Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month Goes to the Movies

Film is a great medium for the likes of science fiction and fantasy.  Bizarre worlds, unbelievable creatures, impossible science–all can be made “real” thanks to the moving picture.

Sadly, younger fans do not always experience the classic older films because so much gets buried under the newer films.

Therefore, I decided as part of Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month,  I would focus on films of these two genres.

May as well put my film degree to use, eh?

Here is a list of ten of my favorite, must-see “classic” science fiction and fantasy films.

This is by no means an all inclusive list, just a few of my favorites.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Space travel.  A murderous computer.  Violent apes.  What’s not to like? The special effects toward the end of the film are still amazing.  Speaking of violent apes…

Planet of the Apes (1968)

This movie is more than just Chuck Heston running around in a loin cloth.  Sure, the make-up is a bit goofy by today’s standards, but some of the themes and scenes are just as powerful today as they were back in the ’60s.

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

The skeleton fight scene alone makes this movie worth watching over and over. This is a pure fantasy story: a hero must go on a quest to find a magical item.  Hilarity ensues.  OK, not really, but there are plenty of monsters, including a nasty hydra.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Another classic fantasy tale.  Sinbad fights monsters and searches for treasure. The popularity of the sword fight with a skeleton scene in this film led to the skeleton fight scene in Jason and the Argonauts.

Forbidden Planet (1956)

This proto-Star Trek film stars a young Leslie Nielsen and still holds up fifty plus years later.

It features an electronic music score, which was a big deal in 1956, and even has a robot, Robby, as the co-star.  The space explorer team lands on a planet formally inhabited by a super-advanced alien race.  This film also features some amazing special effects, with help from Disney animators.

Gojira (1954)

Edited and repackaged as Godzilla, King of the Monsters! here in the USA. The big guy’s influence is undeniable.  His legacy had lasted more than fifty years, and they are still making sequels and spin-offs.

Flash Gordon (various serials, 1936)

Star Wars fans can see where a lot of the influence came from in these old, action packed serials. The special effects and costumes are super-campy by today’s standards, but that’s half fun.

Trivia: Larry “Buster” Crabbe also played Buck Rogers.

King Kong (1933)

He’s called King for a reason, baby.  My favorite part?  When King Kong fights the giant T. Rex-like creature and breaks its jaw.  Intense.  No computers here, that was just puppets and it is still pretty brutal.

Metropolis (1927)

Perhaps the holy grail of old school science fiction films, Metropolis has it all: a futuristic society that is equal parts utopia and dystopia, a crazed scientist, and a robot made to look like a real woman.

It is a silent film, but it is very much worth watching.  And good news: they recently found a long lost version with additional footage.  The influence of Metropolis can be seen in many, many films.

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Perhaps the first ever science fiction film–and what is it about?  A team of scientists develop a way to get to the moon–a giant cannon!

Fun stuff. Once on the moon, the scientists run into all kinds of crazy creatures. The most famous shot of the film is the “man in the moon” with the space capsule stuck in his face.

If you are looking for a way to celebrate Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month, I highly recommend making sure you’ve seen every film on this list.

I asked folks on Twitter for their own suggestions, here are a few:

@andyboyan: “Moon, Princess Bride, Hobbit, Back to the Futures, T2, Matrix, 12 Monkeys, Contact, 5th Element, Starship Troopers, Galaxy Quest.”

@ashetler: “Blade Runner, Back to the Future, Aliens, Equilibrium, Serenity, LOTR, The Dark Crystal.”

@Melissa_Stewart: “Merlin.”

Please feel free to list your own favorites in the comments.

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