What, exactly, is the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy?
According to the Oxford dictionary, Scifi is defined as this: “Fiction based on imagined future scientific or technological advances and major social or environmental changes, frequently portraying space or time travel and life on other planets.”
Fantasy is defined as, “A genre of imaginative fiction involving magic and adventure, especially in a setting other than the real world.”
So there are a few things that set the two apart.
SciFi could be said to be extrapolated from Science Fact. Writers look at what technology we have today and then say, “Hmmmm, what could this turn into in the future?” In fact there are very few (if any) SciFi films that take place in the present day.
This does not by any means hinder the creativity of the writers. Let’s look at some of the different examples of SciFi that are out there.
Space Travel: We have landed on the moon and put probes out there to Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. We are space travelers. In Science Fiction we go a step farther to space exploration. The perfect example of this are all of the Star Trek movies. Also falling into this list are 2001: A Space Odyssey, Prometheus and Stargate.
Aliens: If space travel is in our grasp, then certainly it is probable that there are others in space that might wish to visit us (though, not always amicably). District 9 , Independence Day, ET, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind portray this type of scenario.
Robots and Genetic Engineering: we already have computers and Roombas; they’ve cloned sheep and a cat. It is not too far a stretch of the imagination to imagine robots that function and even look as good as humans. Avatar is a shining example of this, as are I Robot, Jurassic Park, and Westworld.
There are many others; dystopia societies, medicine gone wrong, and time travel are just a few.
Fantasy is built on pure imagination. There is often magic, monsters, gods, quests, and damsels in distress (although lately the damsels have been doing the saving!) Very rarely does it take place in our world or our time, and what takes place in the film is unlikely to ever come to pass.
Here are some examples of Fantasy movies.
The quest: the quest is when the protagonist is sent on a mission to retrieve something for various reasons. These types of films include; Stardust, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Labyrinth and The Wizard of Oz.
Gods: many fantasy movies involve calling on the gods (Especially the Greek or Roman ones). Some examples of these would be Clash of the Titans, the Percy Jackson series, and Immortals.
Magic: whether the movie is about witches, wizards, or sorceresses, magic plays a big part in Fantasy movies. There is rarely a movie made without some bit of magic in there. Movies where magic is part of the main theme, however are the Harry Potter series, The Prestige, and DeathNote.
Once again, these are but a few examples of the type of movies that fall under the heading of Fantasy. Think knights in shining armor, vampires & werewolves, and fantastical creatures such as dragons and unicorns.
Hopefully this article will give you a better idea of what type of film you are watching. There are a few that blur the lines a little bit (Star Wars, Underworld). Whether SciFi or Fantasy, though, may you enjoy your movie!