2010: The Year We Make Contact
If you hear about this movie at all, it's usually in the context of how it wasn't as good as 2001. When I saw it, I didn't know that it was a sequel and somehow, in spite of having already seen Star Wars and Star Trek and Tron and the original Battlestar Galactica and many episodes of Tom Baker-era Dr. Who that gave me nightmares, it was 2010 that crushed all the space opera under a perfectly proportioned black monolith and made me a hard science fiction writer.
There's a moment in the movie where the Leonov is approaching Jupiter and the frame is simply the planet, black space, and the ship with its center portion spinning... it's burned on my brain. When I started writing science fiction, there was nowhere else for me to go. Back to Jupiter.
All the science fiction I've read or seen since then has covered all the great themes of the genre: action, adventure, fear, idealism, oppression. I've always been fond of the wonder, though. The cosmic grandeur. Sure, I've made my pilgrimage to Mordor, I've languished in Narnia and Earthsea. Fantasy has its grand themes of good and evil. But space is different.
A planet, a ship and the void. Let's go.