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?
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
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
In 1950 Hollywood finally produced its first first serious, big-budget space film. With the help of luminaries like Robert Heinlein, Hermann Oberth and Chesley Bonestell, future SF icon George Pal produced a visually stunning but dramatically stale epic, heavily influenced by the red scare. 6/10
My very first zero-star review goes to a 1946 Mexican ”sci-fi comedy” starring a down and out Buster Keaton doing his best not to fall asleep on set. The script has three idiots landing a rocket in the middle of a Mexican city, thinking they are on the moon. That is the full plot. The best moments have Buster Keaton lifelessly repeating old gags from his silent era. The rest is a mess. Scifist rating: 0/10.
H.G. Wells and William Cameron Menzies take us on an epic journey through the future in this pompous 1936 social prophesy, the last big SF film before the 1950s. The most expensive film made in Britain at the time, Things to Come boasts incredible sets and effects, but the script is stiff, the acting wooden and the viewer bludgeoned to boredom with the message. 6/10
Kosmichesky Reys is a stunning, costly Soviet moon landing adventure from 1936, inspired by Fritz Lang’s 1929 film Woman in the Moon. Thanks to the collaboration of legendary rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, it is impressively accurate. Aimed at a juvenile audience, Cosmic Voyage is an enjoyable and exciting space adventure movie. 7/10
This 1929 movie is the grandfather of the modern space rocket movie. Fritz Lang’s German silent film has a reputation for being over-long and sluggish during its first half. But if you like Lang’s spy yarns, the build-up is pure cinematic delight — and when the actual space voyage gets underway, it is as riveting today as it was 90 years ago. Thanks to the help of the world’s leading rocket scientists, the scientific accuracy is eerily prophetic. 9/10
∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (6/10) In 1908 Spanish master filmmaker Segundo de Chomon directed a carbon copy of Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon. The result is professional, but uninspired. An Excursion […]
∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (6/10) Walter R. Booth’s short film is a subversive and funny trick film about a couple of mad motorists that speed through the British streets, toppling police officers, riding […]
∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (7/10) A drunken romantic reaches for the moon in this warmly whimsical 1905 pseudo-sci-fi film by French trick filmer Gaston Velle. Clearly inspired by Georges Méliès, but with a […]
This 1902 film about a trip to the moon and an encounter with aliens is in many senses the first of its kind, notable for its large budget, entertaining and fantastical story, state of the art special effects and lavish, moving sets. A true benchmark not only for sci-fi films, but for the medium of film as a whole.