Want a brief rundown on steampunk movies or TV? You’ve come to the right place.
I’ll update the list as I discover more steampunk TV & movies — and I reserve the right to change my mind on the ratings at any time.
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.
Back to the Future 3 – **** – A bit of steampunk at the end of this fun film.
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
Dirigible – *** – Frank Capra (!) tale about blimp trip to the South Pole. Retro-futurist fun with Fay Wray!
The Fabulous World of Jules Verne – 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 mini-series with adaptations of lesser-known Wells’ stories (with the author as the main character). Retro-futurist more than steam.
Iron Sky – *** – Gem of a retro futurist idea (Nazis on the moon) never quite lives up to its premise. Gets points for trying.
Island at the Top of the World – *** – Fun Disney family adventure films with a lost tribe of vikings and an airship.
Jonah Hex – ** – A bit of a mess, despite a fine cast.
Journey 2: Mysterious Island – *** – Fun roller-coaster ride of a flick with some Verne steampunkery. Probably even better in 3D.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (James Mason) – ***** – The best version of the classic Verne, has steampunk crank lamps & breathing equipment (though maybe not a lot of other steam-worthy props). Still, a great show.
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 – *** – Surprisingly fun retro-futurist WWI-type adventure quest, with mutant-making machine.
Mysterious Island (Harryhausen) – **** – It’s got Nemo in a seashell rebreather & the Nautilus, so I guess that qualifies. Great SFX.
Perfect Creature – *** – The church is run by (good?) vampires in this alternate Kiwi steampunk world.
Porco Rosso – **** – Not sure this qualifies, but with so many flying machines… And it’s Miyazaki!
The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne – not seen
Sherlock Holmes (2009) – *** – Of middling steam value, but good fun.
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows – *** – Maybe better than the first, but steamy?
Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow – **** – I loved this flick when it came out, and I still do. Wish there’d been more.
Stardust – **** – Does the airship make this steampunk? I’m not sure, but it sure is fun – especially DeNiro.
Steamboy – **** – Great animation from Otomo, a modern master. Slows a bit at the end.
SuckerPunch – * – Some interesting steampunk and SF/F trappings & visuals buried in an execrable “story.”
Things to Come – **** – Ground-breaking SF retro-future from Wells. A bit slow, but some great flying machines & SFX. Also available in a decent-looking print colorized under supervision of Ray Harryhausen (& on Blu Ray).
Three Musketeers (2011 – Anderson) – ** Milla Jovovich makes this watchable, despite plot problems.
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.
Van Helsing – ** – Steampunk gadgets and pretty visuals can’t save this mishmash horror (comedy?) film.
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.
Under Review (to see if they really qualify as steampunk or not – or as yet unseen)
Adventures of the League of STEAM (web series)
Amazing Screw-On Head
City of Ember
Howl’s Moving Castle
Legend (western TV series)
The Mechanical Grave
The Mummy (1999)
The Mummy 2 & 3
Riese: Kingdom Falling (web series)
Suggested Frequently but Not Steampunk
Adventures of Baron Munchausen – clockwork trappings, but really just fantasy
Chronicles of Riddick – SF with retro design and trappings, but not steampunk
Hugo – a mechanical writing/drawing machine does not steampunk make
Igor – gears and costumes do not make steampunk
Return to Oz – despite a clockwork character, it’s “just” a fine fantasy film
Tank Girl – post apocalypse, not steampunk
Comments and suggestions are welcome (and will be moderated, so make them obviously non-spambot). Click my contact link or e-mail 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 for review, e-mail me for details.