When did Science Fiction and Horror become mainstream?

Image from morguefile.com
Image from morguefile.com

Prolific production of film in 2013

According to a list of American Films released in 2013: around 41 horror films and 23 Science Fiction (including super-hero) films were released. This is not counting action adventure, thriller and fantasy films which may contain horror and science fiction elements, or children's animations which incorporate robots.

Notable films included:

  • World War z, starring Brad Pit,
  • After Earth starring Will Smith,
  • Dark Skies starring Kerri Russel,
  • Ender's Game based on the book by Orson Scott Card and starring Ben Kingsley,
  • Escape from Planet Earth starring Brendan Fraser,
  • The Hunger Games: catching fire based on the series by Suzanne Collins and starring Jennifer Lawrence
  • Iron Man 3 based on the Marvel Comics and starring Robert Downey Jr,
  • Oblivion starring Tom Cruise
  • Pacific Rim starring Charlie Hunnam
  • Star Trek: into Darkness starring Chris Pine
  • And the Wolverine based on the preceding Wolverine and X-men series, starring Hugh Jackman

I am using a list of films from 2013 because 2014 has not finished yet, but I believe the trend towards Science fiction and Horror/fantasy production continues, with consumption at the box office and DVD store following suit. Titles include Divergent, Captain America: the winter soldier, and Transcendence, with more titles due to be released throughout the year.

Forbidden planet poster from wikimedia commons (wikimedia.org)
Forbidden planet poster from wikimedia commons (wikimedia.org)

Science fiction used to be "B" grade, alternative and rarer!

According to Jon Glade on Yahoo answers, Hollywood created the terms "A" grade and "B" grade film to describe films that fulfilled different expectations. An "A" grade picture was one that "had all of the production values the public had come to expect".

On the other hand, "B" grade movies were cheaper, less appealing productions and were often paired with cartoons and other short features to entice the public to attend. This category included a number of early Science Fiction and Horror films, such as Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Forbidden Planet (1956), and War of the Worlds (1953 version).

Blue overalls were used as a futuristic costume in the 1981 Outland film starring Sean Connery. (Image from commons.wikimedia.org)
Blue overalls were used as a futuristic costume in the 1981 Outland film starring Sean Connery. (Image from commons.wikimedia.org)

"B" grade began to mean interesting ....

Over time, by the late nineteen eighties to early nineteen nineties, I had begun to associate the term "B" grade movie with artistic integrity and fictional superiority.

"B" grade movies often featured interesting and alternative plots, creative costuming, and makeshift or experimental special effects.

It seemed that original material, such as horror and science fiction was less likely to attract funding and therefore might be produced as "B" grade. For fans the wait for a new Science fiction offering could be between a year and two years.

Characteristics of "B" Grade film.

  • Traditionally developed on a lower budget due to lack of mainstream interest
  • May astound at the box office
  • May flop at the box office but enjoy enduring popularity on television or DVD/Video
  • Is created by an alternative company or director due to their special interest
  • Stars lesser known actors or actors who do not mind being type-cast
  • May be based upon a lesser known or genre book or story
  • Special effects may be amateur or innovative due to lower funding
  • Limited advertising before release
  • Was traditionally less likely to win awards
  • Uses camera work and technique available on budget. These may be limited or innovative and creative.
  • May contain poor colour or frequent dark screens as in film noir or old thrillers
  • Traditionally received poor reviews from mainstream critics
  • May acquire a fan club or cult following
  • Typically involves science fiction, fantasy, horror, murder or thriller

B grade graphics may be created by fans. This image from morguefile.com was labelled "dream portal".
B grade graphics may be created by fans. This image from morguefile.com was labelled "dream portal".

Characteristics of "A" Grade film.

  • Made with a moderate to large budget

  • Performs well at the box office

  • Involves a well known producer, director and actors

  • May be based upon a classic book or true story

  • Professional special effects if appropriate

  • Advertised thoroughly before release

  • May win awards for treatment of human interest topics

  • Excellent camera work and technique

  • Receives good reviews from "critics"

  • Typically involves action, drama, romance, mystery or sports

  • May include fantasy when oriented towards children

  • Has a wide or "universal" appeal

Give your opinion...

If Science Fiction films are produced in large numbers each year will they retain their originality and creativity?

  • Some films will be original while others may suffer from becoming mass produced and formulaic.
  • Science Fiction will remain unique but the increased production will mean more people can enjoy it.
  • Science Fiction will lose some of it's charm if it becomes more common and is produced according to mainstream film-making formulas.
  • Dedicated Science Fiction writers and fan groups will ensure science Fiction remains unique.
See results without voting

What would becoming "A" Grade mean for the future of Science Fiction?

Now that a number of Science Fiction films are being produced per year and some of them have high budgets and professional effects, it would appear that Science Fiction has become a signifigant part of our culture.

The prolific production may indicate that it has also entered the mainstream of the film world. While this may represent a rise in the artistic hierarchy, it could also bring some negetive effects. If Science Fiction becomes mass produced, some of the creativity and connection with the thinking Scientific community may be lost.

Science Fiction, which started as primarily "speculative fiction" may be in danger of losing it's "speculation" and becoming mundane. The images and tropes of the genre would still exist, but the energy of alternative effort could decrease.



Movie titles, facts and dates can be checked using the Internet and Movie Database:

IMDb.com, 1990-2014 IMDB, IMDb.com, Inc., An Amazon company

List of American films for 2013:


More by this Author


George Greene Jr. profile image

George Greene Jr. 2 years ago from California PA

The term speculative fiction can actually be interpreted as fictionalized science these days. When you can look at Star Trek and see all the devices they used on the show as reality today, one can just imagine what not-so-far fetched scientific discoveries have yet to be exposed to the public! Some ideas we think of as science fiction just may be hidden from us just so we do not go and actually destroy ourselves!

missirupp 2 years ago

I like B grade movies like, Eight Legged Freaks and Snakes On A Plane. It's fun to watch those every few years. I think I would consider those mainstream like you were saying. I never thought Horror Films weren't mainstream. It's an interesting question you pose.

Misfit Chick profile image

Misfit Chick 2 years ago from Seattle, WA - USA - The WORLD

Science Fiction & horror have been mainstream for a LONG time, now. Men, in particular like it and Hollywood caters to them because that's where the money is. It's as simple as that.

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

Great topic and subject. I have noticed too, that today, science fiction and horror/fantasy films are being made more and more and they are my least favorite types of films. I do think , though, that literature has added to this. With what I consider very good literature, The Hunger Games, The Lord of the Rings etc. These are and were very good films that did well at the box office, in my opinion. Then the copycat films begin and are not always as good. Are these types of films the audience wants and that's why they go to see them, or does the audience go to see them because that is all being produced in Hollywood?

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

As I recall, in the 1960's the theaters were filled iwth films like"I was a teen-age..." and what seemed to me to be corny horror films. They were meant to appeal to people younger than myself at the time. As a result I went to very few movies. I may have missed out on some good stuff. I can't say.

On TV I loved Star Trek which seemed to reflect good SciFi. In my younger years, I was an avid fan of print SciFi.

Rated up,useful and interesting. sharing.

Knightheart profile image

Knightheart 2 years ago from MIssouri, USA

I LOVE SCI-FI and fantasy, not so much horror movies since most of the time they overdo the gore factor! Ever since Star Wars and Close Encounters came in the late 1970's; the public loves that stuff and as long as they can make blockbuster profits at the box office, I am sure it will continue which is fine with me! I always loved that so KEEP GOING! LOL. Can't wait to see the new Avenger movie with Capt. America and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The special effects now are just so realistic! Thank you Steven Spielberg and Industrial Light and Magic! :)

wordnut profile image

wordnut 2 years ago from Californiaaah

I can think of a good number of A grade sci-fi movies (I Robot, Inception, many others) that bear out the theory that sci-fi risks becoming mundane as it tries to appeal to more people. Even movies like Her which have pretensions to being smart movies leave me with that unsatisfied feeling.

W1totalk profile image

W1totalk 2 years ago

This is a great article. I think before the science fiction piece was an escape. It is more necessary today. CSI, Law and Order and even reality television programs will be solid. There is always a need to escape reality, especially today. Science Fiction does this.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 2 years ago from Sydney

I wonder when it became possible for horror and science fiction to be mentioned in the same sentence! I used to love sci fi films and TV programs, but ever since Alien, it seems that sci fi has to have some element of horror in it - and that's a total turn-off for me.

erorantes profile image

erorantes 2 years ago from Miami Florida

I like science fiction movies.They keep me entertain for a while. I forget about anything. My mind is in the movie. Some characters in the science fiction movies are funny. They make me laugh. Some are scary. They make me jump. I like your article. You did a marvelous job. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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