10 Most Underrated Classic Sci-Fi Movies From the 1950s

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10 Most Underrated Classic Sci-Fi Movies From the 1950s

Science fiction is a crucial genre for cinema. Since the medium’s dawn, sci-fi has challenged audiences’ conventions and expectations, daring them to dream about ambitious and seemingly unreachable futures. From Fritz Lang‘s game-changing masterpiece Metropolis to classics like Robert Wise‘s The Day the Earth Stood Still, sci-fi movies have dominated cinema for decades.

However, with so many worthy offerings, some are bound to slip through the cracks of time. It’s a shame because these classic sci-fi films are impressive and worthy entries to the genre, and audiences should give them a chance and discover what they have to offer.



10 ‘From Hell It Came’ (1957)

There are wild premises, and then there’s From Hell It Came. Dan Milner‘s sci-fi horror follows Tabanga, a reincarnated tribal prince who returns as a walking tree stump and terrorizes a group of atomic researchers.

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From Hell It Came is bad, for lack of a better word. From the Yoda-like title to the ridiculously silly monster Tabanga, the film is nonsensical B-movie schlock. Stiff performances and cheap production values don’t do much to elevate it from the gutter. However, there’s value in its absurdity for all those willing to appreciate it for what it is: a silly, harmless, and endlessly entertaining monster flick and the epitome of a so-bad-it’s-good movie.

9 ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ (1959)

A giant monster chases after a group of humans escaping in a boat in Journey to the Center of the Earth
Image via 20th Century Fox

Jules Verne‘s seminal 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth received its first big-screen adaptation in 1959. Directed by Henry Levin, the film follows an expedition crew led by a geologist that ventures into the Earth’s center, where they meet dangerous prehistoric monsters and treacherous conditions.

Benefitting from the richness of the source material, Journey to the Center of the Earth is the closest thing to a modern blockbuster from the 1950s. Hectic, thrilling, and larger-than-life by the decade’s standards, the film is an epic adventure that brings lightness and cheesy emotion to the sci-fi genre, even if it can’t measure against Verne’s timeless classic.

8 ‘The Man from Planet X’ (1951)

An alien talking to a woman in The Man from Planet X

The Man from Planet X revolves around Scottish professor Elliot, who notices the arrival of an alien emissary from the fast-approaching planet X; however, the alien falls prey to a ruthless scientist. Convinced of humanity’s untrustworthiness, the alien starts turning all humans who cross his path into mindless drones, prompting the professor to take matters into his own hands.

With an interesting premise and an intriguing alien antagonist, The Man from Planet X is a testament to B-horror maestro Edgar G. Ulmer’s directorial abilities. The film features several strokes of genius, mainly the alien’s communicating through music, a concept that would inspire several other sci-fi films throughout the following decades.

7 ‘Forbidden Planet’ (1956)

Robot and crew on a planet

Fred M. Wilcox helmed the well-known but still underrated sci-fi Forbidden Planet. The plot follows a crew sent to a remote planet to discover the fate of a group of scientists who disappeared thirty years prior. Discovering only two survivors, the crew begins suspecting something is not right.

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Against all odds, Forbidden Planet is among the sci-fi movies from the 1950s that remain relevant today. The film introduced many classic elements to the genre, to the point where it could be considered a direct precursor to some of the great sci-fi movies of the next fifty years. Forbidden Planet deserves the same recognition that other films get, not only for its ambitious plot but for its production values and themes that might seem run-of-the-mill today but were nothing short of groundbreaking in the late 50s.

6 ‘It Came from Beneath the Sea’ (1955)

A giant octopus-like monster destroys a city in It Came from Beneath the Sea

It Came from Beneath the Sea follows a massive octopus exposed to intense radiation that loses control and rampages across North America.

Creature features weren’t uncommon in the 1950s, especially after Godzilla’s debut in 1953. It Came from Beneath the Sea is far from the best, but it’s a surprisingly chilling picture featuring impressive visual effects, a compelling storyline, and, more importantly, a genuinely intimidating monster destroying the world. The film makes some clever narrative choices, especially its documentary-like approach, putting an interesting twist on a well-known story. It Came from Beneath the Sea is among the most underrated creature features and a hidden gem of 1950s science fiction.

5 ‘The Creature Walks Among Us’ (1955)

The Creature Walks Among Us

Nearly everyone knows the iconic monster feature Creature from the Black Lagoon; far less famous are its numerous sequels, mainly because none reach the heights of the original. However, the third entry, The Creature Walks Among Us, features several intriguing ideas that make it a standout in the series.

The film is the first to present the Gill-Man as not a villain but a tragic figure and a victim of circumstance, bringing it closer to other classic Universal Monsters like Frankenstein’s Monster. Balancing camp horror with a palpable desire to explore more of the Gill-Man’s complexity, The Creature Walks Among Us excels as the next step in a franchise that never had the time to discover itself.

4 ‘Queen of Outer Space’ (1958)

Sza Sza Gabor in Queen of Outer Space

All hail Zsa Zsa Gabor, queen of camp and, as it turns out, outer space. The woman with enough marriages to make Elizabeth Taylor blush starred in Edward Bernds‘ 1958’s sci-fi Queen of Outer Space, about a crew of astronauts who revolt against a Venusian queen plotting to destroy Earth.

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Campy and admittedly silly, Queen of Outer Space excels as a satirical take on science fiction’s most notable and recurring tropes. Gabor is in on the joke, delivering a deliciously wicked and assuredly sexy performance in a story that rested entirely on her appeal. Queen of Outer Space deserves praise for making sci-fi sexy, bringing some much-needed sensuality to a genre that can easily become too cold for its own good.

3 ‘Cat-Women of the Moon’ (1953)

Two characters having lunch in Cat-Women of the Moon

Sci-fi began experimenting in the 1950s, with several films featuring openly ridiculous premises that still made for a great time at the movies. Such is the case for 1953’s Cat-Women of the Moon, in which a small group of eclectic astronauts travels to the moon and discover a race of mind-controlling cat-women.

Cat-Women of the Moon lives up to its wild title with an even wilder premise taken to its fullest. Absurd but honest about its intentions, the film would inspire a series of similar premises with unknowing astronauts stumbling upon all-female groups trying to gain control over them. Beyond what that reveals about the sexist views of the 1950s, the trend would result in some truly entertaining movies, including this underrated gem.

2 ‘The Blob’ (1958)

Steve McQueen pointing in the distance in The Blob
Image via Paramount

The Blob marked Steve McQueen‘s feature film debut. The plot concerns an alien who crashes on Earth inside a meteorite and begins consuming everything on its path, becoming larger, more aggressive and more powerful.

The ultimate B-movie, or at least one of the most entertaining, The Blob was inspired by real-life events despite its cheesy approach. It’s neither scary nor particularly thrilling, but it at least understands how well science fiction and horror work together. The film might not scare anyone in the audience, but it features an intriguing premise that perfectly encapsulates sci-fi’s essence. More importantly, it will provoke several hearty chuckles and disbelieved eye-rolls, thanks to its faux sense of tension and quaint visual effects.

1 ‘When Worlds Collide’ (1951)

Humans sitting on rocket leaving Earth

Based on the eponymous 1933 novel, When Worlds Collide is arguably the precursor of most modern disaster films. The plot deals with a star in the orbit of a newfound planet that will destroy Earth in months and the efforts to escape the inevitable destruction.

Like many other sci-fi films from the 1950s, When Worlds Collide results from society’s fear amidst the atomic age. Gloomy and tense, the film makes the most out of its prevalent dread to deliver an effective tale of survival that has stood the test of time and can even measure up against modern disaster flicks.

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