Not every job can be as glamorous as we imagine it in our heads. If you spend enough time doing the same thing five days a week, even the best tasks can start to feel repetitive and menial. Anyone who’s ever worked hard for a paycheck is due for a little escapism every once in a while. And if you’re like us, you’ve probably dreamed about your ideal job, something that caters to your hobbies rather than any particular skill. But what about jobs that could only exist in the world of fantasy? Where do they fit into the scope of dream careers?
Sure, not every job title in a sci-fi flick comes with honor and prestige. For the most part, they’re a real pain. No one said living the life of a movie character was easy. But it’s better than earning a salary for a job you don’t care for. And so we’ve combed every listing in every newspaper to find the coolest of the cool. We limited the jobs to the everyday laborers, so that means no hierarchical positions here. We’re all about the working class Joe. So here they are, the 13 Coolest Sci-Fi Movie Jobs.
[Note: This list contains paid positions only. If no money changes hands, it didn’t qualify.]
13. Rancor Keeper (Star Wars: Episode VI- Return of the Jedi)
Across the far reaches of Tatooine, through miles of sparsely inhabited sands and dunes, Jabba the Hutt’s palace is known for its infamous gangster and his illicit dealings. That’s why this entry is really a double-edged sword. If you’re an animal lover, as we’re sure any proper rancor keeper would be, then you know the kind of bond someone can build with even the most grotesque beast. The rancor, with its razor teeth and armored hide, isn’t necessarily the most docile of creatures, but their loyalty is immeasurable and unmatched by any other Dathomirian species. So it goes without saying that growing too attached inevitably leads to heartbreak.
Working under the supremacy of the Outer Rim’s most infamous crime lord does have its perks. The keeper has the distinct pleasure of throwing people into the rancor pit when they get on the boss’s bad side. But as with any honorable job with ties to an illegal crime organization, there’s always someone there to send the whole thing crashing down. One Jedi Knight with some bad mojo gets an idea into his head, and all of a sudden your boss and his rancor are dead and you’re left unemployed and without a place to go. Maybe the next time Luke goes out seeking to restore balance to the force, he should think about all the lives he left in shambles along the way.
12. Time Reassigner (Source Code)
Generally speaking, the word “reassignment” in conjunction with a job doesn’t usually involve dying in an explosion aboard a commuter train. Unfortunately for Captain Colter Stevens, he’s reliving the explosion over and over again without any control of the pause button. Unbeknownst to him, he’s really nothing more than a comatose head and torso hooked up to some neural sensors. It’s his responsibility to weed out the terrorist on the train and report back to his superiors. But with the source code experiment being run on a computer out of Colter’s reach, he’s doomed to continue stuck on repeat until he finds the answer.
Working as a time reassigner is essentially the same as replaying a song on iTunes, only the song is replaced with a do-or-die mission and thousands of lives hang in the balance. The job consists of sending one person back through time in a parallel reality where everyone is still hunky dory in order to gather information on the situation. If your subject fails, simply hit the rewind button and tell him to do it over again. Of course, there will be a fair share of hard feelings. But if the subject gets too mouthy, you can always just send him back. Practice makes perfect and with enough repeat experiences, anyone will eventually give into their orders. At least, until they figure out how to change the timeline and establish a new working reality.
11. Jurassic Park Tour Guide (Jurassic Park)
Of all the jobs in the world, is there anything less hazardous than a tour guide? You work to remember facts about your place of employment, learn the best routes around the facilities and deal with tourists. Make that place of employment the island of Isla Nublar 120 miles off the west coast of Costa Rica and it sounds like a paradise. But throw in some genetically resurrected dinosaurs and all of a sudden we’re talking a major pay bump. It’s a rough life running from Velociraptors, but you’ve got to figure once you learn the ins and outs, you have to know about the best hideouts on the island.
Going back to the first movie, if you scroll through the credits, you’ll see the role of Jeep Driver 1. Though never specifically referred to as a tour guide, these pink-shirted drivers can be seen behind the wheel of a tour vehicle escorting Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler around the theme park. And because we don’t know what becomes of the drivers, we’re going to assume they all live. But don’t be fooled by the lack of a death toll with the position. All bets are off when it comes to outmaneuvering a species with an insatiable appetite. Still, we’d rather know how to get around when the odds are against us. Anything is better than running blindly into a forest where anything could be lurking in the shadows.
10. Looper (Looper)
It’s a paradox for the ages. If you travel through time and encounter your future self, do you alter the timeline you were predestined to live? Knowing the future means risking it changing. And so, being a looper means always staying distant. You have one job to do. Go to your destination, wait for a victim to be sent back through time and dispose of them once they’re there. You never ask questions and never leave a loop unclosed. Those are the rules. Otherwise, you put yourself in danger of angering your crime boss and being compelled to kill your future self.
As one would expect, being a looper can be lucrative. But let’s say you want a big payday. We’re talking enough to retire in a beach bungalow in the Bahamas. All you have to do is walk away from the life and kill your future self. Can you do it? It’s all give and take really. Either you work so long you become useless and die at the hands of a fellow hitman or you walk away and commit murder-suicide. So maybe it’s not the best long-term plan. But if your idea of living is playing hard and going out with a bang, then all you need to do is build a tolerance to violent crime. It may not be a comfortable job title, but you’re guaranteed to have a reputation.
9. The Truman Show Extra (The Truman Show)
Check your television listings. Search the latest TV Guide. We challenge you to find one documentary series that isn’t predicated on a lie. Everything changes once the cameras are rolling. The true reality is that most documentary television is riddled with actors. But none of those shows even begin to approach the zeal it takes to be an extra on The Truman Show.
Here’s the pitch. A guy, ordinary in every way, goes about living his life. He’s got a middle-income household, a befitting job as an insurance salesman, and most likely a timeshare in the Florida Keys. If it wasn’t for the time period, his life could easily be mistaken for a 1950s suburban sitcom. The catch, of course, is that it’s all a sham. Everybody around him is an actor, family included, and they’re all in on the joke.
So where exactly do you go to audition for roles like these? We’d imagine you’d have to be on a whole new level of desperation in order to want a part that lasts the rest of your life. Take into account all the product placement you have to sneak into each episode, and you’re talking about a gig with some serious dedication. It can’t be easy playing an extra to someone else’s life, but how could you quit on everyone watching at home?
8. Memory Eraser (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
We’ve all had humiliating moments we wish we could forget. Most people repress them, bury them deep in the cellar of their subconscious. But truth be told, if all those memories we could do without could be discarded, we could all walk out the other side renewed.
If the fictional Lacuna Inc. were to interview candidates to become mind erasers, fitting questions would include “Do you enjoy eavesdropping on others’ private affairs?” and “How comfortable are you with breaking and entering?” That’s about the sum of the position. Lacuna sets up an appointment with a customer. When the date comes, two employees stalk the person to their home, where they then enter into their rooms while they’re sleeping and proceed to put them into a deep slumber. Once REM is achieved, the memory-deleting helmet goes onto the customer’s head and the computer does the rest of the work.
Once the helmet is installed, it’s pretty much autopilot from there. You have all the free time to rummage through the customer’s belongings, eat their food and steal money out of their sock drawer. It’s only in the rarest of emergencies that someone resists the urge to forget. In those cases, you have be prepared to pluck out those memories like they’re a prize inside a coin-operated claw machine. But really, what are the chances of that happening?
7. RoboCop (RoboCop)
Unlike some of the other entries on this list, we can actually see this job as a real possibility. Okay, so maybe there won’t be a RoboCop out roaming the streets, but we can imagine a world where police embrace technology as a means to deter criminal activity. With the controversy surrounding police brutality and the deaths of unarmed civilians, it would pay to have all the help we can get. So a RoboCop isn’t exactly impractical. Sometimes it’s sensible to side with computational rationalization over raw human emotions. But if we wander too far from sentience, then we’re simply swapping one extreme for another, and that’s a dark path you rarely come back from.
In the film which bears his name, RoboCop Alex Murphy takes an unapologetically nihilistic approach to justice. Maybe it’s the nefarious evil-doings of his maker Omni Consumer Products that drives him to murder, but his tendency for violence never subsides. But given his only human parts consist of a brain and digestive system, it stands to reason that he lost some sense of morality along the way. In its place is some brute force which should get any hardened criminal singing a different tune. Sure, it’s not the middle ground that we hoped for. But it’s a technological leap forward that’s just too cool to simply pass up.
6. Avatar Operator (Avatar)
If someone had to guess what the future of gaming looked like, they could point at Avatar as an example of where the industry is heading. Much like playing a massive multiplayer role-playing game, an avatar operator has complete anonymity. They work from the safety of their control chambers located in an outpost stationed outside the targeted planet of choice. From their posts, they can move the avatar as if operating through a first-person VR system. But unlike virtual reality, the inhabited world exists and there are consequences for your actions.
The Avatar Program is spearheaded by the Resources Development Administration (RDA), the largest non-government organization in space. The RDA uses its reach to commute workers to the furthest planets in the galaxy, where they mine minerals to be shipped to the resource depleted Earth.
We know what you’re thinking. Isn’t working as an Avatar operator the same as playing a 10 foot tall blue alien? But avatars aren’t restricted to Pandora and the Na’vi. With each new resource comes another planet with its own natives. In each scenario, the operator gathers intel and plays the part of an inhabitant. Then, when the iron is hot, the excavators move in and take over. Just remember that becoming attached likely leads to regret. The depletion of a planet isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s going to take some concrete stoicism to walk away without a heavy conscience.
5. Jaeger Pilot (Pacific Rim)
Growing up, it was every child’s dream to become a Power Ranger and pilot a Zord. When they got older, the urge to control a colossal Rock’em Sock’em Robot only grew stronger. Then in came Guillermo del Toro with a new vision. He made piloting a giant humanoid robot a dream job for more than just Power Rangers fans. He changed the name to a ‘Jaeger,’ threw in some Godzilla-esque Kaiju monsters and the career of giant android pilot was born anew.
Each designated pilot is assigned a side of the Jaeger for operation. Together, each pilot must work in synchronization to manually control the Jaeger’s limbs. Connected through a neural network, both pilots’ minds are melded together through the Drift, a pre-combatant process designed to handle the cognitive strain of the machine on the human brain.
Both fighters’ are evaluated to determine whether they’re Drift compatible. Once they are ruled a match, they undergo extensive training to assure they can work seamlessly in moments of stress. An absence of fear stringed together with moments of meditation give each pilot an edge. With every Kaiju measured by five distinct categories according to size, it takes the pilots who are the most in sync to fight off the largest monsters. And with new threats entering Earth’s dimension from the Anteverse, new positions are always available for experienced soldiers looking to put their lives on the line for humankind.
4. Man in Black (Men in Black)
These days, working as one of the government’s most classified operatives is understandably more difficult. With all the hubbub floating online about alien conspiracies and men in black suits masking evidence, tensions are running high for the MiB. Luckily for you, that means only candidates with the wherewithal to weather all the pandemonium will make the cut. The plus side is that you won’t remember a thing if you don’t pass the test. One quick flash of the neuralyzer and you’re back watching Netflix like nothing ever happened. But if the guys over on 21 Jump Street are in the running, then we think you have a shot.
Aside from the obvious finesse that comes with the attire, a man in black must be astute. Aliens come in many forms. Whether they’re giant cockroaches, talking Pugs or a local shopkeeper, they’re out there living their lives incognito. It’s the duty of any good operative to curtail the likelihood of a global takeover while remaining discreet. Of course, things will always get out of hand. You could find yourself facing a world threatening attack from a royal Arquillian family or in a race against time to prevent a criminal Boglodite from assassinating your partner. But the rewards far outweigh the costs. Not to mention, you have a whole arsenal of weapons — from Carbonizers to De-Atomizers — all at your disposal. Now that’s enough to make just about anyone look classy.
3. Dream Extractor (Inception)
If dreams are the embodiment of our subconscious recounting our innermost feelings, then what does that say about someone who chooses to spend more time asleep than awake? The title of dream extractor means getting to know someone more than you know yourself. You enter their dreams during a deep sleep and lay on the deception. You make them feel as though they are in control of their own dream world, while you discreetly make them give up their innermost secrets through the power of suggestion. That information is sold, and all the profits go straight into your bank account.
Make sure to get out a pen and paper, because this is where the job gets tricky. Each extractor is responsible for bringing their own totem, an item of sentimental value that only they know about. Whether it’s a loaded die or a spinning top, the item must fit in a pocket and not be touched by anyone else. It tethers you to reality in case your dream gets too out of hand. But in case you can’t differentiate your dream from the real world or a dream from a dream within a dream, always come prepared with another extractor ready to slap some sense into you. Yeah, it’s a total mind-trip, but think about it this way: you’re being paid to sleep. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
2. Replicant Hunter (Blade Runner)
If it weren’t for human sentiments, the replicants of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner would blend in with the rest of 2019 dystopian Los Angeles. Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the novel from which the film is based, questions the increasing mechanization of people brought on by the advancement of technology over human endeavor. It seems every day, technology further separates humankind from nature, making its users more reliant on computers than instinct. And so it’s only the most levelheaded people who can truly see past all the computer processing and acknowledge the danger of submitting to a life of wires.
It can be a daunting task hunting replicants in a world where machines appear human. It makes you question your own identity. Your memories may not be what they seem. You too could be one of the very robots you chase. The allusion of feelings are merely implanted in you by your maker as a way of making you feel connected to the world.
But as a hunter, you’ve got to stick to your guns. If the replicants are cloaked as humanoids, you must be able to read them carefully. The smallest of mistakes could be the death of an innocent civilian. Paranoia is part of the job description. That’s the consequence of living with advanced genetic programming. It’s enough to give you nightmares. That is, if your dreams are real in the first place.
1. Ghostbuster (Ghostbusters)
Was there ever any doubt about the number one entry? It’s really everything anyone could want in a job. You’re assigned your very own proton pack. You get to ride around in the Ecto-1, fitted with the company logo and siren. But most importantly, you get to recount the time you saved the lives of millions by stopping ghosts like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And with the release of the new film slated for July 15, the position is now one of the most sought after jobs in the country.
Now just because we’re all itching to put on the uniform, strap on our pistol belts, and capture some big bad ghosts, doesn’t mean we’re all up for the task. Not every encounter is going to be a friendly house call. You’re going to be slimed on a daily basis, and bodily possession is always a possibility. But when it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty, all the hardships are worth it. When the world is in peril, it’s time to cross the streams and hope for the best.
It’s been thirty years since four heroes saved New York from utter chaos. Answering the call can be a heavy burden, but someone has to do it. Just be prepared to be underpaid and woefully unemployed if it doesn’t work out. Being a ghostbuster may be the coolest sci-fi job that ever existed, but it doesn’t necessarily scream practicality on a resume.
Which sci-fi movie contained your dream gig? Let us know in the comments.