Today on Soundtrack Alley Spotlight I’ll go deeper into Sci-Fi examining some of the great films from the 80s, such as Star Trek II – IV, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Robocop and Akira!

In our continued efforts to effectively examine the ever growing history of Science Fiction in Film, I first brought up Star Trek the Motion Picture.  The franchise of Star Trek creates so much for the world of science fiction. I have to give an honorable mention for Star Trek III, it didn’t have a great amount of credit for the world of science fiction, but it did create more of a symphony for the lore of Star Trek. James Horner created an excellent piece of music that built around what could have been a very slow spaceship scene in the film. The film makers did this intentially and wanted the audience to see such a spectacle, of course it was models and sets, but what we got through the film music was pure movie magic. Some of the practical effects in the film brought us closer to the world of Klingons, the Vulcans and the Federation and it was a part II in a series of three films for the franchise. Is this all something in my imagination? Does the world of Science Fiction need more Star Trek? YES!!! Here is the purely magical scene that brings us the wonderful music of James Horner…


Star Trek in the large world of the 80’s and 90’s was what science fiction was all about. The discovery of different cultures, understanding your own humanity and still finding a a way to enjoy your self while appreciating those greater things.

Where would Science Fiction in Film be without discussing Terminator. Now in the History of Science Fiction, James Cameron was a leader in special effects for the time. Creating “The Terminator” for the film was groundbreaking. The cyborg was one of the most amazing effects of the film. The effort it took the visual and cybernetic components to even give the film a realistic view of a dark and evil robot, I still am impressed even after all this time.  The film brought out this endless tension that worked well with crowds. In fact, to quote Variety magazine…”a blazing, cinematic comic book, full of virtuoso moviemaking, terrific momentum, solid performances and a compelling story … Schwarzenegger is perfectly cast in a machine-like portrayal that requires only a few lines of dialog.” Arnold was great for the role.


If a franchise were to be more relevant, we see the results of A.I. becoming more real by the hour and it could be a disturbing type of future. And we will get yet another amazing Terminator Film very soon!

Alright so we’ve discussed a few films that came out in 1984. These films were huge for the media of Science Fiction in general. Buckaroo Banzai, Brazil, The Last Starfighter, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Lensman, Dreamscape, Dune, The Ice Pirates, Starman, Krull. This list was very large and I simply cannot cover all of 1984. The increase of science fiction films increased exponentially and flooded the market for the next few years to come.

The next film I must discuss is something that isn’t really high on the increase of science fiction films for production and effects, but it delves deeply with the story and characters that makes us love science fiction even more. Back to the Future which came out in 1985 also was an estimated blockbuster, not necessarily for it’s special effects or over the top practical effects. It dealt with a simple story of a young teen who accidentally gets sent back to 1955 and inadvertantly almost makes it possible for him not to exist. The characters are signature with Doc Brown and Marty McFly. These time traveling heroes go through three adventures from the silver screen and then they have adventures through time with a animated TV series and now a comic book. It’s amazing how this one film spawned so much love for the genre.


Another strange film from the 1980’s that bordered on horror and gore was The Re-Animator from 1985. This film was also very innovative for it’s use of practical effects with blood, fake heads, making the illusion of a disembodied head talk or act, and headless bodies wandering around. Oh let’s not forget about horror cats that attack in this film. It’s tongue in cheek humor, it has the darkness of H.P. Lovecraft and the science fiction elements of Frankenstein. Just to reinforce with you the idea, though, that this did indeed increase the appreciation and furtherance of science fiction in film.


The films of science fiction went through changes in this era of the 1980’s. It varied between horror, fantasy and science fiction. We even get a twist on the classic Fantastic Voyage by bringing us Innerspace with Dennis Quaid being the lone person inside the human body. This also furthered the increase of the technology of cameras and the actual effects of what it looks like inside the human body with different ways of presenting a whole new world for our adventures inside.  Then we also get the changes with graphic violence and animated computerized robots for the film of Robocop. This was along the lines of what Terminator was but also very different giving us a dystopian future of Detroit and a lone cop who becomes a cyborg and takes on an evil corporation and wins. Basil Poledouris brings out this film’s score brilliantly and gives us new themes we had not heard before.


The action and graphic nature of Robocop gave it the R rating, but the effects are what stood out for the film. This furthered science fiction, blending man and machine creating something new and dangerous. This even brings up more questions for humanity and their struggle with those type of decisions.  For us science fiction fans, these are the type of stories needing to be told, furthering the ever ending questions that mankind ask themeselves.

The next film is not live action. This might be considered a disclaimer. What do you mean it’s not live action? This is an article about science fiction in “film” correct? Well yes, it is, however there were also some great strides in animation for the 1980’s. Japan was a leader in animation at the time, with that brought Anime to the silver screen with the astounding film Akira directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. This film was brilliant for its use of animation cels and non computer effects. Everything in the film was drawn and colored with the best designs in place. It revolutionized the animation world and took not only Japan by storm by also the USA.


If you ever get a chance to see this film, you must. It will change how you feel about animated films. It’s not for kids, this is an adult story about genetic engineering gone wrong. I hope you all get a chance to see this film that helped science fiction and brought a new genre to the screen. Cyber-Punk.

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Here are some Amazon links for these great films!

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Robocop, and Akira