1960 - Village of the Damned

7.5 / 7.0 7.3 7.30

Village of the Damned opened in June 1960 at The Ritz cinema in Leicester Square, London, it soon attracted audiences, with cinema goers queueing round the block to see it. The Guardian had this to say: The story is most ingenious and it is told by Wolf Rilla with the right laconic touch.

Positive reviews also appeared in The Observer: "The further you have moved away from fantasy, the more you will understand its chill"; The People, "As a horror film, it'll give you the creeps for 77 minutes"; and The Sunday Times: Well made British film: the effective timing, the frightening village setting, and the acting of the flaxen-haired children who are the cold villains of the piece.

The American critics were also in favour of the film. Time magazine: Based on a clever thriller by John Wyndham and made in Britain for around $500,000. Village is one of the neatest little horror pictures produced since Peter Lorre went straight.

Positive reviews also appeared in the New York Times "as a quietly civilized exercise in the fear and power of the unknown this picture is one of the trimmest, most original and serenely unnerving little chillers in a long time" and Saturday Review: "An absorbing little picture that you may yet be able to find on some double-feature bill."

It's the groovy sixties . . . and we're off to a sluggish start with just two quality sci-fi films. Beyond Village of the Damned, there's only one other film worth mentioning, the highly praised H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, which earned a 7.23 SFMZ final score. This sci-fi classic won an Oscar for Best Effects, a Hugo Award nomination, and AFI nominated for Top 10 Science Fiction Film. The shape of the time machine itself was inspired by one of George Pal's favorite types of childhood vehicles - a sled. This is the reason for the sled-like design of the machine, so that it could 'slide' into time.

Outside of these two films, there is literally zero films of 1960 worth mentioning let alone any to analyze for SFMZ's list. If one were forced to pick another from '60, The Lost World might be the only candidate, but it carries its healthy share of low ratings and negative reviews. Let's press on and hope it gets better as we wade through the sixties.

1961 - The Day the Earth Caught Fire

6.7 / 7.0 7.0 6.96

The Day the Earth Caught Fire is a British science fiction disaster film starring Edward Judd, Leo McKern and Janet Munro. It was directed by Val Guest and released in 1961, and is one of the classic apocalyptic films of its era.

The film, which was partly made on location in London and Brighton, used matte painting to create images of abandoned cities and desolate landscapes. The film was made in black and white but in some original prints, the opening and closing sequences are tinted orange-yellow to suggest the heat of the sun.

It was shot with 35 mm anamorphic lenses using the French Dyaliscope process. Director Val Guest stated that the sound of church bells heard at the very end of the American version had been added by distributor Universal, in order to suggest that the emergency detonation had succeeded and that the Earth had been saved.

Guest speculated that the bells motif had been inspired by the 1953 film The War of the Worlds, which ends with the joyous ringing of church bells after the emergency (and a nuclear explosion). But Guest maintained that his intention was to always have an ambiguous ending.

Monte Norman, who was credited with writing "Beatnik Music" in a couple of scenes, would become well known one year later when his "James Bond theme" was used in the title sequence of Dr. No. The film won the BAFTA Film Award for Best British Screenplay and nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation

Sci-fi at the box office took a decent turn upwards in 1961. Other sci-fi films of this year worth a mention include Mysterious Island and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. One of the factors that led to the green-lighting of Mysterious Island was the huge success of a film with a similar story, Swiss Family Robinson, that was made by Walt Disney.

The model and interior sets of the submarine for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea cost producer Irwin Allen $400,000, so he was naturally quite keen to get some further use out of them. Since the film was a hit, he was able to convince ABC-TV to turn it into a series, which became the longest-running one he ever had. More comedy than sci-fi, The Absent Minded Professor was nominated for three Oscars - Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Effects. It also won the Top General Entertainment Golden Laurel Award.

1962 & 1963 - X (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes)

6.6 / 6.4 6.8 6.60

Directed by Roger Corman from a script by Ray Russell and Robert Dillon, X stars Ray Milland as Dr. James Xavier. A world renowned scientist, Dr. Xavier experiments with X-ray vision and things go horribly wrong.

While most of the cast are relatively unknown, Don Rickles is notable in an uncharacteristically dramatic role. Veteran character actor Morris Ankrum makes an uncredited appearance, his last in the movie industry.

Shot in a mere three weeks on an ultra-slim budget of $300,000, Corman described the film's success as a miracle. The movie was notable for its use of visual effects to portray Dr. Xavier's point of view. While crude by later standards, the visuals are still effective in impressing upon the audience the bizarre viewpoint of the protagonist.

The film won the 1963 Best Film Award, The Silver Spaceship, at the First International Festival of Science Fiction Films. In his book Danse Macabre, Stephen King notes a strong Lovecraftian quality to X, based on Xavier's near-insanity when he cannot comprehend the god-like being he sees at the center of the universe.

In 1999, Comic artist Alex Ross drew the character Kyle Richmond aka Nighthawk to look like Ray Milland from his portrayal in the film, for the comic book mini series Earth X. The character also has eyes with powers.

Sci-fi at the theaters was pretty much lifeless in 1962 with below average movies, exceptions (somewhat) might be Amphibian Man and The Day of the Triffids. When The Triffids was finished it was too short, so the entire sequence where the triffids attack the lighthouse was added. This sequence was directed by an uncredited Freddie Francis.

For 1963, besides the Roger Corman film highlighted above, the only other film, is Jerry Lewis' whacky comedy sci-fi The Nutty Professor, though it's more a Jerry Lewis vehicle than sci-fi.

One may speculate that sci-fi fans were staying home in the early sixties to satisfy their desire for quality sci-fi with television shows such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Avengers, My Favorite Martian, and Dr. Who.

1964 - Robinson Crusoe on Mars

6.6 / 6.8 6.6 6.67

Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a 1964 Techniscope science fiction film retelling of the classic novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. It was directed by Byron Haskin, produced by Aubrey Schenck, and starred Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, and Adam West. Its first DVD release was on September 18, 2007 as a special edition from the Criterion Collection, having been previously released by Criterion on Laserdisc.

Commander Christopher 'Kit' Draper (Paul Mantee) and Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West) are the crew of Mars Gravity Probe 1. When they reach the Red Planet, they are forced to exhaust their remaining fuel in order to avoid an imminent collision with a fast-moving object. They must eject in their one-man lifeboat pods, becoming the first humans on Mars. Draper eventually finds a cave for shelter.

He then figures out how to obtain the rest of what he needs to survive. First, he burns some coal-like rocks for warmth and accidentally discovers that heating them releases trapped oxygen. This allows him to refill his low air tanks and move around in the thin Martian atmosphere.

Two songs were inspired by and named after the movie. One was sung by Johnny Cymbal, the other by Victor Lundin. Lundin wrote the song "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" to perform during his science fiction convention appearances. He recorded it for his 2000 album Little Owl. A music video for Lundin's song was created by the Criterion Collection in 2007 for the DVD release of the film.

And the misery continues for the sixties, besides Robinson Crusoe on Mars, the only other 1964 film deserving a mention is Vincent Price's The Last Man on Earth, and is really interchangeable with Robinson Crusoe on Mars as the best film of 1964. Although this is much more faithful to the book than The Omega Man and I Am Legend which are based on the same novel, it changes the main character's name from Robert Neville to Robert Morgan, while the other two leave it unchanged.

The rest was a dreary line of mundane sci-fi such as Children of the Damned, Mothra vs. Godzilla, and many others. It's not generally known among non-Godzilla enthusiasts, but "Mothra" had her own movie in 1961. Mothra was one of the major monster films Toho made during Godzilla's rest from the silver screen from 1955-1962.

1965 - The War Game

8.0 / 7.4 7.9 X1 8.17

The War Game is a fictional, worst-case-scenario docu-drama about nuclear war and its aftermath in and around a typical English city. Although it won an Oscar for Best Documentary, it is fiction. It was intended to air on BBC 1, but it was deemed too intense and violent to broadcast. It went to theatrical distribution as a feature film instead. Low-budget and shot on location, it strives for and achieves convincing and unflinching realism.

The story is told in the style of a news magazine programme. It features several different strands that alternate throughout, including a documentary-style chronology of the main events, featuring reportage-like images of the war, the nuclear strikes, and their effects on civilians.

It also features brief contemporary interviews, in which passers-by are interviewed about their knowledge of nuclear war issues; optimistic commentary from public figures that clashes with the other images in the film; and fictional interviews with key figures as the war unfolds.

The film also features an out-of-universe voice-over narration that describes the events depicted as things that would happen during a nuclear war. The narration reminds the viewing audience that the civil defence policies of 1965 have not realistically prepared for such events and that perhaps no adequate preparation is ever possible.

Besides being an Oscar winner, the film won a number of other awards: the BAFTA Film Award, Bilbao International Festival's Golden Mikeldi Award, and the Venice Film Festival's Special Prize Award.

Not only the best sci-fi film of 1965, The War Game is perhaps the best for the first half of the sixties had to offer. But this year also produced a couple other films worth mentioning. Alphaville, earning a 7.71 SFMZ final score, won the Berlin International Film Festival's Golden Berlin Bear Award and The 10th Victim, earning a 7.03 SFMZ final score.

Despite the fact that Alphaville is a work of science fiction and supposed to be in a city of the future, all the sets were existing locations in Paris in 1965, and all the weapons are conventional firearms. The tagline for The 10th Victim was "It's the 21st century and they have a licence to kill."

Then there's the B-Movie Planet of the Vampires, often low rated, but it does have it's share of select praise for it's nostalic qualities.

1966 - The Face of Another

7.5 / 8.2 7.9 7.96

The Face of Another is a Japanese film directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara and based on the novel of the same name written by Kobo Abe. The story follows an engineer, Okuyama, whose face is severely burnt in an unspecified work-related accident and is given a new face in the form of a lifelike mask.

The film is often described as being the third in a trilogy of films by Teshigahara, following his two earlier films Pitfall and The Woman in the Dunes. These were both also based on novels by Kobo Abe, shot by Hiroshi Segawa, and scored by Toru Takemitsu.

Like the other two films, The Face of Another was shot in black and white and in full-frame aspect ratio, even though these formats had gone out of style by the time of its production. Common themes in these films deal are identity, masks, doppelgangers, and distorted social relations.

The film uses several doublings of shots, both by repeating shots verbatim and by placing the main character in nearly identical shots twice. The most obvious example is in Okuyama's two separate rentals of apartments, once masked, and once with his new face. These doublings highlight Okuyama's double existence.

The film was successful in Japan, but outside the country, the film was a critical and financial failure at the time of its release. The film won the Mainichi Film Concours' Best Art Direction and Best Film Score Awards.

1966 exploded with an impressive selection of rich, award-winning sci-fi! The Face of Another being the best of the 1966 crop, a number of solid sci-films hit the box office.

Starting with Rock Hudson's Seconds, earning a SFMZ final score of 7.94, this sci-fi thriller was Oscar nominated for Best Cinematography, along with a Cannes Film Festival nomination for the Palme d'Or Award.

Fantastic Voyage, earning a SFMZ final score of 7.04, won two Oscars - Best Art Direction & Special Visual Effects, and Oscar nominated for Best Cinematography & Best Film Editing. This is so close to a tie for best sci-film of the year, it's your pick which should own the title.

The film also won the American Cinema Editor's Best Edited Film Award, won the Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award, and was nominated for the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation Award.

Another solid entry, Fahrenheit 451, earning a 7.27 SFMZ final score, collected nominatons for the BAFTA Best British Actress Award, the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation Award, and the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion Award.

Even the B-Movies offered entertaining sci-fi such as The Diabolical Dr. Z. Dr. Z is considered by many as one of Jes�s Franco's best films. Also released in '66, was First Men in the Moon, but it received mainly negative reviews by viewers and critics.

1967 - Quatermass and the Pit

6.9 / 7.4 7.1 7.14

Quatermass and the Pit (US title: Five Million Years to Earth) is a British science fiction horror film. Made by Hammer Film Productions, it is a sequel to the earlier Hammer films The Quatermass Xperiment and Quatermass 2.

Like its predecessors it is based on the BBC Television serial written by Nigel Kneale. It was directed by Roy Ward Baker and stars Andrew Keir in the title role as Professor Bernard Quatermass, replacing Brian Donlevy who played the role in the two earlier films. James Donald, Barbara Shelley and Julian Glover appear in co-starring roles.

Quatermass and the Pit continues to be generally well regarded among critics. Science Fiction in the Cinema notes �Baker's unravelling of this crisp thriller is tough and interesting. The film has moments of pure terror.�

The Primal Scream found that, �As a condensed version of the serial, the film is fine but the old black-and-white version, though understandably creaky in places and with inferior effects, still works surprisingly well, having more time to build up a disturbing atmosphere.

Keep Watching the Skies! said, �The ambition of the storyline is contained in a well-constructed mystery that unfolds carefully and clearly�. Nigel Kneale had mixed feelings about the end result: he said, �I was very happy with Andrew Keir, who they eventually chose, and very happy with the film. There are, however, a few things that bother me... The special effects in Hammer films were always diabolical.�

And just like that, 1967 brings the sixties decade back to a sci-fi wasteland. Beyond the film highlighted above, audiences were subjected to sci-fi muck such as King Kong Escapes, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Three Fantastic Supermen, and others.

1968 & 1969 - 2001: A Space Odyssey

8.9 / 7.4 8.6 8.4 X1 9.31

Despite initially receiving mixed reactions from critics and audiences alike, 2001: A Space Odyssey garnered a cult following and slowly became a box office hit. Some years after its initial release, it eventually became the highest grossing picture from 1968 in North America.

Today it is near-universally recognized by critics, filmmakers, and audiences as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. Sight and Sound magazine named it the second greatest film ever made. Two years before that, it was ranked the greatest film of all time by The Moving Arts Film Journal.

2001 earned numerous award wins and nominations: won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and Oscar nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Director, and Original Screenplay; won BAFTA Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Road Show, Best Sound Track awards and BAFTA nominated for Best Film; won Cinema Writers Circle's Best Foreign Film; and won David di Donatello's Best Foreign Production Awards; won the Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation Award.

Additionaly, the film won Kansas City Film Critic's Best Director and Best Picture Awards; won Laurel's Best Road Show Award and Laurel nominated for Best Director; Directors Guild of America nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement; Moscow International Film Festival nominated for the Golden Prize Award; and listed among the year's Top Ten Films by the National Board of Review.

2001 was No. 15 on AFI's 2007 100 Years... 100 Movies, was named No. 40 on its 100 Years, 100 Thrills, was included on its 100 Years, 100 Quotes ("Open the pod bay doors, Hal."), and Hal 9000 is the No. 13 villain in the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains. 2001 is the only science fiction film to make the Sight & Sound poll for ten best movies, and tops the Online Film Critics Society list of "greatest science fiction films of all time." In 1991, this film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Other lists that include the film are 50 Films to See Before You Die (#6), The Village Voice 100 Best Films of the 20th century (#11), the Sight & Sound Top Ten poll (#6), and Roger Ebert's Top Ten (1968) (#2). In 1995, the Vatican named it as one of the 45 best films ever made (and included it in a sub-list of the "Top Ten Art Movies" of all time.) In 2011, the film was the third most screened film in secondary schools in the United Kingdom.

Other sci-fi films of 1968: Two other films have also become iconic classics making 1968 a stellar year for sci-fi film. First, George Romero's horror sci-fi Night of the Living Dead, which earned a SFMZ final score of 8.37. In all fairness, NOTLD is primarily horror, with a very minor sci-fi element.

It has been selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant. Though the film is regularly categorized as horror sci-fi, the film itself has literally zero sci-fi visual elements to it.

The second film, Planet of the Apes, earning a SFMZ final score of 8.01, also received the same honors from the Library of Congress. It won an Oscar Honorary Award and was Oscar nominated for Best Music. Both films have become franchises and various sequels/spin offs continue to thrive today. Any other year, these two films have the potential as best sci-fi film of the year.

Another solid contribution to 1968 is the French sci-fi film Je t'aime je t'aime, earning a SFMZ final score of 7.79. And Cliff Robertson's drama sci-fi Charly, earning a 7.02 SFMZ final score, deserves a mention, which Robertson won the Oscar Best Actor Award. I'll mention Jane Fonda's Barbarella only for it's place in Memory Lane, otherwise this comedy sci-fi received very little universal praise.

The bad news for 1969 is that year is being grouped with this bunch rather than carrying it over to 1970 / a different decade, because there was absolutely nothing of value regarding sci-fi film for that year. A couple decent choices for sci-fans might be Gladiatorerna and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed.

SCI-FI BEST FILMS BY YEAR - 1970 to 1979 > > >

Resources: wikipedia.org, imdb.com, rottentomatoes.com, metacritic.com

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