SCIENCE FICTION MOVIES….I’m re-reading A Scanner Darkly in preparation for going to see the movie, and it got me to thinking about movies made from science fiction novels. Mainly, it got me wondering why there aren’t any.
I don’t mean that literally, of course, but there are sure darn few, especially considering (a) how important mainstream novels have been to the history of cinema and (b) how successfully fantasy novels (Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter) and comic books (Spider Man, Men in Black, Batman) have been made into movies recently.
And yet, not a single novel by, say, Isaac Asimov, Connie Willis, Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein [oops, see update below], Lois McMaster Bujold, or Frederik Pohl has been made into a movie. (At least, not one that was successful enough that I’ve heard of it.) The most famous sf novel I can think of that was made into a movie was Dune, and it was an embarrassing flop.
So here’s a question: what’s the most successful adaptation of a science fiction novel for the screen? 2001 doesn’t count since it was written concurrently with the movie, and I’m thinking of novels that were marketed in their time as genre sf, which eliminates War of the Worlds, Jurassic Park and Planet of the Apes. (Though I guess I’m not sure about that last one. Was PotA marketed as genre sf?) Among the movies that I can think of off the top of my head, Box Office Mojo says Solaris earned $15 million domestically, Dune earned $30 million, and Blade Runner earned $31 million.
Can anyone think of a movie version of an sf novel that did better? And why the weak performance of sf compared to both fantasy and mainstream novels?
POSTSCRIPT: Speaking of sf adaptations (though from a short story, not a novel), did anyone here see the David Birney verson of Nightfall when it was first released? It’s the only movie I’ve been to where the audience spontaneously broke into Rocky Horror-style hooting at the screen about halfway through and not a single person complained. We all just joined in.
UPDATE: Lots of short stories are being mentioned in comments, but we’re looking for novel adaptations here. For example, Robert Heinlein’s Puppet Masters, a bomb at $8 million, and Starship Troopers, which I must have been trying to blot from my memory. It made $54 million. Other plausible candidates include The Postman, an abysmal failure at $17 million; Contact, which made $100 million; and A Clockwork Orange and On the Beach, though I’m not sure either one counts as genre sf.
More good candidates from later in the comment thread: Soylent Green, Battlefield Earth ($21 million), Invasion of the Body Snatchers ($24 million), and Logan’s Run. Looks like Contact is the big winner so far, though.