10 Awesome Steampunk Movies (For The Whole Family)
So, you’re trying to lure your kids into sharing your steampunk passion? Or perhaps you yourself enjoy the mix of fantasy, animation, and steampunk gadgetry? The following movies all contain some excellent steampunk elements (some a little more so than others) and are, in my opinion, excellent movies for steampunk lovers of any age.
Family-Friendly Steampunk Movies (animated)
Igor (2008) – A story focused on Igor, a mad scientist’s loveable assistant determined to prove his worth as a diabolical evil genius. Basically, Igor is just a cute little hunchback with bad intentions plagued by an inherently good heart. Steam factors include a town chalked full of mad scientists, gears and goggles at every turn, and some snazzy futuristic Victorian duds.
9 (2009) – Given the spark of life by their creator, nine rag dolls are constructed in order to save the world. Set in a post-apocalypse of evil machinery, every scene is as dark as it is fantastical. Each rag doll is outfitted with what could be considered goggles for their eyes, which is steampunk factor number one. When you throw in the stitchpunk (yea, I said it) scientist and the vast landscape of scrap metal and spare parts, I think it’s safe to say we’ve got some fairly steamy elements to appreciate in this film.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2002) – Sent on an expedition to explore Atlantis, historian Milo Thatch crew end up having to save the incredible city rather than merely explore it. Ulysses, the 1,000 foot submarine the crew uses to reach Atlantis is undeniably Jules Verne influenced. The story is also set in the early 1900’s yet their equipment and gadgets have a wonderful steamy type of retro-futurism to them.
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) – Sophie, a young girl working in her family’s shop, is transformed by a witch into an elderly woman. In efforts to break the spell she encounters many adventures and discovers the moving castle. The castle is basically a behemoth of cogs and gears, soaked in a magical steam bath and set out to dry on the backdrop of an alternate techno-fantasy type of world. Pretty steamy in my opinion.
Treasure Planet (2002) – Basically Treasure Island but change the backdrop to outer space, add a quirky little robot sidekick, and outfit the pirate ship with some updated technology. Now, how steampunk is this movie? Well, if you take an 1800’s galleon and remodel it into an airship while allowing your crew to keep their entire Victorian wardrobe… you’ve got yourself a steampunk kind of movie right there.
Family-Friendly Steampunk Movies (non-animated)
Return to Oz (2004) – Dorothy returns to Oz to find the land in shambles and her former gang of friends are no where to be found. She meets some new friends, including a talking chicken and a pumpkin man, who help her against the evil Princess Mombi and all her detachable heads. Steampunk elements? Tik Tok; ‘nuff said. Okay, I will elaborate… Tik Tok is a clockwork mechanical man powered by a winding key system, decked out entirely in brass and rivets. Tik Tok alone makes up for what the rest of the movie lacks in steam.
City of Ember (2008) – A story of a post-apocalyptic, generator-powered, underground world. The generator begins to fail and two children find clues left by the original builders of the city that will lead that back to the now-safe world above. The steampunk factor in this movie can be found mostly with the aged and outdated technology and the futuristic world it can no longer support.
Hugo (2011) – Hugo is an orphaned boy, abandoned by his uncle and left to fend for himself in a Paris train station. Throughout the movie he attempts to fix a broken automaton his father had rescued from a burning museum thinking the automaton contains a message for him. Set in 1931, this movie provides an historical type of setting with plenty of clockworks and gadgets and to keep the average steampunk tinkerer quite entertained.
Stardust (2007) – On a quest to prove his love to a beautiful young lady, the young man Tristan crosses into a fantasy kingdom in search of a fallen star. As it turns out, the star is actually a woman and three witches who would use the star to remain young are searching for her as well. With Victorian inspired sets and costumes, an alternate world full of magic, and an airship crewed by sky pirates there is no lack for steampunk influences in this movie.
The Golden Compass (2007) – A young girl in a parallel universe is on an adventure to save her friend along with other kidnapped children from an institution called the Magisterium. This is a movie full of fantastical elements such as soul-representing daemons, warrior polar bears, and flying witches. Set in an alternate Victorian type of world with advanced technological machines and gadgetry, The Golden Compass is almost the definition of steampunk.
While the level of steampunk influence for any movie is open to (vehement) debate, I think it’s safe to say these ten films all fall safely into the steampunk range for their own unique reasons. Some of them are clearly blatant expressions of the steampunk genre while others have more subtle undertones. In any case, I think all ten movies are excellent and are worth the watch regardless of their steamy charms.