The 1950s may be better remembered for movies like Singin’ in the Rain, Ben Hur and Cinderella but it also gave birth to some of the best loved science fiction movies of all time.
From invading aliens to colliding planets, the 50s was a golden era for science fiction and here are the seven movies that defined it.
7. When Worlds Collide (1951, Paramount Pictures)
Based on a 1933 novel of the same name, When Worlds Collide is actually about a star on a collision course with the Earth. Giant spaceships are constructed to take winners of a lottery to a nearby planet and violence breaks out on Earth as the end draws near.
Yes, it does sound more than a little like Roland Emmerich’s movie 2012 and so When Worlds Collide remains a highly influential movie. A remake by director Stephen Sommers is currently in development.
6. The Thing From Another World (1951, RKO Radio Pictures)
Less faithful to the original novella than the classic 1982 John Carpenter adaptation, Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World still remains a very effective chiller (no pun intended).
The movie transports the action to Alaska, instead of Antarctica, and this alien can’t imitate other lifeforms. Instead, it’s a form of humanoid plant that reproduces by ingesting blood and goes on a killing spree at the base.
The Thing From Another World was the biggest science fiction movie released in 1951, beating When Worlds Collide, and ends with the immortal lines ”Watch the skies everywhere. Keep looking. Keep watching the skies.”
5. Them! (1954, Warner Bros.)
The 1950s had many movies about giant creatures spawned from radioactive fallout but Them! stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Nominated for an Oscar for best special effects, the movie starts in New Mexico where a series of mysterious deaths are soon found to be the work of giant ants the size of cars. The army are brought in to destroy the colony but not before two queens escape to start new colonies – with one in Los Angeles.
Now considered a classic, Them! is a masterclass in how to create suspense in a monster movie.
4. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, 20th Century Fox)
Remade really badly in 2008 with Keanu Reeves, the original 1951 movie from director Robert Wise has lost none of its brilliance over the years. The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time – not bad considering the director is actually better known for The Sound of Music and West Side Story.
The message about mankind’s destructive nature has never been more relevant as it is today and the revelation that the giant robot Gort is actually a peace keeper gives the movie a whole other dimension.
“Klaatu barada nikto”. Don’t forget it.
3. The War of the Worlds (1953, Paramount Pictures)
H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds remains one of the great literary works of science fiction, all the more remarkable as it was written in 1898. There’s been several movie adaptations of this classic and although this 1953 version isn’t particularly faithful it’s still a fantastic piece of entertainment.
Produced by George Pal, who also produced When Worlds Collide, the movie places the action in 1950s America and won an Oscar for special effects. The Martians still arrive in cylinders like in the original book but for technical reasons they have flying machines instead of tripods.
The War of the Worlds maintains a high level of tension throughout and even today is one of the best alien invasion movies of all time.
2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, Allied Artists)
Also considered one of the best science fiction horror movies of all time, Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a taught thriller that makes you paranoid of everyone.
The movie expertly builds up the tension minute by minute and paints a very different view of alien invasion to The War of the Worlds. These aliens don’t need weapons – their plan is far more masterful.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is creepy enough to still give you the chills today and make you want to stay up all night in case you change.
1. Forbidden Planet (1956, MGM)
1956 was a great year indeed for science fiction movies. Named as one of the inspirations for Star Trek, Forbidden Planet is one of the most iconic SF movies of all time.
Robbie the Robot remains one of the most famous big screen robots of any movie and the electronic music score was groundbreaking for the time. It was also the first science fiction movie set completely on another world and the Krell are one of the greatest alien creations brought to cinema screens.
A remake of Forbidden Planet has been threatened for years but it’s impossible to match the out of this world original and the air of menace that builds up throughout. It’s an intelligent science fiction, something that’s rare even today.
Were the 1950s the Golden Era of Science Fiction Movies?
The seven movies above are the best science fiction movies of the 50s but there’s more, such as This Island Earth, The Blob and Invaders From Mars.
What are your favourites?