September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

NASA Names Most Realistic and Unrealistic Sci-Fi Films of All Time

Posted: Thursday, January 6th, 2011

by Alison Nastasi (Subscribe to Alison Nastasi’s posts)
Jan 3rd 2011, from Cinematical on Moviefone

Working through the year-end best/worst movie lists can be a feat of Olympic proportions, but there’s one list which is so damn cool you’ll definitely want to give it a whirl. NASA has compiled a list of the “least plausible science fiction movies ever made,” and they ranked the disastrous (in more ways than one) ‘2012’ as the most “absurd” sci-fi flick of all time.

You don’t have to be a science nerd to see why Roland Emmerich’s end of the world-meets Mayan calendar-meets everything explodes movie is worthy of inclusion, but Donald Yeomans—head of NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission—explains: “The film makers took advantage of public worries about the so-called end of the world as apparently predicted by the Mayans of Central America, whose calendar ends on December 21, 2012.” Yeomans continued, explaining that the paranoia surrounding the movie’s concept has overwhelmed his organization. “The agency is getting so many questions from people terrified that the world is going to end in 2012 that we have had to put up a special website to challenge the myths. We have never had to do this before,” he said.

If you need more proof that these astro-badasses have impeccable taste, perhaps their “worst of” vote for box office bomb, ‘The Core,’ or the lava-crazy ‘Volcano’ will convince you. Michael Bay’s ‘Armageddon’ also made the blacklist — which may cause flux amongst some fans who dig its grand visuals and effects — but as far as being scientifically accurate, it doesn’t make the grade. It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as the organizations did praise several films for their realism. ‘Gattaca,’ the 1997 movie about liberal eugenics, topped the “best of” list, alongside ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Contact.’

Now that the scientists have spoken, it’s time for the movie herd to weigh in. In your opinion, which side of the coin do sci-fi classics like ‘Soylent Green’ or ‘2001’ fall on? Where does a movie like ‘Blade Runner’ hit or miss the science textbook? Leave us your most ludicrous or science-savvy votes in the comments section.

Link to NASA article about 2012 (courtesy of Robert Victor).

Worst Sci-Fi Movies

1. 2012 (2009)

2. The Core (2003)

3. Armageddon (1998)

4. Volcano (1997)

5. Chain Reaction (1996)

6. The 6th Day (2000)

7. What the #$*! Do We Know? (2004)

Most Realistic Films

1. Gattaca (1997)

2. Contact (1997)

3. Metropolis (1927)

4. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

5. Woman in the Moon (1929)

6. The Thing from Another World (1951)

7. Jurassic Park (1993)

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

4 Responses

  1. My primary surprise is that What the #$*! Do We Know? did not rate a higher position. We all expect fiction to have errors of science. However, the number seven worst movie was presented as fact! The movie deliberately misleads audiences. I had people I knew coming to me and asking about it, even urging me to see this wonderful science movie that was all claptrap.

  2. The NASA commentary challenging the myths in the film 2012 can be found at
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html

    Hollywood pseudo-science aside, there will actually be many visually striking astronomical events occurring in 2012. Some of the best ones accessible to teachers and students will be four of the five naked-eye planets visible at dusk in late February-early March 2012, a brilliant pairing of Venus and Jupiter high in the western sky at dusk in March, an annular solar eclipse for parts of western North America in May, a transit of Venus across the face of the Sun on the afternoon of June 5, and a compact gathering of Mars, Saturn, and Spica at dusk in August 2012.

    An interesting school-year 2011-2012 sky observing project for students will be to follow Venus and Jupiter in the evening sky beginning in October 2011, when both can first be seen simultaneously above opposite horizons at dusk. Month by month they will draw closer together, until they will appear only three degrees apart on March 13, 2012.

    Jupiter will disappear below the western horizon by late in April 2012, but Venus will continue to be of interest, passing the Pleaides in early April, and showing interesting phases through telescopes and binoculars.

    We are planning to provide illustrations and details of these and other events in time for school year 2011-2012.

    Currently (January 2011), Jupiter and Uranus can still be observed together within the field of view of binoculars. Both planets appear near the Moon on the evenings of Jan. 9 and 10. A telescope shows the Galilean satellites of Jupiter, and the dark north equatorial belt, and higher power shows Uranus’ bluish disk.

    In the southeast to southern morning sky an hour before sunup in Jan. 2011, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn now form a nice lineup. A telescope shows the rings of Saturn now tipped about 10 degrees from edgewise and reveals Venus about half full. The waning crescent Moon will appear near Venus on the mornings of Jan. 29 and 30, but by then Mercury will rise in brighter twilight and be harder to observe.

    Illustrations of these events and a detailed finder chart to locate Uranus during January 2011 are available at http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/CSTADec-JanSkies/

  3. What happened to “The Day After Tomorrow” & “Deep Impact” (the movie, not the mission)? The first had some accurate science, although the timeline was a bit off. The second, I thought, had a very endearing plot, with a realistic ending.

  4. Soylent Green was the worst sci-fi movie I’ve ever seen!

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