The Results of Our 2009 Sci-Fi Poll

0001a0_2 With the Oscars done, we close down our Movie Smackdown poll about what was the Best Sci-Fi Film of 2009. It was a good year for sci-fi respect in that two of the ten Academy-nominated films for Best Picture were sci-fi and one of them, "Avatar," is now the most successful film at the box office of all time. 

Our poll said that the only thing the Academy got wrong in their list of ten films was their exclusion of "Star Trek," a film that our readers said was every bit as good as "Avatar" and "District 9." After that, no other films seemed to even rate in our virtual three-way dead-heat. Here are the rest of the results, rounded off to whole numbers:

Best Sci-Fi 2009 @ Movie Smackdown!  

To go along with our poll results, a few of our SmackRefs weigh in with their thoughts:

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0001fLWhile I think "Star Trek" was slighted this award season, I think we're seeing a trend that started with "Children of Men" and "The Fountain." Sci-fi is making itself relevant again. Much like comic book films have done, the tongue is taken out of the cheek and instead tells a great story. With films like "District 9" and "Star Trek" — and even the slighted "Moon" — all redefining the genre and making sci-fi more marketable, I'm hopeful that we've got only great things ahead of us. My only worry is the latest "great" sci-fi piece, "Avatar," is a joke when it comes to story and sophistication, and instead rides on its technical imagination in creating a world like no other.

000196Seriously, if the quality of films on offer here indicates just where cinema is heading, you can count me in for more sci-fi in 2010! Maybe, just maybe, another fantasy/sci-fi film can win Oscar (since the last to do so was Peter Jackson's "Return Of The King" epic from 2003) in the next few years, considering that two of the ten best films of last year fit into that category… it's only a matter of time before the Academy gets its head around quality storytelling regardless of special effects, rather than storytelling for the sake of special effects. 

00018E While the increase of the Academy Awards Best Picture category from five to ten nominees didn't do much in the way of awards show drama, it did allow for some very un-Oscar-like films to get a bit of their deserved recognition. Seeing high-concept genre flicks included with the often-favored dramatic indies is something that has needed to happen for a long time, and I can only hope that that trend continues. Watching a film like "District 9" receive nominations for both Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay in January was a welcome surprise. Unfortunately, watching it win nothing last night wasn't. 


About Bryce Zabel

Drawing inspiration from career experiences as a CNN correspondent, TV Academy chairman, writer/producer and fast-food cook, Bryce is the Editor-in-Chief of Movie Smackdown. While he freely admits to having written the screenplay for the reviewer-savaged "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," he hopes the fact that he also won the Writers Guild award a couple of years ago will cause you to cut him some slack. He's also a member of the Directors Guild, creator of five primetime network TV series, and author of a new non-fiction book about UFOs.
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4 Responses to The Results of Our 2009 Sci-Fi Poll


  1. If you appreciate good storytelling, you will.


  2. I enjoyed both Star Trek and Avatar and I am NOT a big science fiction movie fan. You have me wondering if I would enjoy District 9, too.

  3. Beau DeMayo says:

    I think basically the industry had a bit of buyer’s remorse with “Avatar.” There’s a few reasons why what happened happened:
    1) From the moment Barbara Streisand walked out, it was clear what the agenda behind this season’s awards would be. It felt words like “diversity” and “the first ____” and “trend-setting” were thrown around during the show more than the actual phrase “The Oscar goes to…” Removing the stereotyped thinking that buffers this, Bigelow was a woman director who defied the occupation. That was one thing that Academy was going to salivate over. The second is she’s a woman director who defied the occupational stereotype while doing a military movie, which breaks a gender stereotype. Whatever you may think of the sexism behind that, there has been this subtext to the entire debate around “The Hurt Locker” and Bigelow. And The Academy hopped on it.
    2) “The Hurt Locker” is simply more socially relevant than “Avatar.” Now, this is not in terms of reality, but in terms of news and what people think about. I find it funny that I drive to the movies in my SUV, buy my popcorn in its bag and get my plastic bottle coke, and then munch away while watching a movie about wastefulness and the environment, and then probably throw half that stuff away anyway because the food sucks. “The Hurt Locker” though is largely in the forefront of people’s minds because of the continuing wars, and because (to its credit) the allegedly “unbias” film so seamlessly blends its political perspective into the film that few ever notice or admit to the film’s agenda. But it touches a cord, it hits a nerve that is both universal and very much exposed.
    3) Cameron. “Avatar” was released and nearly every trade paper, every industry insider, and even fellow directors (shame on you, Scorsese) started hailing Cameron as this cinematic messiah. Then he got up during The Golden Globes and made an ass of himself, and was cocky, and was elitist, and then proceeded to give a series of patronizing interviews that included topics like his failed marriage, current movies, and “The Dark Knight.” Suddenly, Cameron was the litmus against which all good cinema must be tested. Thus, last night, we saw the backlash of what happens when false humility rings out as just so much more false humility.
    So, either way, “Star Trek” or “Inglorious” should’ve won. I still feel that “The Hurt Locker” is a clean thriller cheaply pawning itself off as a character-study drama using both social relevance and a whole lot of pathos to do so.

  4. Stephen Bell says:

    If any genre picture were going to win big, it was going to be the one that had seemed to take over this year’s awards season, at least in the press and at the box office. What did surprise many about last night though was “Avatar””s lack of dominance, and I’m not sure why that is. The fact that it was even nominated is surprising for the Academy. If perhaps, “Star Trek” had been there (and it should have been), I might be on this site crying that Trek’s lack of dominance came from the Academy’s trend of punishing films that have higher pop culture significance, which is why a film like “The Dark Knight” could be nominated for a DGA award and then receive no Best Picture nomination. Batman movies surely can’t be Best Picture. Neither can Spock’s.
    But the Oscars seemed set up to refute that sort of thinking. “Avatar” was shouted from every corner of the event. It was the heavy hitter. The word “genius” was thrown about constantly. Everyone gushed over it’s trail-blazing technical achievements and box office takeover. Best Visual Effects? It won that. Best Art Direction? Another win. Best Cinematography? Done. But in the end, it didn’t win the big prizes. Why? Was it a victim of the Batman conspiracy? Another popcorn movie snubbed because of its pop culture appeal? It’s budget too big to be taken seriously? This time I have to say no. I side with the Academy. It had its chance and it got its due. But at the end of the day, it takes more than just technical magic to be a Best Picture. It takes masterful writing, layered performances storytelling that surprises. “The Hurt Locker,” which inevitably went on to win Best Picture, had that. So did “Inglorious Basterds” and “Up” and “District 9.” And so did “Star Trek,” whose snubbing was the biggest crime of the year. But “Avatar?” It was just lacking.

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