17. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Director: Robert Wise
Stars: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray
Not without reason, the sci-fi flicks of the 1950s are stereotyped as schlock full of ludicrous plots, robotic acting, and shoddy effects—you know, the kinds of movies lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. But The Day the Earth Stood Still goes against every facet of the stereotype: Intelligent, well acted, and, for its time, visually impressive, director Robert Wise's celebrated marriage of social commentary and entertaining genre storytelling is a hacksaw-cut above its '50s counterparts.
Made during a time when atomic warfare had U.S. citizens heavily shook, The Day the Earth Stood Still drops a human-looking alien (played by Michael Rennie) who ventures down to our planet with a warning that, if peace isn't reached, mankind is doomed. Oh, and we can't forget about his gargantuan robot sidekick, Gort, one of sci-fi's most iconic characters. Take Gort away, though, and Rennie's character can be viewed as an allegorical Jesus, visiting Earth as a much-needed savior-much heavier than MST3K fare, huh?
Naturally, Hollywood attempted to remake Wise's gem in 2008, with Keanu Reeves playing Rennie's part, and.... Actually, that's all you need to hear. Our advice: Forget Reeves' horrendous version and pay homage to Wise's original work of thought-provoking art.