Over the years, I've seen a number of science fiction films that have given me pause for thought. Take the first Mad Max starring Mel Gibson from 1979, for example. In particular, I'm thinking of the scene towards the end, where Max chains Johnny to a wrecked vehicle that's shortly going to explode, throws him a hacksaw, and leaves him with the choice of either sawing through the handcuffs (which will take ten minutes) or his ankle (which will take five minutes). That scene stuck in my head for ages.
As an aside, a new Mad Max movie called Fury Road is scheduled to come out on May 14, 2015. From what I've seen of the previews, this one is going to out-do all of the earlier films for action and violence, and that's really saying something.
Another film that made a major impression on me was the 1971 A Clockwork Orange staring Malcolm McDowell as the charismatic sociopath, Alex. Sometime later, I read the 1962 book by Anthony Burgess on which the film was based. As I recall, it took me until about a third of the way through the book before the unfamiliar words and strange ways of speaking began to make sense, at which point I restarted reading it from the beginning.
More recently, circa 1998, the neo-noir science fiction film Dark City staring Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, and William Hurt really made me sit up and pay attention. There were so many unsettling elements to this, such as the fact that no one in the city realizes that it's always nighttime, or that the city is constantly changing around them, or that any trains leaving the city are always mysteriously cancelled and there is no way out. And then there are the “Strangers,” who we eventually discover to be extraterrestrial parasites who use human corpses as their hosts. The really disquieting part is seeing three of the Strangers gliding down the road — two adults and a mega-creepy kid who gave me nightmares for weeks afterwards.
Having said all this, a few months ago while jetting around on a plane I saw a film called Snowpiercer that I simply cannot get out of my head. Released in 2013, this is a South Korean science fiction action film based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette.
This film is set in the not-so-distant future. The idea is that an attempt to stop global warming creates a new ice age that's so ferociously cold it covers the world with snow and ice and pretty much kills everything off. All that remains is a globe-spanning train called Snowpiercer that is powered by some strange force (let's say it's nuclear-powered until you've watched the film for yourself) and that holds the last remnants of humanity.
When the film starts, we find ourselves in the back of the train in “third class.” Now, when I have to travel anywhere, irrespective of the mode of transport (bus, train, plane), I typically go for the cheapest seats I can get. Trust me, after having watched Snowpiercer , I'm going to be asking some very probing questions before purchasing a third class ticket on anything in the future.
Suffice it to say that the folks in third class are treated worse than cattle.