It was a trip to the moon in 1902 that gave birth to the narrative film, and propelled cinema forward. The theatrical fairy-tale A Trip to the Moon turned French director Georges Méliès into the uncrowned king of international cinema. The silent era provided some of the timeless classics of space films, whose influence is not only seen on screen even today, but that even had an impact on space travel itself. Hereby we present the 10 greatest space films of the silent era.
The 1920s was an exciting time in science fiction film history. Cinema was booming after WWI, giving filmmakers successively bigger budgets to realise their visions with, and groundbreaking technical advancements allowed for ever more realistic depictions of the impossible. Here’s a list of the 10 best sci-fi films released between 1920 and 1929.
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
A hallucinatory explosion of art deco and visual experimentation, Marcel L’Herbier’s 1924 film L’Inhumaine has divided critics and audiences for decades. Its bold design and innovative editing inspired a generation of directors, but many find its script thin and its characters one-dimensional and uninspiring.
This 1929 film was Britain’s attempt to create its own Metropolis. The stunning art deco visuals are counteracted by a clumsy and overtly naive script. Maurice Elvey’s direction is fluid and competent, but the actors are stuck with paper-thin characters who lack motivation. Modern viewers of this pacifist yarn set in 1940 will marvel at the accurate predictions of things like TV and Skype. (5/10)
Borrowing the name of Jules Verne’s bestseller, this problem-ridden 1926-1929 production features good acting, some remarkable special effects and a solid-ish script, but alas, the schizophrenic semi-talkie-semi-silent film is just as equally horrible in many ways, with toy submarines and crocodiles substituting for dinos. (4/10)
NO RATING: FILMS LOST OR UNAVAILABLE Alraune is a forgotten movie monster that for a a few decades during the silent era fought for popularity in Europe with the likes […]
A misogynist but still fairly entertaining sci-fi/fantasy film from Germany about a soulless woman artificially produced from the semen of a hanged murderer and the womb of a prostitute. Worth watching for the ever alluring Brigitte Helm in the lead. (5/10)
The 1910s was the decade when the feature film established itself as the global industry standard, significantly adding budget, production value, prestige and narrative depths to movies. The horrors of […]
In a nutshell: A bonkers short subject by master director Jean Renoir from 1927 shows an African explorer in a spacecraft discovering a white native woman in a post-apocalyptic Paris, and they dance the Charleston for ten minutes. (5/10)
The plot may be meandering and the political message naive, but the thematic and visual influence of Austrian director Fritz Lang’s exciting 1927 masterpiece Metropolis is rivalled by few in science fiction and in film in general. A great, entertaining, sprawling epic in a future tower of Babylon. (10/10)
Miss Mend (1926) is quite possibly the best American action film serial of the silent era. And it was made in the Soviet Union. The tacked-on, state-required propaganda elements throw the plot and pacing off balance, but all-in-all this international spy-fi yarn is a breezy, action-packed, impeccably filmed and fun tour-de-force. (8/10)
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)
This 1925 Soviet action film by legendary film theorist Lev Kuleshov is all about editing and light-hearted spy fun in a pre-James Bond era, as fascists and socialists fight for possession of a death ray. Kuleshov’s experimental editing and lost film reels create a highly disjointed viewing experience, and the parts are better than the whole. (5/10)
The original dinosaur blockbuster was released in 1925 by First National Pictures. With stop-motion animation by legendary Willis O’Brien and cinematography by multiple Oscar nominee Arthur Edeson, the film is a beauty to behold, even if the plot and pacing suffers from director Harry Hoyt’s determination to get as much dino action into the picture as possible. (8/10)