Classic Science Fiction Movies
Appropriately, as this is being written, the year 2000 is only two days old and the true beginning of the new millenium and the 21st Century are only a year away. Therefore, what better time to put together a directory of some of the best science fiction movies of the 20th Century! It should be no surprise that this is my favorite genre of movies, and the task was rather daunting to select just a few of the literally hundreds of science fiction films that have been produced since 1900. Undoubtedly I've left out some that you might like better and included some that would not make your personal "best of" list. So, to explain my selections, here are a few ground rules I followed:
As you may have guessed by know, the directory is arranged more or less chronologically by decade, with the decade of the 1950s consisting of several pages. Links to all decades are found at the bottom of each page. A final page will present my picks as the Top 10 Science Fiction Movies of All Time.
Pre-1950 Science Fiction
The science fiction movies of the first five decades of the 1900s include films that set the standard for just about the full range of sub-genres that we have grown accustomed to, including: space exploration (A Trip to the Moon - 1902), space war (Buck Rogers - 1939), aliens attack Earth (Flash Gordon - 1936, future life (Metropolis - 1926), time warp (The Lost World - 1925), mad scientist (Frankenstein - 1931), and mutant Earth creatures (King Kong - 1933). So, here's my "Top 11" science fiction movies of the 1900s to 1940s - including the 1902 short subject film (16 minutes) "A Trip to the Moon."
A Trip to the Moon
(1902 - 16 min - Silent) **
Plot: Perhaps the very first science fiction movie ever made, this short film combined elements from novels by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to tell about a fantastic trip to the moon.
Directed by George Melies
The Lost World
(1925 - 69 min - Silent) ****
Plot: Silent film about an expedition into an unexplored jungle teeming with dinosaurs from the Jurassic era. In this version, one of the dinosaurs if brought back to London. (Based on the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle and undoubtedly had some influence on the "Jurassic Park" movies.)
(1926 - 115 min - Silent) ****
Plot: Futuristic German tale of class conflict in a city where the wealthy leaders live in skyscrapers and the workers live underground toiling at huge machines.
Woman in the Moon
aka "Girl in the Moon" and "By Rocket to the Moon"
(1929 - 108 min - Silent) ****
Plot: Another futuristic tale by Fritz Lang, which featured the first multi-stage rocket and influenced an early generation of German rocketeers, including Werhner von Braun, who was a key figure in the U.S. space program and the success of the Apollo missions to the Moon.
(1931 - 70 min) ***
Plot: Classic story of the mad scientist who creates a living being but inadvertently gives him a criminal mind. (Based on the novel by Mary Shelley.)
The Invisible Man
(1933 - 71 min) ****
Plot: A scientist discovers the secret to invisibility, but he goes mad in the process. (Based on the novel by H.G. Wells.)
(1933 - 105 min) *****
Plot: Explorers find a gigantic ape who grows attached to a young maiden; but when the ape is brought to New York City, he goes wild and meets his fate at the top of the Empire State Building.
Flash Gordon: Spaceship to the Unknown
(1936 - 97 min) ***
Plot: With the planet Mongo headed toward a collision with Earth, Flash, Dale Arden, and Dr. Zarkov fly to the rescue against the evil Emperor Ming. (Feature version of the 13-part (416 min) serial "Flash Gordon.")
(Based on the 15-part (480 min) serial. Also known as "Flash Gordon: Mars Attacks the World" and as "The Deadly Ray from Mars.")
(Based on the 12-part (384 min) serial. Also known as "Purple Death from Outer Space.")
Things to Come
(1936 - 92 min) ****
Plot: Prophetic British look at mankind's future, which predicted World War II, followed by disease, revolution, and space travel. (Based on the novel by H.G. Wells.)
Buck Rogers: Destination Saturn
(1939 - 91 min) ***
Plot: Buck Rogers and Buddy Wade are revived from suspended animation and fight Killer Kane and his space gangsters. (Feature version of the 12-part (384 min) serial "Buck Rogers.")
(1940 - 76 min) ***
Plot: A crazed scientist shrinks five visitors to a foot height, with the result that everything around them presents extreme danger. (The first science fiction movies to be filmed in color.)
For More Information
Many of the movies in this directory have been released on video and should be available through your local video stores or the many online video stores. Many of them also air occasionally on such cable TV networks as American Movie Classics, Turner Classic Movies, and TNT Network, among others.
1996-2013 Arnold E.
van Beverhoudt, Jr.