Are you a black and white b movie fan like me? No? Well you should be! You’re missing out on some great movies. Some are so bad they are good; simply because of their entertainment value. And some of the good ones are great! Either way, they’re all classics in my book. Many, many great sci-fi classics came out of that decade, well over 10. But I had to choose. So, here are some of my favorites.
10. Journey to the Center of the Earth: 1959
This sci-fi adventure follows a team of explorers (3 men and a woman) down an extinct Icelandic volcano leading to the center of the earth. Along the way they encounter floods, dinosaurs, a giant Gila monster and, as always, the evil adversary who tries to stop and/or kill them so he can reach the center first.
At a time when women had little power and independence, this was one of the first films to portray a woman as a strong and capable member of the team rather than a helpless damsel in distress. It had great special effects for the time. With big stars like James Mason, Pat Boone and Arlene Dahl, it far surpassed the typical science fiction film of the decade. I haven’t seen the remake.
9. Invaders from Mars: 1953
Scared me to death the first time I saw it! It begins with young David gazing at the stars from his bedroom window one night. He sees a flying saucer land in the sand pit near his home. He runs off to alert his parents and insists his father investigate. His father disappears into the sandbox and doesn’t come back until the next morning… but he has somehow “changed”. He sees a scar on his father’s neck and realizes something has happened to him.
The nightmare deepens as many of the local townspeople begin to “change” as well. At first nobody believes David, but eventually he convinces a scientist and a doctor that something is wrong. Together they thwart the invasion and save the world. The mummy-like Martians and their disembodied leader with his head in a fishbowl and many limbs are particularly “creepy”. The remakes are ok, but I liked this one the best.
8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: 1954
A visually stunning take on the Jules Verne classic, this film has inspired several film remakes and a hit TV series. It was the first and only science fiction film produced by Walt Disney himself and one of the best of the genre.
Starring a star cast including Kirk Douglas, James Mason and Peter Lorre, it is the story of a naval officer and his crew tasked with investigating the disappearance of ships at sea by a “sea monster”. They soon discover that the “Monster” is actually a submarine-like ship piloted by the sinister, enigmatic Captain Nemo, whose one goal in life is to bring peace to the world by destroying all the world’s warships destroyed. Great adventure and special effects.
7. The Thing (From Outer Space): 1951
Anyone remember Gunsmoke lawman James Arness? Well, that was his first film. He plays The Thing, a creature that crashed in the frozen Arctic long ago. His ship and frozen body are discovered by a group of researchers. They cut him into a block of ice and take him back to the research station where he accidentally thawed.
They soon discover he is a carnivorous predator when he begins killing researchers and feeding on their blood. “It” is very intelligent and begins to sabotage their research station. Then they learn that he really is a “plant” that only looks humanoid. You have to kill it, but it’s 7ft tall and seemingly impervious to all of their weapons. Luckily for her, one of the researchers is a woman who, in her feminine wisdom, says, “So… how do you kill a turnip… you boil it!” Oh men! What would they do without us!
6. The Blob: 1958
If you like Steve McQueen movies this has to be a favorite. It was one of his first films. He plays a teenager on a date with his girlfriend when they witness a meteorite impact in the woods outside of town. On the way to investigate, they encounter a man in distress with a “sticky thing” covering his hand and arm. They put him in the car and take him to the local doctor for help.
Then the doctor, his nurse and the old man disappear. It wasn’t long before other people disappeared. Next thing they know, that goo ball has grown into a giant wad of jello, absorbing everyone in sight. After seeing this movie, I couldn’t sit in a dark movie theater without constantly looking into the movie room. Again better than the new edition!
5. The Fly: 1958
What can I say! It’s a tale of ultimate infection! The film tells the story of a scientist’s attempt to build a matter transporter and an experiment that goes horribly wrong. He tests the machine on himself, unaware he’s not alone in the chamber… until it’s too late.
After seeing the film, we ran through our gardens, checking every spider web for white-headed flies. Movie stars Vincent Price and David Hedison. It spawned several sequels and remakes that were surprisingly good.
4. Creature from the Black Lagoon: 1954
Long before Jaws hit the big screen, we were all being shooed out of the water by the “creature,” a reptilian-looking man-beast lusting after a pretty woman (Julie Adams) he sees swimming in his domain, the Amazon Flow. It was love at first sight. He becomes a beastman on a mission while trying to capture his beloved. There were two sequels, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us… both equally scary!
Still the best prehistoric, radiation-breathing dinosaur monster movie ever made. First released as a 1954 Japanese film called Gojira, the film was enhanced for its American release by adding footage starring Raymond Burr and an English soundtrack.
The Americans have tested A-bombs in the South Pacific. Now a giant, radioactive dinosaur emerges from the sea and attacks Tokyo. what to do what to do After several attacks on the city, a scientist saves the day with a highly effective “bomb”. It inspired many sequels including the updated 1998 remake. Loved it too!!
2nd day the earth stood still: 1951
Still a regular on TV, this was the first “believable” alien-from-space movie. Unlike its recent remake, which relies heavily on special effects, the original is a well-written sci-fi drama and is more plot-focused.
Klaatu, an alien ambassador on a goodwill peacekeeping mission, and his peacekeeping robot Gort arrive on Earth in the early days of space exploration and atomic bomb testing. The alien confederation he represents has outlawed violence and aggression between its member planets; and the earth falls under their jurisdiction. He brings us an offer and a warning: end our warlike, violent ways, join the Alliance and live, or face annihilation at the hands of their enforcer robotic force.
The 2008 remake is actually the sequel to this great film. Obviously we didn’t heed the warning!
And now the best classic sci-fi movie of the 50’s…(drum roll please)
1. War of the Worlds: 1953
In my opinion it is the grandfather of all sci-fi alien invasion movies! The inspiration for many, many movies and TV shows is based on the science fiction classic by HG Wells.
It spans 3 days during which a global Martian invasion nearly destroys humanity. The invaders come down in meteor-like ships and begin terraforming the earth, beam-zapping humans to take over the planet. We can’t stop them and all seems lost until they all suddenly die from a mysterious infection caused by viruses to which we are immune.
It had excellent special effects for the technology of the time. My favorite scene is when the intruders send their roaming “camera” down into the basement of a house where two people; a scientist and a pretty woman (played by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson) have taken refuge. The scientist knocks off the camera’s head, prompting one of the aliens to enter the house to investigate. With their attention focused on what’s happening outside, they don’t notice him sneaking up behind them. He reaches out and grabs the girl’s shoulder… YIKES!
I loved the original but I have to admit the 2005 remake is way scarier and definitely holds its own!