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The Best '40s Sci-Fi Movies

Updated March 6, 2020 849 votes 172 voters 5.8k views34 items

List RulesVote 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. 
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  • 1
    50
    11

    Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

    Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi

    Released1948

    Directed byCharles 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 

    #288 of 743 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time#151 of 1,142 The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

  • 2
    43
    5

    House of Frankenstein

    Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney

    Released1944

    Directed byErle 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 Studios as...  more
  • 3
    46
    9

    House of Dracula

    Lon Chaney, Jr.

    Released1945

    Directed byErle 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 most...  more
  • 4
    25
    4

    The Devil Commands

    Boris Karloff, Anne Revere

    Released1941

    Directed byEdward 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 contacting his...  more
  • 5
    21
    2

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

    Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner

    Released1941

    Directed byVictor 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 the...  more
  • 6
    26
    11

    The Invisible Man's Revenge

    John Carradine, Evelyn Ankers

    Released1944

    Directed byFord 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
  • 7
    24
    9

    Black Friday

    Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi

    Released1940

    Directed byArthur 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. Writer Curt...  more
  • 8
    22
    9

    The Devil Bat

    Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren

    Released1940

    Directed byJean Yarbrough

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    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 Kaaren,...  more
  • 9
    18
    7

    Man Made Monster

    Lon Chaney, Jr.

    Released1941

    Directed byGeorge 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 including...  more
  • 10
    18
    9

    The Corpse Vanishes

    Bela Lugosi, Angelo Rossitto

    Released1942

    Directed byWallace 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 wife...  more
  • 11
    15
    9

    One Million B.C.

    Carole Landis, Lon Chaney

    Released1940

    Directed byHal 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 stars...  more
  • 12
    16
    11

    The Invisible Man Returns

    Vincent Price, Cedric Hardwicke

    Released1940

    Directed byJoe 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 Man...  more
  • 13
    16
    12

    The Invisible Woman

    John Barrymore, Margaret Hamilton

    Released1940

    Directed byJoe 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 Man...  more
  • 14
    11
    7

    The Ape

    Boris Karloff, Selmer Jackson

    Released1940

    Directed byWilliam Nigh

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    The Ape is a 1940 American horror film made for Monogram Pictures, co-written by Curt Siodmak and starring Boris Karloff....  more
  • 15
    14
    11

    Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe

    Buster Crabbe, Charles Middleton

    Released1940

    Directed byFord 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 was...  more
  • 16
    11
    8

    Unknown Island

    Barton MacLane, Richard Denning

    Released1948

    Directed byJack Bernhard

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    Unknown Island is a 1948 film directed by Jack Bernhard....  more
  • 17
    8
    1

    Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

    Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney

    Released1943

    Directed byRoy 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 monster....  more
  • 18
    10
    10

    Dr. Cyclops

    Albert Dekker, Paul Fix

    Released1940

    Directed byErnest 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 Dekker,...  more
  • 19
    13
    14

    Batman and Robin

    Ralph Graves, Lyle Talbot

    Released1949

    Directed bySpencer 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
  • 20
    8
    8

    The Monster Maker

    J. Carrol Naish, Ralph Morgan

    Released1944

    Directed bySam 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 US$250....  more
  • 21
    7
    7

    Invisible Ghost

    Bela Lugosi, Clarence Muse

    Released1941

    Directed byJoseph H. Lewis

    Invisible Ghost is a horror film starring Bela Lugosi, shot in black and white, and directed by Joseph H. Lewis....  more
  • 22
    6
    1

    The Ghost of Frankenstein

    Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney

    Released1942

    Directed byErle 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
    6
    10

    Bowery at Midnight

    Bela Lugosi, Dave O'Brien

    Released1942

    Directed byWallace Fox

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    Bowery at Midnight is a horror film starring Bela Lugosi. Lugosi plays a psychology professor by day who, secretly and under an assumed name, runs a Bowery soup kitchen by night called the Bowery...  more
  • 24
    3
    9

    Invisible Agent

    Peter Lorre, Cedric Hardwicke

    Released1942

    Directed byEdwin 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 loosely...  more
  • 25
    9
    33

    Batman

    J. Carrol Naish, Lewis Wilson

    Released1943

    Directed byLambert 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 character...  more