Georges Melies 'A Trip to the Moon' (1902)

Well it’s not every day I get to write about a film that’s over 100 years old, and the reader is given the choice to view the entire film and bonus music video without leaving the hub too!

A masterwork of early silent cinema, by the French pioneer of the cinematic special effect Georges Melies (1861-1938), A Trip to the Moon (1902) is also more properly known under its original title, Le voyage dans la lune. It was the first real attempt to tell a proper science fiction story on the screen, and upon release was the longest piece of continuous film ever produced. It made cinematic history.

Melies based this amusing spectacle loosely on Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and H.G. Wells First Men in the Moon (1901), borrowing a spacecraft propelled by a gun from the former and hard-shelled Selenites from the latter. Indeed, when A Trip to the Moon was actually made, the science fiction genre as we know it did not yet exist.

A professor and a group of colleagues build an enormous gun that will hopefully propel them to the Moon. They create a vessel within which they can travel, and fire themselves into the sky, eventually coming down to land, memorably, in the eye of the Man in the Moon. They take shelter from a storm in a crater, which they find leads down into a network of underground caverns and tunnels.

They encounter a race of Selenites and are captured but soon escape. Finding their way back to the vessel, they set off for home, the force of gravity pulling them back to Earth. They splash down in the ocean and are pulled to safety, they find that a statue has been erected in their honour.

Upon finishing the film Melies intended to release it in America where he hoped it will make plenty of money. But unfortunately Thomas Edison's film technicians had already secretly made copies of the movie, which was shown across the USA making a fortune for Edison. Melies however failed to make any money from the film's successful American showings, and went broke several years later.

The film was innovative for it’s time, and can be considered the first science fiction film. The special effects are obviously primitive, but they are amusing and enjoyable and, given that this was the first time some of the techniques had ever been used to full effect, are worthy of applause.

A complete cut of the movie, entirely hand-coloured, was discovered in a barn in France in 2002. The film was restored and premiered at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival the following year.

Martin Scorsese's film Hugo (2011) stars Ben Kingsley as Georges Melies and the film features a recreation of the making of A Trip to the Moon (1902). Hugo was filmed in 3-D and has been nominated for 11 Oscars.

Rock band The Smashing Pumpkins used this film as inspiration for their multi-award winning music video "Tonight Tonight" Released in 1996, it was the fourth single and second track from their third album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It’s considered one of the greatest ever music videos, ranking number 40 on Stylus Magazine's Top 100 videos. The ship which sails in at the end of the video is named S.S. Melies.

Comments 21 comments

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Great find Steve. I have seen the clip where the ship hits the moon in the eye...but not the whole movie...a great find on youtube...pretty impressive film for 109 years ago.....the more I read about Edison the more I do not think he was a nice human being....you have put together a great hub.....I found it best to watch the movie by turning down the narrator and playing Tonight Tonight....thanks for sharing


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Ha! I have to try that Cogerson. I did find it odd to write a review of a film that's only a few minutes long, reading the hub takes almost as long as watching the film. :)

Hmmm which gives me an idea about what my next hub might be... something even shorter than Melies film. An experiment... [scuttles off to the lab]

Thanks for commenting!


KellyE1967 profile image

KellyE1967 5 years ago

Thank you for posting this movie, I got a kick out of watching it. Pretty darn good for a movie that old. Voted up.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Kelly. Over a hundred years old, wow.


hinton1966 profile image

hinton1966 5 years ago

Interesting movie. Thanks for sharing.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I saw this movie on TCM and enjoyed it. I heard so much about it that was I slightly disappointed when I finally saw it in its entirety, but only slightly. I had seen the moon landing scene several times before I saw the film itself.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Hello Flora, I was just looking at Melies filmography at IMDB he directed 552 films in 17 years, busy man. :)

Youtube has some of these films but the quality is variable.

Thanks for posting.


vmartinezwilson profile image

vmartinezwilson 5 years ago from Vancouver, WA

Thanks for writing about this movie Steve. My favorite part of the movie is how they bang the aliens over the head with their umbrellas to make them explode into a puff of smoke. Great movie and a well done review.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thank you vmartinezwilson, much appreciated. I was just remarking the other day that Frankenstein was 80 years old, this film is nearly 30 years older!


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

This movie has a huge part in the success of Hugo.....it is a major plot device in the movie that earned the most Oscar nominations(11) of all movies released in 2011. I can not believe it has been 9 months since I first commented...but once again....lots of great information and photos.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for that bit of up to date info Bruce. I haven't seen Hugo yet so I can't comment on it. Does it show a recreation of the making of A Trip to the Moon or just show footage from the original film? 11 Oscar nominations, that's amazing. I'm rooting for Scorsese to win Best Director.

Appreciate the comment. Cheers.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

It shows a recreation of the movie, plus it shows the actually movie a few different times, plus the movie is the communication device between the living and the dead(which is probably a spoiler)....and it has numerous other major parts in the movie that would be major spoilers....but if you read the history of Melies you might be able to figure out. You need an update to capitalize on the current Hugo buzz.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Bruce, I added some info on the film Hugo. I didn't want to mess about with the title of the hub which has been very popular with hundreds of hits since I published it. More and more people are finding silent movies fascinating, they are making a comeback.

Thanks for the movie info amigo.


IntimatEvolution profile image

IntimatEvolution 4 years ago from Columbia, MO USA

How neat!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thank you IntimateEvolution, I do try and keep my hubs neat and tidy. :)


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York

I really enjoyed this whole hub. Thank you! It seems so strange to see the peeps going to space with no space suits on! You can tell it's a very old movie. I'm just astonished at the immaculate state of preservation its in, and how well it digitalized.

I also enjoyed the Smashing Pumpkins a lot. They sound terrific, though I had to skedaddle over to YouTube to see the video; it was blocked here, as so many of them are. I don't understand why. You'd think that anything we post here just increases the traffic for them.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Paradise7, appreciate the comment. Yes they blocked the video here in England too. I've replaced it with another from youtube.


brianlokker profile image

brianlokker 4 years ago from Washington DC metro area

Some friends had a party that was built around this movie way back in the 1970s. Complete with costumes, moon decorations, etc. It was fun -- someone usually brings up the "Moon Party" even now when we get together. I didn't realize the movie's connection to Hugo until I read your update. My wife saw Hugo tonight but without me. I'm still hoping to see it before Oscar night. Anyway, good hub -- voted up and interesting.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for the anecdote and vote Brian. I'm hoping to see Hugo before the Oscar awards too.


BERN1960 profile image

BERN1960 4 years ago

VERY NICELY DONE. I JUST SAW HUGO WITH MY SON LAST WEEKEND AND I WAS VERY INTERESTED WHEN MY SON TOLD ME THAT THE BEN KINGSLEY PART WAS BASED ON A REAL PERSON AND THE MOVIE IN THE MOVIE WAS REAL AS WELL. NOW I KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY. I ENJOYED READING THIS AND ENJOYED THE MOVIE AS WELL.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Thank you BERN1960, appreciate the comment. Bruce was telling me he saw the film at a cinema cafe where you eat dinner and watch movies, that is unusual. No one can complain of munching and slurping noises than? ;)

Hugo was directed by Martin Scorsese one of my favourite directors and he is the one I'm rooting for at the Oscars.

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