What's Round and Scary? - TopTenMM Alien Movies

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

Nominee #7 - Sphere (1998)


An 'ancient' spaceship is found at the bottom of the ocean beneath thousands of coral layers and a dysfunctional crew is sent to investigate.

Director: Barry Levinson

Writers: Michael Crichton (novel), Kurt Wimmer (adaptation)

Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson

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Directed by Oscar-winning Barry Levinson, Sphere (1998) is based on the 1987 novel by Michael Crichton.

A crack team investigates a large, strange and perfectly shaped sphere inside a massive, abandoned spaceship that has been on the floor of the Pacific Ocean for close to 300 years. The origins of the spaceship and the fate of the crew who once manned it are unclear.

Dustin Hoffman (as the psychologist), Sharon Stone (as the marine biologist), Liev Schrieber (the astrophysicist), Samuel L Jackson (the mathematician) and Peter Coyote (the US Navy captain) form the crew that is now tasked with the investigation.

What happens if Jerry gets mad?

The movie has some of the most quietly gripping sequences from the science fiction genre: the chit-chat between crew and the ship's computer/sphere ''Jerry'', the crew's chatter amongst themselves as they find new horrors in each other and themselves, the attack by a giant squid and hostile jellyfish.

The sphere itself is a key character in the film; spectacular, ominous, inscrutable - a golden globe that faithfully reflects everything around it except, rather whimsically, the humans who stare up at it - with them, it always wants more, more, more. Realising that this is an emotional being prompts one character to ask with some trepidation, “What happens if Jerry gets mad?”

What makes this this psychological thriller special is that the process of the crew trying to unlock mysteries hidden in the sphere finds a parallel in the unravelling of deep-seated fears and fantasies in themselves. Emotions, that if left unchecked, can destroy all of them. The rising body count is clear evidence of the high stakes involved.

Cinema goers looking for action packed sequences will be sorely disappointed. But Sphere is happy to play the even more deadly game of mind-bending delusion and fear and the uncontrollable manifestations they result in. The human imagination unhinged on the ocean floor!

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