My father was interested in science and cosmology as much as he was interested in, say, the possibility of apocalypse. But weren't we all. It was the '80s, and usually after watching The Twilight Zone (as a family mind you, and then discussing it!) my father would pick up a Soldier of Fortune magazine as easily as he would Scientific American. So both science and apocalypse were in the air. As an aside here I would like to recommend the '80s version of the Twilight Zone where many episodes are free on YouTube. Exceptionally creepy, but good. Last year in fact I was compelled to pick up the '80s Twilight Zone complete DVD set and rewatch them all.
Some of my favorite episodes include "A Little Peace and Quiet" (a woman discovers a pendant that can stop time), "Wordplay" (the meaning of all language suddenly changes one day), "Personal Demons" (an author must confront little monsters only he can see), "Need to Know" (what happens when we become enlightened to our own extinction?), and my all time favorite, "A Matter of Minutes" (a couple discovers that they are trapped in between one minute and the next).
Having developed a taste for obscure science fiction then at a young age, by age twelve or so I would be staying up late watching Channel 4, a station that would always play creepy, trippy far-out philosophical science fiction movies. Apparently these are known as "midnight movies."
Hence this post. Recently I had an itch to seek out some of these movies and rewatch them. Yikes. Now I know another source of my philosophical mind and why I am interested in the subjects that I am.
The first list are one's standard fare of apocalyptic movies (today the kids would call them "dystopian" genre). But there's some gruesome shit that I saw - and the mere label "dystopian" doesn't do justice. For example, whether it's Death Race 2000 (1975) - yes, I had a sleepover when I was like ten and we watched the video cassette - or Zardoz (1974) - a very deep movie for a kid, I watched it and remember being fascinated and horrified at the same time. Thus, most of the movies I saw had an impact on my philosophical outlook many years later. Plus, these are just really cool movies for as weird as they are. But again, I'm a firm believer that "weird" can be "good" if it forces you to think outside of the box.
I'd like to recommend two films that I watched just recently and then I'll link three lists below.
The first is Phase IV (1974). Holy. Shit. Insane. It's available on amazon to rent for three bucks, but let me just say: apocalyptic ecology. This was "dark ecology" before it was ever "fashionable" today. Watch the movie and only after watching it should you seek out the lost ending on YouTube. Trippy, new age, ecological, total dark apocalyptic science fiction. This is why my interest in biosemiotics and panpsychism isn't benign. The film questions species to species communication, alien intelligence, and the philosophical consequences of deanthropocentrism. As well as the end of the freaking world.
Second is Threads (1984). Millennials never cease to amaze me if only because they just don't realize how bad we Gen-X'ers had it. Their blind confidence and child-like innocence hasn't come to grips with the horror which is human existence. I mean, I vividly remember drills in school where we had to hide under our desks as practice for when the bombs hit. You couldn't even walk to Blockbuster without fear the commies might nuke you on the way. It was real shit, and the prospect of total global death was very, very real. Forget The Day After (1983), in Threads there is no hope or redeeming value. Imagine Ligotti minus any enlightenment whatsoever, save for..."if a nuclear exchange ever breaks out the world is screwed." Apropos if only for North Korea keeping the tradition alive.
Trailer first and full movie second. Followed by links.
See "20 Oddball Science Fiction Movies" HERE.
See "15 Underseen And Overlooked Dystopian Futures In Film" HERE.
See "9 Most Riveting Post-Apocalyptic Movies" HERE.
Watching most of the movies on these three lists will take you back to the glory days of apocalypse if you are a fellow Gen-X'er. Oh dear Millennials, you have so much to learn...
Post Scriptum: Two non-'80s movies but worth the mention due to their being "hard science," but also entertainingly "dark" enough to be included in this post are Europa Report (2013) and Primer (2004). Runners up include Doctor Who with Tom Baker and Disney's (yes, Disney's) The Black Hole (1979).