Skip to Main Content

Film Genres

This guide highlights library resources for some of the more popular film genres.

A quick definition for science fiction films

A genre characterized by stories involving conflicts between science and technology, human nature, and social organization in futuristic or fantastical settings, created in cinema through distinctive iconographies, images, and sounds often produced by means of special effects technology. All the technologies of cinematic illusion are displayed at their most cutting-edge state in science-fiction films, and this has been true since the earliest years of cinema, when trick films like Le voyage dans la lune/A Trip to the Moon (Georges Méliès, France, 1902) used stop-motion animation and other effects to create what is in all probability cinema’s first-ever portrayal of space travel: in topic, techniques, and iconography, Le voyage dans la lune was a prototype for the science-fiction cinema to come. The 1920s and 1930s saw portrayals of future and imagined worlds, many of them dystopic, in feature films such as Aelita/Aelita: Queen of Mars (Yakov Protazanov, USSR, 1924); Metropolis (Fritz Lang, Germany, 1926); and Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies, UK, 1936), while many post-World War II science-fiction films offered apocalyptic imaginings of alien invasion and nuclear holocaust. The canonical 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, UK/US, 1968) began a new era in science-fiction cinema’s foregrounding of spectacle and impact in moving image and sound by creating a sublime, all-enveloping environment for the viewer. Viewed in cinemas, science-fiction extravaganzas like 2001 offer an encompassing visual, auditory, and bodily experience in which the spectator is invited to succumb to extreme sensory and bodily engulfment (see haptic visuality). Wherever cinema exhibits its own distinctive matters of expression—as it does with science fiction’s displays of state-of-the-art special effects technologies—this is invariably a highly self-conscious, even an exhibitionistic, gesture, eclipsing narrative, plot, and character.

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2020). Science fiction. In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 May. 2022

Finding library resources for science fiction

To find sci-fi in the Library's collections, you can click on one of the subject headings below:

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book titles

Finding articles & journals

Articles and other writings about westerns can be found in many publications. We have one journal that looks exclusively at sci-fi films. However, you can also use Film & Television Literature Index to find other, relevant articles.

A Selected list of science fiction films

Find more science fiction films in the online catalog.

Internet resource(s)