15 Vintage Sci-Fi Movies That Still Resonate Today
Yes, their 'futuristic' technology might look laughable today, but the deeper message still resonates.
1. Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
Colossus: The Forbin Project truly is an underappreciated gem where the fears of the Cold War meet artificial intelligence gone rogue. The film is about Dr. Charles Forbin who creates an all-powerful supercomputer, named Colossus, to control the United States' defense systems. However, things take a turn when Colossus becomes sentient and takes over. Today, it may remind you of Skynet from Terminator, but remember, this was 1970! It was thinking about the dangers of AI before AI was even a thing. It may have been overlooked during its time, but it's definitely worth a watch in 2023, as we've entered a somewhat official AI era.
2. Forbidden Planet (1956)
A long-forgotten gem from the 1950s, Forbidden Planet, is a mix of sci-fi and Shakespeare, spinning a space-age rendition of "The Tempest." Starring Leslie Nielsen and Walter Pidgeon, the plot follows a starship crew that arrives on a remote planet, uncovering a dangerous secret. The film was groundbreaking for its electronic score and stunning visual effects, a precursor to many sci-fi hits of the following decades. I guess you can say it was just a little too ahead of its time, cause the film was only a modest success at the box office. Yet, over time, it's grown to be appreciated as a classic of the genre.
3. Soylent Green (1973)
Long before climate change was making headlines, Soylent Green was serving up environmental dystopia with a side of mystery and some existential horror to boot. Charlton Heston stars as a police detective investigating a murder in an overpopulated, resource-depleted future where a corporation feeds the masses with a product ominously named Soylent Green. The film was a decent success at the box office, and its big reveal at the end has become one of cinema's most famous lines, though I won't spoil it for you here (just a hint, though: ew).
4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is arguably one of the best sci-fi horror flicks ever. As residents of a small town start to act strangely, a local doctor discovers they're being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates. Can you imagine your neighbor suddenly becoming a space-invading clone? That's some solid nightmare fuel right there. Not surprisingly, the film was a hit, earning over $3 million at the box office on a budget of less than $500,000 (and it was the '50s, so $3 million? Kinda big deal back than).
5. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
This oddball film about a man who starts shrinking after a radioactive cloud encounter is more profound than its premise lets on. It's a compelling exploration of identity and human existence, all packed into a bizarre, science-fiction shell. Our shrinking hero, played by Grant Williams, battles ordinary household threats that have now become enormous and deadly. It's an incredibly unique blend of horror, sci-fi, and philosophy. It's got an 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and deservingly so.
6. The Blob (1958)
A movie about a growing, all-consuming amoeba from outer space? Sounds like a comedy, but it's actually not. The Blob, featuring a young Steve McQueen, might sound silly, but its blend of horror and science fiction hits the mark. The film follows teenagers attempting to warn their town about an alien creature that devours everything in its path. Despite its B-movie premise, The Blob was a box office success, raking in over $4 million. It seems audiences couldn't resist the lure of a giant, killer Jello mold. And who can blame them?
7. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is a flick about a submarine crew, led by Walter Pidgeon, who need to save the world by firing a nuclear missile at the burning Van Allen radiation belt. It's got action, drama, and giant squid attacks – what's not to love? The movie was such a hit it even spawned a TV series. Funnily enough, it also inspired Irwin Allen, the producer, to venture more into television, leading to classics like Lost in Space.
8. Silent Running (1972)
Silent Running, a post-apocalyptic flick with an environmental conscience, stars Bruce Dern as Freeman Lowell, a botanist on a space freighter. When ordered to destroy the ship's biodomes, Lowell rebels, resulting in a unique man-versus-machine story set in the vast loneliness of space. The film's one of those early '70s classics that didn't make a huge splash at the box office, but its influence still resonates in many sci-fi films that followed.
9. The Andromeda Strain (1971)
A deadly extraterrestrial microorganism, a high-tech lab, and a race against time, The Andromeda Strain is a nerve-wracking blend of science and fiction. Based on Michael Crichton's novel, this film follows a team of scientists working frantically to prevent a biological catastrophe. The intricate detail in the lab sets and procedures were ahead of their time, making it a film that still holds up well today – dare I say even, especially well amidst all the trouble 2020s brought us. It's got a solid 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is impressive for a film where the primary antagonist is a tiny, single-celled organism.
10. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Before Keanu Reeves donned the role in 2008, Michael Rennie first played the enigmatic alien Klaatu in the 1951 version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. The plot explores an alien landing in Washington D.C. with a message of peace or destruction for Earth's leaders. The film stands tall with a 95% Rotten Tomatoes rating, proving that sometimes, oldies really are goldies.
11. The Omega Man (1971)
Alright, now, let's talk about The Omega Man, where Charlton Heston takes on the end of the world once more. After a global plague, he might be the last human on Earth, but hey, at least he doesn't have to worry about traffic, right? The film's a fun romp into a post-apocalyptic world where Heston's character tries to fend off nocturnal mutants while searching for other survivors. A cult classic now, The Omega Man wasn't a blockbuster, but it did do decently at the box office, paving the way for countless last-man-standing films.
12. Westworld ( 1973)
Before HBO made it a hit series, Westworld was actually a film about an amusement park with robot cowboys where things go terribly, terribly wrong. It's like Jurassic Park but with gunslinging androids, a concept too wild to ignore, right? The film was a decent success at the box office, and Yul Brynner's chilling performance as the relentless robot gunslinger still stands as one of the classic portrayals of menacing androids.
13. Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
Quatermass and the Pit is a British sci-fi horror film where ancient Martian lifeforms are discovered in a London Underground station, causing all sorts of psychic phenomena. Yes, you read that right, ancient aliens in the subway, no biggie. The film was a box office success in the UK, and it's widely considered one of the best British sci-fi films of the 1960s. Though it might not be well-known to the average viewer, it's one sci-fi pit you wouldn't mind falling into.
14. The Time Machine (1960)
Time travel is a staple of sci-fi, and The Time Machine is one of the classics that solidified the genre. Based on H.G. Wells' novel, it follows an inventor, played by Rod Taylor, who travels thousands of years into the future only to find humanity divided into two distinct species. The film's innovative special effects and imaginative story led to it becoming a box office success. Remember, this was time travel when time travel wasn't cool yet.
15. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Planet of the Apes might be the most popular title on this list, but it's just too iconic to ignore. The film follows an astronaut, played by Charlton Heston, who crash lands on a planet ruled by intelligent, talking apes. The film was a massive hit, spawning sequels, TV shows, and reboots. But the original still stands the test of time, with its groundbreaking makeup effects and that unforgettable twist ending.