One of the glories of science fiction is that as well as taking us to far-flung worlds and to other galaxies, it can take us to worlds of our imagination. Some of these imaginary worlds are dark and dystopian, and a genre called “science fiction noir” has emerged over the years. You may be familiar with the term “film noir,” which refers to atmospheric crime melodramas usually shot in black and white, with menacing shadows and smoky rooms. The hero is often as disaffected as the villain, and wanders lost through the urban labyrinth. The amoeba-like genre that is science fiction has easily appropriated this dark vision, and has come up with its own twists to film noir, though perhaps the power of “sci fi noir” lies not in its fantasy scenerios, but from the alienation of modern society that it plugs into. You’re not a replicant? Really? Are you sure?
Two of the all-time great sci-fi noir films are Blade Runner (1982) and Dark City (1998). Some would say that Blade Runner is one of the greatest sci fi movies, ever. In the dark and ever-raining world of Los Angeles in 2019, expert Blade Runner Rick Deckard reluctantly agrees to hunt down a group of recently escaped replicants. Blade Runner was based on writer Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? Eight other sci fi noir-type movies are based on Dick’s fiction, of which Dick wrote, “In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real.” This is the uneasy premise that much of sci-fi noir is based upon.
Dark City is set in a 1940-ish city where the sun never shines. A man wakes up to find himself accused of a string of murders, and soon he is on the run from both the police, and some mysterious people called the“Strangers.”
Some other films that are characterized as being sci-fi noir include Twelve Monkeys, co-authored by David Peoples (who wrote Blade Runner), Minority Report, and Alphaville. Alphaville, which was shot on the night-time streets of Paris, is about a secret agent who must destroy Alphaville and its dictatorial computer, Alpha 60. The 1927 classic Metropolis is also sometimes typified as being sci-fi noir.
Here’s a challenge: What movie isn’t mentioned above, but should be? Make your case!