1950 & 1951 - The Day the Earth Stood Still

8.1 / 7.8 7.9 X1 8.24

The Day the Earth Stood Still was well received by critics and is widely regarded as one of the best films of 1951. The film was moderately successful when released, accruing US$1,850,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 52nd biggest earner.

Variety praised the film's documentary style and the Los Angeles Times praised its seriousness, though it also found "certain subversive elements." Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called it "tepid entertainment." The film earned more plaudits overseas: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association gave the filmmakers a special Golden Globe Award for "promoting international understanding."

Bernard Herrmann's score also received a nomination at the Golden Globes. The French magazine Cahiers du cinéma was also impressed, with Pierre Kast calling it "almost literally stunning" and praising its "moral relativism".

In 1995, The Day the Earth Stood Still was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film also received recognition from the American Film Institute. In 2001, it was ranked number 82 on 100 Years…100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding films.

The fifties is not exactly a decade packed full with stellar sci-fi film, but pinning the label 'The Decade of Sci-Fi Extravaganza' is most definitely appropriate. From this decade a few landmark films became sci-fi classics, but those classics are surrounded by a truck load of cheesy B-movies. This decade is so steep in sci-fi film presence, SFMZ features a more extensive analysis, Fifties Sci-fi, dedicated just to this decade, check it out!


Despite the decade owning a plethora of sci-fi films, it did have a bit of a slow start in 1950. The Flying Saucer is considered the very first sci-fi film of the glorious fifties, released January 5th and it's also one of the worst of the decade. Nevertheless, it's history is firmly in place as the first box office sci-fi cheese flick out of the chute. Worth another mention is Destination Moon, though it won an Oscar for Best Effects, it is universally low rated. And it only goes downhill from there with films like Flying Disc Man from Mars, aptly described by an IMDB reviewer as 'so bad, it's good.'

1951: And now the fifties sci-fi juggernaut begins! 1951 not only was host to the sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, audiences of that year were treated to another landmark film, Howard Hawk's The Thing From Another World, earning an impressive SFMZ final score of 7.53. In 2001 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Not quite on the high pedestal as these two films, another 1951 sci-fi film, When Worlds Collide, is considered at least fifties sci-fi near-classic and earned a SFMZ final score of 6.56. Though it was a box office failure, it did win an Oscar for Special Effects.

These three films being the showcase of 1951, the rest of the year was populated with hilariously bad B-movies such as Lost Planet Airmen, Flight to Mars, and Two Lost Worlds. Television was in it's infancy, but that entertainment venue also capitilized on the rapidly growing audience love for sci-fi by producing shows with it's own brand of cheese like Space Patrol and Captain Video and his Video Rangers.





1952 & 1953 - The War of the Worlds

7.2 / 6.6 7.1 X1 7.38

The War of the Worlds had its official premiere in Hollywood on February 20, 1953, although it did not go into general theatrical release until the autumn of that year. The film was both a critical and box office success. It accrued $2,000,000 in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's biggest science fiction film hit.

The New York Times review noted, "The film is an imaginatively conceived, professionally turned adventure, which makes excellent use of Technicolor, special effects by a crew of experts, and impressively drawn backgrounds...Director Byron Haskin, working from a tight script by Barré Lyndon, has made this excursion suspenseful, fast and, on occasion, properly chilling."

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning in the category Special Effects. The other two nominations were for Film Editing and Sound Recording. In 2011 The War of the Worlds was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The Registry noted the film's release during the early years of the Cold War and how it used "the apocalyptic paranoia of the atomic age". The Registry also cited the film's special effects, which at its release were called "soul-chilling, hackle-raising, and not for the faint of heart".


1952 was completely barren of any great sci-fi films, producing only more B-movies like Red Planet Mars and Radar Men From the Moon. 1953 took an upswing when it came to entertaining sci-fi at the box office. Besides the sci-fi classic War of the Worlds, three other films, considered as near classics, were released the same year. The first, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms which the film was Hugo Awards nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation.

The second film, It Came from Outer Space, actress Barbara Rush won a Golden Globe award for Most Promising Newcomer and the film was Hugo Awards nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation also. The third film, also nominated for the same Hugo award, is Invaders from Mars. 1953 was not without it's fair share of cheesy B-movies though, such as Donovan's Brain, The Lost Planet, Phantom from Space, and others.





1954 - Them!

7.6 / 7.0 7.3 7.42

Them! was released in June 1954 and by the end of that year had accrued US $2 million in distributors' domestic (U.S. and Canada) rentals, making it the year's 51st biggest earner. The New York Times review noted " . . . from the moment James Whitmore, playing a New Mexico state trooper, discovers a six-year-old moppet wandering around the desert in a state of shock, to the time when the cause of that mental trauma is traced and destroyed, Them! is taut science-fiction."

"Brog" in Variety opined it was a "top-notch science fiction shocker. It has a well-plotted story, expertly directed and acted in a matter-of-fact style to rate a chiller payoff and thoroughly satisfy the fans of hackle-raising melodrama."

Since its original release, Them! has become generally regarded as one of the very best science-fiction films of the 1950s. Bill Warren described the film as “… tight, fast-paced and credible…The picture is suspenseful." Phil Hardy’s The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction noted, "Directed by Gordon Douglas in semi-documentary fashion, Them! is one of the best American science-fiction films of the fifties."

Danny Peary believed the film "Ranks with The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the best of the countless fifties science fiction films." Of the 24 reviewers included in a Rotten Tomatoes survey of critics regarding the title, 100% reflect a positive reaction. The film was Oscar nominated for Special Effects.


Another great year for fifties sci-fi, 1954 saw a few entertaining films deserving a worthy mention. Besides the top notch classic Them! (check out SFMZ's Them! Enhanced Image / Dialogue Gallery), 1954 is also the year of Godzilla (titled, Gojira - released in Japan 1954, titled Godzilla, King of the Monsters! - edited and released in the U.S. 1956) earning a SFMZ score of 7.35.

Another sci-fi classic released in 1954 is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, earning a SFMZ final score of 7.30. The film won two Academy Awards (Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects) and was nominated for one more (Best Film Editing). Until the late 1960s, many of the sets representing the interior of the Nautilus were used as an attraction at Disneyland. This included the chart room, the salon, with organ, and one of the observation windows. The squid from the movie was fastened over the observation window.

Another sci-fi icon of the fifties is Creature from the Black Lagoon, the movie has an enduring legacy in both media and the general public. A musical based on the movie opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2009. It has also been widely referenced, in part due to its groundbreaking character, in other media.

But . . . like the other years of the fifties, comes the march of cheesy B-movies including Tobor the Great, Devil Girl from Mars, The Atomic Kid, and others. Devil Girl from Mars is listed among The 100 Most Amusingly Bad Movies Ever Made in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide. Still though, with the better films mentioned above, 1954 is one of the banner years for fifties sci-fi.





1955 - The Quatermass Xperiment

6.8 6.8 6.80

Positive reviews came from Peter Burnup in the News of the World, who found that "with the added benefit of bluff, boisterous Brian Donlevy… all earnest addicts of science fiction will undoubtedly love every minute of it." while the reviewer in The Manchester Guardian praised "a narrative style that quite neatly combines the horrific and the factual" and Today's Cinema called it "one of the best essays in science fiction to date."

Paul Dehn in the News Chronicle said, "This is the best and nastiest horror film I have seen since the War. How jolly that it is also British!". Similarly, William Whitebait in the New Statesman, who found the film to be "better than either War of the Worlds or Them!", also called for "a couple of cheers for the reassurance that British films can still, once in a while, come quick".

This view was echoed by John Brosnan in The Primal Screen (1991): "One of the best of all alien possession movies", he wrote, "Not since Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster has an actor managed to create such a memorable, and sympathetic, monster out of mime alone".

Steve Chibnall describes The Quatermass Xperiment as "one of the high points of British SF/horror cinema." The horror fiction writer Stephen King praised the film as one of his favourite horror movies from between 1950 and 1980 in his non-fiction book Danse Macabre (1991).

The film director John Carpenter, who later collaborated with Nigel Kneale on the film Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), has claimed that The Quatermass Xperiment "had an enormous, enormous impact on me—and it continues to be one of my all-time favourite science-fiction movies."


Compared to the banner years of the fifties, 1955 was primarily a lackluster year for sci-fi film. Other than The Quatermass Xperiment, sci-fi fans had little to choose from. Alternatives included underwhelming productions such as It Came from Beneath the Sea and This Island Earth. In all fairness to the latter film, it won a Golden Reel award for Best Sound Editing and has recently been receiving more appreciated analysis from re-appraisal reviews.

It Came from Beneath the Sea is the film that brought together producer Charles H. Schneer and special effects legend Ray Harryhausen. Their professional relationship would last until Clash of the Titans, the final feature for both men. As for the rest, nothing but sci-fi stinkers including Creature with the Atom Brain, Bride of the Monster, and more.





1956 - Invasion of the Body Snatchers

8.8 / 7.4 7.9 8.26

Largely ignored by critics on its initial run, Invasion of the Body Snatchers received wide critical acclaim in retrospect and is considered one of the best films of 1956. In recent years, critics have hailed the film as a "genuine Sci-Fi classic" (Dan Druker, Chicago Reader), "influential, and still very scary" (Leonard Maltin) and one of the "most resonant" and "one of the simplest" of the genre (Time Out).

In 1993, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The movie made over $1 million in its first month. In 1956 alone the movie made over $2.5 million in the US. When the British issue (which had cuts imposed by the British censors) took place in late 1956, the film made over a half million dollars in ticket sales.

In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was acknowledged as the ninth best film in the science fiction genre.

The film was also placed on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills, a list of America's most heart-pounding films. The film was included on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments. Similarly, the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 29th scariest film ever made. Time magazine included Invasion of the Body Snatchers on their list of 100 all-time best films, the top 10 1950s Sci-Fi Movies, and Top 25 Horror Films.


Fortunately we're back to another banner year with 1956. Not only did sci-fans see the best sci-fi film of the decade with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still could also be considered the best of the decade earning almost the same SFMZ score), the other sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet, earned a 7.88 SFMZ final score.

Forbidden Planet was Oscar nominated for Special Effects and was also nominated in AFI's all time top ten sci-fi films, which Invasion of the Body Snatchers actually won a spot on AFI's list. Loosely based on "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare, Forbidden Planet is the first mainstream film to have the music performed entirely by electronic instruments and was the film debut of Robby the Robot.

This film marked one of the first times a science fiction project had received a large budget. The genre had rarely been taken seriously by studio executives, and had generally received the most meager of budgets. The critical success of this film convinced many in the film industry that well-funded science fiction projects could be successful.

And once again, then there's the cheesy B-movies of 1956, perhaps the "best" of this bunch would be Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, X: The Unknown, and Rodan, but any significant amount of praise on these three films are few and far between.

One exception could be '1984,' certainly not a classic, but perhaps an injustice to label it a cheesy B-movie. Regardless, any year of the fifties that hosts the two best sci-fi films of the decade should be considered a banner year.





1957 - The Incredible Shrinking Man

7.6 / 7.4 7.7 7.67

The Incredible Shrinking Man was directed by Jack Arnold and adapted for the screen by Richard Matheson from his novel The Shrinking Man. The film stars Grant Williams and Randy Stuart. The opening credits musical theme is by an uncredited Irving Gertz, with a trumpet solo performed by Ray Anthony. The film won the very first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.

In 2009, it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant and will be preserved for all time. The film was also very well received by critics.

While out on the ocean with his wife, Scott Carey's boat drifts through a strange mist that leave a metallic residue covering his body. He thinks nothing of it at the time but within a few weeks he begins to notice that he is losing weight.

A visit to the doctor also confirms that he is getting shorter. As he gets smaller and smaller, doctors determine that his exposure to insecticides followed by what must have been a radioactive mist has caused a genetic mutation. The manage to stop his reversal, but only temporarily. Eventually, he is small to the point where encounters with the household cat and later a spider become potentially deadly situations.

Matheson wrote a film treatment for a sequel titled Fantastic Little Girl, but the film was never produced. The story, in which Louise Carey follows her husband into a microscopic world, and after finding him, begins to grow in size together with him.


After the decline of the Frankenstein franchise in the previous decade, Old Neckbolts received new life in 1957 with The Curse of Frankenstein, earning a 7.23 SFMZ final score. Many film historians have credited this film's success with resurrecting the horror genre, which had very much declined in popularity from its heyday of the 1930s and early 1940s.

Other films of 1957 worth a mention are 20 Million Miles to Earth and Quatermass II: Enemy from Space (IMDB 7.0), both are often praised as a solid sci-fi horror films of the fifties. Ray Harryhausen's original design for the monster of 20 Million Miles to Earth was a giant cyclops, similar to the one he later used in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. He discarded the idea after making a clay model of it, and eventually settled on the reptilian Ymir. Beyond that, are the cheesy but nostalgic B-Movies like Not of This Earth and The Abominable Snowman.





1958 - The Fly

7.0 / 6.8 7.0 6.95

The Fly is an American science-fiction horror film, directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was written by James Clavell (his first), from the short story "The Fly" by George Langelaan. It was followed by two sequels, Return of the Fly and Curse of the Fly. It was remade in 1986 as a film of the same name by director David Cronenberg.

The film has been well received by critics and with audiences. It has been nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The Fly has also received four out of five stars on Allmovie. The film was a commercial success, grossing $3,000,000 at the domestic box office against a budget of less than $500,000. It earned $1.7 million in theatrical rentals.

This is the original version of a scientist experimenting with matter transference accidentally exchanging one arm and his head with that of a fly which was in the transfer chamber. In Montreal, the industrial François Delambre is called late night by his sister-in-law Helene Delambre.

After her husband Andre is crushed to death in a mechanical press, his wife recounts to his brother Francois and police Inspector Charas the events of the previous few months. They were very much in love and with their little boy, a very happy family. Andre was experimenting with teleportation - transporting objects from one point to another by breaking the object down to the atomic level and then reassembling it in a receiver a distance away.

Andre becomes obsessed with his latest creation, the matter transporter. The system had some glitches - it seemed to work with inanimate object but his cat disappeared when he tried teleporting it. He thinks he's solved all of the problems with his invention and decides to try and teleport himself. When a fly enters the teleportation device with him, disaster strikes.


Deserving a worthy mention of 1958 is Vynález zkázy (or The Fabulous World of Jules Verne). This Czechoslovak film was featured at Expo 58 in Brussels, where it won the Grand Prix at the International Film Festival and a number of other awards. The film uses a process dubbed "mysti-mation" that would influence many great filmmakers and animators to come - most notably Terry Gilliam.

Another 1958 sci-fi film of note, The Blob with Steve McQueen. What's perplexing about this film is it collects nothing but unimpressive ratings across the board, and yet you can find countless praise in various reviews. Regardless of it's unclear critical / rating status, it was crystal clear the film was a huge hit at the box office, grossing four million dollars from it's $110,000 budget.

The rest of 1958 pack fall into the categories of near-hit classics to B-movie duds, starting with films like I Married A Monster From Outer Space, spiraling down to cheesy but memorable films like It! The Terror from Beyond Space, which is often noted for being an inspiration for Ridley Scott's Alien. And bottoming out with zero value films like Queen of Outer Space.

For I Married A Monster From Outer Space, the dogs who attack the undisguised aliens near the end of the film were initially too scared to approach the costumed actors. The dogs were then acclimated to the presence of the suited actors - perhaps too well, for when the time came to shoot the scene of the dogs attacking the aliens, the dogs didn't attack the aliens, but jumped playfully around and on them instead.





1959 - On the Beach

6.4 / 7.2 7.0 X1 7.25

On the Beach is a post-apocalyptic drama film directed by Stanley Kramer and written by John Paxton, based on Nevil Shute's 1957 novel of the same name and starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins.

Like the novel, much of the film takes place in Melbourne, close to the southernmost part of the Australian mainland. Beach scenes were filmed at the foreshore of Cowes on Phillip Island. The racing sequences were filmed at Riverside Raceway in California and at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, home to the present day Australian motorcycle Grand Prix, conveniently near Cowes at Phillip Island. These scenes include an array of late 1950s sports cars, including examples of the Jaguar XK150 and Jaguar D-type, Porsche 356, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL "Gullwing", AC Ace, Chevrolet Corvette and prominent in sequences was the "Chuck Porter Special", a customized Mercedes 300SL.

The film received numerous award wins and nominations including Oscar nominations for Best Film Editing and Best Music; won the BAFTA UN Award and BAFTA nominated for Best Foreign Actress; won the Blue Ribbon Best Foreign Language Film Award; won the Golden Globes Best Motion Picture Score Award and Golden Globe nominated for Best Film Promoting International Understanding, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor; nominated for the Golden Laurel Top Drama Award; and won the National Board of Review Top Ten Films Award.


Wrapping up the sci-fi rich decade of the fifties, 1959 offered a lukewarm finish compared to the previous years. Though not quite a classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth, earning a 6.87 SFMZ final score, was Oscar nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Effects, and Best Sound.

Another sci-fi film worth a mention is The World, the Flesh and the Devil, which was Hugo nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation. To film the striking images of a deserted New York City, the cast and crew had to start filming at dawn in order to capture the city before the early morning rush. This gave them no more than an hour or two per day in which to film the sequence.

Now for decade ending cheese, the somewhat low rated The Tingler with Vincent Price deserves a mention. Most of it's praise today is for it's camp qualities. Not to mention it's famous for it's theater gimmick of placing vibrating devices under the audience seats.



SCI-FI BEST FILMS BY YEAR - 1960 to 1969 > > >




Resources: wikipedia.org, imdb.com, rottentomatoes.com, metacritic.com





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