It is often suggested that Star Wars changed cinema forever, it certainly changed Sci-Fi cinema. Below are some of the best pre Star Wars Sci-Fi movies:
Metropolis (1927) The oldest film on the list Metropolis still looks impressive more than eighty years later and has the privilege of being the only film in this list that is in my video/DVD collection. The dystopian future has been a favourite of Sci-Fi filmmakers ever since.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Like many great early Sci-Fi this film has been remade but this original is far superior. With post war America overrun with cold war paranoia the film has a none to subtle message warning against the dangers of the cold war and the nuclear arms race that it was fuelling.
War of the Worlds (1953) Based on a HG Wells story, by the time this original film version of War of the Worlds made it to film it had become another cautionary tale about the cold war. It was preceded by Orson Welles infamous radio play and followed by an epic album and a Spielberg remake.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Like most great early Sci-Fi this film has been remade. Post war America was overrun with cold war paranoia. Is this sounding familiar? Again the message isn’t subtle but it’s a great film.
Forbidden Planet (1956) If you are going to steal an idea you may as well steal a good one and that’s what Forbidden Planet does, taking its basic story from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The special effects were state of the art and that really is Leslie “Don’t call me Shirley” Nielsen. Take a look at the cast list Robby the Robot is credited as playing “Himself”.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) less a film and more a giant metaphor exploring the meaning of life from the origins of humanity to the present day and beyond. Absolutely compelling viewing but anyone who tells you they fully understand what is going on is a geniuses or a liar. It is also a rarity in the list a film that has not been remade, who would dare?
Planet of the Apes (1968) Guess what this one was remade too! An astronaut is stranded on a planet ruled by intelligent apes and humans are little more than slaves. The screenplay was co-written by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame and ends with what is possible the genres greatest twist. Forget “No [Luke] I am your farther” this is the big one!
A Clockwork Orange (1971) Another dystopian near future or just an alternative 1970s Britain? Based on an Anthony Burgess novel it could be a satire on the culture of the day or a grim vision of the near future, I would rather believe it is a testament to the human spirit.
Solyaris (1972) The story of a space mission that may just have found intelligent life. The 2002 Steven Soderberg remake was a little tedious but the original still makes for compelling viewing.
Silent Running (1972) The story of a spaceship containing the earths last forests until they are one day able to return to earth. Another cautionary tale.
- Other recommended viewing:
- Them (1954)
- The Thing from Another World (1951)
- It came from outer space (1953)
- Barbarella (1968)
- The Andromeda Strain (1971)
- The Omega Man (1971)
- Dark Star (1974)
- Rollerball (1975)
- A Boy and his Dog (1975)
- Logan’s Run (1976)
Coming Soon – Look out for my best post Star Wars Sci-Fi films.
Update. While researching for the post star wars film I realised I had missed:
Fahrenheit 451 (1966): Francois Truffaut’s brilliant adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel about a book-burning dystopian future.
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