Geeking Out Loud: The Evolution of Sci-Fi Movies

I’ve always loved Sci-Fi but I never feel like I have seen enough! I wanted to explore as much as possible, from the first Sci-Fi Movie “Le Voyage Dans Le Lune” (1902), right through to the latest releases and sub-genres that have expanded throughout the years. Because, Sci-Fi always makes us question;

Where will science take us? What’s going to happen to us? What’s NEXT?

I’ve already considered what makes a good Sci-Fi story, and so I started doing a little research into the release dates of movies (and some extra reading). I realised that there is a pattern in what’s happening in society and science, and the types of movies that became popular at the time.

Nuclear 1950’s

Nuclear power (and the subsequent waste) is a popular topic leading to a trend of mutant monster movies such as Tarantula (1955), Them! (1954) and Godzilla (1954) among other “kaiju” movies in Japan. There is also generally a fear of those who are “alien”, stemming from warfare and racial segregation. There is a subsequent surge of alien movies, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and War of the Worlds (1953), which play on people’s fears of the unknown.

Optimistic 60’s and Star Wars 70’s

As the space race begins, space travel movies become more popular, focusing on the optimism and exploration of new worlds – a key example would be 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and the Star Trek TV Series (1966). The 1970’s then sees the birth of the franchise that no one could have ever imagined would have reached such gigantic proportions – Star Wars (1977). I mean, just take a look at this original trailer for the first movie; it was clear they never thought it was going to take the world by storm.

Star Wars maintained popularity and I think that’s partially due to the underlying themes; the uprising against oppressive governments, the threat to harmonious civilisation and the ongoing battle against lawful evil. Things that are ALWAYS relevant! Other movies that express similar sentiments at the time include, Logan’s Run (1976), Planet of the Apes (1968) and Soylent Green (1973).

80’s Optimism Revival

The old 60’s optimism returns with the new wave of Sci-Fi movies released in the 80’s. Escapism, experimentation and exploring of new worlds are popular once more. Movies like Tron (1982) appear as it becomes mainstream to own computers and consoles. Meanwhile, (Japanese) anime is gaining a cult following in western culture with cult Sci-Fi movies like Akira (1988), which is SUPER freaky by the way.

Trapped in the 90’s

I look back on my 90’s childhood with nostalgic delight  but the theme of many 90’s movies seems to be powerlessness; either to a more dominant species or governing power. Japan’s release of Ghost in the Shell (1995) focuses on the human condition and just look at Independence Day (1996), The Matrix (1999), Armageddon (1998) or even Jurassic Park (1993). All of these centre around man’s inability to adapt or accept change fast enough to thrive in their new environments.

Millennium Bugs in the System

Although robots have always been around in Sci-Fi, the 2000’s sees a huge takeover of movies featuring… well… robot takeovers. Robots and AI – specifically the level of human feeling they are capable of- is a predominant theme in films such as i,Robot (2004), and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) But I am going to write a whole separate post about Artificial Intelligence because I couldn’t possibly fit it all here!

The Evolution of Sci-Fi Movies: Today

I know that when I watch modern Sci-Fi movies, I like them to have all the tropes with none of the predictability and lashings of pushing boundaries. Just a few movies I’ve watched recently, Annihilation (2018), Ex Machina (2014) and Arrival (2016), all fit into this description (and they’re all great movies).

Even Ready Player One (2018), which focuses on life in VR world, picks up on the latest themes of the time and runs with them in an entirely new way. (A book/film I absolutely loved, and reviewed earlier this year.)

I feel the key to a timelessly classic sci-fi movie is that we are able to pick it up at any point in time, watch it, and it still be as marvellous as the day it was released (allowing for CGI changes and changes in directing methods.) I should be able to pick up and react to all the original feelings of the genre, while being completely surprised.

So, what’s next?



  1. Sean
    9th October 2018

    That was a very interesting history, thank you. I’d add that part of star wars popularity is the Space Opera vibes, love stories and awesome laser swords are always cool.

    I’ve never seen Akira but now I’m curious, Neon Genesis Evangelion was a massive part of sci fi in anime although Gundam started it in the 60s.

    The Matrix is still one of my favourite Sci Fi films, I like the whole trilogy to be fair (against popular opinion)

    We need a Sci Fi film day soon!

    1. Amy_Ether
      9th October 2018

      Ah thanks for reading and thanks for your comment, Sean! Agreed on the Star wars comments – I really had to try to cut this post down so that I could keep it short and readable!
      I never watched Gundam but yes! Love any sci-fi anime tbh 😀
      I’ve also never seen The Matrix… I know. It’s probably too late now! XD

  2. EightBitBlonde
    10th October 2018

    Wow, this was a really interesting read! While I consider myself a sci-fi fan, I don’t think I’ve ever actively looked into the history of the genre and its growth throughout periods of time quite like this.

    It’s making me look at my favorites, like The Fifth Element and Lost and Space, to see if they exhibit the tropes of their time.

  3. Kate | All The Trinkets
    10th October 2018

    I love reading geeky posts, they’re always a treat for me. But this one’s a double treat because you went ahead and analyzed the connection between the films and the period in which it was released and I LOVE THOSE KINDS OF STUFF ?
    My mind is just blown reading each period but also like, IT MAKES TOTAL SENSE??? I have heard of Akira but have yet to watch it, but now I do. Back in high school, I read the book of AI: Artificial Intelligence, though I don’t know if it was a companion book to the movie or the book it was adapted from.
    One of the things I look for in a good sci-fi film is that ability to confuse me and blow my mind. But that it isn’t exactly slap-in-the-face. Like Predestination was one of those films that you just absorb and it allows you to gradually take in everything until the end where you’re just like, “Wow. What was that?”
    I’ve also watched this great video essay on Youtube about “the cognitive revolution” and how films explore the consciousness of robots, AIs, aliens and animals.
    Awesome post! I look forward to reading more geeky goodness ?

    1. Amy_Ether
      11th October 2018

      Ah thank you! Seriously, it’s so nice to hear even one new person enjoys the way I write! Thank you! I actually put off writing this post because I thought it wouldn’t be interesting to people! But then I did it anyway! I will try and write more posts like this in the future.
      Definitely agree that a sci-fi film needs to be baffling and really ground-breaking! I’ve not seen Predestination but I will definitely check it out, it sounds fun! and Ooooh I will definitely check out that YouTube video! It might help with my post about AI! Thanks 😀

      1. Kate | All The Trinkets
        11th October 2018

        I’m so glad you posted it anyway! I rarely find female bloggers who write about nerdy pieces so it’s always a treat when I find one ? Oh definitely watch! And if you do, let me know what you think about Predestination!
        Yesss that Youtube video is amazing and it also referenced some great studies and books about consciousness in nonhuman beings and things. And ooh! Now I’m looking forward to that AI post ??

  4. Jessica
    23rd October 2018

    Loved this. Super interesting and learned something new!

  5. Michelle | A Geek Girl's Guide
    23rd October 2018

    I am not the biggest sci-fi person, despite my dad being a fan of Star Trek and the sci-fi genre in general.

    1. Amy_Ether
      23rd October 2018

      My dad LOVED Star Trek – I can’t stand it xD

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