Luc Besson's Iconic $264M Sci-Fi Was Actually Created by a 16-Year-Old

Luc Besson's Iconic $264M Sci-Fi Was Actually Created by a 16-Year-Old
Image credit: Legion-Media

… which makes a lot of sense, when you think about it.


  • This sci-fi movie was a hit at the box office but sharply divided critics.
  • It remains a cult classic to this day.
  • You might understand the movie better when you realize that it came from the mind of a teenage boy.

Back in 1997, French director Luc Besson released one of the most unhinged sci-fi flicks of all time. This movie had everything: giant alien porcupine robots, an operatic blue woman with tentacles, and Chris Tucker in the most fabulous costumes ever created.

What's It About?

Every five thousand years, a great evil appears and threatens to destroy earth. It can only be stopped by a weapon consisting of four stones and a sarcophagus containing 'the fifth element'.

In the year 2263, the great evil takes the form of a living fireball that heads for earth. The keepers of the weapon assemble it, and when they reanimate the contents of the sarcophagus they turn into a sexy (natch) young (of course) woman named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich).

Disoriented by her sudden awakening, Leeloo jumps out of the window and into the flying taxicab run by Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis).

Luc Besson's Iconic $264M Sci-Fi Was Actually Created by a 16-Year-Old - image 1

If that all sounds straightforward, it means you haven't yet seen The Fifth Element, an incredible and completely demented romp involving Gary Oldman in a half-bald, half-bob haircut and Chris Tucker playing camp to the max as the iconic Ruby Rhod. Everything about it is insane, and you might understand why if you know the source.

Sixteen Year Old Fantasies

Luc Besson once revealed what should have been obvious all along: he conceived The Fifth Element while he was in high school.

Of course! Who else would write a scene where a sexy, naked, orange-haired woman with the body of a ninja and the innocence of a wide-eyed virgin just happens to stray into the hero's path, needing to be saved? It's such a teenage boy fantasy, we should have seen it coming.

Besson remembers that a key idea came from helping his 13-year-old sister with her homework. He once told an interviewer, 'She had an exercise about Plato. You know, the Greek philosopher. He wrote about [the five elements which were thought to comprise all matter], you know the water, the earth, the fire, and the air. And the fifth element is the human being. And I read the thing, and I said 'Fuck! That's exactly what I'm missing.''

Luc Besson's Iconic $264M Sci-Fi Was Actually Created by a 16-Year-Old - image 2

Besson originally wrote The Fifth Element as a novel, and continued to tinker with the story well into his adult years. In his 30s, he began to see the story as a script rather than a book – and the rest is history.

Mixed Responses

The Fifth Element sharply divided critics. Some saw it as a nonsensical, noisy disaster; others saw it as a campy, visually exciting good time.

Variety called the movie 'A largely misfired European attempt to make an American-style sci-fi spectacular, The Fifth Element consists of a hodgepodge of elements that don't comfortably coalesce.'

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times called it an 'elaborate, even campy sci-fi extravaganza… boasts some of the most sophisticated, witty production and costume design you could ever hope to see.'

Overall, the movie was a success: it tripled its budget at the box office and has a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Luc Besson's Iconic $264M Sci-Fi Was Actually Created by a 16-Year-Old - image 3


To this day, people either like or loathe The Fifth Element. Some say it's good; some say it's bad; some say it's bad, but in an awesome way. It has attained cult status and still plays regularly on television.

Although he has been asked many times about the possibility of a sequel, Besson says that he has no plans to return to the world of Leeloo or The Fifth Element.

Source: Nerdist.