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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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.

The Incredibles – Retrofuturist Review

A little background on what the Retrofuturist reviews will be: I don’t consider myself a critic, so these reviews will more focus on how the book, movie, TV show, etc. embody retrofuture elements or execute the retrofuturist genre and what I generally think about the piece. So here we go:

I had never seen Disney and Pixar’s 2004 film The Incredibles before last week. This is insane because 1) I love Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant and 2) I love Pixar. However, I’m not very interested in superhero or comic book movies in general, so the plot never really grabbed me. But after seeing some of the architecture and interior design of the film online, I decided I wanted to check it out.

Note: There may be some spoilers to follow, so if you’re like me and it takes you over a decade to watch a movie, be warned.

livingroom incredibles
Bob and Helen’s retro-furnished living room.

The Incredibles is about Bob and Helen Parr and their children Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack, who are “Supers” (humans with superpowers) trying to live bland suburban lives and hide their superpowers from a world that disapproves of them. Bob (the former Mr. Incredible) is completely dissatisfied with his new life, until he receives a message asking him to take on a secret mission to destroy a malfunctioning robot. Eventually he discovers this is all the evil plot of the super-villain Syndrome.
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