7 Retrofuture Movies that Bring Vintage Scifi Dreams to Life

While there’s a lot of joy in rewatching vintage sci-fi movies with their low-fi effects and impossible dreams of future technology, they don’t quite excite me as much as new retrofuture movies do. I understand that may be confusing, how can a new movie be retrofuturist? Just like how many authors write steampunk stories or artists create posters that look like retro sci-fi art, movies can be made in a retrofuturistic style. These may be alt-history stories that take place in the past or visions of the future that align with the nostalgic predictions of yesteryear. There’s something about these nostalgic films that I can’t get enough of. This list captures some of my favorites. If I’ve missed one of yours, make sure to share it in the comments.

The Rocketeer (1991)

Watching The Rocketeer was my first foray into the world of retrofuturist movies. My dad bought a VHS copy of it in the discount bin at the video store and it became a favorite in my rotation. It’s sad for me to admit that this movie is considered “vintage” now, but it still meets the definition for this list. Based on the (not as great) comic book series, the movie follows pilot Cliff Secord who stumbles upon a top-secret jetpack. Things get a little crazy from there as he unravels a secret Nazi plot to rule the world by stealing the jet pack.
Set in the glitzy Hollywood of 1938, the style is a mix of decopunk and dieselpunk, mirroring the style of the original comic, which was published in the 1980s. The creator Dave Stevens created the character as a homage to the Saturday matinee serial heroes from the 1930s-50s and you can feel that in the movie as well. The classic art deco style of the original comics was used in a lot of the early promotional images as well.

The Rocketeer Original Art Deco Movie Poster

The movie didn’t do so great at the box office thanks to viewers assuming it was a children’s movie because of the Disney name (it’s not) and the original movie poster (above) didn’t advertise the cast as well as it could have. But the visual effects are very slick for the early 90s and it is so fantastic to see Cliff take off in that jetpack that we’re still stuck waiting for.

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25 Vintage Scifi, Space, & Robot Valentines

Valentine’s Day is a divisive holiday, but whether you’re for or against a holiday of hearts and love, I think we can all agree that these cheesy vintage Valentines are “out of this world.” Featuring retro robots, vintage astronauts, and cheesy messages, these images are a nostalgic reminder of exchanging Valentines in elementary school. In addition to a nice trip down memory lane, many of these Valentines are perfect to print out and give to your beloved for a day of retro love.

Lady Astronaut Valentine You Are Out of This World
This lady astronaut proclaims “You are out of this world!” (At least she’s dressed practically for space travel!)

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These Found Object Robots are Straight Outta Retro Scifi Dreams

We already know how obsessed I am with retro-style robots. From tin wind-up robot toys to vintage book covers, I can’t get enough of those boxy visions of personified machines. But these sculptures take that familiar vintage concept and create amazing pieces of art. Check out this lady robot called Daphne. Made from an upcycled candy tin and a bundt pan, she is reminicent of the Jetson’s Rosie the Robot.

Found Object Robot Sculpture
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NASA’s Retro Space Travel Posters Challenge Your Brain as Puzzles

A couple years ago, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory released a line of retro-style travel posters known as “Visions of the Future.” These vintage style posters were gorgeous imaginings of traveling to distant planets and systems. (The posters are available for free download here.) Like many vintage sci-fi fans, I fell absolutely in love with these imaginative posters advertising opportunities to travel to places I’d dreamed of, like Mars, Jupiter, and Venus.

NASA JPL Vintage Travel Poster - Mars
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Steampunk Style Cities of the World Posters from Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris Retrofuture Washington DC Poster
I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Disneyland Paris, but thanks to the Disney and More blog, everyone can enjoy these retrofuture style posters from the Main Street Discovery Arcade. Artists Jim Michaelson, Maureen Johnston and R. Ziscis. Inspired by the 19th Century French illustrator (and author) Albert Robida, they imagined each city in a retrofuture style that feels very steampunk. (Learn more about Robida on Wikipedia.)
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20 Retro Scifi Tin Toys to Take You Back to Simpler Days

Retro Scifi Tin Toys, Robots, Rockets, Rayguns

Retro Scifi Tin Toys, Robots, Rockets, Rayguns

The holiday shopping season is upon us and all the ads and websites pushing toys and gadgets for this year make me feel like we’re living in a technological dystopia. From the kid’s Think and Learn Smart Cycle that just looks like training for Black Mirror’s “Fifteen Million Merits” to the FrontRow Wearable Lifestyle Camera that brings the surveillance state to your own body, I am missing simpler times. And of course, the simpler time I’m missing is from before I was born.

Tin toys first came into existence in the mid 19th century as a substitute for wooden toys. They were cheap to make from durable tinplate, manufactured in Germany originally and then in the US in the early 1900s. Once World War II started, the materials needed to produce the toys were diverted for the war effort and Japan became the main manufacturer of tin toys through the 1950s. After that, plastic toys became all the rage because they were cheaper to manufacture and easily met new government safety regulations. (Read all about their history on Wikipedia.)

Many parents and grandparents remember their tin toys fondly, especially the space and robot-themed toys that remain popular among vintage collectors today. Luckily, there are many retro-style tin toys still being manufactured today that are affordable for regular consumers looking for a little nostalgia. Good for kids, collectors, or a meaningful gift for Dad or Grandad, let’s take a walk down memory lane and enjoy these retro sci-fi themed tin toys.

Robby the Robot Inspired Tin Toy

One of the most famous robots from the 1950s and 60s, this tin toy is based on Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet. While it’s also available in red, the black version looks the most like the classic robot. This is a wind-up toy, but it’s meant for collectors to display rather than for children to play with.
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Get Rid of Unwanted Hairs with the Atomic Trimmer

Atomic Raygun Nose Hair Trimmer

I love a raygun as much as the next person, but this one may be just a little too weird for me. Behold: a nose trimmer that looks like an Atomic Raygun. It’s actually a nose and ear hair trimmer, but the cool part of it is that it looks just like a retro-style atomic raygun.

Atomic Raygun Trimmer

It seems really awkward to use since you have to hold it like a raygun and all, but all the reviews on it are pretty good. People not only love the novelty of it, but it seems to do a good job of removing unwanted hairs from your nose and ears. This is definitely the kind of thing that makes a fun gag gift and would look cool displayed in a bathroom.
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Vintage Magazine Galaxy Science Fiction Available Free Online

Galaxy November 1950 Cover

Starting in the 1950s, World Editions (an Italian publishing company) decided they wanted to break into the US market with a new sci-fi magazine. They create Galaxy Science Fiction which became a leading SF magazine of the time. The magazine was published monthly from October 1950 until its end in 1980. (You can read more about the history of the magazine on Wikipedia.)
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Professor Astro Cat: Retrofuture Combined with Science Education

I have fond memories as a kid digging through boxes of books passed down to me from my parents who grew up in the 1960s. My favorites were the comic books, sci-fi books, and the old science books. The science books were great, with fantastic illustrations of space travel and technology. (I especially liked to get my hands on books about the speculations on the future of technology.) As much as I enjoyed those old science books, a lot of the information was outdated in my youth and probably isn’t something I’d want to give to any future children of my own. Recently I discovered some educational children books that present their science with the classic atomic age style of illustration I love from those vintage books.

Professor Astro Cat Teaches Gravity
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