As we all know, the original Star Wars from 1977 signaled a significant paradigm shift in science fiction movies, in that the effects were far better than most sci-fi movies, the aesthetic was “grungy Western” rather than “sleek future,” and, perhaps less considered, it had nothing to do with Earth. It was also a huge hit, naturally, so its influence was far greater than other movies from which it took elements. For many nerds, Star Wars was a watershed movie, and I imagine many people who like science fiction movies would say their favorite one is either Star Wars or a movie that came out after Star Wars, which means it’s living in the shadow cast by Lucas’s monster. I could be wrong, I know, but that’s my suspicion.
Lucas didn’t invent science fiction, however, and people were making science fiction movies long before Star Wars. The tradition of science fiction movies goes back at least to 1902, when Georges Méliès stuck a rocket into the moon’s eye. With that in mind, what’s your favorite science fiction movie from the long decades before Star Wars came on the scene? There might not be as many contenders as there are from the past 45 years, simply because the genre became more popular after Star Wars and the technical aspects became easier, but there are still plenty to choose from! Is it Michael York running from his future? Is it Chuck Heston appreciating Lady Liberty a bit more? Is it Chuck Heston digging some new cuisine? Is it Leslie Nielsen fighting an invisible monster in the desert? Is it Jane Fonda deciding her clothes are too damned restrictive? Is it watching Klaatu fail in his mission because humans are stupid? What is it, good people?!?!?!?
For me, my favorite pre-1977 science fiction movie is a boring choice, I imagine, as it’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yes, I know it’s a classic, and I know it’s also not a lot of people’s favorite because it’s a bit boring, but I still love it. I love the special effects, of course, but I also love the pace, because things take time in space, damn it! I think the ending sequence is terrific, too, despite its ambiguity and downright weirdness. Years of study and the accretion of layers of explanation and criticism, not to mention the sequel, has made Dave Bowman’s journey a bit less mysterious, but I remember watching the movie when I was younger and not understanding much of it (despite having read the book beforehand), but still loving it. It’s still one of my favorite science fiction movies, despite the many, many others to choose from in a post-Lucas world.
Anyway, let me know yours in the comments. I know there are plenty I don’t know, so maybe I’ll learn about some new things to watch!