Science fiction has had a long, storied history in cinema. The 1940s and 1950s were overcrowded with cheesy b-movies designed to freak out teenagers at drive-ins. These days, science fiction films are more frequently celebrated, thanks to better technology and film-makers being allowed to tell the kinds of stories they want to tell. One can very easily separate the genre into two time periods - before and after Star Wars.
George Lucas' masterpiece was not just a revolution for the genre, but for cinema as a whole. It took over pop culture and people couldn't get enough of it. As a movie, it employed state of the art special effects that sold the audience on a truly fantastic world. After watching Star Wars, most fantasy and sci-fi from before just didn't look as good anymore. We say most because a lot of films from before 1977 still do hold up. As proof of this, the following list will present ten older science fiction movies that are still worth watching today.
10 THX 1138
George Lucas' debut feature was a flop upon release. Even after Star Wars came out and the studio re-released it, the film still did not pick up an audience. The few that did see it know they had happened upon something special.
The movie relays a dystopian future where all citizens are robbed of their names and any type of pleasure. Instead, they are all given drugs and forced to work dangerous jobs. It's a far cry from the family-friendly adventures he would churn out less than a decade later, but his imagination still shines through.
This is the only silent film on the list. Fritz Lang's 1927 movie tells of a world where the rich live in luxury at the tops of high rise buildings, while workers toil away in agony at the bottom.
If you're a gamer, the whole concept probably brings to mind Midgar from Final Fantasy VII. Surprisingly, the movie was panned upon release. Even iconic writer H.G. Wells had some nasty words for it, and if anybody should know their sci-fi, it's H.G. Wells. Still, this is a fascinating little movie that genre enthusiasts are sure to get a kick out of.
Alphaville is a detective film set in the future. What separates it from other science fiction stories is the lack of special effects, props, or fantastic set design.
The whole movie was filmed in Paris and conveys its futuristic setting purely through cinematography and the chosen filming locations. This method is not dissimilar to what Andrei Tarkovsky would do with Stalker, another unconventional science fiction movie.
7 The Day The Earth Stood Still
The Day The Earth Stood Still stands in stark contrast to its contemporaries. While other science fiction films from the 1940s and 50s were intent on showing people fantastic locations or gross monsters, this Robert Wise-directed classic deals with a humanoid alien sent to Earth in an attempt to bring peace.
As one would expect, Earth is hostile to Klaatu, causing him to leave with a grave warning that humanity must change their ways or perish. A deeper movie than the average fare of the time, with a message that still rings true today.
6 The War Of The Worlds
Based on the H.G. Wells classic, War of the Worlds deals with an invasion of Earth by Martians. These aliens clearly do not come in peace, and wreak havoc upon the land for the whole duration of the movie.
Some of the effects have aged poorly, but the urgency of the situation is still thoroughly felt throughout the run time. The original novel is also still magnificent.
What else is there to say about one of cinema's most iconic monsters? The original 1954 Godzilla remains the best film in the series for its strong message and great performances.
This monster is humanity's punishment for its reckless use of science and energy. Heck, that's another message that continues to resound around the world, more and more these days.
4 2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick didn't believe a good science fiction film had been made before his seminal contribution to the genre. 2001: A Space Odyssey was a collaboration between the legendary director and writer Arthur C. Clarke. The story explores man's relation to the universe, the dangers of artificial intelligence, and human evolution.
A mysterious monolith periodically appears, which (in contrast to the book) is never fully explained on film. The open-ended nature of the storytelling, mixed with the nearly flawless visual effects, make 2001 a timeless experience that will impact younger generations just as it did movie-goers in 1968.
Them! is a pretty simple premise: huge ants start attacking people. It may seem like a quaint idea, but it is still a delightfully exciting movie.
The premise, effects, acting, and music are all products of their time, but that's okay when it all falls in place to make a good movie. Plenty of schlock from the decade still resonates through the movie, but Them! stands above its peers. Another vintage essential for genre fans to enjoy.
2 Planet Of The Apes
Planet of the Apes is based on a novel, which was turned into a screenplay by none other than Rod Serling. The movie is essentially perfect in both its aesthetic and the way it introduces the viewer to this scary, mysterious world where apes have become the dominant species and humans are subjugated.
The four additional films in the original series are all worth watching, even if (as tends to be the case) a couple don't live up to the same standard.
1 Things To Come
Things to Come, based on the H.G. Wells novel The Shape of Things to Come, tells the story of a great conflict that brings humanity to the brink of extinction. Society eventually comes back after learning from its tragic mistakes, becoming more advanced than ever.
The fact that a 100-minute movie covers this much time so efficiently is a marvel in and of itself. The movie was produced in 1936, and its warning about the dangers of international conflicts still ring true today.