Top 10 Classic Sci-Fi Movies of the 50s

Are you a fan of black and white B movies like me? Nope? Well you should be! You’re missing out on some great movies. Some are so bad that they are good; if only for its entertainment value. And, some of the good ones are great! Either way, they are all classics in my book. Many, many great sci-fi classics came out of this decade, many more than 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 one woman) through an extinct Icelandic volcano that leads to the center of the earth. Along the way, they encounter floodwaters, dinosaurs, a giant Gila monster, and as always, the evil adversary trying to stop and/or kill them so they can get to 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 the helpless damsel in distress. It had great special effects for the time. With big stars like James Mason, Pat Boone, and Arlene Dahl, it was way above the typical sci-fi movie of the decade. I didn’t see the remake.

9. Invaders from Mars: 1953
It scared the hell out of me the first time I saw it! It begins with young David looking at the stars one night from his bedroom window. He sees a flying saucer land in the sand pit near his house. He runs to alert his parents and insists that his father go investigate. His father disappears into the sand pit and doesn’t return until the next morning… but somehow he has “changed”. He sees a scar on the back of his father’s neck and realizes something has happened to him.

The nightmare expands as many of the local inhabitants are slowly “changing” as well. No one believes David at first, but he eventually convinces a scientist and a doctor that something is seriously wrong. Together they foil the invasion and save the world. The mummy-shaped Martians and their disembodied leader, with his head in a fishbowl and multiple appendages, are especially “creepy.” The remakes are fine, but I liked this one better.

8. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: 1954
A visually appealing interpretation of the Jules Verne classic, this film has inspired several movie remakes and a successful television series. It was the first and only science fiction film produced by Walt Disney himself, and one of the best in the genre.

With a star-studded cast including Kirk Douglas, James Mason and Peter Lorre, it is the story of a naval officer and his crew who are tasked with investigating the disappearances of ships on the high seas by a ‘sea monster’. . They soon discover that the ‘monster’ is actually a submarine-like ship led by the sinister and enigmatic Captain Nemo, whose only goal in life is to bring peace to the world by destroying all of the world’s warships. Great adventure and special effects.

7. The Thing (From Outer Space): 1951
Anyone remember Gunsmoke lawman James Arness? Well, this was his first movie. He plays The Thing, a creature that crash-landed in the frozen Arctic sometime in the distant past. His ship and his frozen body are discovered by a group of scientific investigators. They cut him into a block of ice and take him back to the research station where he accidentally thaws out.

They soon discover that it is a carnivorous predator as it begins to kill researchers and feed on their blood. ‘Es’ is very smart and begins to sabotage his research station. They then learn that it is actually a ‘plant’ that only appears humanoid. They have to kill him, but he’s 7 feet tall and apparently immune to all of their weapons. Luckily for them, one of the researchers is a woman, who in her feminine wisdom says: ‘So…how do you kill a turnip…cook it!’ Oh! What would they do without us!

6. The Stain: 1958
If you like Steve McQueen movies, this has to be your favorite. It was one of his first films. He plays a teenager on a date with his girl, when they see a meteorite crash in the woods outside of town. On the way to investigate, they come across a distraught man 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. Before long, other people begin to disappear. Next thing they know, this gooey ball has turned into a giant rolling mass of jelly that is sucking up everyone in sight. After seeing this movie, I couldn’t sit in a dark theater without constantly looking into the theater. Again, better than the remake!

5. The Fly: 1958
What can I say! It is a story of the last infection! The film tells the story of a scientist’s attempt to create a matter transporter and an experiment that goes terribly wrong. He tests the machine on himself, not realizing he’s not alone on camera…until it’s too late.

After watching the movie, we ran around our yards checking every cobweb for white-headed flies. The film stars Vincent Price and David Hedison. It spawned several sequels and remakes, all of which were surprisingly good.

4. Creature from the Black Lagoon: 1954
Long before Jaws hit the big screen, we were all scared out of the water by the ‘Creature,’ a reptilian-looking man-beast who has a crush on a pretty woman (Julie Adams) he sees swimming in his domain, the Amazon. River. It was love at first sight. He becomes a beast-man on a mission while trying to capture his beloved. There were two sequels, Revenge of the Creature and Creature Walks Among Us…both equally creepy!

3. Godzilla: 1956
It remains the best prehistoric radiation-breathing dinosaur monster movie ever made. First released as a 1954 Japanese film called Gojira, it was enhanced for its US release by adding footage starring Raymond Burr and an English soundtrack.

The Americans have been testing atomic bombs in the South Pacific. Now there’s a giant, radioactive dinosaur coming out of the sea and attacking Tokyo. What to do what to do? After several attacks on the city, a scientist with a highly effective ‘bomb’ of his own saves the day. It inspired many sequels, including the updated 1998 remake. Loved it too!!

2. The day the Earth stood still: 1951
Still shown regularly on TV, this was the first ‘believable’ movie about an alien from outer space. Unlike its recent remake that has a lot of special effects, the original is a well-written sci-fi drama and focuses more on the story.

Klaatu, an alien ambassador on a goodwill peacekeeping mission, and his peacekeeper robot Gort, arrive on Earth during the early days of space exploration and atomic bomb testing. The extraterrestrial confederation that he represents has prohibited violence and aggression between its member planets; and the Earth falls within his region of authority. He brings us an offer and a warning: End our ways of war and violence, join the alliance and live, or face annihilation by his robotic executioner force.

The 2008 remake is actually the sequel to this great movie. Obviously, we did not listen to 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’s the granddaddy of all sci-fi movies about alien invasions! The inspiration for many, many movies and TV shows is based on HG Wells’ sci-fi classic.

It covers 3 days during which a worldwide Martian invasion almost destroys humanity. The invaders descend on meteor-like ships and begin to terraform Earth by wiping out humans with lightning bolts, to take over the planet. We are unable to stop them and everyone 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 invaders send their wandering eye ‘camera’ into the basement of a house where there are two people; a scientist and a lovely lady (played by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson) have taken refuge. The scientist cuts off the camera’s head, prompting one of the aliens to enter the house to investigate. With their attention focused on what’s going on outside, they don’t notice him sneaking up behind them. He walks over and grabs the girl by her shoulder…YIKES!

I loved the original, but I have to admit that the 2005 remake is much scarier, and it definitely holds its own!

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