Steampunk Movies

The steampunk movement first emerged on the scene in the 1970s, a little before the term was officially coined in 1987 by author K W Jetter in a letter to Locus Magazine. Having set its roots in the world of writing, the steampunk movement soon seeped into other worlds such as art, fashion, music, and of course, film. With some great works out there that ought no to be missed, we’ve compiled this list of our top 20 Steampunk movies.

What is Steampunk?

So what exactly is Steampunk? It is essentially, the collision of two worlds, or two points in time. Heavily based on the Victorian era, Steampunk fuses classic themes and styles from the 19th century such as top hats, flying goggles, classic interiors and looks, with the notion of an accelerated technological advance in steam powered devices and classic engineering of the time. The result? Vintage yet futuristic looking devices often with visible movings cogs and parts. Fashions based on Victorian looks but incorporating brass gadgets.  Places in time that feel like a mixture of both the past and the future.

The whole Steampunk genre, which stems off from the cyberpunk genre, is based on the ideas of what people in the victorian age may have envisioned the future to look like. When it comes to plots, one of three themes generally applies, but brassy, steam powered machines are usually at the core of it all.

What Makes a Great Steampunk Movie?

As previously mentioned, the Steampunk genre is generally defined by certain plot themes. A good Steampunk movie is likely to either be set in 19th century Victorian times playing out an alternative history, be set in a fantasy world in which steam powered technology rather than modern day electronics are dominant, or be set in an apocalyptic future where steam technology still rules.

There are of course other examples of plots, but the best indicator of a great Steampunk movie are the aesthetics, from the Victorian clothing to the gadgets and imaginative steam engineering. A compelling Steampunk movie will impress you by presenting a captivating parallel world.

The Best Steampunk Movies

So whether you’re new to the world of Steampunk, or you specifically came here in search of this list, we will now present 20 of our top Steampunk movies and what makes them so great.

1. The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958)

The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958)

What Makes it Steampunk:

As one of the earliest Steampunk films, produced before the term was even coined, The Fabulous World of Jules Verne is, without knowing it, a Steampunk classic. The film features several steam styled scientific creations such as ships, submarines, aircraft, and machinery which, aside from its alternative Victorian setting, characterise it as Steampunk.

What It’s About:

Professor Roche is a genius scientist who, along with his aide Simon Hart, are abducted by pirates who want to steal his latest invention to aid their world domination plan. Simon catches on and does all he can to stifle their plan, but to his surprise, the professor is brewing a plan of his own.

2. The City of Lost Children (1995)

The city of lost children

What Makes it Steampunk:

This film embodies everything about the Steampunk genre with the careful fusion of an alternate Victorian setting and a huge collection of  intricate gadgets and a dark storyline complimented with imaginative concepts.

What It’s About:

Krank, a mad scientist who is rapidly ageing due to his inability to dream, captures children with the help of his Cyclops Gang, an evil female midget, a talking brain called Irvin enclosed in a fish tank, and his 6 dim-witted cloned sons. When his younger brother goes missing, circumstances lead One to team up with Miette, a young street orphan, on a rescue mission to the City of Lost Children.

3. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

What Makes it Steampunk:

Taking place in an alternate Victorian age of London and starring Victorian era superheroes and villains, this film also has its share of Steampunk engineering, from the Nautilus submarine to the six wheeled automobile and a number of interesting gadgets.

What It’s About:

When a madman known as The Fantom threatens to kickstart a world war by blowing up a secret meeting of European leaders in Venice, Allan Quatermain must assemble an team extraordinary team of individuals to counter the attack.

4. The Golden Compass (2007)

the golden compass (2007)

What Makes it Steampunk:

While some may argue that The Golden Compass is not true Steampunk, set in a city resembling a retro-futuristic London,  the film does fit the bill of a fantasy or parallel world with unique scientific laws and an array of Steampunk-esque gadgets, from the skeleton compass itself to tiny clockwork insects among other interesting machines.

What It’s About:

Lyra, a young orphan girl living among scholars, lives in a universe where people’s spirits exist externally in animal form, and a powerful church named the Magisterium dominates all. The Magisterium forbid talk of a mysterious particle that may have the power to unite entire universes so as not to threaten their hold on the world. Dark forces are at play and many children are being kidnapped. When her best fiend goes missing, Lyra embarks on a northerly quest to save him.

5. Treasure Planet (2002)

Treasure Planet (2002)

What Makes it Steampunk:

For many, this movie is what first instilled their interest in Steampunk. In a fantasy setting intended to be both futuristic and representative of the Age of Exploration, where sea is replaced with space and pirate captains have mechanical prosthetics instead of wooden legs, futuristic technologies are held together with a vintage feel.

What It’s About:

Based on the novel Treasure Island, a map depicting the greatest pirate’s trove in the universe falls into the hand of a young boy, Jim Hawkins, who sets out on a quest to uncover the riches.

6. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

What Makes it Steampunk:

Inside the lost city we discover Steampunk  vehicles, not to mention the epic submarine that got them there. Set in an early Victorian era, the advanced technology defines this film as a typical Steampunk.

What It’s About:

Working in the depths of a museum, Milo Thatch learns that he can find the lost city of Atlantas as long as he has the Shepherds journal to guide him, all he needs is funding. When his employers refuse, thinking him crazy, an old friend of his grandfather supplies him with all he needs to venture there.

7. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

What Makes it Steampunk:

Everything about the aesthetic of this film scream steampunk, even if it is a little light on the gadgets and steam-tech. Since the books do not specify which era they are set in, the film purposely portrays an era with a timeless feel, resulting in a futuristic-Victorian age characteristic of Steampunk works. Other steampunk elements were employed, such as the fashion and decor, to maintain the somber mood of the books.

What It’s About:

After three children become orphaned when their house burns down, killing their parents, they fall into the care of a mysterious relative who seeks only to steal their inheritance.

8. Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

What Makes it Steampunk:

The inventions of Phileas Fogg, the star of the film, are undoubtedly Steampunk. The time in which it is set also lends to the Steampunk theme.

What It’s About:

Inventor Phileas Fogg places a bet that he can travel the world in 80 days in a variety of vehicles he constructs himself. However, complicating matters, Fogg and his assistant are followed by a detective as suspects to a bank robbery that took place just before they left.

9. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

What Makes it Steampunk:

Though this anime film is considerably less Steampunk than the book it is based on, and is arty described as a Steampunk fairy tail, its biggest Steampunk element is of course the castle itself. It is also set in a time where steam power is commonly used.

What It’s About:

When a spiteful witch castes a spell on 18 year old Sophie giving her the body of an old woman, she seeks out wizard Howl in his moving castle to help her lift the curse.

10. Steamboy (2004)

Steamboy (2004)

What Makes it Steampunk:

Its setting in a Victorian era which relies on steam powered technology and is on the edge of a second steam power revolution give this film a rightful Steampunk claim.

What It’s About:

Young British inventor Ray Steam find himself caught up in a conflict over a device which was posted to him by his grandfather. It becomes his duty to make sure it does not fall into the wrong hands.

11. Hugo (2011)

Hugo (2011)

What Makes it Steampunk:

Aside from being set in the right era, there is plenty of clockwork gears, steam trains and the intricate invention that Hugo is attempting to restore.

What It’s About:

Hugo becomes an orphan when the museum his father works in burns down. He goes on to fix clocks at a train station with his uncle, who disappears leaving Hugo all alone to live in the walls of the station. With only an automaton and a notebook from his father, Hugo attempts to restore the creation that was almost destroyed with the fire.

12. Sherlock Holmes (2009 & 2011)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

What Makes it Steampunk:

Both films are set in the Victorian era in the midst of the industrial revolution, so steam power is in full swing, yet the gadgets and technology featured are beyond their time. In addition the cinematography has a very gloomy, Steampunk feel.

What It’s About:

In the first film Holmes and his partner Watson finally catch murderous sorcerer, Blackwood, however the chase continues when he somehow returns from the grave with bigger plans. Holmes and Watson are forced to join forces once again when Holmes is investigating terrorist attacks, one of which disrupts Watson’s honeymoon. They must face their greatest opponent, Moriarty.

13. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

What Makes it Steampunk:

Strictly Dieselpunk rather than Steampunk, the plot of this film follows classic Steampunk rules. It is set in an alternative history depicting WW2 with futuristic technology. There are some clear Steampunk themes running through.

What It’s About:

In 1939 New York, giant robots attack the city while journalist Polly Perkins is investigating the disappearance of famous scientists world wide. She learns that the two cases might be linked.

14. Wild Wild West (1999)

Wild Wild West (1999)

What Makes it Steampunk:

This movie is loaded with cool Steampunk technology, from spring loaded notebooks to steam tanks and bicycles and flying contraptions.

What It’s About:

Two agents are hired by the U.S. president to investigate the disappearance of some top scientists, instead uncovering a plot to assassinate the president.

15. Hellboy (2004 & 2008)

Hellboy (2004)

What Makes it Steampunk:

The accessories and gadgets in this film are decidedly Steampunk. Even the assassin, Kroenen, is clockwork. It is said that the release of the 2004 film is what finally got the word Steampunk into the dictionary.

What It’s About:

As World War 2 comes to an end, the Nazi’s use black magic to summon a beast with hopes to help them get back on top. The Allies interfere just as Hellboy materialises, but he joins the good fight. In the sequel Hellboy and his team must stop an evil elf from destroying the world.

16. City of Ember (2008)

City of Ember (2008)

What Makes it Steampunk:

This movie is oozing with Steampunk aesthetic thanks to its post-apocalyptic setting, and retro-futuristic gadgets and machinery.

What It’s About:

The City of Ember was created underground during an apocalypse to conserve the human race, but it was only designed to last 200 years. Now, time is up and its down to Lina and Doon to find a way out.

17. Van Helsing (2004)

Van Helsing (2004)

What Makes it Steampunk:

This film has some obvious Steampunk influences such as the setting and of course Van Helsing’s steam powered automatic crossbow.

What It’s About:

Monster hunter Van Helsing is sent to Transylvania by the Vatican to stop Count Dracula. He teams up with gypsy princess Anna Valerious who also wants to rid her family of Dracula’s curse.

18. April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

What Makes it Steampunk:

This alternate Victorian word depends heavily on steam power and has adapted an array of machines and gadgets that create an epic Steampunk vibe.

What It’s About:

As scientists start going missing and development is halted, the world must rely on steam power and is running out of trees. Wars are waged to claim the remaining resources all while the disappearing inventors are working with two Komodo Dragons to engineer a secret green sanctuary under the city.

19. The Illusionist (2006)

The Illusionist (2006)

What Makes it Steampunk:

The Victorian setting and use of interesting gadgets which assist the illusionist with his tricks all add to the Steampunk theme of this film.

What It’s About:

A love story unfolds when Eisenheim comes face to face with his childhood love, Sophie, and plays every trick in his book to get her back.

20. The Time Machine (2002)

The Time Machine (2002)

What Makes it Steampunk:

The beautiful gold time machine made up of cogs and gears, along with the Victorian setting from which Hartdegen originally travels from, are the key Steampunk elements in this film.

What It’s About:

Inventor Alexander Hartdegen becomes even more motivated to prove that travel exists after he loses his wife in a shooting. He wants to be able to change the past, however he is accidentally hurtled 800,000 years into the future and discovers a very different society.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

two × five =