A universe of sci-fi films

If you’ve been to the library at all in the past couple of months, you will have noticed the plethora of space-themed paraphernalia decorating our shelves, particularly on the children’s floor. Thanks to this year’s summer reading theme, “A Universe of Stories”—a nationwide theme selected by the Collaborative Summer Library Program—we at the Princeton Public Library are all about space right now.

In the spirit of summer reading, and in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, here are five incredible science fiction films that explore cosmic themes, showcase spectacular special effects, and will leave you looking up at the night sky in wonder (or fear).

And, best of all, you can find all of these films in our DVD collection on the first floor!

Interstellar (2014)

Christopher Nolan’s ninth film, lauded for its scientific accuracy and written in consultation with renowned physicist Kip Thorne, tells the story of humanity searching for a new planet to colonize because Earth is dying. Matthew McConaughey leads an all-star cast as pilot Cooper, who captains a deadly mission through a wormhole to the other side of the galaxy. An extraordinary score by composer Hans Zimmer, as well as the powerful father-daughter relationship at the heart of the story, help make this film truly unforgettable.

Contact (1997)

Another thought-provoking science fiction film featuring Matthew McConaughey (and starring the luminous Jodie Foster), “Contact” has been a favorite of mine since I first watched it at age 12. The protagonist, Eleanor Arroway, is an incredible, complex character whose intelligence and determination lead her to make the most important discovery in human history—first contact with an alien race. Of course, nothing about this process goes smoothly, thanks to extremists, politics, and Ellie’s own struggles with grief and faith. Based on the novel by famed astronomer Carl Sagan.

Arrival (2016)

Amy Adams plays Louise Banks, a highly-respected linguist recruited by the U.S. military to figure out how to communicate with aliens who have just landed on Earth. But not everyone wants peaceful communication with these mysterious beings in their ominous black ships, and soon Louise is fighting not only to talk to the aliens, but also to protect them. The combination of Bradford Young’s moody cinematography and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s otherworldly music creates a stunning backdrop for this uniquely meditative sci-fi film.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Interestingly, Steven Spielberg’s “first contact with aliens” story hit theaters the same year as the original Star Wars—but it could not be more different from that rollicking space opera. (And don’t get me wrong: I love everything about the galaxy far, far away.) Spielberg’s film is slower-paced and more intimate, focusing on a small group of people—a married father, a single mother, a team of scientists—who are all compelled, for very different reasons, to converge at the same location in the midst of numerous UFO sightings. Even though there isn’t a lot of conventional action in this film, the suspense builds steadily to a jaw-dropping conclusion.

Alien (1979)

What many describe as “a haunted house film set in space,” “Alien” takes a group of what is essentially grumpy truckers, puts them on a spaceship, and forces them to fight for survival against a terrifying, ruthlessly intelligent creature. One of the things I love most about this film is the sense of dread that pervades every frame. Even though I’ve seen it a million times, I can’t watch it without hiding behind my fingers and screaming at the characters to run faster. This was the breakout film for actress Sigourney Weaver and for director Ridley Scott, who went on to helm another landmark sci-fi movie, Blade Runner (1982).

We hope you check out these films and give them a watch, whether it’s for the first or twenty-first time! And be sure to stop by any of the service desks in the library to learn more about our “A Universe of Stories” summer reading program. Registration for kids and teens is now closed, but those who have already registered can turn in their logs through September 5, and adult summer reading wraps up on August 31.

Photo credits: princetonlibrary.orgIMDb.com

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