalist visual style and taut performances have stuck with me. Though I’m confused that some people find it subversive. To me, the robot Ava’s actions at the end aren’t a liberation, but only underscore old-school male terror of female power. 

11. Chappie

While we’re talking about robots, here’s a film that was poorly marketed and deeply misunderstood. I think it’s an effective if uncomfortable tale about how tech itself may be neutral, but humans instantly bend it to their needs and viewpoints. (See: the internet). 

12. Gravity

Thanks for crushing every dream I ever had of going to space, Sandra Bullock. 

13. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Even if you eschew all superhero movies, see this! And sit 12 inches from your screen to simulate being in a movie theater. It’s big, bold, frenetic, and fun. Now can we please have a Spider-Gwen movie? 

14. Sita Sings the Blues

An animated version of the Ramayana set to tracks by 1920s jazz vocalist Annette Hanshaw. Released into the public domain by sole creator Nina Paley as an FU to the corporate copyright machine. Beautiful film. 

15. The OA

Weird, weird, weird in the best possible way. I love a story that keeps me guessing yet is internally consistent and satisfying. After season 1 you’ll think there’s no way there could be more, but there is, and it adds a giant octopus, all the better for it. 

16. Frozen

Just because it’s popular and the tunes are being sung by pre-verbal toddlers worldwide doesn’t mean it’s not awesome.

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Sci-fi, Film, Fantasy

About the author

Brooks Peck is the Senior Curator at MoPOP.