Many modern viewers can’t get enough of science fiction. Whether it’s books, movies, or TV shows, people love to immerse themselves in the jaw-dropping scenarios and futuristic technology. What a lot of people don’t like, however, are remakes of classic films. Especially when they end up being nothing like the source material they’ve come to love and cherish over time.
But not every remake is terrible, and when it comes to science fiction filmography, there’s plenty of material to work with. While movies like Star Wars and Planet of the Apes have seen several sequels and reboots over the years, others have often been neglected, regardless of critical appraise or success. This is especially true for some of the earliest films the genre had to offer, some of which people today might not even recognize. So here are 15 sci-fi films from the 1900s that would make great remakes if given the chance.
15. The Mechanical Man (1921)
As one of Italy’s first sci-fi films, The Mechanical Man’s lack of mainstream notoriety doesn’t diminish its interesting qualities. The film – directed by André Deed – depicts what many consider the first robot battle in cinema, a scenario that’s now a popular staple in the genre. Since much of the film has been lost over the years, remaking it could be difficult. But this also leaves room for creativity, especially considering the movie features a female crime boss as the main antagonist. One of the sci-fi genre’s biggest issues is proper representation of women. A good remake could give the women of the film deeper development, thus transforming them into unique and well-rounded characters.
14. The Lost World (1925)
Believe it or not, Jurassic Park isn’t the only classic dinosaur movie out there. Based on a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book of the same name, the film follows an expedition team who travel to a plateau where prehistoric animals have survived in secret for centuries. In all honesty, several remakes of The Lost World already exist. But they’ve seen varied and mixed reviews, with one of the latest being a mock-buster rather than a true adaptation. It would be interesting to see a high-budget production with more fleshed-out, rounded characters. Even with competition from the Jurassic Park franchise, the right changes could make a remake stand out.
Metropolis is one of the most influential and iconic science fiction films of all time. Directed by Fritz Lang in Germany, the story takes place in a futuristic dystopian city where the working class must live underground in harsh conditions while the rich upper class lives frivolously above. A remake of this classic would be a daring move, especially considering the original’s popularity and cult status. But the possibilities for a modern version of the story feel endless. The themes of the original film remain relevant today, so with the right creativity and respect for the original, a remake with modern visual effects could be fantastic.
12. End of the World (1931)
A French production directed by Abel Gance, this film was both a critical and commercial failure. Based on a novel by Camille Flammarion, the plot revolves around the reactions of various humans when they discover a comet on a collision course with Earth. One of the biggest issues with the film was how many saw it as naïve and unrealistic. But the concept of the apocalypse isn’t impossible to achieve, making the premise of this movie salvageable. Perhaps with the right changes and some modern philosophy applied, it could make for an interesting feature about humanity and the world we’ve built for ourselves.
11. Six Hours to Live (1932)
While there’s no space adventure or apocalypse, this film directed by William Dieterle still has plenty of science fiction elements. The story follows of a murdered man who’s brought back to life via a scientific procedure and must find his killer before the process wears off in just six hours. In a modern context, a potential remake of this film could very well be successful. The circumstances of the main character serve for great tension, especially considering the small window of time. With the write production writers, elements of comedy might even work if properly mixed with the drama and sci-fi elements.
10. Destination Moon (1950)
Destination Moon is one of those films that seemed to value visuals over plot. Produced by George Pal and directed by Irving Pichel, the story follows a space crew’s plans to launch an expedition for the moon. Considering that this film came out nearly twenty years before the first moon landing, it’s not hard to see how its premise captured intrigue in space travel. But in order for a remake to work, there’d probably have to be some changes. A more enticing plot, a new destination, and deeper characters would have to come into play since the audience would be a modern one.
9. The Thing From Another World (1951)
Directed by Christian Nyby, this movie adapts the story of Who Goes There?, a book by John W. Campbell. The plot concerns an Air Force crew who discover a crashed flying saucer in the Arctic, along with a human-like alien bent on attacking them. While this scenario isn’t exactly a new concept, the strong pacing and unique traits of the film made it one of the best science fiction movies of its time. The first remake of the film in 1982 was heavily panned, which might have discouraged future attempts. Overall, a remake could succeed if good storytelling, modern effects, and costume design featured in the film. The alien creature character could especially benefit from a neat redesign… because honestly, the original creature could seem rather bland looking to some.
8. Five (1951)
Five might not be as high budget as other films, but it still has quite an interesting premise. As an independent film directed and written by Arch Oboler, the story focuses on five survivors of an atomic bomb incident that wipes out humanity. The film’s original reception was mixed, with some praising the atmosphere and concept, but criticizing the blandness of the characters. A remake of this film would need to rectify these issues without losing sight of the positive elements. A more developed version of the female lead would probably help immensely with this issue. Deeper commentary on racial prejudice and death that exist in the original film could also be expanded on.
7. It Came From Outer Space (1953)
Based on a Ray Bradbury story, It Came From Outer Space is one of director Jack Arnold’s most notable films. The story is about a couple who witnesses a flying saucer crash and attempts to prove what they’ve seen. One thing that makes this movie stand out is the nature of the aliens. Many sci-fi films at this time reflected Cold War paranoia, with invading visitors from space being allegories to foreign enemies. But in this film, the aliens are relatively peaceful beings who attempt to accomplish their goals without harming any humans. A modern adaptation could take advantage of this as a metaphor for hot topics like immigration. A good production team could make a film that helps dispel the hateful, ignorant thought that “outsiders” or unknown entities are always dangerous.
6. Forbidden Planet (1956)
Forbidden Planet from director Fred M. Wilcox is another science fiction film that many remember even decades later. A winner of an Academy Award for special effects, the story takes place on a distant planet where a mysterious presence is committing murders. While the movie is based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, there many differences from the original play, which makes the adaptation very loose. It would be interesting to see a potential remake take greater inspiration from The Tempest’s characters and plot. The mystical and magical elements of the play could be modified into science concepts, making for a truly unique film.
5. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
As the winner of the first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, this film is a classic in science fiction. Directed by Jack Arnold, the movie tells the story of Scott Carey, a man who’s exposed to radiation that causes him to start steadily shrinking. Discussions of remaking this film are nothing new, but issues with production regularly result in delays with the project. If a reboot was approved, it would certainly make for an interesting experience. The visuals for the original were incredible for the time, and hopefully modern technology could duplicate that while maintaining the fascinating story.
4. The Human Vapor (1960)
As a project from well-known kaiju film director Ishirō Honda, The Human Vapor is one of the more obscure entries on this list. The film focused on the Japanese police’s attempts to capture a thief with the ability to transform into a gaseous state. Despite not being one of the most well-known science fiction films, the premise and characters themselves make for an interesting scenario. The combination of crime drama and science fiction work well together for the plot itself. It would be interesting to see a more updated take on the story, with better effects for the Vapor Man and more development for the characters.
3. Logan’s Run (1976)
Based on a book of the same name by William F. Nolan, Logan’s Run is a film with both strengths and weaknesses. Directed by Michael Anderson, the plot focuses on Logan 5, a man living in a world where people are killed once they reach a certain age. The film received mixed reviews upon release, with some calling it visually enjoyable, but lacking in terms of writing. Many viewers who’d read the book also found the film inferior, as it changed the death age from 21 to 30 and drastically diverted from the original plot. A more successful remake would likely need to take more influence from the book. With careful detail to both special effects and screenplay, it could make for a fantastic new movie.
2. Time After Time (1979)
This film from director Nicholas Meyer is particularly unique because of its unusual protagonist and plot scenario. Based on the book by Meyer’s friend Karl Alexander, Time After Time follows a fictional version of author H.G. Wells, who uses a machine to chase the notorious Jack the Ripper through time. While the concept is quite strange, the movie received mostly positive responses. Remaking such a film would likely be difficult, especially when most already enjoyed the first one. But none the less, it could still be a success if given proper care and production.
1. Repo Man (1984)
Much like Metropolis, this film directed by Alex Cox of those films that’s achieved cult status over the years. The plot follows the adventures of Otto, a young man who gets a job repossessing cars and ends up involved in a strange situation seemingly involving aliens. A remake would be risky considering how popular the original is. But it’s far from impossible, especially if they hired a good enough writer. One of the best features of this film is the mystery behind its sci-fi elements, which are never fully explained. With subtle storytelling and a modern approach that could appeal to newer viewers, an updated version of this classic could be just as memorable as its original.