The greatest ‘30s sci-fi movies feature many of the same creatures and characters that would go on to dominate the genre for years to come. At the top of this list, you will find several titles starring the legendary Boris Karloff as Frankenstein. Karloff, an English actor, achieved widespread fame for his portrayal of the monster. Modern conceptions of Dr. Frankenstein’s creation stem from Karloff’s iconic portrayal. Scrolling through this list, you will see Karloff’s name appear again and again, as he was a highly desired sci-fi and horror actor in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
On our list of the best ‘30s sci-fi movies, you will also encounter several Pre-Code classics. Before the institution of the Motion Picture Production Code in 1934, Hollywood films contained much racier subject matter, including drug use, sexual innuendo, and graphic violence. The Invisible Man, based on H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name, is one such Pre-Code science fiction film. Featuring Claude Rains in his first American film role, the movie would inspire numerous spin-offs and sequels featuring the character of the Invisible Man.
Other classic ‘30s sci-fi movies on this list include Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Son of Kong, and Island of Lost Souls. Vote up the best science fiction films from the 1930s below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
- After recovering from injuries sustained in the mob attack upon himself and his creation, Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) falls under the control of his former mentor, Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), ...more
- Actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) and director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) travel to the Indian Ocean to do location shoots for Denham's new jungle picture. Along the way, the actress meets and falls ...more
- Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free TrialThis iconic horror film follows the obsessed scientist Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) as he attempts to create life by assembling a creature from body parts of the deceased. Aided by his loyal ...more
- The dashing, mysterious Count Dracula (Bela Lugosi), after hypnotizing a British soldier, Renfield (Dwight Frye), into his mindless slave, travels to London and takes up residence in an old castle. ...more
- The Invisible Man is a 1933 science fiction film based on H. G. Wells' science fiction novel The Invisible Man, published in 1897, as adapted by R. C. Sherriff, Philip Wylie and Preston Sturges, ...more
- Testing his theory that in every man dwells a good and an evil force, the reserved Dr. Jekyll (Fredric March) develops a formula that separates the two, turning him into a violent ruffian named Mr. ...more
- Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) is determined to prove the legitimacy of his father's scientific work, thus rescuing the family name from disgrace. With the help of Ygor (Bela Lugosi), a ...more
- While in Tibet researching a mysterious flower that purportedly takes its strength from the moon, botanist Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) is bitten by a strange creature. Back in London, Glendon ...more
- It's Christmas 1940, and Everytown resident John Cabal (Raymond Massey) fears that war is imminent. When it breaks out, the war lasts 30 years, destroying the city and ushering in a new dark age of ...more
- After his disastrous venture with the giant ape King Kong, promoter Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) flees New York to avoid indictment from a grand jury. He sails off with friend Captain Englehorn ...more
- The sinister Dr. Fu Manchu (Boris Karloff) and his equally devious daughter, Fah Lo See (Myrna Loy), clash with a British expedition that has set out in search of Genghis Khan's tomb. Working under ...more
- The Man They Could Not Hang is a low-budget horror film produced by Columbia Pictures, directed by Nick Grinde, and starring Boris Karloff as Dr. Henryk Savaard. The supporting cast features Lorna ...more
- Buck Rogers is a 1939 Universal serial film starring Buster Crabbe as the eponymous hero, Constance Moore, Jackie Moran and Anthony Warde. It was based on the Buck Rogers character created by Philip ...more
- In this adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel "The Island of Doctor Moreau," Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) is shipwrecked on a remote island presided over by the mysterious Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton). ...more
- The Walking Dead is a 1936 American horror film distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, directed by Michael Curtiz, and starring Boris Karloff who played a wrongly executed man who is restored to life ...more
- The Invisible Ray is a 1936 American science fiction film starring Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi as Dr. Felix Benet that was released by Universal Pictures.
- Flash Gordon is a 1936 science fiction film serial. Told in 13 installments, it was the first screen adventure for the comic-strip character Flash Gordon, and tells the story of his first visit to ...more
- As a mysterious space ray depletes the earth's atmosphere, swashbuckling scientist Flash Gordon (Larry "Buster" Crabbe) ; his partner, Doctor Zarkov (Frank Shannon) ; spunky assistant Dale Arden ...more
- Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free TrialEnd of the World is a 1931 French science fiction film directed by Abel Gance based on the novel Omega: The Last Days of the World by Camille Flammarion. The film stars Victor Francen as Martial ...more
- Just Imagine is a 1930 science fiction musical comedy directed by David Butler. The film is known for its art direction and special effects in its portrayal of New York City in an imagined 1980.
- The Man Who Changed His Mind is a 1936 British science fiction horror film starring Boris Karloff and Anna Lee. It was directed by Robert Stevenson and was produced by Gainsborough Pictures. The film ...more
- The Lost Jungle is a Mascot movie serial. A semi-sequel to this serial, Darkest Africa, was released by Republic Pictures in 1936. Republic was made from a merger of several companies, including ...more
- Alraune is a German science fiction horror film directed by Richard Oswald. Like the 1928 version this movie again features Brigitte Helm in the role of Alraune. This version aimed for greater ...more
- Air Hawks is a 1935 American aviation-themed science-fiction film based on Ben Pivar's "Air Fury", an unpublished story. Director Albert Rogell who had moved from shorts to B-films, was interested in ...more