Much of the heritage in SF movies comes from non-English language films from the first half of the 20th century, many of which are largely unknown to an English-speaking audience today. Here we list the 25 greatest non-English language science fiction movies made prior to 1950. How many have you seen?
A 1956 cult classic, this gangster-monster mashup with Lon Chaney Jr. as a super-charged avenger suffers from the cutting of most of Chaney’s lines, and with them key scenes. Decent performances & good location shooting make it worth a watch. 3/10
Two bumbling journalists accidentally save a European backwater country from a mad scientists creating zombies and a master race with the help of gamma rays in this British B production from later Bond producer Albert Broccoli. 4/10
Ed Wood’s 1955 schlocker is a love letter to the film’s star Bela Lugosi and the monster movies of the thirties, and as such it is quite charming, despite its ineptitude. And despite ill health, Lugosi is magnetic in his last first billing. 5/10
Glorious comic book camp smashes into dull noir drama in this British 1954 cult classic. A must-see for Martian dominatrix Patricia Laffan looking for strong Earth men in her kinky latex outfit, but don’t expect too much. 5/10
A contender for the worst movie ever, this 1953 patch-job is a mind-boggling series of failures. Built upon existing footage from an unreleased picture, this one includes spider women, mad scientists and evil dwarfs, and still manages to be deadly dull. 0/10
The first Superman feature film debuted in 1951 with legendary George Reeves in shoulder pads and a winning grin. Despite a decent budget, it’s shoddy and thinly scripted, although its sincere call for solidarity and inclusiveness carries on the original vision of the comic, and might just win you over. 4/10.
History was made in 1948 when the first live-action Superman graced the screen. The 15-part serial from Columbia is obviously made on a tight budget, somewhat hurting credibility, but it’s respectful to the source material and Kirk Alyn is a believable man of steel. The real star of the serial is Noel Neill as Lois Lane, though. 5/10.
A quick Universal cheapo from 1941, this was the first of Lon Chaney Jr.’s monster movies, and one of his best. Lionel Atwill shines as the mad doctor who pumps Chaney full of electricity, until he becomes a mindless, glow-in-the-dark monster who kills with a touch. 6/10
A bullied college student is injected with an insect serum that gives him superhuman powers, but create as much problems as solutions. Inspired by Philip Wylie’s novel, this heartwarming but derivative 1938 slapstick comedy showcases the forgotten talents of one-time box office magnet Joe E. Brown. 6/10
This 1932 sci-fi/adventure film has been called the first superhero movie. Bela Lugosi shines as the villain, William Cameron Menzies directs with style and the sets and special effects are very impressive. The inane plot is secondary in the breezy, fun juvenile adventure set in Egypt. 6/10