The science fiction film is practically as old as film itself, with the first entries in the genre coming early on in the silent movie era. Film scholars agree that the first genuine sci-fi movie was Georges Méliès' 1902 silent classic Le Voyage dans la Lune, which follows a team of French astronomers who travel to the moon in a cannon-propelled capsule in search of life.
While the movie was widely acclaimed both in Europe and in the US, like most science fiction films at the time its intentions were to amuse rather an amaze. Despite some standout entries in the years that followed, sci-fi would be continually overlooked as a serious film genre for decades to come, even though science fiction filmmakers have always addressed serious matters in their work.
While sci-fi is and always has been a form of escapism for film fans, the genre is also a means of discussing sensitive topics and current issues without arousing controversy or inciting backlash. While some filmmakers like to work with futuristic settings just because its cool, the majority create their new worlds based on the concerns and fears of the day, from personal issues to global ones.
As mankind continues to grow in both size and ambition, the many questions that our continued advancement will bring make sci-fi as important as it ever has been. Just as they have all done in the years since their respective releases, the following seminal works will no doubt continue to inspire the filmmakers of tomorrow and keep this hugely important genre alive and well.
Here are the ten most influential sci-fi films of all time...
10. Metropolis (1927)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%
During the 1920s, science fiction in the US was almost exclusively based on existing literature, though across the Atlantic in Europe the genre was being used as a means for social commentary and predicting the future of the human race.
The most important European filmmaker of the day was German expressionist Fritz Lang, a pioneer of sci-fi whose film Metropolis was the most expensive ever released when it came out in 1927. The movie is set in a futuristic city where the rich live in luxury in their high rises and the poor work their fingers to the bone below, praying for the coming of a saviour who can mediate their differences and put an end to class division.
Universally accepted as one of the greatest achievements of the silent film era, Lang's movie also introduced the idea of a dystopian society to cinema, a staple of the sci-fi genre as we know it today. Metropolis was also the first film to make use of autonomous robots as well as elaborate, futuristic sets.
Lang is also credited with influencing NASA after he became the first filmmaker to introduce a countdown-to-launch sequence in 1929's The Woman in the Moon.