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1982: Best Year Ever for Sci-Fi and Fantasy?

A look back at 'E.T.' and other megahit movies that shaped pop culture

By Bryan Reesman
Special to MSN Movies

2012 has been a year rich with lavish, digitally enhanced sci-fi and fantasy spectacles like "The Avengers." But a prior revolution had to pave the way, and many pop culture geeks look back to 1982 as a defining, creatively fruitful year for sci-fi and fantasy. The summertime movie blitz included "E.T.," "Blade Runner," "Conan the Barbarian" and "Poltergeist." Some were more successful than others, and, overall, kismet played a big part in this confluence of the otherworldly and fantastical.

"The country was very positive," mused "E.T." co-star Dee Wallace in our recent conversation. "Creativity was soaring, and we had the money to back it up. I'm not a historian, but you had a lot of visionaries, Renaissance people coming out, who really challenged their creativity."

Many of those people, as "Tron" director Steven Lisberger noted in a chat with MSN, were idealistic teenagers and college students in the late '60s and early '70s who "were convinced that the world could be changed radically." Years later they had influence in Hollywood with the means to make films. Such pioneers included Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. "Once 'Star Wars' happened, that just confirmed to a lot of people that what the studios were doing wasn't what the audience wanted," said Lisberger. "The studios knew it, too, so they were very receptive to new ideas and radical ideas."

Bing: More about 'E.T.' | More about 'Blade Runner'

Geek/nerd culture got a boost from the success of films like "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" and "Tron." "All those movies were between 'Empire [Strikes Back]' and '[Return of the] Jedi'," observed pop culture aficionado Chris Hardwick when MSN spoke to him recently. "They started igniting really good sci-fi and pop culture. Then with the video game and computer revolution that was happening, we started to get films like 'Revenge of the Nerds' and 'Real Genius' and movies that identified it as kind of a movement."

Was 1982 the best year ever for sci-fi and fantasy films? You can be the judge as MSN Movies looks at 10 major releases from that year. It was a time when limitations on effects and budgets inspired filmmakers to be as creative as possible without all the cool toys we have today. Respect.

(Warner Bros. Pictures/Universal Pictures/Universal Pictures)