We've called out various movie and TV tropes that we never want to see again in the past. But today we're calling attention to the silly, stupid, brilliant and hilarious scifi tropes that we absolutely, positively love—and hope we never live in a world without them.
Gargantuan clear tubes are the future. This is what movies have taught us and now we refuse to live in a fictional future without monstrous, clear tubes. Not only do these space saving creations lend and air of suspended belief, they're also multi-functional. Gigantic clear tubes can be used for medical healing, space travel, intergalactic hibernation, cryogenic freezing. Whatever your scientist, medic or evil prison warden heart desires, a tube can provide that function for you. What better way to travel through time and space than in an elegant, totally translucent tube? We've seen the future, and the future is gigantic clear tubes.
Where You've Seen It: Independence Day, Event Horizon, Star Wars, Minority Report, Night of the Creeps, G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Pants are barbaric. Liberate your legs from the cruel old world tyranny of pants. The future is paved in robes. Everyone wears robes! We've become so accustomed to the wondrous world of futuristic robe wearing that seeing any sort of future god, or alien political group in pants just looks downright laughable. How do you know if this person is to be respected, well are they wearing a robe or jorts? If it's a robe, then you better bow.
Where You've Seen It: Prometheus, Logan's Run, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, Tron: Legacy, Star Wars
"How do I know you're you?" The only thing more clever than intergalactic aliens traveling to the Earth, or self-aware artificial intelligence, or some dumb clone, is you. Thanks to the time honored "imposter test" science fiction films have let us all know that humans will win, because we're clever. Hell if a bunch of teenagers can figure out how to save the world by snorting crushed-up aspirin, then maybe there's a glimmer of hope for humanity after all. The imposter test tells us all, that we're number one and super smart. Plus once the imposter test is initiated we then get to witness the time-honored scifi tradition of slowly, and patiently waiting for someone to fail said imposter test. And it's never who you suspect.
Where You've Seen It: The Thing, The Faculty, Blade Runner, 6th Day, Pod People.
Futuristic product placement is either the best thing or just a total nightmare. Possibly the very best use of this trope is every scene in Back To The Future, from Mr. Fusion, futuristic Jaws, and fancy Pepsi, to the power-lacing Nikes. This shows us the future we cannot possess, but might be able to imagine. However this trope can be abused. In The Island Michael Bay just puts all of his clones in Pumas called it a night. But even when it's bad (Will Smith trying on a pair of Converse shoes like that's a thing in I, Robot bad), we still gotta have it. How else will we know that this is the future unless J.J. Abrams shows us a fancy new Nokia phone, and then tells a character to say Budweiser directly into the camera 88 times?
Where You've Seen It: The Island, Demolition Man, Back To the Future, Star Trek, Minority Report, I- Robot.
In the future, we use Facetime all the time. You wanna make a call? Put a shirt on, because it's going to be on-camera no matter how unnecessary or tedious the scene is. Hello, who is this? You know who this is because that's their face. No need for Bluetooth bullshit or wireless mics; this is a video, motherfucker. Look into the future and the future is your face in this camera making accidental naked phone calls to frozen Sylvester Stallone.
Where You've Seen It: Back to the Future, Starship Troopers, Space Balls, Total Recall, Demolition Man, Star Trek, 2001 Metropolis, Blade Runner, Aliens... the list goes on.
Science is hard, and sometimes we just need to pause and break things down, preferably with the help a witty scientist who is super frazzled, or absent-minded, or being a dick and hitting on some poor woman trapped in a car with him. Always pause for science. Even when it's not science.
Where You've Seen It: Jurassic Park, "Chaos"; Event Horizon, "How black holes work"; Ghostbusters, "That's a big Twinkie"; The Core, "The apple is Earth"; Independence Day, "We'll give them a cold"; Armageddon, "Make a fist around a nuclear bomb."
When the world ends, there are only two important things one must do: Find water and find the right gang with a fashion aesthetic that suits your end-of-the-wold needs. The best thing about any type of film set in a gang-ruled future are the elaborate ensembles. Where do they find these outfits? Why are football pads and mohawks good for the desert, but not sunglasses or hats? Where is everyone finding the proper tools for face painting and/or face tattoos. Don't over think it, just get in the gang.
Where you've seen it: Doomsday, Mad Max, The Warriors, Waterworld.
Because nobody knew what "warp speed" was until scifi invented it. How did we know that these weren't the droids we were looking for, if we didn't have scifi to tell us what the heck "droids" were? And we haven't even gotten to the curse words yet. Bless BSG for "frak," the replacement word for "fuck." For some reason, it just worked. Perhaps it was blind commitment? Same goes for Firefly/Serenity for butchering together English and Chinese and creating a vulgar space slang that no one ever really pronounced all that well, but we got you, Firefly.
Where you've seen it: Serenity, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Star Trek, Star Wars....
Give us a multi-screened control room and we will give you our attention. Nothing says science fiction better than an elaborate control room. Ten extra points if it's filled with retro gears and nonsensical levers and bars. Twenty extra points if the control room at any point errupts into rapturous applause. One hundred points if the scene starts wide then zooms in on one, unsuspecting control room operator who gets"the call," only to run off in a exasperated, panic-fueled tizzy.
Where you've seen it: The Dark Knight, Serenity, Cabin In The Woods, War Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Matrix Reloaded.
Human children and alien life forms are meant to be friends. The clash between childhood innocence and otherworldly intelligence works like chocolate and peanut butter. Don't overthink it; just go with it. And if you don't get it, maybe it's because you're a jaded adult who has long lost their sense of childlike wonder. Maybe it's you? This may have been why I hated Super 8 so damn much, because this alien dick didn't respect the code of the human/friendly misunderstood alien relationship and killed a lot of townspeople before taking off with the locket from the main character's dead mom. Either way alien and child duos are fantastic and dumb and I hope we never stop making movies where a kid who calls his brother "penis breath" is constantly gifted with wondrous alien power.
Where you've seen it: E.T., Flight of the Navigator, Mac &Me, Earth to Echo
Special thanks to Cyriaque Lamar for his "robes" contribution and Lauren Davis.