The 1950s were a Golden Age for science fiction, and few films in that era attained the resonance — both as entertainment and as a movie with something to say — that The Day The Earth Stood Still did. Robert Wise’s pitch-perfect fable of a man from outer space with a message we’re just not capable of hearing is definitely a product of its time, but the dated qualities actually add to its assets… and the lessons haven’t been lost to the ages just yet. The Day the Earth Stood Still opened today in 1951.
On a more modern front, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Looper, Rian Johnson’s futuristic mind-bender that may stand as one of the best time-travel movies yet made. It was largely ignored at the box office, but if you’re looking for an elegant puzzle to occupy your brain, few science fiction films stand taller. Looper opened today in 2012.
Finally, there’s Ben Stiller’s Zoolander, a film that initially suffered from exquisitely bad timing (it opened a few weeks after 9/11 and inadvertently touched some very raw wounds) but has since rebounded to become a comedy classic. It opened today in 2001 and forever gave us the gift of Blue Steel.