Updated: Feb 27
While many associate Steampunk with steam, clockwork, and the colour brown. In a nutshell, steampunk is modern technology powered by steam with the aesthetic of the mid-late 19th-century British Victorian or American wild west. The term was originally coined in the late 1980s and since then has evolved into other genres such as- dieselpunk. With that been said I’m going to be extending my movie selections to include some arguably dieselpunk-ish films as the steampunk genre is so niche.
Set in 1860s Britain, a young inventor named Ray receives a mysterious package from his grandfather Lloyd Steam -- The package contains a device called a Steam Ball a tiny ball that turns out to be an immensely powerful engine. With a mysterious foundation after this technology, Ray gets caught in the middle of a deadly conflict over this revolutionary advance in steam power.
From the director that brought us Akira; Steamboy -- as the title makes pretty clear -- is the epitome of
steampunk, where you can expect to see all kinds of quirky gadgets and devices, and yes, lots and lots of steam. I mean there are so many things going on in this anime, from the ideological implications of the misuse of steam technology. To a boy being dragged into a theoretical squabble between his grandfather and father.
Sure the overall premise is a little unoriginal and the main character is predictable and not exactly what I call unique. However, that doesn’t stop Steamboy from been an enjoyable watch and a must-see for fans of the steampunk genre.
The film follows Hugo, an orphan boy who lives in the walls of a Paris railway station. Secretly spending most of his time maintaining the station's clocks, while hiding from the stations mean railway inspector. The story kicks off when Hugo gets caught up in a mystery involving an astonishing, yet broken Automaton left by his late father.
OK, so the story is set after the age of steam, however, I think it’s the abundance of trains, clockwork, and automaton that gives this film a very steampunk feel.Directed by Martin Scorsese and filled with great performances from Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee, and Asa Butterfield, Hugo is a movie with a lot to love but just a heads up to some of you -- its first act is fairly slow paced with lots of shots of Hugo making his way through clockwork tunnels!
However it's a very heartwarming and impressive family film, and even though this isn’t the type of movie I would normally watch, it held my attention really well. Sure it’s not what I would call a true steampunk film but that doesn’t stop it from being a must watch movie.
The city of lost children 1995
In a futuristic dystopian city, a daemonic scientist who cannot dream named Krank -- kidnaps children to tap into and steal their dreams. When the little brother of a circus strongman named One is kidnapped; One with the help of a little girl and some other eccentric characters -- track him down and, try to put an end to Krank and his clone henchmen.
The French stylistic cult classic that oozes originality -- The City of lost children is one of those films that boasts both a unique plot and visuals. I suppose the best way to sum it up would be a bit like Guillermo del Toro meets Terry Gilliam in terms of style and quirkiness.
Now some might say this is better-labeled as a dieselpunk as the antagonist lives on an oil rig, but the Victorian-ish costumes, setting, and set design do meet my steampunk criteria.
However, the movie does have a few pacing issues and some more casual viewers might find it to be a little bit too strange or awkward. But if you want a dark, visually amazing movie, set in an intriguing world. Then give The city of lost children a try.
Last Exile 2003
Set in a world called Prester, an organization only known as "the Guild" has a monopoly over all-airspace and as flight is the dominant mode of transportation, this mysterious corporation has complete authority of the skies. The series follows Claus and Lavie, two childhood friends who’re determined to follow in their father's footsteps and become couriers. But when the duo encounters a mysterious girl, they are thrust into the middle of an endless battle between two countries.
As one of the few steampunk themed anime available Last Exile is as true to the genre as possible with its huge skyships, character design, and steam based weapons. I mean the attention to detail in this anime is brilliant from the character development to the plot. Which unfolds at a relatively slow but enjoyable pace.
Of course, as this is a series and not a film it has a lot more time to work on these things, however the 1st rate drama and great visual design make last exile a must-see series for fans of steampunk.
Mortal Engines 2018
Set in a post-apocalyptic world hundred of years after civilization was destroyed. Cities are now mobile and roam the countryside on tracks, consuming each other for resources. The film follows an outcast, a mysterious assassin, and an outlaw - Who team up to try and stop London, a giant, predator city on wheels from consuming everything in its path.
One of the biggest box office flops of 2018 Is Mortal Engines a great movie..? No. Is it so bad it’s good? Not really did I put it in because it's new and steampunk-ish? Maybe. I think I’ve picked it mainly due to my love of the crazy idea of London been mobile and literally hunting down small towns in Europe. It’s such a crazy far fetched premise that I just think everyone should watch it for the odd experience.
Now I’m not promising that you’re going to love or like it- but it’s fun, outrageous and has some really interesting ideas that unfortunately fall a little flat due to the main story been a bit lame and cliche.
Hellboy 2 The Golden Army 2008
When an exiled elf prince breaks an ancient pact between humans and elves, declaring war against humanity, he attempts to assemble an unstoppable force of clockwork soldiers known as the Golden Army. It’s now up to Hellboy and his team to stop this mad prince from summoning this army, saving humankind from total annihilation.
One of the more underrated comic book movie franchises; Hellboy 2 has fun characters, a solid story and a pretty good villain that for some weird reason reminds me of a very pale Tom Cruise.
The cinematography for this movie really is quite stunning where it's almost worth watching it for that alone. That combined with some well-timed comedy Hellboy 2 provides you with essentially everything a Del Toro & steampunk fan could possibly-want.
OK, the movie does have its flaws such as its weak romance subplot, but besides that, it's a fun movie that hopefully won’t have its reputation ruined by the most recent 2019 reboot.
Castle in the Sky 1986
Set in an alternate history in a world filled with airships and planes. A young girl is wanted by the
government for her mysterious crystal amulet. Evading her pursuers she meets a boy who dreams of
discovering the flying castle Laputa. The two decide to journey together to discover this castle
However, they soon find the government is right back on their trail.
A lighthearted adventure film for all ages - before Studio jee-blee Ghibli was considered an
international success Castle in the sky is a near perfect balance of entertainment for both kids and adults alike, with its lovely animation and great main villain.
While the main characters are a bit on the weak side and the chase scenes in the first half of the film can be a little frustrating at times. Castle in the sky has some great twists and world building. However, I honestly think the Dub does not do it justice and as always, I recommend watching it in its original language.
20k leagues under the sea 1954
Set in 1868, shipping lanes within the Pacific Ocean are been disrupted by rumors of a sea monster attacking ships. In response, the U.S government sends a ship to investigate these
mysterious sinkings to disprove the monster’s existence. After months of searching, they encounter and try to help a merchant-ship under attack, But things don’t go too smoothly for our brave crew.
Arguably an old fashioned sci-fi, that over time has evolved into a form of steampunk. Disney's
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a relatively faithful adaptation of the classic Jules Verne-book. The films 1950s practical effects and acting all have that special charm to them. OK sure, its visuals are of course a little dated but in my opinion still, look-great.
And as far as I’m concerned it's a well-paced, well-acted film, that has a great cast who hold your
attention with their quirks and funny one-liners. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a great family
adventure flick with cool visuals that's fun to watch and is definitely worth checking out. I don’t know about you guys, but it just doesn't sound right to me. However, I do think Mark Hamill does a