Conquest of Space

Top 25 Non-English SF Films Pre-1950

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?

World Without End

The first US time machine film from 1956 is a fun but clunky Technicolor adventure. Astronauts accidentally travel 500 years into the future, where the meek, pacifist human survivors hide from barbaric mutants in an underground civilisation. 5/10

Forbidden Planet

Based on Shakespeare, MGM’s 1956 epic starring Anne Francis & Leslie Nielsen is a landmark SF movie. The pulpy premise of space explorers saving a virgin from an alien monster hides surprisingly serious and adult themes. 9/10

King Dinosaur

Bert I. Gordon’s 1955 directorial debut sees four scientists completely uninterested in exploring a new planet and doing “darn science stuff”. After battling stock footage and superimposed insects, they detonate a nuclear bomb and go home. 0/10

This Island Earth

With a more adult angle than most fifties SF movies, Universal’s 1955 big-budget splash dazzles both with wonderful visuals and clever ideas. That the screenplay mismanages these ideas prevents its inclusion with the bona fide classics. 7/10

Conquest of Space

An implausible, ill-conceived and sluggish script is the bane of George Pal’s 1955 Technicolor space epic. The visuals in this first trip to Mars are (mostly) superb, which make the bizarre plot and deadly dialogue stand out like a sore thumb. 4/10

Tobor the Great

A boy befriends a giant robot in this independent film from 1954. Despite the clunky red scare spy subplot attached, this is pure cotton candy kiddie fare, remembered today only for its impressive robot design. 4/10

Gog

Strange deaths occur at an underground US research facility controlled by a computer. Suspicion falls on two helper robots, Gog and Magog. This 1954 Ivan Tors thriller in colour has a great setup, but feels more like a science lesson than an SF film. 5/10

Riders to the Stars

Curt Siodmak, Ivan Tors and Richard Carlson foreshadow The Right Stuff in this 1953 space race film. Despite its bonkers central premise and a somewhat unsatisfactory latter part, the film charms with its mature and calm, scientific approach. 5/10

Project Moonbase

It’s a battle of the sexes when an incompetent female pilot is chosen for political reasons to lead the first mission around the moon. The sexist script by Robert Heinlein for this 1953 film is not bettered by a limp cold war espionage angle. 1/10

Cat-Women of the Moon

The first “Amazon Women in Space” film, this 1953 low-budget clunker is one of the dumbest films ever made. However, despite its borrowed sets, atrocious acting and ludicrous script, it is thoroughly fun in its naivety. 3/10

The Quatermass Experiment

Hugely influential, BBC’s 1953 mini-series about an alien virus mutating their hosts was a massive British TV event. Aired live, its sets were clunky and the acting stiff, but the great script and innovative direction overcome the flaws even today. 6/10

Spaceways

Britain’s first post-war space movie is decidedly Earth-bound, as it follows the personal intrigues of scientists preparing the first orbital space flight. Hammer director Terence Fisher is far from inept, but is thwarted by a meandering script. 3/10

Red Planet Mars

A scientist receives messages from Mars, and the sender appears to be Jesus Christ himself. However, it is all a commu-nazi trick to destroy Western capitalism. Or is it? Would this 1952 red scare film not have taken itself so utterly seriously, it might have been fun. 1/10