Reader Lex asked: "If you were to reccomend 10-15 must see films from the 50's-60's what would they be?" Some movies are must-see because they're great or influential. Some movies are must-see because they're just so wacky (or famously bad) that they're still influential. So, Lex, here are two lists of ten.
The Good -- Here are ten milestone movies that have left a lasting impression on our culture. These are the "good" movies which even average viewers can appreciate. They are a fair sampling of what 50s sci-fi could do on a good day.
1. When Worlds Collide ('51) -- An epic disaster film which expressed the culture's anxiety about the Cold War and the threat of impending doom.
2. Day the Earth Stood Still ('51) -- Earth is warned of its nuclear danger, by a benevolent alien. The story line was powerful enough to spawn many remakes.
3. War of the Worlds ('53) -- HG Wells' classic story set in 1950s America. This invasion theme would be expressed in many other films too.
4. Creature from the Black Lagoon ('54) -- A classic which spawned not only sequels, but many retellings and variations.
5. Gojira (54) -- The Japanese original is better than the '55 American edit. Gojira was the dramatic ancestor of dozens of giant-monster movies. The sub-genre would eventually turn campy and juvenile, but Gojira was serious art.
6. Them! ('54) -- The first (and best) of a whole sub-genre of giant bug films for which the 50s are famous.
7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers ('56) -- The classic tale of aliens taking over human's bodies. This theme was featured in many later films.
8. Forbidden Planet ('56) -- Perhaps THE pinnacle of 1950s sci-fi. While seldom copied or remade, it would become the basis for that persistent cultural force: Star Trek.
9. The Blob ('58) -- Not the first, but the most famous of the alien-blob creature films.
10. Time Machine ('60) -- Wells' famous tale from a 50s point of view. It would become the model for many later time-travel films.
The Bad -- The flip-side of the 50s and 60s sci-fi greats, are its equally famous "bad" films. These film have left a lasting cultural legacy too -- so quirky or bizarre that they're hard to take seriously, even though their creators were serious.
1. Robot Monster ('53) -- Infamous for the titular villain costumed in an ape-suit with a space helmet. A pretty earth woman scrambles Ro-Man's superior logic.
2. Catwomen of the Moon ('53) -- A distant planet populated with a civilization of attractive women. This absurd premise actually formed the basis of several films.
3. Killers From Space ('54) -- All the low-budget style of the early serials (the aliens are men in leotards with ping pong balls for eyes), yet serious.
4. The Giant Claw ('56) -- A monster too bizarre to be frightening. A marionette vulture-thing "space bird". Again, the actors take it all deadly seriously.
5. The Beginning of the End ('57) -- The giant bug sub-genre was running out of scary bugs to enlarge. Grasshoppers
6. Attack of the 50' woman ('58) -- A past-peak pin up star, made giant by the touch of a giant alien, obsesses over retrieving her philandering husband.
7. Plan 9 From Outer Space ('59) -- Ed Wood Jr.'s famously bad movie, a fragmented tale of aliens who plan to raise dead earthlings so zombies can conquer earth for them.
8. Teenagers From Outer Space ('59) -- A soft-hearted alien teen takes pity on earth (and is keen an earth girl) so helps stop his people from turning earth into a ranch for giant lobsters.
9. The Creeping Terror ('64) -- An alien creature resembling a chinese parade dragon gone horribly wrong, has a penchant for eating leggy young women.
10. Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women ('68) -- A rehash of a rehash of a Soviet film about landing on Venus, but with new footage of telepathic babes in shell bras who almost encounter the astronauts.