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How to Watch President Obama’s Essential Sci-Fi TV and Films

Beyond telling a story, science fiction should make you think deeply. To that end, WIRED guest editor President Obama offers this list of essential films and TV shows that will expand your mind. His selections include groundbreaking classics and contemporary hits, each taking you to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and the depths of the human psyche.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic is an undeniable classic that addressedthe complexities of AI in 1968 with questions that remain relevant today. And the film still looks futuristic almost fivedecades later. 2001, as the president notes,“captures the grandeur and scale of the unknown.” Kubrick createdthe longest flash-forward cut in film history, jumping from a pre-Homo sapien tribe to a world in which space travel is commonplace. And the final act remainsas surreal and mystifying as the day the film premiered.
How to watch it: Available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Video, Google Play

Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic is an undeniable classic that addressedthe complexities of AI in 1968 with questions that remain relevant today. And the film still looks futuristic almost fivedecades later. 2001, as the president notes,”captures the grandeur and scale of the unknown.” Kubrick createdthe longest flash-forward cut in film history, jumping from a pre-Homo sapien tribe to a world in which space travel is commonplace. And the final act remainsas surreal and mystifying as the day the film premiered.
How to watch it: Available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Video, Google Play

Blade Runner (1982)

In Ridley Scott’s adaptationof Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Harrison Ford plays a gruff investigator tasked with tracking down genetically-engineered humanoids calledreplicants. But in a world where the droids he’s looking for are indistinguishable from real people, the hunter may well be the hunted. “It asks what it means to be human,” Obama says. Beyond that, the film is gorgeous, and with a vision of Los Angeles in 2019 that seemed entirely plausible way back in 1982.Sicario directorDenis Villeneuveisfilminga sequel starringFord and Ryan Gosling.
How to watch it: Hard to find streaming. Get thee to a video store or buy it on DVD/Blu-ray.

In Ridley Scott’s adaptationof Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Harrison Ford plays a gruff investigator tasked with tracking down genetically-engineered humanoids calledreplicants. But in a world where the droids he’s looking for are indistinguishable from real people, the hunter may well be the hunted. “It asks what it means to be human,” Obama says. Beyond that, the film is gorgeous, and with a vision of Los Angeles in 2019 that seemed entirely plausible way back in 1982.Sicario directorDenis Villeneuveisfilminga sequel starringFord and Ryan Gosling.
How to watch it: Hard to find streaming. Get thee to a video store or buy it on DVD/Blu-ray.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Extra-terrestrials are rarely presented as personally, and humanly, as they are in Steven Spielberg’s film, whichPOTUSchose “because it is fundamentally optimistic.” It considers aliensa source of wonder to be welcomed, not feared. Almost 40 years after its release, Close Encounters remains one of Spielberg’s best films, even if itisn’t revered as highly as it ought to be. If nothing else, you’ll never look at mashed potatoes the same way again.
How to watch it: Available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu

Extra-terrestrials are rarely presented as personally, and humanly, as they are in Steven Spielberg’s film, whichPOTUSchose “because it is fundamentally optimistic.” It considers aliensa source of wonder to be welcomed, not feared. Almost 40 years after its release, Close Encounters remains one of Spielberg’s best films, even if itisn’t revered as highly as it ought to be. If nothing else, you’ll never look at mashed potatoes the same way again.
How to watch it: Available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu

Star Wars: Episode IVA New Hope (1977)

George Lucas’ firstStar Wars film did more than transport audiences to a galaxy far, far away; it forever changed how people seesci-fi. From gold-plated droids and Wookiees to lightsabers and a mystic religion called The Force, A New Hope introduced so many concepts to the genre thatits influence isimmeasurable. Star Wars, which Obama praises “because it was fun and revolutionized special effects,” is the ultimate science-fiction popcorn flick, and thefranchise will entertain peopleforgenerations to come.
How to watch it: Available on Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu

George Lucas’ firstStar Wars film did more than transport audiences to a galaxy far, far away; it forever changed how people seesci-fi. From gold-plated droids and Wookiees to lightsabers and a mystic religion called The Force, A New Hope introduced so many concepts to the genre thatits influence isimmeasurable. Star Wars, which Obama praises “because it was fun and revolutionized special effects,” is the ultimate science-fiction popcorn flick, and thefranchise will entertain peopleforgenerations to come.
How to watch it: Available on Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu

Star Trek (1966-69)

The best science fictionisn’t about science, it’s about people. Obama made this very point in a wide-ranging interview with WIRED Editor-in-Chief Scott Dadich, when he discussed why he so loves Star Trek.Gene Roddenberry’s pioneering show, he says,wasnt actually about technology.It was about values and relationships.The original series,which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, “uses science fiction to promote a humanistic ethic,” Obama says. TheUSS Enterprisefeatured one of the most diverse casts on network television at the time, and the franchise remains steadfastly progressive in itsrepresentations of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
How to watch it: Available on Hulu, CBS All Access

The best science fictionisn’t about science, it’s about people. Obama made this very point in a wide-ranging interview with WIRED Editor-in-Chief Scott Dadich, when he discussed why he so loves Star Trek.Gene Roddenberry’s pioneering show, he says,wasnt actually about technology.It was about values and relationships.The original series,which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, “uses science fiction to promote a humanistic ethic,” Obama says. TheUSS Enterprisefeatured one of the most diverse casts on network television at the time, and the franchise remains steadfastly progressive in itsrepresentations of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
How to watch it: Available on Hulu, CBS All Access

The Martian (2015)

Ridley Scott’s whip-smartadaptation of Andy Weir’s novel about saving anastronaut stranded on Mars “shows humans as problem solvers,” the president says. An engaging story withtotally believable science made being left behind on the Red Planet look almost fun, and seeing the world come together to save one person provided a measure of inspiration in a world thatseems increasingly tumultuous and divided.
How to watch it: Available on HBO Go (currently), YouTube, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes

Ridley Scott’s whip-smartadaptation of Andy Weir’s novel about saving anastronaut stranded on Mars “shows humans as problem solvers,” the president says. An engaging story withtotally believable science made being left behind on the Red Planet look almost fun, and seeing the world come together to save one person provided a measure of inspiration in a world thatseems increasingly tumultuous and divided.
How to watch it: Available on HBO Go (currently), YouTube, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrixblew people’s minds with its riffs on simulated worldsand humans-as-batteries. Seventeen years later, it continues fuelingdiscussions about the nature ofrealityand inspiring“bullet-time” action sequences.Obama chose the Wachowskis mind-bending action film “because it asks basic questions about our realityand looks very cool.”
How to watch it: Available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play

The Matrixblew people’s minds with its riffs on simulated worldsand humans-as-batteries. Seventeen years later, it continues fuelingdiscussions about the nature ofrealityand inspiring”bullet-time” action sequences.Obama chose the Wachowskis mind-bending action film “because it asks basic questions about our realityand looks very cool.”
How to watch it: Available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play

Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980)

Carl Sagan’s legendary documentary series Cosmostaught an entire generation invaluable lessons aboutastronomy while making people ponder the universe—and their place in it. One cannot look to the heavens and not wonder what’s out there, and how it all came to be. That may be Sagan’s greatest legacy. Cosmos rounds out the president’s must-see list“because it fed [his]lifelong fascination with space.” It will feed yours, too.
How to watch it:This one is hard to find, but you can still occasionally track down DVD sets.

Carl Sagan’s legendary documentary series Cosmostaught an entire generation invaluable lessons aboutastronomy while making people ponder the universe—and their place in it. One cannot look to the heavens and not wonder what’s out there, and how it all came to be. That may be Sagan’s greatest legacy. Cosmos rounds out the president’s must-see list”because it fed [his]lifelong fascination with space.” It will feed yours, too.
How to watch it:This one is hard to find, but you can still occasionally track down DVD sets.

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