20 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Famous Sci-Fi Movies

List Rules
Vote up the facts that made you say, 'Whoa.'

Science fiction is one of those genres that consistently produce fantastic, well-written movies that fail to gain an audience. Then, after some time, they become cult classics. Of course, that's the case for many sci-fi movies, but then there are your Star Wars movies, Star Trek, Stargate... anything with "star" in the title, and much more. Some of the best films of all time are sci-fi, including E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Empire Strikes Back, and Alien​​​​​​.

They may seem like little-effort popcorn flicks targeting easy money, and while there's undoubtedly some of that in the genre, most good science fiction films have a lot going on that fans know little to nothing about. No matter how many times you watch The Terminator, The Matrix, or the Back to the Future trilogy, you're not going to know everything there is to know about the films... unless you worked on them. Even then, there are probably a few things you didn't know about famous sci-fi flicks!

This list features some of the most interesting nuances of the very best science fiction movies ever made. Whether it's about the actors playing a hero or about the production itself, odds are, even the most ardent sci-fi movie fan won't know it all.

  • 1
    463 VOTES

    'The Fifth Element' Was 22 Years In The Making

    Luc Besson's The Fifth Element is one of those one-shot sci-fi movies that comes around about once in a generation. It's exceptionally well-made, and it has a great cast, incredible characters, and a killer story. It also features a hero and villain who never meet one another during the film - which is unusual, to say the least. The Fifth Element has everything you'd want to see in a movie: great action scenes, amazing special effects, an innovative, unique story, and more.

    Interestingly, The Fifth Element was in development (of sorts) for more than two decades before the film's release. Besson came up with the story when he was only 16 years old. He began writing it as a novel, but it eventually transitioned into a series of scripts planned for two to three films. As the years went by, Besson condensed the story into a single script, hoping that would make it easier to produce. Ultimately, that worked, and when he made the movie, he was 38, so he spent 22 years writing, tweaking, and rewriting the story until it was perfect.

    463 votes
  • 2
    390 VOTES

    The Black Hole In 'Interstellar' Is So Accurate, It Spawned Numerous Academic Papers

    Interstellar is a movie that sticks as close to the "science" part of science fiction as it can. All of the elements dealing with gravity, time dilation, black holes, and more are based on legitimate theories and scientific observations. The black hole is particularly important to the movie's plot, but also to scientific research, and a lot of work went into rendering it. New CGI rendering software was written to handle it, and the amount of data created was immense.

    Some frames took up to 100 hours to render, amounting to a whopping 800 terabytes of data. Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate, worked on Interstellar as the scientific adviser, and his work benefited from the production. The rendering of the black hole created a visual effect that was so scientifically accurate, it provided Thorne with new insights, leading to the publication of three scientific papers. When humanity finally observed a black hole in 2019, it looked just like the one rendered for the movie... though, it was in a much lower resolution.

    390 votes
  • 3
    502 VOTES

    Robert Zemeckis Is The Reason 'Back to the Future' Has No More Sequels Or Reboots

    If you've noticed that just about every movie or TV series from the '80s is getting a remake, reboot, or continuation, it's not your imagination. Nostalgia has driven a lot of recent content, but there's always been one notable absence in the remake bonanza. The Back to the Future franchise consists of three feature films, an animated series, and a ride at Universal Studios, but that's about all there is.

    The reason for this is the film's director, Robert Zemeckis, who managed to stand in the way of any such nonsense. In an interview with The Telegraph, Zemeckis was asked about a reboot or possible sequel. The director replied, "Oh, God no. That can't happen until both Bob and I are dead. And then I'm sure they'll do it unless there's a way our estates can stop it." The "Bob" Zemeckis referred to is Bob Gale, his writing partner. Essentially, Zemeckis said "they" would make a new Back to the Future over his dead body.

    502 votes
  • 4
    344 VOTES

    'Alien' Took A Unique Approach To Casting Its Human Characters

    Ellen Ripley is arguably one of the greatest female lead characters in all of science fiction, and that has more to do with Sigourney Weaver than anything else. When the script for the film was written, the characters were all given genderless last names. No first names were jotted down anywhere, which left the casting folks with a great deal of freedom to find the right people for the parts.

    Casting typically takes a character and their description to find the right actor to take them on, but Alien was different. Casting agents sought to fill the role for Ripley, and Sigourney Weaver just happened to be the perfect person for the part. After she was brought on board, the name "Ellen" was attributed to the character, helping to further flesh her out. Ripley wasn't the only character cast in this manner; all of them were. In the script, there was a note stating "the crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men or women."

    344 votes
  • 5
    324 VOTES

    'The Matrix' Code Isn't Meaningless, But It Doesn't Mean What You Think

    The Matrix is known for a lot of things related to its visual style, but nothing represents the franchise better than the Matrix's code. The familiar green text falls in columns across the screen, and while it looks like nonsense to viewers, to characters like Cypher, "You get used to it, though. Your brain does the translating. I don't even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead."

    While that's what the code breaks out to in the movies, it has a different meaning in the real world. Production designer Simon Whiteley revealed he used one of his wife's Japanese cookbooks to create the unique text. Whiteley explained the source for his inspiration in an interview with CNET: "I like to tell everybody that The Matrix's code is made out of Japanese sushi recipes," and it is. He scanned his wife's cookbooks and manipulated the text digitally, so it would rain down in what he calls "green rain."

    324 votes
  • 6
    276 VOTES

    Nien Numb Spoke Kikuyu In 'Return of the Jedi,' And Kenyan People Loved It

    Nien Numb served as Lando Calrissian's co-pilot during the siege of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi. He's one of those characters whose name was known more to the kids who got his action figure than it was to anyone who watched the movie, thanks to the fact that his name is never uttered in the film. He's an alien who speaks a dialect most people probably wrote off as something made up for the film.

    As it happens, everything Nien Numb says in the movie is from a real language. He's speaking Kikuyu, the dialect of Kenya's largest tribe. So when he says, "Atirizi inyui mwi hau inyouthe ukai haha," most audiences hear a lot of "alienese," but throughout Kenya, audiences laughed at what loosely translates as "What are you doing over there? All of you please come here."

    276 votes