The Sleep of Reason: Popular Science Fiction Cinema since 'Blade Runner' (1982)


Science fiction may be the most significant genre of our era and its influence is pervasive throughout popular culture. In the last forty years it has both mirrored and prophesied the nature and impact of the post-industrial era and the digital revolution. Longstanding themes dealing with the consequences of technological change have taken on new resonance to offer insight into changing ideas of human identity; the use of CGI technology in the cinema has enabled the medium to present these speculative visions with unprecedented power and credibility.

This course offers an overview of the main currents in popular science fiction cinema since the early 1980s when outliers such as Blade Runner and The Fly introduced a new philosophical and political complexity into the genre’s habitual accounts of artificial life, alien encounters, authoritarian surveillance regimes and time travel. As well as exploring revitalised classics such as The Planet of the Apes, we also critically examine brilliant new examples such as District 9 and Arrival. As such, students may find this course an attractive follow on from Kiri Walden's course 'Science Fiction on Film: A History of the Future' (Hilary Term 2021).

Programme details

Courses starts: 23 Apr 2024

Week 1:  Introduction and overview of science fiction theory and trends in contemporary cinema

Week 2:  The films of David Cronenberg

Week 3:  Race, Otherness and SF

Week 4:  Screening: District 9

Week 5:  Cyborgs – Androids, Fembots/Gynoids

Week 6:  Screening: Ex Machina (2014)

Week 7:  Time Travel and SF Narrative

Week 8:  Screening: Arrival (2016)

Week 9:  Dystopian futures and the problems of the present

Week 10:  The Recent Planet of the Apes Trilogy (2011-2017)

Digital Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend at least 80% of the classes on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Pete Boss

Pete is Senior Lecturer in Film at Oxford Brookes University and has taught in adult education for many years on Hollywood and International Cinema. He is also a Blues Guitarist.

Course aims

To critically explore the variety of popular science fiction cinema from the 1980s to the present.

Course Objectives:

  • To introduce key science fiction films that deal with major themes in the genre.
  • To ground discussion of popular science fiction films within critical debates about science fiction as a genre.
  • To explore how science fiction films relate to social and cultural contexts.

Teaching methods

Short Lectures and seminar discussions of key films as well as extended consideration based on three full screenings.

Some use of group work to inform discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • have a familiarity with a wide range of key science fiction films and their central issues;
  • be able to discuss science fiction cinema in relation to critical issues in genre studies;
  • be able to discuss and write about science fiction cinema by applying critical genre and film studies terminology and concepts.

Assessment methods

A short written essay of 1500 words, preceded by a formative piece of either a 500 words written draft or a short five minute presentation to class.

Students will be assessed on their ability to describe films with appropriate use of theory and basic critical terminology for film analysis.

Credit will be awarded for attention to specific details from films, reference to relevant critical readings and the ability to construct an argument.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

This course offers a level of critical engagement that would conform to a Level 4 (first-year) university standard, but while previous knowledge and understanding is an advantage, it is not a necessary requirement; key ideas and readings will be introduced as necessary.

Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)