In light of very excellent advice I have decided to list my top 10 favorite Steampunk Movies. These movies not only inspired me but helped me to understand Steampunk a little better as well. If you haven’t seen any of these films I highly recommend you do if you wish to learn about my beloved subculture.
10. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
If there’s anything I love most about this movie based on a graphic which I love more, is the mere concept itself. Literary Avengers of the Victorian Era! The formula worked for Shrek, Kingdom Hearts, Alien vs Predator, Once Upon a Time, and my current favorite, the Holiday Avengers aka Rise of the Guardians. What would happen if Allan Quartermain, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Captain Nemo, Dorian Grey and other literary heroes and anti heroes from the Victorian Era teamed up. You get gun fights, a car chase (with the only car in the world), and a chance to see how all these different characters would team up. The movie has an incredibly large cult following among steampunk enthusiasts.
9. The Time Machine (2002)
While I highly recommend the film from the 1960s, lets face it, your local video store or Netflix will more than likely have the 2002 Guy Pearce version of the H.G. Wells masterpiece. Which I must admit wasn’t half bad. It remains somewhat loyal to Well’s original story plus it has all the wonder steampunk elements such as clothing, adventure as well as a kick ass time machine.
8. Howl’s Moving Castle
To be fair, I consider pretty much anything from Hayao Miyazaki, even Spirited Away, steampunk. Miyazaki not only tells provides stunning visuals but tells compelling stories as well. Howl’s Moving Castle is no exception. It tells the story of a young woman who’s cursed by a witch to appear as an old woman until her true love breaks the spell. Howl, a handsome and shallow wizard (voiced by Christian Bale in the English version) invites her into his magical moving home (castle…whatever) powered by a fire demon, voiced by Billy Crystal. Believe me, as weird as the last sentence sounds, this movie is definitely worth seeing.
7. Castle in the Sky
What can beat a Hayao Miyazaki movie? Another Hayao Miyazaki movie of coarse! This one is one of my personal favorites, Castle in the Sky. A concept somewhat loosely based on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Not when he visits the Lilliputians and get’s tied up! (As everyone famously knows) But during his third travel when he is picked up by the floating island of Laputa. It means something really funny/dirty in Spanish but that aside, I HIGHLY recommend this movie. It centers around a young woman named Sheeta and her mysterious amulet and her love interest/ bodyguard/ friend Pazu and their journey to the floating island of Laputa. It has a family of air pirates with a crazy mother for a captain, powerful mechanical soldiers, guns, action, magic, suspense, romance and all those wonderful elements that make a good steampunk story.
6. Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
What can beat two Miyazaki films? Another Miyazaki film. Nausicaa is not my favorite Miyazaki film. In fact if this list were about my favorite Miyazaki films, Castle in the Sky would actually be ranked higher. Oh well. The steampunk in Nausicaa is much more prominent. Nausicaa is the princess of the Valley of the Wind. Set in a post apocalyptic world where giant mutant insects inhabit an ever encroaching toxic jungle which threatens to destroy humanity, Nausicaa’s dangerous world is still full of air pirates, flying armadas, wonderful contraptions and many other things that makes this by far my favorite Steampunk movie out of all of Miyazaki’s movies.
5. The Prestige
This movie actually surprised me. Then again, since I started watching Christopher Nolan movies like Memento, Batman Begins, Inception and a few others (I’m certain you’ve heard of them) The Prestige starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, is no different. Set in the Victorian Era (obviously) two magicians (Bale and Jackman) who were once partners start competing for, you guested it, the prestige of putting on a better magic show. What starts out as a tit for tat sort of rivalry between the two men turns into an obsession with one man trying desperately to out do the other. And neither man is above sabotage. What makes this steampunk you ask? Besides the Victoria Era setting and all the wonderful little gadgets what truly makes this steampunk is actually the appearance of Nicola Tesla in the film. His character brings something to the movie that definitely stamps this film as steampunk.
4. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
While I still love the books and the older films a bit more, especially Hound of the Baskervilles with Peter Cushing (aka Governer Tarkin in Star Wars: A New Hope) and Christopher Lee (aka Count Dooku in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones) Those movies unfortunately get the label of period piece and not steampunk. I can practically hear the groans now but let’s get one thing straight. Just because it takes place in the Victorian Era, doesn’t make it steampunk. In the same respect that just because it takes place today or in the near future, doesn’t make it cyberpunk. Moving on, this story on the eve of one of the bloodiest wars in history shows both the historical accuracy of the age as well as changing of time as the world enters a new century which will come to endure new things. Which brings me to…
3. Sherlock Holmes (2009)
While I also recommend the books, short stories and many of the previous film incarnations of our favorite fictional, dysfunctional detective over this film the movie still gets my steampunk stamp of approval. You gotta love Sherlock Holmes. Why? From a personal stand point I love Sherlock Holmes for two main reasons: I grew up reading his adventures and more actors have played him than James Bond (6) and Dr. Who. (11) combined (17). So at (40 and change) Sherlock Holmes is here to stay. What I loved about the movie itself was that it took a hard scientific approach to the plot. If I were a bad guy how would I fake my death and make my murders look like magic? Anything and everything in the movie looks like something that could be built and/or done in real life. Although I recommend you don’t try it at home. I do recommend that you write Mythbusters about it. I know I plan to. Once I’m writing Book 4 of Curse Breaker 😉
2. Back to the Future Part III
So what if we won’t get a hover board in 2015? Damn you Zemeckis! At least we get a machine from Doc Brown the size of a gas station car wash that can produce a few cubes of ice. Add on his other gadgets and gizmos, including his rifle, and you have a film worthy enough to be called steampunk. And for the record, I’d rather joy ride in Doc Brown’s DeLorean than Guy Pearce’s whatchamacallit any day.
Which brings us to…
1. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Leave it to Disney to buy Pixar, then Star Wars and to top my list with a movie that’s over 50 years old. Well at least there aren’t any signing princesses, animals or enchanted chamber pots. This movie, still loosely based on the book by godfather steampunk author, Jules Verne (which is still better) is considered the quintessential steampunk movie. In fact the movie predates the term “steampunk” itself. This movie has a crazier cult following than LXG and many, many people believe it should be remade. Including your’s truly. If you have not seen this movie, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you’re not familiar with the story, the movie and the novel follows the adventures of Captain Nemo and his crew on board his (at the time) one of a kind submarine, the Nautilus. The film, like the book, explores the character of Captain Nemo and does its best to discover what makes him tick. I’ve always thought of 20,000 Leagues as a steampunk version of Moby Dick. Where instead of the obsessed captain trying to find and fight the great white whale for the purposes of revenge, the equally obsessed captain instead builds a great white whale (of sorts) lives inside it, and uses it to travel the world as well as revenge.