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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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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Stream this Documentary About The Futurism of Walt Disney

Many people of my generation (and the previous one) are nostalgic about Disney, whether they have memories from going to Disneyland as a child, watching Disney Specials on TV, or fondly recalling the animated movies of your childhood. For me, though, most of my Disney nostalgia has to do with Walt Disney’s futurism, which all happened long before I was born.

The Futurism of Disney's Tomorrowland

This independent documentary by CM Films called Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow: The Futurism of Walt Disney dives deep into the technologies Walt Disney used and developed over the course of his life. They cover his animation technology, his educational TV shows, and even the experimental city he originally envisioned EPCOT to be. The film utilizes vintage archival footage that any retrofuturist will love, while exploring the history of Disney’s visions and developments through expert interviews from people who worked on the projects.

The full-length documentary is available to stream for free on Youtube:

If you’re not as interested in the history of Walt’s animation achievements, the documentary starts discussing the development, construction, and early days of Disneyland at 48:30, and the futurism of Tomorrowland in the park and the TV show at 58:00. This section talks about how the TV show was designed to be “science factual” to show viewers technology in development and how we would travel in space. There’s beautiful vintage footage of these retrofuturist visions from the “Man in Space” TV program. Check out some awesome screencaps below:

The Futurist Visions of Walt Disney: Space Travel
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Feminine Hygiene for Lady Astronauts

I hate feminine hygiene ads. Modern ones are ridiculous and vintage ads are cringeworthy. But I discovered half of this ad on Pinterest today and I was so intrigued that something so epic was ever created and published in magazines that I had to find out more.

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This lady is fierce. She is an astronaut. She is a pioneer. She has fabulously styled hair. Ain’t no period gonna hold her back in her advancement in a male dominated field.

And then I found the other half of the ad.

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Her friend is less adventurous: a DJ heading to spin some discs at a retro-future themed rave.

I understand why the first image is the most shared of this vintage two-page advertisement, with the courages space-age styled astronaut and less repetitive use of the word “napkin”.

Click to view the full ad
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Source

The World of the Future: Future Cities

Discovered this great photoset on Flickr today: The World of the Future: Future Cities from 1979.


Right off the bat I love the foresight of the solar-heated houses and the smart-ish wristwatch (though who would want to watch TV on such a small screen?).

The Home of the Future


The living room of the future, complete with a wall television (check), video phone (check-ish, if we count smart phones), antique film camera (check, especially if the guy in the back is film student using a Bolex), and bowl of fruit (check).

The technology I wish we had: drink serving robotic companion and that spaceship control panel-looking media center (do you think it plays records or is the laserdisc player of our dreams?).

The headphones, record collection, and Bolex camera in the back do make me wonder if we’re peaking into the home of future hipsters. Maybe those jumpsuits are the latest hipster fashion trend?

Moonbase


Perhaps the Russians have secret plans to send cosmonauts… (….maybe?)

The moonbase, appropriately named after Neil Armstrong and expected to be fully established by the year 2000. This underground base would be established for the noble purpose of mining the Moon of all of its natural resources and making money for the “Moonie” run corporations.

Check out the full photo set.