Since I’m working on the Empires of Steam and Rust project with Bob Vardeman, Mike Stackpole, Jean Rabe, and others, and since my own Steam Nations projects are ongoing, I decided to compile a list of steampunk (or steampunk-like) movies & TV shows. I’m listing them in alphabetical order and rating them from 1 to 5 stars (5 being best). Ratings may change over time, as I re-watch or re-consider the shows — and I hope to add to the list as I go as well. Entries that I have not seen, but have been recommended to me, are marked “not seen.”
In some ways, steampunk still seems to be in its infancy for movies & TV, though examples exist back into at least the 1960s — earlier if you count Jules Verne inspired works or futurist pieces that seem like steampunk to us today (like Metropolis). I’m including Verne’s & Wells’ work here, though they were actually futurists when they wrote. For now, I’ve decided to ignore steampunk-like works that seem to rely as much or more on magic than on technology (Full Metal Alchemist), though I reserve the right to change my mind in the future.
On to the list!
The Adventures of Brisco County Junior – ***** – Great show that should have lasted more than 1 season.
Around the World in 80 Days (Chan) – **** – Fun vehicle with Jackie Chan. Better than expected.
Atlantis – The Lost Empire – **** — Fun Disney film with some great character contrib by Joss Whedon & top-notch voice talent.
Atlantis – Milo’s Return – *** – Compiled from TV (pilot) episodes, not as steamy as the original, but still fun.
The Brothers Grim – *** – Fun Gilliam stuff, not as bad as people say.
Castle in the Sky – **** – A high-flying film by the great Miyazaki.
The City of Lost Children – not seen
First Men in the Moon – **** – Great Ray Harryhausen adaptation of the Wells story.
From the Earth to the Moon – *** – Limited budget but generally good Verne adaptation.
The Golden Compass – *** – Great elements & look, but not nearly so good as the book.
The Infinite Worlds of H.G Wells – **** – Fun adaptations of lesser-known Wells’ stories. Retro-futurist more than steam.
Jonah Hex – ** – A bit of a mess, despite a fine cast.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – *** – Not a patch on the comic but not as bad as people say.
Master of the World – *** – Solid Verne with Vincent Price outstanding, as usual.
Metropolis (Lang) – ***** – Futurist when it came out, now practically a steampunk bible. Uncut, one of the best films ever.
Mutant Chronicles – not seen
Porco Rosso – **** – Not sure this qualifies, but with so many flying machines… And it’s Miyazaki!
Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow – **** – I loved this flick when it came out, and I still do. Wish there’d been more.
Stardust – **** – Been a while since I’ve seen this, so I’m not sure it qualifies, but I liked it a lot.
Steamboy – **** – Great animation from Otomo, a modern master. Slows a bit at the end.
Time After Time – ***** – A great film, though only the premise and start are steampunk.
The Time Machine (Pal) – ***** – The machine is steampunk, the story sci-fi, the film great.
The Time Machine (Simon Wells) – *** – Watchable, but not nearly as much fun as the Pal adaptation.
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Disney) – ***** – Perfect adaptation. Skip the rest, this is the best.
The Wild Wild West (TV) – ***** – If this show didn’t invent steampunk, I don’t know what did. Many gems in the series.
The Wild Wild West (film) – ** – A stand-up routine and over-the-top anti-racist themes mar this promising flick.
As always, comments are welcome (and will be moderated, so make them obviously non-spambot). And you can send me suggestions by clicking my contact link or e-mailing fanmail-at-stephendsullivan-dot-com. (With the usual e-mail punctuation, rather than what I’ve done to confuse the spambots.) And if you have a flick you’d like to send me, e-mail me for details.