A dog skull on a stake: the manliest science fiction movies of all time


Not to put too fine a point on it, but science fiction has never been what you would describe as the manliest of genres. It tends to have people dressed in funny and non-manly ways (check out Sean Connery wearing a Red Diaper in Zardoz if you don't believe me), involve extended nerdiness, and advocate social positions which are the antithesis of mainstream male-ness in early 21st century America. When you find a seriously manly "sci-fi" movie, it is usually in one of those crossover genres like horror or fantasy (or both, it's hard to get much manlier than Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness). But there are a few paragons of the Manly in any genre, and so I thought I would go ahead and select "The Purple Duck's Manliest Science Fiction Movies of All Time."

At first the list seemed surprisingly long, but I quickly was able to disqualify many movies. All the fantasy stuff had to go, this was going to be a purely science fiction list. That cut out such gems of man candy as Highlander and Conan the Barbarian (I almost gave it a reprieve when I realized it exactly parallels the Governator's career). 2001: A Space Odyssey was too cerebral. Solaris was too Clooney. Starship Troopers was too crypto-fascist. The Matrix was too Zen plus it has the silly clothing problem (manly movies do not feature heroes who wear Nehru jackets, sorry). Blade Runner has a lot going for it, but Rutger Hauer spends the final sequence with Harrison Ford wearing nothing but Black Speedos and holding a dove (manly in Holland, but right out in the U.S. Similarly, Enemy Mine featuring Lou Gossett and Dennis Quaid as implacable enemies stranded on a small planet was doing great until Gossett becomes a mother. When the dangerous alien becomes a warm and loving mom, that just sucks the virility straight out of the movie (a vengeful and people-eating mother is fine, however). Remember, these aren't necessarily good movies, just manly in that they embody something essential about the American male.

10. Predator (1987) - The only movie I considered featuring two governors, it is, however, really more muscular than manly. It has one of the key features of many manly movies: tough guys camping with other tough guys (insert Brokeback Mountain joke of your choosing). They do tough guy things like chewing tobacco, shaving without moisturizers, fighting aliens and telling dirty jokes.

9. The Thing (1982) - This is another immensely manly movie built around camping, only this time in the Antarctic and starring Kurt Russell. Tough guy things include playing with dogs, blowing things up and dressing in a variety of winter clothing. Unfortunately, it is really more a horror than Science fiction movie (see the Campbell Exclusion above) or it would be number 1 or 2. There is no manlier final scene in all of movie history than Russell sitting across from another man (possibly an alien) with a bottle of booze in one hand and a flamethrower across his lap waiting to see what will happen next (which is also an adequate description of the barbecuing that I am planning for this weekend).

8. Species (1995) – Two things make this a manly movie. One is the sexy yet deadly alien, and the other is Michael Madsen of Reservoir Dogs fame. He is so masculine that your city becomes more masculine when he visits it. The whole movie is essentially a big metaphor for men's fear of commitment and having kids. It elevates this need to avoid these things to the level of global emergency, as the heroes attempt to prevent the alien woman from achieving any type of sexual satisfaction. Sad, but sadly in line with the goals of many men.

7. The Omega Man (1971) – Charlton Heston is the last man on Earth!!! He starts off as a doctor fighting the plague and ends up a bare-chested hero fighting zombies. What else need I or indeed anyone say.

6. The Terminator (1984) – Another classic theme. A tough guy on a deadline runs afoul of those who don't want to see the project completed (also the theme of my work at the office today). In this case, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a mindless machine of destruction who, coincidentally, plays a mindless killing machine. The much underappreciated Michael Biehn is our hero trying to save Sarah Connor, whom he secretly loves. This is the antithesis of Species in that it's about how important it is to commit to just one woman and your child with her (okay he gets out of the relationship, but he has to die to do it, and he still gets to know his son when the son becomes his mentor years later. Okay, this would be ranked higher but time travel makes the manly sci-fi fan's head hurt).

5. Pitch Black (2000) – You know that horror movie where the car breaks down and the chainsaw/ax/machete-wielding mutants start coming out of the woodwork and people start dying? This is basically that movie, but the car is a star cruiser and the mutants are alien monsters who emerge when all three suns set. Not exactly a promising setting for a vigorous man-hero (more for the edible horny high school student), but Vin Diesel makes it his own. Perhaps the baldest and baddest manly man currently roaming the Sci-fi landscape, Diesel apparently graduated from the Bruce Willis Die Hard School of Acting, where he received the "Yippee-ki-yay, m*********er" Award for One-liners and honors in grimacing.

4. The Road Warrior (1981) – Remember when Mel Gibson was more interested in bloodshed than being an auteur (no, no, before Passion of the Christ)? That was the time of the Road Warrior. The greatest manly camping sci-fi movie of them all (tough guy activities: playing with a dog, chaining up Australians, and car maintenance) because it features the ultimate opponent to camping, the obnoxious campers one site over. In this case, the Mohawked and leather clad motorcycle barbarians of the Great Humongous. It also features something that truly manly science fiction loves, women as tough as the men (sadly, all are killed, but what are ya gonna do).

3. Aliens (1986) – Speaking of tough women, the two manliest characters in this movie are both women (obviously Sigourney Weaver but also Jenette Goldstein playing Private Vasquez). Yet, this movie is near the pinnacle of all good things about manly science fiction. The characters foolishly enter into a situation that they are sure they can handle, and spend the remainder of the movie trying to shoot their way back out. Better still, it ends with Sigourney Weaver in single combat with the Mama Alien (remember vengeful and people-eating mothers are okay), and she does it while driving a giant robot. Single combat and giant robots, sublime.

2. Blood of Heroes (1990) – This also happens to be the best post-apocalyptic sports movie ever made. It features a violent contact sport of the film-makers invention played in the landscape of post-apocalyptic destruction. Here’s a sample of the dialogue:

"I've broken juggers in half, smashed their bones, left the ground behind me wet with brains. There's nothing I wouldn't do to win. But I never hurt anyone for any reason other than putting a dog's skull on a stake."

Did I mention the ball in this game is a dog skull? Rutger Hauer is at the height of his powers as Sallow the disgraced sports star, a "jugger" in this movie, who must redeem himself and lead his team back into the league. Hauer is utterly unironic and red-blooded as he strides about the movie dressed in bits of tires and boxing gear. Did I mention his eye-patch (the manliest of all fashion accessories)? Silly, manly and fun (and can you really want more).

1. Planet of the Apes (1968) – Features the Manliest movie quote of all time,

"Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"

This quote can be used at anytime and under any circumstances in which you need to make a strong point. Although take it from me, you might want to skip it in the airport security line (I'll never visit Minneapolis again).

There is a scene in this classic in which Heston and his fellow astronauts are surveying the humans eating fruit in a field. One of the astronauts says "In six months, we'll be running this place" just as the ape hunting horn blares, and they are overwhelmed by the attacking gorillas. A better metaphor for modern American life I could not name. We are beset on all sides by the brutes but discover in the end it is a world of our own making. The Simpsons said it best in their Planet of the Apes musical, "OHHHHHH, You’ve finally made a monkey out of meeeeeeeeeeee!" Manly on an obvious level and encapsulating the fundamental conflicts of modern life.

More untenable positions can be found at: http//sirpurpleduck.livejournal.com/

2 comments:

B. Z. Herzel said...

I LOLed hard, which is a bad thing to do while in a cubicle. Great post.

Anonymous said...

no Escape from New York?