The 1960s was a strange decade with some really good, and some really bad, science fiction movies. I went through a list of those films and picked my ten favorites, meaning, if I was going on a trip for three months and could only take ten scifi films from the 1960s, these would be the ten.
1. The Time Machine (1960) – A George Pal production which has Rod Taylor traveling into the future on a cool chair where he helps save the Eloi from the Morlocks. Excellent H.G. Wells story adaptation and excellent special effects.
2. Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961) – Another George Pal production considered by most professional critics to be Pal’s worst film but I love it. Cool Atlantian submarine and crystal ray weapon.
3. Fantastic Voyage (1966) – Members of the Combined Miniaturized Deterrent Forces, including Raquel Welch and Donald Pleasence, are shrunk to tiny size with their submarine the Proteus to zap a blood clot inside an injured spy’s brain. Watch out for those white blood cells.
4. Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) – Paul Mantee is marooned on Mars with monkey Mona and slave Friday. Will they evade the bad aliens long enough to be rescued?
5. Quatermass and the Pit (1967) – Also known as Five Million Years to Earth. Andrew Keir as Quatermass unravels the mystery behind a Martian spacecraft discovered buried under London. Do we have Martian DNA?
6. The Power (1968) – Another George Pal production. One of a group of six scientists including George Hamilton has super mind control powers and is murdering the others in the group one by one. Clever story and eerie cimbalom (stringed instrument of some kind) music.
7. First Men in the Moon (1964) – In 1899, Victorian astronauts use antigravity to get to the moon. Are the underground dwelling insect-like Selenites friendly or do they have sinister plans for earth?
8. Island of Terror (1966) – A group of people on a small isolated island discover an experiment gone wrong (when does an experiment ever go right in a scifi movie?) and are menaced by 6-foot long bone-dissolving amoebas called Silicates.
9. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) – The movie that inspired the TV series of the same name has the nuclear submarine Seaview saving the earth by firing a missile into the burning Van Allen belt. I love the Seaview’s open top shark tank with a narrow catwalk and no handrails. What submarine is complete without one? Will the bad guy eventually fall in?
10. The Time Travelers (1964) – A group of scientists travel to 2071 to find post nuclear war survivors living underground battling surface dwelling mutants. Eventually the scientists return to the present. Oops, or do they?
Honorable Mention. Mysterious Island (1961) – Ray Harryhausen stop-action special effects of a giant crab and bees highlight. The Day of the Triffids (1962) – Giant, walking, man-eating plants and a lot of blind people. X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) – Ray Milland has x-ray vision but should have remembered the Bible quote about offending eyes. Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965) – Peter Cushing as the doctor saving earth from rolling trash cans.
Films from the 60s that Most Critics Like but I Don’t Like. Fahrenheit 451 (1966) – Yawn. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – OK, I know it’s heresy not to love this movie but I think it’s pompous and overblown (but HAL was cool). Alphaville (1965) – It’s unfashionable not to fawn over French cinema but I find this movie boring. Planet of the Apes (1968) – I liked a couple of the sequels but not the original.