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50 Greatest Science-Fiction Movies of All Time

23) 'Serenity' (2005)

Taking off from his cult-friendly TV series "Firefly," writer-director Joss Whedon crafted one of the more thoroughly enjoyable space Westerns of the contemporary cinema. For cinephiles who live to parse such things, "Serenity" has one foot in the Howard-Hawksian world of both "The Thing From Another World" and "Rio Bravo" and another foot in "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope," which itself has one foot in John Ford's "The Searchers," and so on. The genre cross-breeding, combined with Whedon's ever-fecund imagination and story chops, yields lots of memorable characters, snappy dialogue and exciting action as our band of renegade space cowboys take their rickety ship on a voyage with some dangerous organic cargo on board. No knowledge of the series required, although this will make you want to give it a look if you were unlucky enough to miss it.

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(Universal Pictures/Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Courtesy Everett Collection)