An interesting sub-genre of science fiction films (to me anyway) are films that take place mostly underground. There are more such films than you might expect. Here are my top 10 favorite subterranean science fiction movies.
1. The Cave (2005) – A group of cave divers explore a huge underground cave system in Romania. It doesn’t go well. A weird parasite infects all kinds of creatures, including bats and humans, and turns them into pretty scary mutations. This movie got bad reviews but it kept me on the edge of my seat.
2. The Descent (2005) – Six women decide to go cave exploring in the Appalacians. Choices: a.) go to a well-mapped cave system, or b.) try an unexplored cave system that just might have murderous albino descendats of cave men. The expedition goes about as you’d guess. This movie got great reviews.
3. The Core (2003) – A group of scientists, including Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank, travel to the center of the earth to set off nuclear explosions to fix the molten core which has stopped spinning. Completely absurd science but good entertainment.
4. The Time Machine (1960) – Rod Taylor uses his time machine to go back forward in time to the year 802701 A.D. where he finds the Eloi, the remnants of human civilization (including Yvette Mimieux), being used as a food source for the Morlocks.
5. First Men in the Moon (1964) – Victorian scientists get to the moon where they discover an underground race of insect-like beings called Selentites. Very good special effects for the time (by the brilliant Ray Harryhausen). Based on the HG Wells 1901 book.
6. Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) – James Mason and Pat Boone find Atlantis at the center of the earth. Just a good, fun adventure film. The expedition escapes in a giant bowl up through a volcano.
7. Battle Beneath the Earth (1967) – Strange film. Renegade Chinese army generals use burrowing machines to tunnel under the U.S.A. in order to place atomic bombs. Stars Kerwin Mathews who is largely forgotten today but did many interesting films in the 1960s.
8. At the Earth’s Core (1976) – Based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, Doug McClure and Peter Cushing use a fantastic drilling machine to go underground where they find a race of Mahars — flying telepathic reptiles who keep humans enslaved.
9. Unknown World (1951) – An obscure film that can’t really be called good but it does have a certain amount of charm. A group of scientists use the Cyclotram, an atomic powered burrowing machine to go deep into the Earth where they find an underground world.
10. The Mole People (1956) – Archaeologists find a race of Sumerian albinos living deep under the Earth. The Sumerians keep mutant humanoid mole men as their slaves to harvest mushrooms. This movie was featured on Mystery Science Fiction Theater 3000.