Total Nerd The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies  

Ranker Film
358 votes 154 voters 2.4k views 34 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite science fiction films that were released in the 1930s

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. 

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Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Frankenstein Boris Karloff, John Boles, Colin Clive Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Frankenstein is a 1931 horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale and adapted from the play by Peggy Webling, which in turn is based on the novel of the same name by ...more

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Bride of Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Bride of Frankenstein Boris Karloff, Walter Brennan, Billy Barty Bride of Frankenstein is a 1935 American horror film, the first sequel to Frankenstein. Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff as The Monster, Elsa Lanchester ...more

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The Invisible Man is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Invisible Man Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, Una O'Connor 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

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King Kong is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Tommi Welchoff-White added King Kong Fay Wray, Merian C. Cooper, Bruce Cabot King Kong is a 1933 American fantasy monster/adventure film directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was from an ...more

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Son of Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Son of Frankenstein Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone Son of Frankenstein is a horror monster film and is the third film in Universal Studios' Frankenstein series and the last to feature Boris Karloff as the Monster as well as the first to feature ...more

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12 3
Dracula is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Tommi Welchoff-White added Dracula Bela Lugosi, Tod Browning, Carla Laemmle Dracula is a 1931 vampire-horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. The film was produced by Universal and is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by ...more

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Werewolf of London is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Werewolf of London Valerie Hobson, Spring Byington, J. M. Kerrigan Werewolf of London is a 1935 Horror film starring Henry Hull and produced by Universal Pictures. Jack Pierce's eerie werewolf make-up was simpler than his version six years later for Lon Chaney, ...more

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Things to Come is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Things to Come George Sanders, Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson Things to Come is a British science fiction film produced by Alexander Korda and directed by William Cameron Menzies. The film stars Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke, Pearl ...more

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Fredric March, Wallace Beery, Miriam Hopkins Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1931 American Pre-Code horror film directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March. The film is an adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, ...more

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Transatlantic Tunnel is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Transatlantic Tunnel

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Island of Lost Souls is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Island of Lost Souls Bela Lugosi, Charles Laughton, Randolph Scott Island of Lost Souls is a 1932 American science fiction horror film starring Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi and Kathleen Burke as the Panther Woman. The film was ...more

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Buck Rogers is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Buck Rogers Buster Crabbe, Jack Mulhall, Constance Moore 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 ...more

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The Invisible Ray is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Invisible Ray Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Beulah Bondi 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.

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The Mask of Fu Manchu is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Mask of Fu Manchu Boris Karloff, Lewis Stone The Mask of Fu Manchu is a Pre-Code adventure film released in 1932, featuring Boris Karloff as Fu Manchu and Myrna Loy as his daughter. The movie revolves around Fu Manchu's quest for the sword ...more

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The Man They Could Not Hang is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Man They Could Not Hang Boris Karloff, Lorna Gray, Dick Curtis 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 ...more

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Flash Gordon is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Flash Gordon Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, George Cleveland 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 ...more

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Son of Kong is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Son of Kong Helen Mack, Frank Reicher, Noble Johnson The Son of Kong is a 1933 American adventure film/monster movie produced by RKO Pictures. Directed by Ernest Schoedsack and featuring special effects by Buzz Gibson and Willis O'Brien, the film ...more

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Alraune is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Alraune Brigitte Helm, Albert Bassermann 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

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The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Walking Dead Boris Karloff, Barton MacLane, Edmund Gwenn 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 ...more

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Just Imagine is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Just Imagine Maureen O'Sullivan, El Brendel, Marjorie White 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

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Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Charles Middleton Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars is a 1938 serial film of 15 episodes, based on the comic strip Flash Gordon. It is the second of three Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940. The main cast ...more

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Air Hawks is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Air Hawks Ralph Bellamy, Robert (Tex) Allen, Douglass Dumbrille 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, ...more

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End of the World is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
End of the World Abel Gance, Victor Francen, Colette Darfeuil Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial End 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

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The Lost Jungle is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Lost Jungle Mickey Rooney, George "Gabby" Hayes, Clyde Beatty 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

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Torture Ship is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Torture Ship Lyle Talbot, Irving Pichel, Carleton Young Torture Ship is a 1939 American film directed by Victor Halperin.

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Aerograd is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Aerograd Vladimir Uralsky, Yevgeniya Melnikova, Stepan Shkurat Aerograd, is a 1935 Soviet film by Ukrainian director Alexander Dovzhenko, a coproduction between Mosfilm and VUFKU. It is an adventure story set in the Soviet Far East in the future.

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The Phantom Empire is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Phantom Empire Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Frankie Darro The Phantom Empire is a 1935 American Western serial film directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason and starring Gene Autry, Frankie Darro, and Betsy King Ross. This 12-chapter Mascot Pictures ...more

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Undersea Kingdom is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Tommi Welchoff-White added Undersea Kingdom Lon Chaney, Jr., Monte Blue Undersea Kingdom is a Republic Pictures film serial released in response to Universal's Flash Gordon. It was the second of the sixty-six serials made by Republic. In 1966 scenes from the serial ...more

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Life Returns is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Life Returns Valerie Hobson, Lois Wilson, Onslow Stevens Life Returns is a 1935 film directed by Eugene Frenke and James Patrick Hogan.

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Deluge is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
Deluge Sidney Blackmer, Lois Wilson, Peggy Shannon Deluge is a 1933 American apocalyptic, science fiction film released by RKO Radio Pictures, and directed by Felix E. Feist. The film depicts a group of worldwide natural disasters which lead to ...more

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The Man Who Changed His Mind is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Man Who Changed His Mind Boris Karloff, Cecil Parker, Anna Lee 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 ...more

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The Phantom Creeps is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Phantom Creeps Bela Lugosi, Eddie Dunn, Hooper Atchley The Phantom Creeps is a 1939 serial about a mad scientist who attempts to rule the world by creating various elaborate inventions. In a dramatic fashion, foreign agents and G-Men try to seize ...more

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The Lost City is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Lost City William Boyd, Josef Swickard, Kane Richmond The Lost City is an independently made fantasy film serial produced in 1935 directed by Harry Revier.

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The Return of Doctor X is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best '30s Sci-Fi Movies
The Return of Doctor X Humphrey Bogart, Wayne Morris The Return of Doctor X is a 1939 American science fiction-horror film directed by Vincent Sherman and starring Wayne Morris, Rosemary Lane, and Humphrey Bogart as the title character. It was ...more