Movie critics sometimes forget that the first actual feature movie made was Voyage to the Moon in 1902 in France by Georges Melies. This was before the first US feature film, Great Train Robbery, was produced in 1903. So, Sci-Fi is probably the longest running genre internationally. Submit your Sci-Fi reviews.
Like Musicals, Science Fiction took off in a big way after the advent of sound.
The first blockbuster of the sound era was King Kong made in 1933. The special effects were really astounding for the audiences of that time. But, it was the story that was riveting and exciting and brought the audiences in to the theatres all over the world. It was remade two more times in 1976 and in 2005.
The fascination with aliens started in the thirties. In the early thirties, there was a very successful comic strip named Flash Gordon. The hero was a space hero that saved earth and other civilizations from a tyrant on a planet called Mongo.
I have seen a reprint of the original Flash Gordon cartoons which was created by Alex Raymond. The plots are still original even to a jaded reader. Universal Pictures in 1936 decided to make a serial based on this comic strip. They assigned Fredrick Stephani to direct the movie. He chose Buster Crabbe to play the lead and he cast Charles Middleton as his adversary Ming the Merciless. The first movie was Space Soldiers. It was so successful that Universal made several more with the same cast, among them Rocketship, Trip to Mars and finally Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe in 1940 which is actually my favorite. Buster Crabbe initially refused to have his brown hair dyed blond for the role but eventually relented. Because of success of the Flash Gordon franchise, Universal produced Buck Rogers in 1939 also starring Buster Crabbe. This time his adversary was Killer Kane played by Anthony Warde.
The success of these movies propelled the other studios to come up with similar science fiction fantasy movies. Several serials depicting Batman, Superman and Shazam were produced in the 40's and 50's followed by migration of these themes to television and now back to the big screen again.
In 1948, the first flying saucer was reportedly observed. In the 50,s and 60's, people were paranoid about the imminent attack from the Soviet Union and also about creatures from outer space. Many movies were made to address these fears. Here, we will mention, The Day Earth Stood Still (1951), Flying Saucers vs. Earth (1954), Invaders from Mars (1953) where a young boy's nightmares becomes reality, 20 Million Miles to Earth (1953) and the Forbidden Planet (1956) which was based on Shakespeare's play The Tempest. The best alien invasion movie of that era was the original War of the Worlds (1953) with excellent special effects and sound track.
On the alien creature side, Invasion of Body Snatchers (1956), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Them! (1954) about giant mutant ants directed by the prolific Gordon Douglas and the original The Thing (1951) are worth mentioning here.
The British produced some good alien movies. The scariest movie being The Day of the Triffids (1961.) Several Quatermass movies were made starring Brian Donlevy and directed by Val Guest. They were low budget but expertly crafted by the British actors and script writers.
The genre went into a decline in the late sixties and early seventies. However, in 1977 George Lucas, having finally obtained financing for his dream movie, released the first Star Wars movie. It was such a resounding success that other studios jumped on the band wagon. Star Trek, the Motion Picture was next in 1979. Even though it suffered from a weak script, it was nevertheless quite successful at the box office. The Space and alien based Sci-Fi's continued with more sequels and copy cat productions well into the next century. Superman and Batman movies are still being made. It is now almost thirty years since the first Star Wars movie was produced and there may be hope yet that George Lucas will remake the older ones again.
Meanwhile, in 1984, Orion Pictures released the first of the Terminator series with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Terminator 1 through Terminator 3 were produced over a twenty year period and made Arnold Schwarzenegger famous enough and rich enough to become the governor of California. One of the better movies where the alien was benevolent, for a change, was the Extra Terrestrial (ET) made in 1982 by Steven Spielberg and released by Universal. Also, another little gem was the Starman (1984) with Jeff Bridges as a marooned alien and Karen Allen as a widow.
Somewhat different was the X Men series, starting in 2000 through 2006, with Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, the principal of a school for people with special powers. The new War of the Worlds made in 2005 was full of special effects and quite interesting. Somehow, one did not feel the chill of the first War of the Worlds in this one. I guess partially because we knew that a superstar like Tom Cruise would not be killed off.
Spider Man and Fantastic Four and Hulk, were all at one time either action TV series or children cartoon series. They were all successfully produced and marketed with sequels that are being shown and/or in production. There is a rumor that another episode of the venerable Star Trek movies may be in the planning stages.
In the pure fantasy side, I would like to mention the Harry Potter movies. Although initially intended for children, the books and the movies were a hit with adults as well. Also, a must see is the Chronicles of Narnia. It was simply a delicious movie.
We are not sure how to classify Blade trilogy with Wesley Snipe. It is a Slasher horror movie and yet it has so many elements of a Sci-Fi. We will leave that to our readers to decide.
The Japanese entered the world of Sci-Fi with Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese) in 1954. Raymond Burr was credited as the star of the movie, yet he never set foot in Japan. They series were very cheaply made but were financially successful worldwide. Godzilla was killed off in almost every movie only to come back again and wreak havoc upon mankind. In addition, the Japanese invented a few other really cheap and third rate monsters such as Mothra, Gamera and Ghidrah to name a few.