Between the death of Neil Armstrong this week, the recent death of Sally Ride, and all of the high-resolution postcards from Mars that Curiosity has been busy sending back to Earth, we’ve had space on our minds quite a bit lately. Generations of scientists have been captivated by the prospect of space travel, but prior to the first human actually leaving the Earth’s atmosphere in 1961, it was up to science fiction to imagine what that experience might be like. Film offered the perfect medium for envisioning the desolation of hurdling towards the stars, the exotic landscapes of faraway worlds, and the alien creatures that we might encounter there. We’ve put together a list of ten classic sci fi films that predate cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first person in space. From the realistic to the campy, science fiction film remains one of the most imaginative genres.
La Voyage dans la lune (1902)
Considered to be the first known science fiction film, the 14-minute-long La Voyage dans la lune (also known as A Voyage to the Moon or A Trip to the Moon) is a showcase of technical advances in filmmaking. Georges Méliès innovated various special effects and animation techniques to shoot this story about a group of six astronomers who launch themselves in a giant bullet toward the moon. The lunar surface is depicted as a cavernous, mushroom covered landscape inhabited by a race of insect-like aliens called Selenites. This classic film has received considerable attention since being restored with hand-colored frames for a re-premier at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (along with an excellent new soundtrack by Air). Martin Scorsese’s Hugo also features the famous moon landing scene, and even incorporates Georges Méliès into its storyline.