I’m always going on and on about my favorite sci-fi films Star Wars, Blade Runner, Akira, Star Trek: Wrath of Khan and Undiscovered Country, Alien, Aliens, Terminator, Back to the Future, Jurrasic Park, Matrix, and Donnie Darko, and the last few years have given us WALL-E, Sunshine, Watchmen, District 9, a bold new Star Trek, and a little flick called Avatar.? However, there are tons of sci-fi movies prior to the birth of George Lucas’ blockbuster, and this quick is a reminder of sci-fi’s long and distinguished history:
|1.? The Time Machine (1960)
No other movie besides Star Wars has had as great an impact on my childhood imagination.? H. G. Well’s vision of an apocalyptic future and the tragic relationship between the timid Eloi and the underground? Morlocks was but the first adventure of the time traveler–he had dozens more in my mind, a few of which I put down on paper when I was six or seven years old.
|2.? The Invisible Man (1933)
Claude Rains is such a presence in this film that no one has ever been able to make as powerful a remake since.? And he is either invisible or bandaged from head to toe throughout the entire movie!? Not only was he a classically trained actor, but he taught at the Royal Academy (Sirs Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud among his most notable students).? His? raspy, maniacally laughing Invisible Man ‘rained’ supreme as the most iconic villainous voice in cinema until James Earl Jones, and later, you might say Anthony Hopkins evoked a similar timber in The Silence of the Lambs.? And it’s likely not coincidence that this is another adaptation of an H.G. Wells novel.
|3.? Planet of the Apes (1968)
I loved the gorgeous vistas around the splashdown site of the astronauts’ ship, I marveled at the ape makeup that didn’t seem like makeup it was so realistic, and I felt the oppression of the enslaved humans.? I don’t think the ending impacted me until years later, but most of the Planet of the Apes films left me frustrated or confused, likely because I saw them out of order and extensively edited on Saturdayafternoon monster theater.? They bear re-watching.
|4.? THX 1138 (1971)
Yeah, I know, a George Lucas sci-fi film before Star Wars.? For me, as a kid, it was all about that car.? Oppressive society, Donald Pleasance on the run, okay, I get it–but it was all about that futuristic car.
|5.? The War of the Worlds (1953)
What can I say, I’m a fan of the works of H.G. Wells!? The guy could speak to our hopes and fears and a boy’s sense of adventure like few others!? Also, that spidery-sounding telescopic eye of the alien invaders is so primaly freaky that it’s still used in cinema, television and animated works today.
|7.? Westworld (1973)
Yule Brenner as a robot gunslinger in a western-themed robot amusement park that goes horribly wrong.? Why do the scientists make them?!? I’ll tell you why:? because they are SCARY AWESOME.? Few remember there was a remake called Futureworld two years later with Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner.? It’s worth a look if you loved the first one, but it does pale in comparison.? (It had a lot of potential, and maybe someone might be brave enough to attempt a big budget remake, but maybe it already was, and it was called The Island, but with clones instead of robots, so nevermind.)
|8.? 2001:? A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s Master Opus of sci-fi should be number one, but it is long, and to a young boy seeking action, girls in bikinis, ape men or aliens, it falls short of those expectations.? For an older, more philosophical audience, few films come close to capturing the history of human achievement, and frailty.
|9.? Silent Running (1972)
Bruce Dern is an astronaut forest ranger caring for the Earth’s last forests within several greenhouse domes aboard the space freighter Valley Forge.? He goes rogue when his superiors order him to jettison the domes and return to Earth.? He goes against his fellow rangers and spends much of the film alone with his maintenance robots.? A lonely, poignant film, don’t watch it if you’re already depressed.? But has a few great effects and one of the few “hard sf” films on this list.
|10.? Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
A Disney film on a top ten list of Sci-Fi greats before Star Wars?? Huh?? Well, even Star Wars itself is more space opera than science-fiction, more driven by mythology than science, and this list is my attempt to list those films that captured my imagination when I was growing up, and this particular film of two extraterrestrial twins with psychic abilities trying to get back to their ship with the help of an elderly man in an RV did just that.? It helped develop my sense of wonder and adventure.
A few honorable mentions that didn’t make the list quite honestly due to my memories of them not being as strong and therefore not having quite the impact as those in the top ten:? The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954), The Blob (1958), Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965), and Fantastic Voyage (1956).
And here are a few I wanted to list because they had a tremendous impact on me, but came out at the same time as Star Wars, or a couple years after, and at least one was a blatant imitator attempting to cash in on the blockbuster’s success:? Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Damnation Alley (1977), ? Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Superman (1978), The Black Hole, Mad Max, and Starcrash (1979).