Taking a simple, scientific "what if" and chasing it down its many possible paths is the task of any conscientious sci-fi writer. Here are seven films that let the drama unfold so fluidly that we sometimes forget we are momentarily dwelling in the land of the fantastic. Sci-fi fans tired of the scorn and derision by the unconverted can do something insidious this holiday season - by making the non-believers watch these Trojan treats...which they may actually like ("One of us! One of us! We accept you! We accept you! One of us!")
- Serenity (2005) - Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon spun off his criminally short-lived 2002 TV series, Firefly, into this rock-solid space western set 400 years in the future about a motley crew of a space freighter running from their shame (and a mutant menace). The tech doesn't call attention to itself, nor do the costumes, helping make this keenly-written, organic wolf-in-sheep's-clothing a kick-ass treat to enjoy in the company of working men and mensches alike.
- Gattaca (1997) - Andrew Niccol wrote and directed this nearly perfect drama about a regular guy, played by Ethan Hawke, who rejects his genetically determined lot in life and aspires (and conspires) to become an astronaut. A beautiful, existential body slam. Alan Arkin, Loren Dean and the future Mrs. Hawke, Uma Thurman co-star in this first part of Niccol's unofficial speculative trilogy, which continued with Peter Weir's sublime The Truman Show (1998) and the serviceable Simøne (2002).