National Classic Movie Day: My Favorite Classic Sci-Fi Films from the 1950s

I was honored when friend of MovieFanFare/frequent contributor Rick Armstrong asked me to be a part of the Classic Film and TV Cafe‘s National Classic Movie Day celebrations by naming my favorite films from the 1950s. Since I’m a huge science fiction fan, I decided to put a spin on this by naming five far-out flicks from the era that are among the greatest genre films ever made. They are as follows:

The Blob

Steve McQueen‘s first leading role was as a teenager who, along with his girlfriend (Aneta Corsaut), tries to stop an ever-growing, gelatinous outer space creature from swallowing people whole and running amok in their small town. Classic low-budget sci-fi shocker was shot in Downingtown and Phoenixville, Pa.; bossa nova-flavored theme song by Burt Bacharach and Mack David.

Forbidden Planet

Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” was the inspiration for this this milestone science-fiction adventure set in the 23rd century. A spaceship commander (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew land on a distant planet in an attempt to locate the members of an expedition that traveled there decades earlier. They discover only two survivors–a scientist (Walter Pidgeon) and his beautiful daughter (Anne Francis)–as well as an eons-old alien force of great power that could destroy them all. Warren Stevens, Jack Kelly, and Robby the Robot also star.

The Thing

The original sci-fi chiller about scientists of an Arctic outpost who find an alien spaceship and its passenger buried in the ice. When the creature is thawed out, it unleashes a rampage of horror. Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan and James Arness, in the title role, star. Produced by Howard Hawks, who reportedly had a hand in helping helmer Christian Nyby. AKA: “The Thing from Another World.”

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Classic sci-fi drama with a message stars Michael Rennie as Klaatu, an emissary from the stars who arrives on Earth with his robot companion, Gort, to warn mankind about the danger of nuclear warfare. Patricia Neal, Sam Jaffe, Billy Gray also star; Robert Wise directs. “Klaatu barada nikto!”

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Director Don Siegel‘s original sci-fi classic, combining outer space horror with Cold War paranoia, is set in a small California town whose residents are being replaced by emotionless replicas grown from mysterious alien seed pods. Can the invasion be stopped? Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, King Donovan, and Carolyn Jones star in this adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel “The Body Snatchers.”

What are your favorite films from the 1950s? Let us know in the comments!

  • Rick Armstrong

    These are all superb choices, with my personal favorite being THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. It made my list of the five favorite films of the 1950s. What’s unique about all your films is that they can be enjoyed on so many different levels. FORBIDDEN PLANET was inspired by a Shakespearean play, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS is a treatise on attacks against individualism, and THE THING explores the proverbial disconnect between military and science. Well done!

    • John

      All keepers. And what I like most about Forbidden Planet? Walter Pidgeon truly emoting lines that would make a lesser actor dribble treacle down his bearded chin. Rave on, Edward Morbius!

  • Patricia (Caftan Woman)

    Hello, friend! We both have The Thing from Another World on the list.

    I was thinking about the blog the other day. My kids love it when I sing the theme song. Actually, they don’t but it is a parent’s prerogative to annoy their offspring.

  • Virginie Saia Pronovost

    I’m glad you included The Day the Earth Stood Still as it’s my favourite scifi film! I’m normally not too much a fan of the genre but I have to say there are some I love, especially those made in the 50s. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was also an agreable surprise!

  • Quiggy

    I’d have to add the original Japanese version of “Godzilla” (Gojira) But the rest of those are great too. I’d bump The Day The Earth Stood Still off to fit in Gojira in my top five, however.

  • Silver Screen Classics

    Love these films, as they are thought provoking as well as fun to watch. It’s so easy to dismiss them as pure entertainment but there is far more going on with each of these films – and there are some talented actors and actresses in these great choices as well. My kids have watched these with me as well and when it’s a cold, miserable Sunday afternoon, these are some of the first films we turn to, to enjoy together.

  • Rick Clark

    Your list has just about all of my favourite sci-fi movies not only from the 50’s but all time. Only one missing is Earth vs The Flying Saucers.

  • Rick Clark

    Your list has just about all of my favourite sci-fi movies not only from the 50’s but all time. Only one missing is Earth vs The Flying Saucers

  • Butch Knouse

    There was plenty of great sci-fi in the 60s too.