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Classic Science Fiction Movies: 5 Movies That Shaped the Genre

Image: Classic Science Fiction Movies: 5 Movies That Shaped the Genre
Brigitte Helm as robot Maria, Metropolis, 1927. (metropolis1927.com)

By    |   Thursday, 16 Apr 2015 08:42 AM

Science fiction encompasses many things to different people, from futuristic societies, to aliens and outer space, to unexplained phenomenon on Earth. In the early days of motion pictures, classic science fiction movies were only lightly touched upon because it was difficult to take what writers and moviegoers could imagine and translate that onto film.

However, starting in 1927 with "Metropolis," all that changed and as film and sound technology advanced, so have science fiction films. Here is a look of some boundary-breaking classic science fiction movies:

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1. "Metropolis" (1927)

The most artistic movie of its time, "Metropolis" pushed the boundaries of cinema even as silent motion pictures began to wane. "Metropolis" was the first full-length motion picture to explore the universe beyond the boundaries of time. The film, which was the vision of director Fritz Lang, explored what the future might be like and was "a dialectical treatise on man vs. machine and class struggle," noted AMC Filmsite.

2. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951)

Science fiction really began to take off in the 1940s and 1950s, thanks to writers like Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and others, as well as the rise in the popularity of comic books and pulp fiction books. "The Day the Earth Stood Still" was one of the first films to explore the notion that there were aliens from other planets out there that were interested in what was going on with the Earth and its citizens. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, the movie was a reflection of its time, much like "Metropolis."

3. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956)

As the 1950s progressed, the fear of outside invaders, in this case aliens, was growing due to the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" played upon that fear with its story about aliens coming down to Earth and inhabiting human host bodies. The film, quietly disregarded at its release, is "a quintessential black and white B-picture … precisely executed and packed with action," noted AMC Filmsite.

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4. "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)

Unusual in many respects, such as having the first words of dialogue spoken after 20 minutes in, Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" is often thought to be the bridge film taking cinema to its more modern releases. The movie is known for the way the Kubrick combined the score to mesh with the movie's multiple themes of evolution, artificial intelligence, and alien life. Den of Geek said, "2001 is one of the most captivating marriages of moving image and sound ever created."

5. "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope" (1977)

A film that could almost be called a space opera, the first film of the initial "Star Wars" trilogy broke ground with its dynamic special effects along with its riveting storytelling. The movie harkened back to the movie serials of the 1940s and 1950s while pushing the boundaries of cinematic scope. Three sequels and three prequels have followed, along with a cottage industry of cartoons, comic books, video games, collectibles, and imitators.

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Science fiction encompasses many things to different people, from futuristic societies, to aliens and outer space, to unexplained phenomenon on Earth. In the early days of motion pictures, classic science fiction movies were only lightly touched upon.
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