The good people over at Fat Wallet have done us a favor and looked into the top speeds of spaceships in popular sci-fi movies, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Red Dwarf, Serenity, Interstellar, and Star Wars. What they found was unexpected: The fastest ships by and large appear in less serious movies like Back To The Future and Serenity. This begs a question: What gives?
Why does Doc Brown get to travel faster than Matthew McConaughey brooding to a Hans Zimmer score?
1. The power of a serious musical score, like Zimmer’s, or the famously thunderous score of 2001: A Space Odyssey, give filmmakers a bit of incentive to linger between destinations instead of warping from gag to gag. More serious movies use music to provide an emotional through line, and travel sequences help quite a lot with that.
2. The premises of more serious movies often involves science fictional elements, but generally are more human in scope. Not so for funny movies and shows like Hitchhiker’s Guide, Dr. Who, or Back to the Future. Doc Brown was nuts, sure, but he got the job done. In more serious films, they just didn’t have enough mad in them to push boundaries.
3. One of the reasons that comedies aren’t going out of style is that they are considerably cheaper to make than most auteur-ish features. To keep budgets down, the money that is spent is generally not spent on the FX budget, which means that warping makes more sense than chilling in effects-heavy hyperspace. The funny guys get there first because they can’t afford to take the scenic route.
For the complete rankings, check out this awesome infographic: