The War of the Worlds (1953)

war of the worlds poster 1953 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Iconic visuals and strong story

Rather dull cast

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The War of the Worlds

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror

Release Date(s):  August 26, 1953

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Yeah, this is going to turn out great…

Strange meteors begin striking the Earth in a systematic order which is soon revealed to be alien in nature.  The aliens have not come in peace; they have come to conquer.  Now, Earth is fighting for ways to defeat the seemingly unstoppable aliens and their warships as the fleet spreads across the world.  Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) and Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) might hold the only keys to stopping the invaders as the threat of nuclear war grows closer.

Directed by Byron Haskin, The War of the Worlds is based on H.G. Wells 1898 classic science-fiction novel.  The adaptation was a big hit in theaters and well received by critics.  The movie received the Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects and nominations for Best Sound, Recording and Best Film Editing.  The movie is often listed as one of the best science-fiction films of all time and has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #1037).


Die puny humans!

The film adaptation of The War of the Worlds went through a lot of changes.  Following the famous Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast on October 30, 1938, Welles was looked at as a possible maker for this movie.  Alfred Hitchcock was also tied to production at one point and Cecil B. DeMille was considered as well.  The family of Wells like the film and gave George Pal, who produced it, the rights to produce The Time Machine in 1960 as a result.

The story has been greatly altered for this version, but still holds a lot of the themes of Wells’ novel.  The movie shifted the action from England to California and from a reporter to a scientist.  It added a female lead for more romance and “screams”.  Despite these changes, the movie still has a lot of the story’s basic structure and the classic conclusion of the Martians being destroyed by common viruses also holds true.  The film did however incorporate the ideas and fears of nuclear war which of course at the time was high on the minds of viewers.


Hey lady, do you have a stick of gum?

The cast for the movie however is pretty standard sci-fi for the time.  Gene Barry and Ann Robinson could easily have been replaced by other “dashing” and “pretty” actors without much of a difference to the film.  The blasé cast doesn’t however hurt the movie since the movie isn’t really about the acting or the characters looks…but a better cast could have added more dimension to the rather flat stock characters.

Visually, The War of the Worlds excels.  The movie took some of the descriptions from Wells novels for its visuals, but then went off on its own to make great memorable machines of war.  The ships might lose their “tripod” description but the saucers and their death rays (with the distinctive sound) helped make the movie.  I also can’t help but think that some of the visuals of the aliens (who don’t match the book at all…they were like blob-like brain creatures) helped inspired E.T. in his stature and look.


Don’t look at me!!!

When I think of The War of the Worlds, I think of this film.  The movie is such an iconic vision of Wells’ story that it is often just tied to it despite multiple differences.  The movie has become a culture icon with ideas and “recreations” of scenes in the film in multiple sci-fi stories.  The movie has been remade multiple times (most notably in the 2005 version by Steven Spielberg), and also served as the basis for the syndicated War of the Worlds TV series in the 1980s.

Related Links:

War of the Worlds (2005)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response