Laurence Fishburne in 'The Matrix'

What does Tyler Perry have to do with science fiction? The playwright / actor / filmmaker has not yet ventured into our beloved genre, but the arrival of his next movie, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, made me think about the loyal audience that he's developed. It's an audience -- African-American, religiously-inclined -- that has been severely under served by Hollywood, and so Perry set out to create material that would connect with that audience.

A sci-fi version of Perry has not yet emerged, and so African-American actors and characters remain rare in science fiction films. The upcoming television season will feature Gabrielle Union in ABC's sci-fi series FlashForward, Ving Rhames will appear in Surrogates with Bruce Willis later this month, and Zoe Saldana will star in James Cameron's Avatar later this year. For now, let's look back at the top 10 African-American sci-fi characters -- including those who are not identified by their race in the film. (Please note: Chris Tucker as the constantly screeching Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element did not make my list.)

1. Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix
Playing one of the great teachers of the silver screen, Fishburne as Morpheus tries to guide Neo (Keanu Reeves) to the truth, gently yet firmly. He's on an important, urgent mission, but he cannot overplay his hand or he risks losing everything, far more than Neo -- or the viewer -- can initially imagine. How does he do it? Morpheus implores, "Free your mind," and jumps. Neo can only say, "Whoa."

categories Features, Sci-Fi