Back to the Knowledge Plexus Page
Back to The Plexus Home Page


 

Science Fiction and Horror Movie
Origins

Bruce G. Marcot
updated 10 December 2017


Where do ideas come from, for science fiction movies (and TV shows, for that matter)?

Here, I have traced the origins of some popular or interesting movies and shows.  Call them precursors, or inspirations, or inchoate notions ... but these origins are more than just faint semblances of what was later developed.

I do not include here obvious remakes of earlier movies, such as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers originally released in 1956 and remade in 1978 ... or movies remade as camp versions of more serious prior incarnations, such as The Incredible Shrinking Woman made in 1981 starring Lily Tomlin, as a comedic retread of the serious, original The Incredible Shrinking Man of 1957.

Whether the successors to these origins constitute homages or rip-offs, you decide.

And see if you can identify some origins of your own.  (Also see some other weird movie origins of urban legends and major current issues.)

Note:  some entries below contain plot spoilers.
(New entries are appended to the end of the table below.)

 

Origins
 
More Recent Movie 
or TV Show
Origins

The Terminator (1984)
A human-looking, apparently unstoppable cyborg is sent from the future, and another soldier also comes from the 
future to try to stop it.
   

"Soldier," Season 2, Episode 1, of the original TV series The Outer Limits
first aired September 19, 1964
Two soldiers from the future are thrust back through time to the present day to battle one another.
  
The Core (2003)
The Earth's core stops spinning and the only way to save the planet is for a team to ride a vehicle to drill down to the center of the Earth and detonate nuclear bombs to set it spinning again.

Also:
"Fallout," Season 7, Episode 14, of the TV series Stargate SG-1, 
first aired January 23, 2004
  
An alien planet will explode unless a team can ride a vehicle to drill down into the planet and detonate a bomb to stop a runaway explosion.
    

Unknown World (1951)
To save the world's population from nuclear war, scientists ride in a gigantic drilling machine vehicle for an expedition to the center of the earth. 
Poltergeist (1982)
A family's suburban house is haunted when a little girl gets sucked into another dimension and her mother rescues her by being held in our dimension with a rope. 
   
"Little Girl Lost," Season 3, Episode 26, of the original TV series The Twilight Zone
first aired March 16, 1962
A little girl gets sucked into another dimension in her suburban home and the father rescues her by entering the other dimension, while being held by a neighbor friend. 
   
Alien (1979)
A monstrous alien makes itself known as a stowaway on an interstellar spacecraft and it kills the crew one by one; it is finally killed by the crew opening a hatch and it is sucked out into space. 
   
It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)
The first manned expedition to Mars is decimated by an unknown life form which stows away on the rescue ship and attacks the crew one by one; it is killed by the crew opening a hatch and it is asphyxiated. 
   
Star Trek (1966-1969 TV series)
An interstellar spacecraft is on exploratory expeditions, with a captain, a science officer, and medical doctor as the primary characters.
   
Forbidden Planet (1956)
There are many parallels here!  The interstellar spacecraft is crewed by a captain, a science officer, and medical doctor as the primary characters; they use "phaser" type pistols; there is a talking robot/computer; the captain "gets the girl," etc.
   
Cube (1997)
Seven complete strangers of widely varying personality characteristics find themselves inexplicably trapped in a cube. 
   
"Five Characters in Search of an Exit," Season 3, Episode 14, of the original TV series The Twilight Zone, first aired December 22, 1961
Five complete strangers of wildly varying origins find themselves inexplicably trapped in a cylinder.
   
X-Men (2000)
A new race of humans emerges with extraordinary powers; they are shunned by the rest of humankind and tutored by a professor, and some wish to take over the world. 

(The X-Men originated with Marvel comics, 
first appearing in September 1963.)

"The Children's Room," Season 1, Episode 22, of the original TV series Tales of Tomorrow
first aired February 29, 1952
A professor discovers that his son and other intellectually advanced youths are mutants being groomed to assist an alien race in taking over the Earth. 

Also:
"The Choice," Season 1, Episode 7, of the TV series remake of The Outer Limits
first aired April 28, 1995
A young girl has out-of-control psychokinetic powers and is tutored by a young nanny with similar powers.

Also:
"Mute," Season 4, Episode 5, of the original TV series The Twilight Zone, first aired January 31, 1963
A young girl is able to communicate only by metal telepathy, and is guided by two teachers with similar powers. 
   

Dollhouse (TV series, 2009-2010)
People are kept in a laboratory against their will and their minds are controlled by drugs. 
   
The Prisoner (TV series, 1967-1968)
People are kept in a small village against their will and their minds are controlled by coercion. And sometimes by drugs.
   
Armageddon (1998)
An asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and only a team of roughneck oil drillers serving as astronauts can save the day by drilling into it and detonating a nuclear bomb; one roughneck remains behind to detonate the bomb.
   
"Asteroid," Season 1, Episode 8, of the original TV series Men Into Space
first aired November 25, 1959
Astronauts land on an asteroid headed for Earth and plant a bomb deep into the interior to destroy it; the bomb is set to explode in 10 minutes, one astronaut suffers sun blindness and cannot return and is destroyed with the asteroid as he saves the day.
   
Marooned (also released as Space Travelers) (1969)
Three astronauts are marooned in their orbiting space capsule when it malfunctions, and another capsule is launched in a desperate and partially successful attempt to rescue them. 
   
"Edge of Eternity," Season 1, Episode 9, of the original TV series Men Into Space
first aired December 2, 1959
Astronauts aboard a rocket circling Earth are marooned when the vehicle malfunctions, and another rocket is launched in a desperate and successful attempt to rescue them.
   
The 6th Day (2000)
A man meets an illegally-made clone of himself and battles him to save the world.  The clone takes over his family and gets close to his wife and child but will die because of an abnormality.
   
"The Duplicate Man," Season 2, Episode 13, of the original TV series The Outer Limits
first aired December 19, 1964
A man makes an illegal clone of himself to destroy a monster.  The clone gets close to his wife but will die because of a poison in its blood.
   
The Lawnmower Man (1992)
A scientist makes his simple-minded
handyman into a homicidal genius.
   
The Mad Monster (1942)
A mad scientist makes his simple-minded
handyman into a homicidal werewolf.
   
"The Human Factor," Season 1, Episode 8, of the original TV series The Outer Limits
first aired November 11, 1963
A psychiatrist invents a machine to 
switch minds with a patient.

Also:
"Turnabout Intruder," Season 3, Episode 24, of the original TV series Star Trek, 
first aired June 3, 1969
A paranoid scientist switches minds with Kirk.

Also:
"Second Thoughts," Season 3, Episode 2, of the remade TV series The Outer Limits,
first aired January 19, 1997
A dying scientist implants his mind into a
mentally deficient subject by using a
machine he invented.
   

The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936)
A scientist invents a machine that switches
minds between two people.
"The Adjustment Bureau" (2011)
A man encounters a new reality where time has frozen, and reality is being guided by strange men of The Adjustment Bureau.

(Based on a short story by Phillip K. Dick.)

"A Matter of Minutes," Season 1, Episode 15 (Segment 3), of the TV series The New Twilight Zone, first aired January 24, 1986
A couple awaken to find that time has frozen, and reality is being rebuilt and moved ahead one moment at a time by workers led by a man claiming to be the supervisor of the maintenance of time.

(According to Wikipedia, "This episode is based on the short story "Yesterday Was Monday", by Theodore Sturgeon 
first published in June 1941.")
   

"ZZZZZ," Season 1, Episode 18, of the original TV series The Outer Limits
first aired January 27, 1964
A scientist who studies bee language hires a
beautiful young woman who turns out to
be the queen bee.  She wants to mate and
expand her colony as a bee-woman, and
she kills others who get in her way.
   
The Wasp Woman (1959)
A scientist who invents a youth serum from wasps 
engages a woman to test the product.  She turns
into a wasp-woman and kills others who get in her way.
"Arena," Season 1, Episode 18, of the original TV series Star Trek, 
first aired January 19, 1967
Captain Kirk is abducted by a powerful alien and forced to fight another aggressive alien.  If Kirk loses, he will die and his adversary released unharmed.

 

 

"Fun and Games," Season 1, Episode 27, of the original TV series The Outer Limits
first aired March 30, 1964
Two earthlings are abducted by a powerful alien and forced to fight other aggressive aliens.  If the earthlings lose, they will die and Earth will be destroyed, and their adversaries will be released unharmed.

(But note that the Wikipedia entry for the Star Trek episode cites the origin as a short story "Arena" written by Fredric Brown and published in 1944; this may be the true origin of both the Outer Limits and Star Trek episodes.)
  

"A Kind of Stopwatch," Season 5, Episode 3, of the original TV series The Twilight Zone, first aired October 18, 1963
An unscrupulous man acquires a special stopwatch from a mysterious benefactor that freezes the entire world by stopping time.  He uses it to commit theft.  
At the end, due to circumstances beyond his control, he is stuck for the rest of his life in a world frozen in time.

Also:
Clockstoppers (2002)
A teenager uses a wristwatch to stop time and engage in mischievous affairs.
   

"All the Time in the World," Season 1, Episode 37, of the original TV series Tales of Tomorrow
first aired June 13, 1952
An unscrupulous man acquires a special bracelet from a mysterious benefactor that freezes the entire world by speeding up his time.  He uses it to commit theft.  
At the end, due to circumstances beyond his control, he is stuck for the rest of his life in a world frozen in time.

 

The Dark Knight (2008)
Playboy Bruce Wayne becomes Batman and battles The Riddler by creating and donning a crime-fighting costume and iconic bat-winged hood and mask, and wishes the attention of his childhood sweetheart.
The Black Knight (1954)
A blacksmith, wishing the attention of a nobleman's daughter, creates a persona of a warrior by creating and donning a suit of armor with a winged helmet.

(Of course, the original Batman comics began in 1939.)
  

"The Dummy," Season 3, Episode 33, of the original TV series The Twilight Zone, first aired May 4, 1962
A ventriloquist fights with his dummy whom he
treats as if it is alive.  The outcome is that
the dummy becomes the domineering ventriloquist, and
the ventriloquist becomes the submissive dummy.

Also:
"Caesar and Me," Season 5, Episode 28, of the original TV series The Twilight Zone, first aired April 10, 1964
A struggling ventriloquist turns to crime
at the sinister urgings of his suddenly-talking dummy.
   

Skit with Paul Winchell and his dummy Jerry Mahoney, in an episode of the variety show Cavalcade of Stars, June 3, 1950
A ventriloquist fights with his dummy whom he
treats as if it is alive.  The outcome is that
the dummy becomes the domineering ventriloquist, and the
ventriloquist becomes the submissive dummy.
   
Real Steel (2011) 
 In the future, robot boxing becomes a major sport.  A struggling promoter hopes that a used robot will win the championship and will thereby help the promoter to win the love and respect of his son.
   
"Steel," Season 5, Episode 2, of the original TV series The Twilight Zone, first aired October 18, 1963
In the future, robot boxing becomes a major sport.  A struggling promoter cannot repair his robot boxer and instead, disguised as a new robot, replaces him in the ring and wins enough to repair his robot.
  
Child's Play (1988)
(and numerous "Chucky" sequels)
 
A mother is mortally threatened by her son's 
new talking and possessed doll, "Chucky."

  
"Living Doll," Season 5, Episode 6, of the original TV series The Twilight Zone, first aired
November 1, 1963
A mean man is mortally threatened by his stepdaughter's
new talking and possessed doll, "Talking Tina."
  
The Matrix (1999)
(and sequels)

The world is revealed to be a computer-generated simulation.  People are brought into the artificial world by jacking into the computer system within individual body pods.
   
"Dreams For Sale," Season 1, Episode 2 (Segment 2), of the TV series The New Twilight Zone, first aired October 4, 1985
The world is revealed to be a computer-generated simulation.  People are brought into the artificial world by jacking into the computer system within individual body pods.

Also:
Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (1985)
A worker is mandated to take a "cyber vacation"
in a computer-generated simulation world.
He must defeat enemies there to escape the system.
     

Harsh Realm (1999)
(TV series)
The world is revealed to be a computer-generated 
simulation to a soldier consigned to fight there.
People are brought into the artificial world
by jacking into pods.
(NOTE:  This short-lived TV series was shown
for only 3 episodes before FOX removed it from
the air.  A total of 9 episodes has been filmed.
It was criticized as being too similar to The Matrix.
)
  
The Matrix (1999)
(and sequels)

The world is revealed to be a computer-generated simulation.  People are brought into the artificial world by jacking into the computer system within individual body pods.
  
Minority Report (2002)
In the future, a police unit arrests criminals
before they commit their crime, 
by use of "precogs" who can foresee the future.
An officer from the unit is accused of a future murder.
   
"A Stitch in Time," Season 2, Episode 1, of the TV series remake of The Outer Limits
first aired January 14, 1996
A physics professor and scientist murders criminals
before they commit their crime,
by traveling back in time before the crime is committed.
She is accused of the murders.
 
The Man From Earth (2007)
A college professor confesses to his colleagues that he is
centuries old despite his youthful appearance.
They disbelieve, then question him intensely.
He has a young lady as a love interest
but he knows it cannot last.
  
"Long Live Walter Jameson," Season 1, Episode 24, of the original TV series The Twilight Zone, first aired
March 18, 1960

A college professor confesses to his colleague that he is
centuries old despite his youthful appearance.
His colleague disbelieves, then questions him intensely.
He has a young lady as a love interest
but he knows it cannot last.
      
"The Enemy," Season 3, Episode 7, of the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, 
first aired November 4, 1989
  
Enterprise engineer Geordi LaForge gets stranded on a
stormy planet and meets a Romulan enemy warrior.
The two must reconcile their differences to
help each other survive. 

Also:
"Enemy Mine," Season 7, Episode 7, of the TV series Stargate SG-1, 
first aired July 25, 2003
  
On a foreign planet, an Earth soldier connects
with an alien and over time reconcile
their differences to mediate conflict
between their peoples.

   

Enemy Mine (1985)
An Earth soldier get stranded on an inhospitable
alien planet and meets a member of the enemy species.
The two must reconcile their differences to
help each other survive.

 

Indiana Jones and the 
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
  
An elder archeologist discovers a crystal skull 
in a remote jungle.
 The skull has the power to impart secret knowledge 
if stared into its eyes, which the archeologist has done, 
resulting in the archeologist being thought insane 
and being locked up.  
The skull is revealed to belong to a race of aliens.
Another archeologist comes to his rescue and together 
they return the skull to its original location whereby the 
elder archeologist's mind, and reputation, are restored.
  
"Crystal Skull," Season 3, Episode 21, of the TV series Stargate SG-1, first aired March 3, 2000
An elder archeologist discovers a crystal skull 
on a remote planet.
 The skull has the power to impart secret knowledge 
if stared into its eyes, which the archeologist has done, 
resulting in the archeologist being thought insane 
and being locked up.  
The skull is revealed to belong to a race of aliens.
Another archeologist comes to his rescue and together 
they return the skull to its original location whereby the 
elder archeologist's mind, and reputation, are restored.

  

Immediate Disaster
[a.k.a. Stranger From Venus] (1954)
A strange man appears at a boarding house
with odd ways.  He turns out to be from
Venus and comes in peace to help mankind.
He makes friends with a young lady,
played by Patricia Neal.
    
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  
 A strange man appears at a boarding house
with odd ways.  He turns out to be from
another planet and comes in peace to help mankind.
He makes friends with a young boy.  And his mom,
played by Patricia Neal.
    
"They Keep Killing Steed," Season 7, Episode 13, of the TV series The Avengers, first aired November 11, 1968
Enemies of the government are able to duplicate
the appearance of a government agent
by injecting their own agents with a formula and
recasting their facial features with a
metal helmet. 
"The Hundred Days of the Dragon," Season 1, Episode 2, of the original TV series The Outer Limits, first aired September 23, 1963
Enemies of the government are able to duplicate
the appearance of the President
by injecting one of their agents with a formula and
recasting his facial features with a
metal helmet.
"Behold, Ek," Season 2, Episode 3, of the TV series The Outer Limits, first aired October 3, 1964
A "mad" scientist invents a pair of special glasses,
and when worn, the wearer can view 
a 2-dimensional being invisible to others. 

 

"The Cheaters," Season 1, Episode 15, of the TV series Thriller, first aired 1960
A "mad" scientist invents a pair of special glasses, 
and when worn, the wearer can hear
the true thoughts of those he views, inaudible to others.
(From the short story by Robert Bloch)

Also:
13 Ghosts (1960)
A "mad" scientist invents a pair of special glasses, 
and when worn, the wearer can view 
ghosts invisible to others.
 

"Drive," Season 7, Episode 3, of the TV series Star Trek Voyager, 
first aired October 18, 2000
The Voyager crew enters into an inter-species
space-ship race.  Other contestants try
to sabotage their ship.

Also:
"Space Race," Season 7, Episode 8, of the TV series Star Gate SG-1, 
first aired August 1, 2003
The SG-1 team enters into an inter-species
space-ship race.  Other contestants try
to sabotage their ship.

 

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Young Anakin Skywalker enters into an inter-species
space-ship race. Other contestants try
to sabotage his ship.
Programmed to Kill (a.k.a. The Retaliator)
(1987)
A female terrorist is transformed into a
cybernetic killing machine
for assassinating targets.
The Terminator (1984)
A cybernetic killing machine is sent
from the future to assassinate a target. 
The Omega Man (1971)
A disease kills everyone except for a few
psychotic-like people, and except for one man,
a doctor, who
fights them as they appear at night.
  
Also:
I Am Legend (2007)
A disease kills everyone except for a few
zombie-like people, and except for one man,
a scientist, who
fights them as they appear in the shadows, and who
races to find the cure.
  
The Last Man On Earth (1964)
A disease transforms everyone into zombie-like
vampires, except for one man,
a doctor, who
fights them as they appear at night, and who
races to find the cure.
Empire of the Ants (1977)
People exploring the Florida Everglades
are attacked by giant ants.
  
Them! (1954)
People in the desert southwest U.S.
are attacked by giant ants.
  
"Workforce: Part 1" and
"Workforce: Part 2"
Season 7, Episode 16, 
of the TV series Star Trek Voyager,
first aired February 21 & 28, 2001
The entire crew are kidnapped, and their memories are erased, they are forced to work in an alien industrial complex.
"Beneath the Surface," Season 4, Episode 10, of the TV series Stargate SG-1, 
first aired September 1, 2000
The team members are kidnapped, and forced to work in an alien power station, and have no memory of their former lives.
"Avatar," Season 8, Episode 6, of the TV series Star Gate SG-1, 
first aired August 13, 2004
Teal'c is stuck in a virtual reality simulation
of a battle, and faces death unless
he can defeat the increasingly-
difficult, computer-devised scenario.
"First Person Shooter," Season 7, Episode 13, of the TV series The X-Files, 
first aired February 27, 2000
Mulder is stuck in a virtual reality simulation
of a battle, and faces death unless
he can defeat the increasingly-
difficult, computer-devised scenario.
"Duet," Season 2, Episode 4, of the TV series Stargate: Atlantis, 
first aired August 5, 2005
McKay and Lt Cadman coexist in McKay's body.
The Man With Two Brains (1983)
A brain surgeon and a woman coexist
in the surgeon's body.

 

Some sources:
- Internet Movie Database
- TV episode guides for:  The Outer Limits (original series), The Outer Limits (remake), The Twilight Zone, Tales of Tomorrow, Men into Space, Star Trek (The Original Series), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stargate SG-1  

Back to the Knowledge Plexus Page
Back to The Plexus Home Page