Space exploration

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

Flight to Mars

The first team of explorers to Mars are welcomed and double-crossed by a Martian civilisation attempting to hijack their rocket and invade Earth. A 1951 low-budget effort by Monogram, the movie’s striking for its visuals, but badly scripted and routinely directed. 5/10.

Tales of Tomorrow

The first SF anthology TV show aired live in the US from 1951 to 1953. With material by some of the greatest SF authors of all time, its adult-oriented, intelligent scripts are often unsettling to watch even today. The cast boasts Leslie Nielsen, Rod Steiger, Paul Newman, Eva Gabor, James Dean, Joanne Woodward and many more. 6/10

Destination Moon

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

Rocketship X-M

Poverty Row studio Lippert Pictures rushed Rockethip X-M into theatres in 1950, ahead of the much-hyped big-budget production Destination Moon, claiming the title of the first American space exploration movie. Despite its cash-grab nature, in some ways it actually surpasses its heavy-going “original”. 6/10

Cosmic Voyage

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

Just Imagine

A very early sound film, this 1930 US sci-fi musical comedy tries to combine Metropolis, A Princess from Mars, The Ziegfield Follies and stand-up comedy. With predictable results. Despite being the brainchild of Hollywood’s hottest musical writers, the music is dull, the SF worse and the comedy painfully unfunny. The film looks good, though. 3/10

Woman in the Moon

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

Our Heavenly Bodies

A forgotten German educational film with strong SF elements, Wunder der Schöpfung takes us on a ride in a spaceship to visit the planets and the stars. Director Hanns Walter Kornblum worked with nine animators and six cinematographers to create astounding special effects that hold up to any other masterpiece made in the twenties. (8/10)

Aelita, Queen of Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (8/10) Ostensibly Russia’s/USSR’s first sci-fi film, this political 1924 space fantasy lays down a surprisingly intelligent criticism of the communist revolution, once you look past the clunky, propagandistic symbolism […]

A Trip to Mars

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ (5/10) A scientist floats to Mars and is captured by Martians in this early American short film. Not a masterpiece, but a well made and intriguing little film. A […]