Most science fiction films announce their arrival with a bang. If a movie is about aliens, we'll be seeing aliens in the first ten minutes. If the movie features time traveling robots, we'll see some time traveling robot action within the first act. Most movies wear their genre on their sleeve and display it proudly.

Some movies don't announce their true identities so soon. For better or for worse, some movies don't let their freak flag fly until late in the narrative, long after it's lured in viewers who would normally never watch a science fiction story. Below, I've taken the time to dissect eight science fiction movies that may not, at first, appear to be science fiction movies. I know I've missed too many to count, so feel free to abuse and educate me in the comments below!

Oh, and it gets about as spoilery as you can get from here on out, so tread lightly.

1. Predator

How Does It Start?

Well, technically the very first shot tells us this is a science fiction film, but no one remembers that shot. They remember the dawn arrival of a helicopter filled with the toughest team of mercenaries ever put on film, the bicep-bulging reunion of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Dutch and Carl Weathers' Dylan and the lousy tough-guy jokes on the chopper flight into hostile territory. The first act of Predator is the best men-on-a-mission action film of the 1980s, complete with the standard Arnie death-puns ("Stick around!"). It's the manliest non-homo erotic movie ever made, the story of a team of bad*ss super soldiers ruining nameless guerillas in the jungle...

Whoa! What Was That?

...And then an invisible monster brutally shuffles the mortal coil of Shane Black's Comic Relief Commando. An alien big game hunter, eh? That sucks. You just can't plan for some things.

Now What?

The science fiction twist of Predator (which isn't really a twist since everyone knows it's going to happen, but whatever, this is my article) is brilliant not only for its concept, but for how and when it is revealed in the movie. By hiding the titular villain for the first thirty minutes or so, we get to spend time watching Schwarzenegger, Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke and Sonny Landham prove that they're the toughest guys on the planet. They're relentless and deadly and pretty much unstoppable in that 1980s action movie kind of way.

Once we're comfortable with the fact that no human being can possibly bring these guys down, a super-intelligent creature with highly advanced weaponry pops up and begins picking them off with relentless ease. I don't think anyone who watches Predator will ever forget Ventura's sudden demise, where his minigun-toting Blain goes down without a fight.

Of course, this all culminates in the classic climax, where Arnie goes mano-a-beastie with the Predator, a sequence that manages to feel equal parts Conan the Barbarian and Alien. The science fiction element ups the ante, increases the threat and manages to make a goofy flick into one of the great sci-fi action hybrids of all time.
categories Features, Sci-Fi