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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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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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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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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This Retro Alt History Short Features the First Woman to Walk on the Moon

I love modern films that use retrofuturist visuals and this short film has that in spades. “Over the Moon” is an alternative history short film about the first woman to walk on the moon in 1957. It follows her adventures as she tries to prevent the 1969 moon landing.

The main character, Connie Radar, leads this comedic story with her sidekick Julius–a robot she built. You can watch the 7 minute short film below:


Over the Moon from Media Design School on Vimeo.

Retro Raygun Art Pieces by Ryan Nagata of 3f Studios

Raygun by Ryan Nagata

I love rayguns. Not because I’m super into weaponry, but because I love a beautifully designs atompunk stylized raygun. Most often I only see them on magazine and book covers, relegated only to the imaginations of the past. But then I saw these amazing rayguns by Ryan Nagata and realized those imagined gadgets can actually be real. Well, as real as a replica.

Raygun by Ryan Nagata

Ryan is a director and artist living in Los Angeles. He makes many props and replicas, including some realistic Apollo space suits. As a part of 3F Studios he works with his collaborator George Edelman to make short films and web content.

Raygun by Ryan Nagata

Their stuff is impressive and definitely worth checking out if you’re into cosplay. I’m just amazed by these beautiful rayguns. Most are Ryan’s original design and he makes them because he loves the process of designing and building them. Unfortunately, they are not for sale, but you can check out this video of Adam Savage’s TESTED where he checks out these awesome pieces and learns more about Ryan’s process.

Artist Spotlight: Eric Joyner’s Robots and Donuts

People who know me well know two things about me: I love retro robots and I love sweets. So when I started to see these fun paintings of robots and donuts on my Pinterest feed I had to find out who was behind them. A quick Google search revealed they’re by Eric Joyner, and this amazing pop art is his specialty.

Pandora's Box by Eric Joyner
Pandora’s Box by Eric Joyner

Eric’s quirky and fun art is sure to catch anyone’s eye with the anachronism of personified robot tin toys and larger than life donuts. But where do these kinds of ideas come from?
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