Watchworthy

The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies 

Ranker Film
Updated March 6, 2020 476 votes 160 voters 4.9k views 34 items

List Rules Vote up your favorite science fiction films that were released in the 1940s

The best ‘40s sci-fi movies feature a whole host of monsters and heroes, villains and saviors. The world spent half of the 1940s locked in a bloody and brutal global conflict, one that was seen as a battle between good and evil. It’s no surprise that the best ‘40s sci-fi movies portray a world full of evil, both seen and unseen.


Familiar faces dominate this list of the greatest ‘40s sci-fi movies. Frankenstein and Dracula appear in multiple titles of the decade, including
House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. Additionally, the character the Invisible Man can be found in multiple ‘40s sci-fi films. This obsession with invisibility can be seen as a response to the horrors of the first half of the decade, the manifestation of a desire to disappear from a world gone mad.


While there are plenty of monsters and creatures in the science fiction films of the 1940, there are heroes, too. Batman and Flash Gordon, both appear in movies on this list. These heroes went on to appear in countless pictures over the next 50 years. Vote up the best '40s sci-fi movies, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section. 
Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
1
House of Frankenstein is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr.

Released: 1944

Directed by: Erle C. Kenton

House of Frankenstein is an American monster horror film starring Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr., directed by Erle C. Kenton, written by Curt Siodmak, and produced in 1944 by Universal ...more

More House of Frankenstein 

#11 of 20 What Are The Best Universal Monster Films? #93 of 182 The Best Monster Movies #38 of 115 The Best Old Horror Movies

2
House of Dracula is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Lon Chaney, Jr., John Carradine

Released: 1945

Directed by: Erle C. Kenton

House of Dracula is an American horror film released by Universal Pictures Company in 1945. It was a direct sequel to House of Frankenstein and continued the theme of combining Universal's three ...more

More House of Dracula 

#13 of 20 What Are The Best Universal Monster Films? #46 of 115 The Best Old Horror Movies #17 of 23 The Best Vampire Movies Based on Books

3
Abbott and Costello Meet... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi, Lou Costello

Released: 1948

Directed by: Charles Barton

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, or Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein —although the film is usually referred to as simply Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein—is a 1948 ...more

More Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein 

#296 of 847 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time #144 of 1,208 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time #121 of 1,027 The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

4
One Million B.C. is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Carole Landis, Lon Chaney, Jr.

Released: 1940

Directed by: Hal Roach, Hal Roach, Jr.

One Million B.C. is a 1940 American fantasy film produced by Hal Roach Studios and released by United Artists. It is also known by the titles Cave Man, Man and His Mate, and Tumak. The film ...more
5
The Invisible Man Return... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Vincent Price, Cedric Hardwicke, Nan Grey

Released: 1940

Directed by: Joe May

The Invisible Man Returns is a 1940 American horror science fiction film from Universal. It was written as a sequel to the 1933 film The Invisible Man, which was based on the novel The Invisible ...more
6
Flash Gordon Conquers th... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Buster Crabbe, Charles Middleton, Anne Gwynne

Released: 1940

Directed by: Ford Beebe, Ray Taylor

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a 1940 twelve episode serial film starring Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon, and was the last of three Flash Gordon serials made from 1936 to 1940. The serial ...more
7
The Devil Commands is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Boris Karloff, Anne Revere, Kenneth MacDonald

Released: 1941

Directed by: Edward Dmytryk

The Devil Commands is a 1941 American horror film directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Boris Karloff. The working title of the film was The Devil Said No. In it, a man obsessed with ...more
8
The Invisible Man's Reve... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
John Carradine, Evelyn Ankers, Jon Hall

Released: 1944

Directed by: Ford Beebe

The Invisible Man's Revenge is a 1944 science fiction- horror film directed by Ford Beebe and written by Bertram Millhauser. The picture stars John Carradine as a mad scientist who tests his ...more
9
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
mbrockhaus27843 added Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Spencer Tracy

Released: 1941

Directed by: Victor Fleming

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1941 horror film starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. Rather than being a new film version of the novel, it is a direct remake of the 1931 film of ...more
10
Black Friday is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Stanley Ridges

Released: 1940

Directed by: Arthur Lubin

Black Friday is a 1940 American science fiction film starring Boris Karloff. Béla Lugosi, although second-billed, has only a small part in the film and does not appear with Karloff. ...more
11
The Devil Bat is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O'Brien

Released: 1940

Directed by: Jean Yarbrough

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial The Devil Bat is a black-and-white comedy-horror movie produced by Producers Releasing Corporation and directed by Jean Yarbrough. The film stars horror actor Bela Lugosi, along with Suzanne ...more
12
Man Made Monster is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Lon Chaney, Jr., Lionel Atwill

Released: 1941

Directed by: George Waggner

Man-Made Monster is a science fiction horror film released by Universal Pictures. The film stars Lon Chaney, Jr. in his horror debut. Man-Made Monster was re-released under various titles ...more
13
Dr. Cyclops is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Albert Dekker, Paul Fix, Charles Halton

Released: 1940

Directed by: Ernest B. Schoedsack

Dr. Cyclops is a 1940 American science fiction horror film directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack, starring Thomas Coley, Victor Kilian, Janice Logan, Charles Halton, Frank Yaconelli, and Albert ...more
14
Batman and Robin is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Ralph Graves, Lyle Talbot, Jane Adams

Released: 1949

Directed by: Spencer Gordon Bennet

Batman and Robin is a 15-chapter serial released in 1949 by Columbia Pictures. It is a sequel to the 1943 serial Batman, although with different actors. Robert Lowery played Batman, while Johnny ...more

More Batman and Robin 

'Batman & Robin' Was A Much Bigger Behind-The-Scenes Nightmare Than You Ever Realized #174 of 185 The Greatest Comic Book Movies of All Time #342 of 410 The Best Rainy Day Movies

15
The Corpse Vanishes is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Bela Lugosi, Angelo Rossitto, Joan Barclay

Released: 1942

Directed by: Wallace Fox

The Corpse Vanishes is a 1942 American mystery and horror film starring Bela Lugosi, directed by Wallace Fox, and written by Harvey Gates. Lugosi portrays a mad scientist who injects his aging ...more
16
Batman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
J. Carrol Naish, Lewis Wilson, Shirley Patterson

Released: 1943

Directed by: Lambert Hillyer

Batman is a 15-chapter serial, released in 1943 by Columbia Pictures. The serial starred Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin. J. Carrol Naish played the villain, an original ...more
17
Frankenstein Meets the W... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Jakor added Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr.

Released: 1943

Directed by: Roy William Neill

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, released in 1943, is an American monster horror film produced by Universal Studios starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's ...more
18
The Ape is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Boris Karloff, Selmer Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan

Released: 1940

Directed by: William Nigh

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial The Ape is a 1940 American horror film made for Monogram Pictures, co-written by Curt Siodmak and starring Boris Karloff.
19
The Invisible Woman is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
John Barrymore, Margaret Hamilton, Cedric Hardwicke

Released: 1940

Directed by: Joe May, A. Edward Sutherland

The Invisible Woman is an American science fiction comedy film that was released near the end of 1940 by Universal. It is the third 'Invisible' film following The Invisible Man and The Invisible ...more
20
The Monster Maker is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
J. Carrol Naish, Ralph Morgan, Tala Birell

Released: 1944

Directed by: Sam Newfield

The Monster Maker is a 1944 Science Fiction/Horror Movie starring J. Carrol Naish and Ralph Morgan. Albert Glasser supplied the film score, his first, an assignment for which he was paid
21
Invisible Ghost is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Tommi Welchoff-White added Bela Lugosi, Clarence Muse, Betty Compson

Released: 1941

Directed by: Joseph H. Lewis

Invisible Ghost is a horror film starring Bela Lugosi, shot in black and white, and directed by Joseph H. Lewis.
22
The Ghost of Frankenstei... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Jakor added Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr.

Released: 1942

Directed by: Erle C. Kenton

The Ghost of Frankenstein, is an American monster horror film released in 1942. The movie is the fourth in a series of films produced by Universal Studios based upon characters in Mary Shelley's ...more
23
Unknown Island is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Barton MacLane, Richard Denning, Ray "Crash" Corrigan

Released: 1948

Directed by: Jack Bernhard

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial Unknown Island is a 1948 film directed by Jack Bernhard.
24
Invisible Agent is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Peter Lorre, Cedric Hardwicke, Keye Luke

Released: 1942

Directed by: Edwin L. Marin

Invisible Agent is a 1942 American science fiction film from Universal. The film was a wartime propaganda production that was part of a Hollywood effort to boost morale at the home front. It ...more
25
The Ape Man is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies
Bela Lugosi, Jack Mulhall, Wallace Ford

Released: 1943

Directed by: William Beaudine

Watch for Free with Amazon Prime Free Trial The Ape Man is a 1943 horror science fiction film starring Bela Lugosi and directed by William Beaudine. The film follows the tale of a part human part ape. A sequel, in name only, called Return ...more