The Planet Mars - on the Screen
A visual tour of the red planet Mars and it's Martian inhabitants as depicted in the movies.
Some quick facts about the planet – Mars is the 4th planet from the sun - the 7th largest in our Solar System.
Earth is nearly twice the size of Mars – it has two tiny moons Phobos and Deimos – it is named after the Roman God of War.
The first successful flyby was by Mariner 4 in 1965 – Mars has ice caps like Earth.
The first successful mission to land an unmanned spacecraft on the planet was Viking 1 in 1977 - gravity on Mars is just 38% that of Earth.
In 2004 Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed and explored the surface.
Nasa Launched the Curiosity Rover on a journey to the Red Planet on November 26th, 2011 and it touched down safely on the Northern Wall of Gale Crater on August 6th, 2012. The sophisticated machine will use a laser to search for the ingredients of life on Mars..
Mars has the tallest mountain and volcano in the Solar System, Olympus Mons stands 16.7 miles above the surface.
Mars has caves and new research suggests there may be liquid water below the surface - alas the Martians (unlike their movie counterparts) are still too shy to come out and say hello.
It is ironic that the first movie to show an expedition to the Red Planet would be Russian, Aelita - Queen of Mars (1924) was the first Soviet science fiction film. The Queen of Mars falls in love with an Earth scientist after seeing him through her telescope, he dreams about her and goes on an expedition to Mars where he gets involved in a revolution and is thrown in prison, that's Russian sci-fi for you.
A serial in 15 chapters, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) was the second Flash Gordon serial starring Buster Crabbe as Flash, Jean Rogers as Dale Arden, Frank Shannon as Dr. Zarkov and Charles Middleton as Ming the Merciless.
Flash is up against the Emperor Ming of Mongo and his ally Queen Azura of Mars in this one
A rocketship travelling to the moon malfunctions and they end up going to Mars instead. On landing they discover primitive natives who scurry about throwing boulders at our heroes. Rocketship X-M (1950) directed by Kurt Neumann and starring Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen and Hugh O'Brian.
The film is in B/W, in some prints the scenes on Mars are tinted red (or orange depending on the print).
A serial in 12 chapters, Flying Disc Man from Mars (1950) directed by Fred C. Brannon and starring Walter Reed. A Martian arrives on Earth planning to unleash destruction and declare himself Supreme Dictator of Earth.
Flight to Mars (1951) directed by Lesley Selander and starring Cameron Mitchell, Marguerite Chapman and Arthur Franz. Five astronauts on an expedition to Mars discover the less than friendly inhabitants of a dying civilization.
According to Cameron Mitchell the movie was shot in five days. The Martian Queen is named Alita, a reference to Russian science fiction.
Red Planet Mars (1952) directed by Harry Horner and starring Peter Graves and Andrea King. An unusual film in that it doesn't feature Mars expeditions or Martian invaders, a scientist picks up a transmission from Mars and starts communicating with Martians who give the impression their planet is a utopia. For some reason this news causes panic and chaos on Earth. But are the messages genuine?
A serial in 12 chapters, Zombies of the Stratosphere (1952) directed by Fred C. Brannon and starring Judd Holdren and Aline Towne. This serial contains no zombies despite the title, it does feature Martian invaders up to no good as usual.
Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy plays one of the Martians (see picture).
Abbott and Costello Go To Mars (1953) directed by Charles Lamont and starring Bud Abbott, Lou Costello and Mari Blanchard as Allura. The comedy duo actually end up on Venus not Mars, there they discover it's only inhabited by women, men having been banished long ago, hmmm.
I couldn't resist including one of my favourite cartoons - Duck Dodgers in the 24½ Century (1953) a WB Merrie Melodies cartoon directed by Chuck Jones and featuring Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers, "Eager Young Space Cadet" Porky Pig and Marvin the Martian. Daffy lands on Planet X claiming it for Earth, Marvin arrives soon after and claims it for Mars. The incomparable Mel Blanc supplied the voices.
Invaders from Mars (1953) directed by William Cameron Menzies and starring Arthur Franz, Helena Carter and Jimmy Hunt. Young David is woken by a storm looks out of his window and sees an alien spacecraft landing behind a hill. No one believes his story and people start to behave strangely, including his parents.
Filmed from the kids point of view, David's world takes a nightmarish turn as his isolation grows, who can he trust? The film has a twist ending, David wakes up it was all a dream his parents are normal. He returns to bed, thunder wakes him up, he looks out the window and sees the saucer landing behind the hill.
“No one would have believed in the middle of the 20th Century that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than Man's. Yet, across the gulf of space on the planet Mars, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our Earth with envious eyes, slowly and surely drawing their plans against us.”
War of the Worlds (1953) directed by Byron Haskin, produced by George Pal and starring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, based on the novel by H.G. Wells. One of the best science fiction films of the fifties and the first great alien invasion movie. The story had been altered from 1890's London to 1950s California.
Nominated for three Oscars, winning for Special Effects.
Devil Girl from Mars (1954) directed by David MacDonald and starring Patricia Laffan as Nyah a leather-clad Martian space explorer who has come to Earth searching for men for breeding purposes! Makes a pleasant change from blowing up important landmarks eh?
Conquest of Space (1955) directed by Byron Haskin, produced by George Pal and starring Walter Brooke and Eric Fleming.
An expedition to Mars goes awry when the captain is overcome with space dementia and has religious delusions. This SF classic suffers from risible dialogue but the visual effects were excellent for their time.
It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) directed by Edward L. Cahn and starring Marshall Thompson and Shirley Patterson. After a landing on Mars an alien creature slips on board the spaceship and starts to kill the crew one by one.
The film and its story of a dangerous alien hiding on board a spaceship was one of the inspirations for Ridley Scott's Alien (1979).
The Angry Red Planet (1959) directed by Ib Melchior and starring Gerald Mohr and Les Tremayne. After returning from an ill-fated expedition to Mars the survivors recall what happened to them on the planet, they were attacked by various monsters including a giant spider-bat creature.
The film ends with a warning from Mars - "Men of Earth, we of the planet Mars give you this warning. Listen carefully and remember. Your civilization has not progressed beyond destruction, war and violence against yourselves and others. Do as you will to your own and to your planet, but remember this warning - Do Not Return To Mars!"
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) directed by Byron Haskin and starring Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin and Adam West. An astronaut is stranded on Mars and has to try to survive, he spots alien mining ships and befriends a runaway slave who he calls Friday. An intelligent sci-fi adventure with clever visual effects.
Death Valley National Park in California standing in for Mars, the sky tinted red, the alien spacecraft are the Martian war machines from George Pal's War of the Worlds turned upside-down.
Quatermass and the Pit (1967) directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring James Donald, Andrew Keir and Barbara Shelley. Workers discover a 5 million year old Martian spaceship buried in the London Underground.
Professor Quatermass investigates and finds the remains of strange insect like aliens inside the ship. An ancient evil has been awakened and London starts to crumble.
Produced by Hammer studios and one of their best films.
Mission Mars (1968) directed by Nicholas Webster and starring Darren McGavin and Nick Adams.
Three astronauts land on Mars and discover the bodies of dead cosmonauts. They are soon trying to escape a dangerous alien lifeforce.
Filmed on an ultra low budget on one tiny set dressed up as a Martian landscape.
A mini-series for TV in 3 parts, The Martian Chronicles (1980) was based on the stories by Ray Bradbury and directed by Michael Anderson, starring Rock Hudson, Gayle Hunnicut and Roddy McDowall.
It's 1999 and Earth sends its first manned probe to Mars, but a jealous Martian kills the two astronauts after discovering his wife has erotic dreams of meeting them. More Martian expeditions are launched.
Invaders from Mars (1986) directed by Tobe Hooper and starring Karen Black, Timothy Bottoms, Louise Fletcher and Hunter Carson. A big-budget but generally inferior remake of the 1953 classic with some effective moments and a scenery chewing performance by Louise Fletcher in alien-possessed mode.
One of the biggest hits of the 1990s and based on the story "We can remember it for you wholesale" by Philip K. Dick, Total Recall (1990) was directed by Paul Verhoeven, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside.
After visiting Rekall, a company that implants memories, things go badly wrong and Douglas Quaid is shot at by bad guys and almost killed by his wife. The answers to all his questions are millions of miles away, on the planet Mars.
Remade in 2012 with Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel and directed by Len Weisman.
Based on the infamous Topps trading card series of the 60's Mars Attacks! (1996) was directed by Tim Burton and stars Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Pierce Brosnan, Rod Steiger, Annette Benning, Natalie Portman, Jack Black, Martin Short, Danny de Vito and Tom Jones.
Martians invade Earth and target various famous landmarks around the world for destruction, taking snapshots posing next to the devastation for the folks back home. Tom Jones and Slim Whitman may be the only hope for humanity.
Species II (1998) directed by Peter Medak and starring Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen and Marg Helgenberger.
An alien parasite infects an astronaut whilst on an expedition to Mars.
Back on Earth he starts to mutate and the only thing on his mind is sex and murder.
Red Planet (2000) directed by Anthony Hoffman and starring Val Kilmer, Carrie-Anne Moss, Terence Stamp and Tom Sizemore.
The year 2056 and Earth is dying, colonising Mars may be humanity's only hope.
A team of astronauts land on the planet, their combat robot 'AMEE' malfunctions and goes on the rampage, they also discover Mars isn't as lifeless as they once thought.
Mission to Mars (2000) directed by Brian De Palma and starring Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Connie Nielsen and Jerry O'Connell.
The year 2020 and a spacecraft sets out for Mars to discover why communication was lost on the last mission that landed there.
They find one astronaut still alive and perhaps the answer to one of mankinds oldest questions.
Ghosts of Mars (2001) directed by John Carpenter and starring Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham and Pam Grier.
The 22nd Century and intergalactic cop Melanie Ballard (Henstridge) is on an assignment to transfer a notorious criminal named Desolation Williams (Cube) to a prison outpost on Mars.
But a mining team near the outpost have accidentally unearthed a Martian device that unleashes ghosts of the planet's original inhabitants.
Doom (2005) directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, starring Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike and Dwayne Johnson and loosely based on the video game series.
The year 2046 and an unseen alien entity attacks a research facility on Mars. An elite squad of marines are teleported to Mars, their mission - to eliminate the threat and secure the facility. But the threat is a lot deadlier than they imagined.
War of the Worlds (2005) directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin and Tim Robbins.
There is no mention of Mars or Martians in this movie but it is loosely based on H.G. Wells classic novel The War of the Worlds and thus merits inclusion.
Updated to modern day New Jersey, during a lightning storm alien war machines on tripod legs rise out of the ground and start vaporising the populace. Only Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning stand in their way... or maybe not.
A Motion-Capture animated film directed by Simon Wells, Mars Needs Moms (2011) stars Seth Green, Dan Fogler and Joan Cusack. Young Milo's mother is abducted by Martians, he stows away on a spaceship heading for Mars and hopes to rescue her. Director Simon Wells is the great-grandson of H.G. Wells.
John Carter (2012) directed by Andrew Stanton and starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Thomas Haden Church, Dominic West, Mark Strong and Willem Dafoe.
Based on the novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs and released in 3D in March 2012.
American Civil War hero John Carter discovers an alien device in a cave, he accidentally activates it and is suddenly transported to Mars, called Barsoom by the inhabitants. He has many adventures and falls in love with a beautiful Martian princess.
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