Steampunk Summer #3: Silver Screen, Entertain Me!

Steampunk Summer #3: Silver Screen, Entertain Me!

Since the last installment was about books, this time, for so called ”MTV generation”, we’ll present some visual products of the steampunk genre. Thanks to the advance of software and visual effects, it is much easier and cheaper to produce steampunk settings on a bigger scale today than it was before. We’ll present you some of the more popular and essential works form the movie screen, so without any more introduction, let’s start.

Start With Classics

Like we mentioned in the first Steampunk Summer, it all began for silver screen with a movie called Metropolis by Fritz Lang in 1927. It’s considered the oldest predecessor on the celluloid, and one of the movie classics in general. For second very influential piece, let’s time-jump to the 1960’s and TV show with high ratings called The Wild Wild West. It heavily shaped steampunk and it gave us in 1999 Hollywood movie remake.

the adventures of brisco county jr

Speaking of 90’s, there is one show also placed in Wild West, and is fondly remembered by critics and fans till this day. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. was, probably just like Firefly in 2000’s that also had steampunk elements, ahead of its time so it never went further than one season. Not quite essential, but if you want to scratch a bit more obscure movie titles, go back in time and reach for the 60’s gem called The Assassination Bureau.

Animation, Oh How Beautiful Are Thee

Studio Ghibli, or better to say Hayao Myazaki, produced a lot of animated movies with steampunk sensibilities. Castle In The Sky is one that pops out, with flying cities and sky pirates. Disney also ventured in cartoon territory with heavily modified version of the book Treasure Island called Treasure Planet. Speaking of Disney, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a 1954 produced classic and adaptation of Jules Verne book by the same name is one of the classic of the genre and the silver screen.

castle in the sky

If you want quintessential steampunk movie, then I must point you towards animated Steamboy. Alternate 19th century, 13 year old inventor, cogs and steam powered machines, it is pure steampunk. And let’s not forget Back To The Future Part III, not animated, but one of my first contacts with anything steampunky. However there are a lot of movies and TV shows that are not quite steam powered, but they fall into genera because they implement its sensibilities.

But What About Today?

Today on television we have several shows that have at least elements of steampunk. On one side of the Atlantic ocean, there is the British cult show Doctor Who. Time-traveling spaceship named TARDIS, has a lot of interior constantly redesigned, but it always has some Victorian-esque elements. USA has Warehouse 13 with many steampunk inspired artifacts and it even incorporated H.G. Welles and (spoiler alert!) she is a prominent character during and after second season.

warehouse 13 claudia

Back in the animated domain, we have Legend Of Korra, sequel to the Avatar: The LAst Airbender. Also USA product, but heavily influenced by Japanese animation. Up north, Canada also has candidate for the race called Murdoch Mysteries that incorporates elements and technology of steampunk. For a steampunk in usually non-steampunk environment, there was one episode named Punked on show named Castle in 2010 that heavily featured steampunk subculture.

Adapt Me!

Not mentioned in the previous installment, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel was one that got movie adaptation in 2003, but it failed to create more than just one movie. More successful was adaptation of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. in role of titular hero, that gave us a sequel and right now third movie is in its early stages of pre-production.

sherlock holmes

However, there are some things (looking at you Jonah Hex and Cowboys & Aliens) that Lala Land failed to make good or watchable. Luckily, internet is a big place, so you can watch web-series like League Of STEAM or short movies. Whitestone Motion Pictures creates a lot of short films with a steampunk flair to it and as a last, but not least link I’ll point out Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man that is inspired by Wizard of Oz.

And this is it for this installment about movies and television. Of course, there is much, much more to see, but these are merely guidelines for your visual enjoyment. So prod and pick, choose what suits your palate the best and take a steam powered ride!


Hrvoje Hrsto

Hrvoje is BA audio engineer graduate from SAE Institute in Ljubljana, currently freelancing and writing. His interests are music, television and all things geeky.

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