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:

  • With only one or two exceptions, these movies are ones that I either have in my personal video collection or have seen at least once.

  • Again with a few notable exceptions, I've excluded movies that, in my opinion, are better classified as "horror," "fantasy," or "science fiction comedy." The movies I've excluded include some recent films that I personally consider to be little more than "horror movies in space." (I'll discuss this topic more in the intro to the 1990s page.)

  • Where there have been sequels and remakes of prior films, those sequels and remakes are not given their own directory entries, but are instead listed within the original movies' listings. For example, "The Empire Strikes Back," "Return of the Jedi," and "The Phantom Menace" are included under the main listing for "Star Wars."

  • I originally intended to include only my "Top 10" for each decade, but found that very hard to do, especially for the 1950s which, by any definition, has to be considered the "Golden Age" of science fiction. Therefore, in most cases I've presented more than ten movies for each decade.

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."

Movie Clip

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

Movie Clip

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.)

Bessie Love
Wallace Beery
Lewis Stone
Directed by Harry Hoyt


  • Lost World (1960 - 98 min) ****

    Movie Clip

    (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.

    Brigitte Helm
    Alfred Abel
    Gustav Froelich
    Rudolf Klein-Rogge
    Fritz Rasp
    Directed by Fritz Lang

    Movie Clip

    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.

    Willy Fritsch
    Klaus Pohl
    Gustav von Wangernheim
    Gerda Maurus
    Fritz Rasp
    Gustl Stark Gstettenbaur
    Karl Platen
    Directed by Fritz Lang

    Movie Clip

    (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.)

    Coline Clive
    Mae Clarke
    Boris Karloff
    John Boles
    Edward Van Sloan
    Dwight Frye
    Frederick Kerr
    Lionel Belmore
    Directed by James Whale


  • Bride of Frankenstein (1935 - 75 min) ****
  • Son of Frankenstein (1939 - 99 min) ***
  • The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942 - 68 min) **
  • Franenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943 - 72 min) ***
  • House of Frankenstein (1944 - 71 min) **
  • House of Dracula (1945 - 67 min) **

    Movie Clip

    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.)

    Claude Rains
    Gloria Stuart
    Una O'Connor
    William Harrigan
    Dudley Digges
    Dwight Frye
    Directed by James Whale

    Movie Clip

    King Kong
    (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.

    Fay Wray
    Robert Armstrong
    Bruce Cabot
    Frank Reicher
    Sam Hardy
    Nobel Johnson
    James Flavin
    Directed by Merian Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack


  • The Son of Kong (1933 - 90 min) ***
  • King Kong Escapes (1967 - 96 min) *
  • King Kong (1976 Remake - 134 min) ****
  • King Kong Lives (1986 - 105 min) *
  • King Kong (2006 Remake - 188 min) ****

    Movie Clip

    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.")

    Buster Crabbe
    Jean Rogers
    Frank Shannon
    Charles Middleton
    Priscilla Lawson
    Directed by Frederick Stephani


  • Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938 - 99 min) **
    (Based on the 15-part (480 min) serial. Also known as "Flash Gordon: Mars Attacks the World" and as "The Deadly Ray from Mars.")
  • Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940 - 87 min) **
    (Based on the 12-part (384 min) serial. Also known as "Purple Death from Outer Space.")

    Movie Clip

    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.)

    Raymond Massey
    Cedric Hardwicke
    Ralph Richardson
    Ann Todd
    Directed by William Cameron Menzies

    Movie Clip

    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.")

    Buster Crabbe
    Saul Goodkind
    Constance Moore
    Jackie Moran
    Jack Mulhall
    Anthony Warde
    Directed by Ford Beebe

    Movie Clip

    Dr. Cyclops
    (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.)

    Albert Dekker
    Thomas Coley
    Janice Logan
    Directed by Ernest Schoedsack

    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.

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    Last Updated: October 8, 2009