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Five More Great 1950s Sci-Fi Horror Movies

A few months ago, I wrote an article recommending five great 1950s sci-fi horror movies, and I had an absolute blast preparing for it. It gave me a chance to revisit some films that have been favorites of mine for about as long as I can remember, so it was one of the most fun writing experiences of my Horror Obsessive career so far.

In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to return to this era in genre history, so I’m back with another list of five great sci-fi horror movies from the 1950s. Just like last time, this article features a whole bunch of time-honored sci-fi staples, like aliens, mutated monstrosities, and bizarre creatures, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as we explore these classic films.

The Quatermass Xperiment

A man turning into a monster and looking distressed

First up, we have The Quatermass Xperiment, a British movie from 1955 that was released in the US as The Creeping Unknown. It’s about an astronaut named Victor Carroon who returns from space with an alien infection that slowly turns him into a bloodthirsty monstrosity, and it’s up to Professor Bernard Quatermass to find a way to stop him.

There’s a lot to love about this movie, like the mystery of what happened to Carroon’s fellow crew members and the wonderful makeup effects that turn the man into a monster, but the way I see it, neither of those elements is the best thing about the film. Instead, the heart and soul of The Quatermass Xperiment is Richard Wordsworth, the actor who plays Victor Carroon.

Some people liken his performance to Boris Karloff’s turn as Frankenstein’s Monster in the classic Universal movies, and I think that comparison is spot on. Much like Karloff, Wordsworth expresses himself mainly through facial expressions and body language, and he absolutely kills it. He makes Carroon one of the most sympathetic villains in horror history, so no matter how monstrous the character becomes, you never stop feeling sorry for the man he used to be. That tragic element makes this story just as heartbreaking as it is horrifying, so there’s no doubt that The Quatermass Xperiment is one of the best sci-fi horror films of the 1950s.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

People looking at a body lying on a table

When people today talk about Invasion of the Body Snatchers, they’re usually referring to the 1978 remake, but the 1956 original is the one I grew up watching and loving. Just like the 1970s version, this one is also about a community that slowly finds itself overtaken by alien clones who replace all its residents, and since it came out during the Red Scare of the 1950s, it’s often seen as an allegory for communism.

However, I’ve never really understood it that way. Maybe it’s because I saw the film before I knew much about communism or the 1950s, but for me, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is about way more than just a single political ideology. It’s about what it means to be human, and the movie conveys its message in a really effective way.

See, the alien clones in this story don’t experience love, emotions, or deep desires, so they essentially just go about their business like robots. They’re all about efficiency and practicality, and as they slowly take over the town, we begin to see how scary the world would be if we all became like them.

Sure, in a purely utilitarian sense, this kind of society would work perfectly, like a well-oiled machine, but we’re not machines. We’re human beings, so we need things like love and deep emotions. Without them, life would pretty much be hell, and few movies demonstrate that important truth better than Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It makes this one of the absolute best sci-fi horror films of any era, let alone of the 1950s, so if you’ve never seen the original version of this classic story, I highly recommend that you remedy that as soon as you can.

Forbidden Planet

A man and a woman standing and talking next to a robot

Forbidden Planet isn’t just one of the best sci-fi horror movies of the 1950s. It’s also one of the most important. It gave the legendary Leslie Nielsen his first starring role, and it was the first science fiction film to be set entirely in outer space. It follows a group of astronauts as they travel to a planet named Altair IV to find out what happened to some scientists who were sent there decades earlier, and when they arrive, they find that the scientists were almost entirely wiped out by a mysterious and deadly beast.

Forbidden Planet’s historical importance alone makes it well worth a watch, but that’s not the only reason to check it out. It also showcases a whole bunch of cool sci-fi tech, including an impressive (for the time, of course) robot named Robby, so if you’re a fan of futuristic technology, you’re sure to enjoy this film.

On top of that, Forbidden Planet also features a really intriguing mystery about the devilish creature that resides on Altair IV. At first, you have no idea what it is, and you’re not even sure if it’s really a creature. See, there’s only one scientist left on the planet, and the movie hints that he might’ve killed his fellow crew members and invented the story about the monster to hide his unspeakable crimes. You simply don’t know what happened, so you can’t help but keep your eyes glued to the screen as you wait to learn the truth.

When you put all that together, it becomes clear that Forbidden Planet is a must-see for any fan of 1950s sci-fi horror. It’s fun, intriguing, and historically important, and that combination is pretty hard to beat.

The Fly

A man with the head of a fly

Much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Fly is another 1950s sci-fi horror classic that’s often overshadowed by its remake, and I totally understand why. As much as I love this film, even I have to admit that David Cronenberg’s 1986 version is better. But it’s not so good that it renders the original movie irrelevant. There are still plenty of reasons to check out the 1958 version, so there’s room in the horror pantheon for both classic films.

For starters, the movie’s plot unfolds in a non-linear fashion, and that gives it a very different feel from the remake. See, unlike Cronenberg’s version, this one starts at the end of the story, after the scientist has already died, but it doesn’t tell you what happened to him. The first act of the film only shows you the aftermath of his demise, and that creates a super intriguing mystery you can’t help but be curious about. Then, when the film finally jumps back to the beginning, you’re already dying to know how this guy died, so even though the narrative follows many of the same basic plot points as the remake, it still feels like a completely different movie.

Secondly, we have the ending. I’m not going to spoil it if you haven’t seen the film, but trust me, The Fly ends with one of the creepiest and most unsettling moments in horror history. It’s absolutely harrowing, and it’ll stick with you long after the credits begin to roll.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I think it’s enough to make my point. While the original The Fly might not be quite as good as the remake, it’s still well worth your time. It’s one of the best sci-fi horror movies of the 1950s, so if you’ve only seen Cronenberg’s version (or if you haven’t seen either one), I highly suggest that you check out this time-honored classic.

The Tingler

The tingler choking Vincent Price

Last but not least, we have The Tingler, a 1959 film starring Vincent Price and directed by William Castle. Castle was known more for his clever marketing gimmicks than for the quality of his movies, but he did make a few good ones. And for my money, The Tingler is one of his best. It’s about a doctor who discovers that the spine-chilling sensation we get when we’re scared is caused by a parasite that feeds on our fear, and when we experience that feeling, we have to scream to keep the creature at bay.

That’s admittedly a pretty ridiculous premise, but The Tingler actually pulls it off pretty well. In fact, the absurdity of it all is what makes it so great, so if you’re looking for something more serious and dramatic, this is not the movie for you. But if you want a film that knows exactly what it is and invites you to laugh along with it, you’re going to love this one.

Granted, this movie isn’t all laughs all the time, but when it goes for camp, it’s a hoot and a half. There are times when it feels almost like a live-action cartoon, and predictably, Price hams it up to perfection when the moment calls for it. In a word, this film is pretty much peak William Castle fun, so if you want to explore the sillier side of 1950s sci-fi horror, you can’t do much better than The Tingler.


You might also enjoy:

Five of Vincent Price’s Best Movies

Fantastic Fest 2022: My Top Five Films From The Fest!

Five 2000s Horror Gems You Might’ve Missed

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  1. I love all these movies! I grew up watching them in the druve-in. Still love to watch old sci-fi and horror movies.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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