Three films ahead of their times Sci-fi may hit Oscar's golden warp speed
Until this year, only three science fiction films had been nominated for best picture. Though none grabbed that brass ring, they helped pave the way for crowd-pleasers ranging from Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (1982) to JJ Abrams' "Star Trek" (2009). USA Today's Marco R. della Cava takes a look at sci-fi that almost got Oscar gold.
"A Clockwork Orange" (1971)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Story: Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his "droog" gang terrorize a futuristic England in this adaptation of a 1962 novel satirizing crime and punishment.
Oscar drama: "Orange" also was up for best director, film editing and screenplay. It was beaten in all categories by the cop drama "The French Connection."
Influence: It was so violent it earned an X rating; Kubrick had to cut the film to accommodate an R rating. The movie later was accused of inspiring copycat violence.
"Star Wars" (1977)
Director: George Lucas
Story: Luke (Mark Hamill) is a who are we kidding? The saga is seared in our collective memory banks.
Oscar drama: Nominated for 10 Oscars, it won in six technical categories but lost best picture (to Woody Allen's "Annie Hall"), director (Allen), screenplay (Allen) and actor (Richard Dreyfuss in "The Goodbye Girl").
Influence: The success allowed Lucas to build Industrial Light & Magic, a special-effects empire in San Francisco that remains an industry leader.
"E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Story: Elliott (Henry Thomas) befriends an alien, in an adventure in which children outshine the grownups.
Oscar drama: Up for nine Oscars, "E.T." won four, for music and effects. Best picture went to "Gandhi." Screenwriter Melissa Mathison did not get an Oscar, but she did, at about that time, get a Harrison (Ford, whom she wed).
Influence: Gave Spielberg the green light to return time and again to sci-fi, most recently with "War of the Worlds" (2005).