Why “The Fifth Element” is the best sci-fi movie ever and you’re wrong about it.

So I get a lot of shit for liking The Fifth Element. I’ve never quite understood all the hate for the film online. Ernest Cline has Buckaroo Bonzai. I have Korben Dallas. I think the problem is that people just don’t understand what they’re seeing when they watch The Fifth Element. Here. Let me explain it a bit in list form.

1. The film is a living, breathing, comic book. No. Really. The film was designed by Moebius, one of the greatest artist that has ever lived and it is the ONLY film that looks like his pages just came to life. The aliens, the armor designs, the vehicles, everything in that film looks like it came out of a french comic book and I love it. The visuals are amazing.

2. The world lives. The problem I have with a lot of sci-fi films is they feel the need to explain themselves. “In the year 2525 mankind has constructed spit cities in the clouds due to. . .” whatever. Ya lost me all ready. I don’t care. The Fifth Element cuts through this by just dropping you in the future and making you assume things. These people don’t stop for exposition. They just do their jobs and live their lives. Why are the filters on the cigarettes so long? Why is there a trash workers strike? What does “SMOKE YOOOOOOOUUUU!!” mean? Doesn’t matter. We’ll figure it out. The world is lived in and I want to see more of it.

3. The crazy casting. I don’t mean Bruce Willis going back to a more comedic slant or Milla Jovavich’s adorable portrayal of a Supreme Being. I mean everyone else. Luc Besson cast folks completely against type.Β Brion James is charming and likable as General Munro. I have no idea why they cast Tommy Lister as the President, but it was by far my favorite thing he’s ever done. It was great to see him NOT play the asshole thug for once in his life. Don’t even get me started on how awesome Ian Holme was in this movie as a bumbling priest. I wish more directors would do this. These guys were great and they deserve better than what they usually get.

4. Gary Oldman, Gary Oldman, Gary Oldman. Seriously. Do I really need to sing this guy’s praises still? I love his ridiculous performance and costume. He stole every damned scene he was in and that leads me to my next point. . .

5. Hero and villain never meet. Not once. In every Hollywood movie the hero and the villain meet in an epic fight that will shatter the bones in your face. The Fifth Element doesn’t and that’s a good thing. The last thing you would want to do is put Gary Oldman in the same scene as Bruce Willis. Someone would come out of it seeming less. There’s that one scene on the Cruiseliner where they almost meet. Zorg comes out of the elevator just as Korben is going in. They almost meet. And how does the villain meet his end? By his own hands basically. He screwed over the wrong person and paid for it.

6. Chris Tucker. Man, you just. . . Go watch his damned scenes.

7. The world was saved by love. Really. There was no titanic war. The gun fight in the film wasn’t to save the world, that was to get the keys to saving the world. To save the world a man who had been hurt and scarred emotionally had to gradually come to terms with that and realize that he could love again. Did this get explained to us like we were a bunch of kids who couldn’t understand? No. Was there a heavy handed moral that got narrated to us by Ian Holme? No. It all got summed up when Korben finally found himself able to say the words “I love you.” I’ll take that ending over anything Michael Bay could ever make and any sappy rom/com ever written. Jerry McGuire didn’t even handle it so simply.

So now, go back and watch The Fifth Element. Maybe you still don’t like it, but maybe now you can appreciate it. Maybe you’ll see it the way I do. If not, well, SMOKE YOU!! πŸ™‚

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105 Comments

  1. I don’t understand people’s problems with the movie, either. I think it’s a brilliant scifi satire of the future… with a “save the world” plot thrown into the middle. Every time I see that scene where Korben’s commander says the mission is to “save the world,” I get a chuckle, with a big $#&$-eating grin.

  2. Pingback: No Penguins Were Harmed Making This Post | Rosemary Clement-Moore

  3. Excellant post! Seriously. You hit the nail on the head on the Fifth Element. Watched the movie like a “million times” when it was first released out of theatres, through the years, and just finished watching it on Netflix a few minutes ago.

    I was just a kid (24yr old meow) when it came out on vhs/dvd? But it by far captivated me more than any other film or cartoon at the time and still does today… One of the best movies ever made in my opinion!!! So it is def on my list all-time great movies and will be for the rest of my life! Haha

    Haters can hate. Love beats all evil.

  4. I am a big fan of this film which is for me, the best science fiction movie ever. Unique and original universe, characters, ambiant… woaw. Im sad that this world can’t continue into another movie or novels, because it has a very huge potential !

  5. As well, ‘I am a big fan of this film which is for me, the best science fiction movie ever’
    Since… I am waiting waiting and waiting for something similar, but Hollywood seems to be married with marvel brainless superheroes.

  6. I’ve always seen it like degustation plate where each food component is excellently prepared but collectively the the flavours are not in harmony. Your dissection leans this way, individual aspects were brilliant but collectively they compete and leaves you with an underwhelming meal.

  7. Good movie and a really good analysis. Did not realize that the good guy and bad man never met. I also liked the opera singer. Her little aria was actually quite good. The morphed guys were a special feature but I have seen that before. Bruce Willis in a closet apartment maybe the way it will be.

  8. I don’t think it’s the BEST (and I actually blame Chris Tucker for this; tastes vary)… but it is pretty high up the list. Closely affiliated to the casting against type is the fact that everyone is a bit of a stumble-bum, except in one area where they’re magnificently competent. This is much closer to real life, and much much better than the usual action movie trope of everyone except the hero being only just barely competent and the hero being quite good at everything except perhaps being married.

    I am also baffled by people who hate the film. I suspect something is wrong with their souls.

  9. Certainly one of my favourite sci-fi movies, usually I can’t stand the genre but with this film things are very interesting and different from the normal sci-fi script. Mila’s use of the devine language was impressive and cute. Even though it’s fictitious I could listen to it a lot. My friend still slates me for this film but I don’t care, as I like what I like.

    A good scene for me, when Lee Evans has to negotiate with those creatures and Bruce takes over, priceless.

    Glad to find other people who like this cult classic.

  10. It’s encouraging to see this one under discussion. I loved the movie and was puzzled by its poor reception at the time. I think it may have been down to marketing. Although it was presented as a sci-fi movie, at heart it’s a romantic comedy. The sci-fi crowd probably felt let down because it wasn’t about the sci-fi, the Bruce Willis crowd probably felt let down as it wasn’t Die Hard etc. etc.

    It’s also a Luc Besson movie and he has a tendency to look at genre from a skewed point of view (e.g. the hit man through the eyes of a young girl, the female assassin that just wants out – and what the hell is The Big Blue all about!!?? Dolphins???).

    Agree totally with you on Gary Oldman – I’d happily watch anything he appears in. Compare his beautifully hammy turn in Fifth Element with his dirty-to-the-marrow cop in Leon to appreciate the versatility of the man.

    Anyone up for a re-appraisal of Hudson Hawk? πŸ˜‰

  11. Another fan here!!! Unfortunately, I thought I was the sole survivor, last of my kind, trying to procreate fans by having 3 boys of my own. Introducing them to what I believe will be, or should be a classic. It is in MY home. Bravo on your recap. I LOVE KORBEN DALLAS. I mean, just his name alone exudes awesome. Now I’m starting to rethink why I didn’t name one of my boys after him. Wondering if the 2 year old will notice a change.

  12. Beautifully put. I have loved that movie forever and had never bothered to wonder why. I had never noticed that the hero and villain never meet. Of course! And that the showdown is the expression of love rather than a fist fight. Yes! Also, those Jean-Paul Gautier designed costumes were always going to be sexy and fabulous. Even the cameo of the bloke from Beverly Hills 90210 is funny. “The LIGHT!” And have there ever been cooler looking aliens than Mondoshawans?

  13. I have seen this movie twice, end to end. I own a dvd copy of it; it’s been in the player twenty, maybe twenty five times. Why do I abandon this epic? Because sometimes – ok, most times – I want to see an entertaining movie with an entertaining story. That’s what I find lacking, the story. There is just not enough there in there for my taste. A great director’s film, but frankly I could care less about the director. The last time it was played my 12 year old grandson picked it out. He watched it with his 7 year old sister. He called it awesome, his sister fell asleep during the first Ruby scene.
    So I must admit your blog for The Fifth Element is far better scripted than the movie; you tell a compelling, entertaining story. I rate the movie Aweful, that is, even portions of awesome and awful, and a touch of artiste’, just to be fair.

  14. For me #7 is enough.
    All other reasons you can find in other SF movies, but this touch I saw nowhere. That’s why I remembered 5th Element. That’s why I am warm inside every time I watch it.
    Thank you for remembering me on this movie.

  15. Wow, I’ve never even considered The Fifth Element before – when It came out I think I was unduly influenced by the “hate” and heve just never got around to it since. But having read this… Wow, it’s simply got to be my next dvd buy. Thanks for Sharing πŸ™‚

  16. I will always have a deep love of this film, ever since I first saw it I enjoyed it and was known to say “big bada boom” when something (usually a computer) exploded at work. One day I called our outsourced IT and said that the printer had a “big bada boom” with a paper jam and I had removed every bit of paper I could find, but needed IT to look at the areas I couldn’t reach. The IT guy laughed and started quoting back at me, this continued for a couple of minutes then he came to fix it…. we have now been together for 7 years and married for 3 of those πŸ™‚
    In summation, Fifth Element literally helped introduce me to my future husband πŸ™‚

      • That is a brilliant story! I love it!
        Sometimes it is hard not to believe in kismet when things seem to be so perfectly timed. Anyone of six people could have answered the “big bada boom” phonecall that day, Hubby didn’t usually answer calls so it was just chance that he picked up.
        If either of us had made our statements to some other person it would have been met with white noise. Amazing how things work out.

  17. You had me at, “So I get a lot of shit for liking The Fifth Element.” I stopped to read this post because of your opening title. I love this movie! The opera scene is my favorite part of the movie. πŸ™‚

  18. Thank you for writing this! You would think my hubby and I were the only ones on the planet that enjoyed this movie! We have seen it a few times. Come on, Korben Dallas was a great character! (AND who doesn’t love Bruce Willis? I mean, really.)

  19. I’ve seen this movie over ten times. I enjoy most Sci-fi flicks. I will say that the fight seen with Bruce Willis and the Aliens in the middle of the Cruise Ship was a bit blah. A bit too heavy on the Die Hard side for me. My favorite scene is when they have Milla Jovovich hooked up in the tube and they are implanting her with knowledge. Great movie though and its good to see it’s getting some love all these years later.

  20. I am a huge fan of The Fifth Element and have been for quite some time. I love the way you break it down and show what is so amazing about it. Now I have to go find the comic, because I had no idea, and I love reading my favorite movies!

  21. Totally. Completely. Agree. With every word. The Fifth Element is one of my favorite SF films, too, and I’ve never understood the reflexive hate so many have for it.

    The only reason it’s not #1 is that I can never pick an absolute favorite anything, and T5E vies with Galaxy Quest and Zardoz (and a couple others) for the top spot.

  22. Love this movie 1 of the best ever! Who really doesn’t want to find the 1 perfect person to have in their life. I just think it’s such a perfect story and everything with it was spot on! “There are something’s very nice things worth saving!” … Like love??? “Yes like love! “

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