My daughter and I binge watched this cartoon a long time ago and I feel like this episode of a children’s cartoon explained “all the things” and so I share it with you.
“You must balance yourself before you can balance the world.”
The world is a funny place. You might be spreading the word of peace, tolerance, and kindness, but there’s a chance that others might not be so welcoming of your message. You have a message you want to spread, but you need to be safe in order to keep fighting the good fight out there.
Safety can mean a lot of things, to a lot of different people. Each of us has a different tolerance to the challenges that surround us and seemingly varying degrees of threat levels to be concerned about. But no one thinks that there’s going to be an incident at a type of event until there is one. So here are some good things to keep in mind (not obsess about, mind you) while you’re out there trying to do good for the world.
Steampunk is a genre of fiction where technology advancements are steam powered, rather than electricity or nuclear powered. The term itself came in 1987 from K. W. Jeter, but the genre of fiction, and even of gadgetry in film had started long before that. I’ve always been drawn to Steampunk. The Victorian age, which much of Steampunk centers around, saw humanity grasping to understand the massive leaps made in the Age of Enlightenment, equal to the repercussions from the advances made in the Renaissance.
Steampunk was before the dirt and grit brought about from the industrial revolution. This was art nouveau meets science fiction. Less than 100 years after Gulliver’s Travels came Frankenstein, and less than 50 years later came Journey to the Center of the Earth by H.G. Wells. Prometheus gave us the fire to stoke our imaginations, push the boundaries, and connect what was in our heads to what was becoming reality. More refined than cyberpunk, more slapstick than spacey.
Babbage machines, electrical tinkeration, crystal-powered laser pistols, ingenious designers, a quick wit, and fabulous garb aren’t all that make up steampunk. One of my favorite parts of fiction genres is that they can take on different meanings for different people. While I may see something as Dieselpunk (you know, like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), others might see it as steampunk. Where I don’t look at post apocalyptic fiction as steampunk, if it’s got gadgets and Victorian-ish accents/attire, others do. So, my goal in this article is to provide some movies you can argue about for hours if you’d like. Or you can just enjoy them!
Let’s start off with the most vanilla of the steam punk movies. These are the ones that it would be hard to argue aren’t steampunk. This is because they appeal to the traditional view of what that means. Just throwing this out there before we get started, I’ve not yet seen a single flick that fully encompasses what Steampunk means to me (although the game Space: 1889 comes pretty darn close). But these get you on the right track…
Sherlock Holmes (2009): I think I’m putting this first because the two Sherlock Holmes movies best capture the spirit and ingenuity behind what steampunk means to me in a mass accessible fashion. While there are certainly other movies that do a better job of capturing the look and feel, Robert Downey Jr. in his lost brilliance detects, invents, and creates in the way that I’ve come to expect here. And the costumes are pretty fantastic.
Sherlock Holmes, A Game Of Shadows (2011): What I said earlier… But while I’ve got ya’ here, go ahead and check out Annedroids. It’s TV, so doesn’t fit in this series, but if you got an 8 year old, they’re sure to love it.
Hugo (2011): Clocks, trains, Paris in the fabulous 1930s, and then the mystery of a robot automaton. Gorgeous art nouveau, stunning cinematography, and great acting. A beautiful story, great acting, and magic in technology. Did I mention it’s a Scorsese movie?
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003): This was not a great movie. No really. It had potential, but it just missed the mark a little. Sean Connery was amazing, as always. But this movie just felt like it wasn’t 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Like maybe the screenplay missed the point of the comic maybe? The special effects were fun, the gadgetry was gadgetalicious, and the movie is still a better movie than 9 out of 10 things out there. There were velvet vests under topcoats with tails, knife fights, The Invisible Men, and of course, Captain Nemo. Not totally Steampunk, but the spirit is there and it’s worthy of being high up on the list.
The Time Machine (2002): Guy Pearce, Jeremy Irons, and an adventure that involves of course, going back in time. The iconic H.G. Wells book was a basis of the this movie that was a breaking point in a way for Guy Pearce. The story is of a man who travels in time to find a utopian future. But the future he finds is dark and frightening and not what was promised. The Time Machine was the first in a great genre of time travel books, and led to many a movie. But at the heart of the book was a love story. Regrettably, none of that really came through in this movie. It was nominated for the Golden Schmoes Worst Movie of the Year award and should have beaten out Rollerball. Reason being that Rollerball was supposed to be bad… These guys actually tried… But do check out the original movie. Much better.
Wild Wild West (1999): American Steampunk. It means cowboys, witty banter, and a little Will Smithian adventure. Artemis, trains, steam-powered robots, and a movie that ushered out the video cassette in favor of DVD in the same fashion that electricity replaced steam.
A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004): You could include Nanny McPhee here as well. Jim Carrey as Count Olaf in “a world built by imagination and ruled by invention.” Oh my Lemony Snicket’s!
City of Ember (2008): An underground Steampunk city, a map, Tim, er, I mean Tom Robbins, gadgets, adventure, and of course teenage bravery. A bit dystopian, but a fair enough Steampunk quotient.
The Golden Compass (2007): Polar bears in art deco armor, an aletheometer, an adventurating uncle, Nicole Kidman, an airship, and all the imagination. The very name Lyra screams Steampunk, but cossacks seal the deal.
Stardust (2007): One word: Airship. Not like Jefferson Starship, but like a blimp with De Niro, narrated by Ian McKellen, heroines including Kate Magian and Sienna Miller, and with Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer to boot. It’s a Neil Gaiman book, so it’s got street cred. But it kinda’ felt like there was just… too… much… going… on… Either way, if you haven’t seen it, it’s a great flick. And by great, I mean an ok movie that shoulda’ been great.
Zero Theorem (2013): I totally missed the theatrical release of this Terry Gilliam insta-classic and caught it on Prime. Some dystopian future, some cyberpunk, some artificial intelligence, but with plenty of strange and fanciful art nouveau scenes. Oh, and Matt Damon playing Management. Might as well just throw Time Bandits in there for fun…
Franklyn (2008): A young Sam Riley steals the show from a pompous Ryan Phillippe. More dystopian than Steampunk, but when there’s a cravat and a tophat, I just can’t help myself… Also a bit darker than I usually like my Steampunk. But that’s why it’s at the bottom of the Missionary section.
Pan (2015): What if Hugh Jackman were a slaver? Or if Hook was a flying ship piloting rapscallion? Peter Pan is no Young Indiana Jones like Hook, but he did never have to grow up (which obviously meant he never became Han Solo either). Instead, we have a fanciful look, full of gadgetry and imagination, of how Peter Pan came to be, well, Peter Pan.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968): Before Trent Reznor, Dick Van Dyke invented industrial music while driving one of the best gadgets from the 60s. Inventors, pesky kids, toys that are people that are toys, and flying cars…
The Last Airbender (2010): Just look at the kite in the show, or the second season and how it turned all kinds of Dieselpunk. The only electricity is thrown by firebenders. The steam-powered bad-guys in their ships and the almost-art-nouveau styles of the waterbenders. While critics didn’t seem to like the movie, I thought M. Night Shyamalan did a fantastic job. And I only wish there had been a follow-up, venturing deep into the other nations to end the war. At least it wasn’t The Sorcerer’s Apprentice…
Honorable Mention: Going Postal (2010), a TV mini-series about a Moist von Lipwig, a con artist turned postman, forced into the deed by a Lannister who hadn’t been impaled while on the crapper. A classic tale of an accidental hero, with tones of sepia and a fancifultude. Oh, and don’t forget all the Sherlock Holmes ever. More honorable mentions to Hellboy, although a bit too new for my tastes; but it does have Ron Perlman and comes to us from Guillermo del Toro, so there’s that…
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012): OK, Abe’s axe and the Washington monument have completely different meanings after you see this flick. Trade out the Victorian for Antebellum. And being from the South, I fully support the decision to do so…
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013): Before Jeremy Renner was Hawkeye without the purple costume, he was in *everything*. One of the interesting things about the Victorian era, is that it stood between belief in witches and when medieval fantasy was giving way to natural sciences. Hansel & Gretel are witch hunters, but with cool toys. There’s a little mysticism in a lot of Steampunk movies. This was a big, expensive movie. And Famke Janssen showed why she got cast as a Vampire in Hemlock Grove and as a witch of a woman in the Blacklist, stealing the show in a fury of evil (not a fury of Kung).
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (2016): Honestly, the inspiration for this article. I tried to decide whether this really matched as Steampunk. And what I came up with was kinda’. It’s about 2 decades too early, but offers a wonderful backdrop for a future Sense & Sensibilities & Zombies that is way more Steampunk. The dialog was slightly tweaked from the Jane Austin. But the fine manners are symbolic of the topcoats and cravats, the odd looking weaponry, the infusion of fighting skills from the orient, the beautiful dresses, the waltz, the large estates, and more. There isn’t gadgetry as much as there are zombies. But through it all is a refined and elegant pace that is unmistakably part of this genre.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992): I think Tom Waits was made for Steampunk. His vocals on movie soundtrack can be what the accoutrement of gear-laden goggles are to movies. Time on trains and the occasional mechanical backup hand don’t make a movie Steampunk all by themselves. And there is a lot more Keanu than Winona… Anthony Hopkins is like a cheesy Van Helsing. Speaking of Helsing, next…
Van Helsing (2004): Soon to be made into a TV series, Van Helsing is a monster hunter, with some pretty cool methods and weapons. It’s a bit more renaissance than the traditional steampunk, but it gets an honorable mention here. Mostly because of Kate Beckinsale. I think it also had that guy that played Wolverine, but more Beckinsale would have been better. Who, btw, gets to go from playing werewolf hunting vampire to vampire hunting werewolf lover/curer.
Victor Frankenstein (2015): Arguably, Mary Shelley created science fiction as we know it today. After losing her mother as a child, her half-sister, and a baby, Shelley wrote Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. A helluva way to deal with death. A number of movies have been made about the first real bring them back to life with science story. This movie is a look at the story from Igor’s perspective. But why it’s on this list is the fantastic Victorian-era wardrobes, the sets, the gadgetry, and the dialog.
Honorable Mentions: I, Frankenstein (2014): Starts out closing in on our target, but way too modern for too much of the movie. Harry Potter (all the movies – from 2001 to 2011): Fantasy, but gadgets. Such gadgets. And such ingenuity. But I don’t like magic in my Steampunk. So there’s that… Also Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe and Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian because they left the period that we see so much in Steampunk, and because… imagination… and all the imagination…
Honorable Mentions Part Deux: Jonah Hex (too American) and Iron Sky (Nazis are basically always Dieselpunk). Oh, and Tai Chi Hero as representation for the one of what I’m guessing are many martial arts inspired Steampunk flicks.
Post-Apocalyptic, But Hey, It’s Got Cool Gear And Costumes
The City Of Lost Children (1995): Ron Perlman was excellent (as usual) in this post-apocalyptic look at stealing the dreams of a child to reverse the effects of aging. Low on dialog, high on creeptitude. But too much electricity and not enough steam to go into the missionary category.
Mad Max (1979-2015): More post-apocalyptic diesel-punk (and when I say diesel, I mean very black, oily diesel) than anything else, but there are serious moments in Fury Road and everything Tina Turner, that show some serious Steampunk->Dieselpunk costumery. A bit less, um, dialog than you’d expect. But again, not exactly in the missionary category, due to all that.
John Carter (2012): OK, so John Carter is a Civil War vet. And he’s on Mars. And the movie tanked. But watch it with your 3d steampunked goggles on and it’s actually pretty darn Steampunk. Except the muscles. And the aliens. But Disney lost so much money on this thing that I’m pretty sure every genre can claim a little bit of it. Even romantic comedy!
Firefly and Serenity (2005): OK, so cowboys kinda’ work. But in the future, and in space. So clearly nerd-genre-bending… So good that there’s a monthly rumor that Netflix or Amazon are going to redo it. But after Dollhouse, there’s seemingly really nothing left of Joss Whedon to give to this show. It put him on the map. It was a special show in a special time. But now that Nathan Fillion looks more like Donald Trump than Mal, I don’t see the show coming back… If it was more Victorian than cowboy, it would be one of the best steampunk anythings, but it’s not. And I doubt the ship is powered on steam…Frankenstein’s Army (2013): Nazis are always Dieselpunk. Nazis recreating Frankenstein experiments should just make for good Dieselpunk movies. This one felt like it was supposed to be somewhat Dieselpunk but just came across as Hellraiser with Nazis. If you do like it (unlikely unless you’re using it as a drinking game), also check out Army of Frankenstein (also 2013) and then seriously question your tastes in movies – and likely your choices in life… Note, Army of Frankenstein also features… Time Travel!
The Mutant Chronicles (2008): This genre-bending movie features Ron Perlman and the Highlander, so it must be not-awesome, right?!?! Dystopian future, spaceships, WWI-style fighting, but with a boy and his imagination at the center.
Honorable Mention: All the Dune, just ’cause.
Old, Weird Steampunk-ish Movies
A Trip to the Moon (1902): Georges Méliès could easily have been the greatgreatgrandfather of steampunk having made a Steampunk movie at the turn of the century – and not this century, last century… There’s no electricity in this flick, there are smokestacks in the background, there aerospace ships flying into the moon, ’cause we hadn’t really imagined much beyond blimp air ships to get us to the moon before this rocket shot into the eye of the moon…
The Time Machine (1960): Plot and all, as discussed earlier – but with moar George Pal!
The Time Machine (1978): Made for tv (and it shows) version of The Time Machine. Awful. During the advent of the PC, so the best part of this one is that you get the clackety of an old keyboard.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988): Terry Gilliam at it again. Even Brazil and Time Bandits had bits of the alternate science that is important to Steampunk. But an airship, a band of misfits, and the costumes in this one nailed the genre best.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959): Remade with Encino Man, the 1959 classic has much more of the original Jules Verne intent. There was so much left to be explored in those days, and so much imagination to be applied. Before we could make an MRI of rock, we had Drizzt roaming caves with other Drow. Subterranean fiction still finds its way into the hearts and minds of moviegoers (think Mole Man from Spiderman), but none did it with balloons and mastodons and the geological panache that Verne brought to the table. And James Mason and Pat Boone in this movie (and others like it) inspired a generation of scientists.
Captain Nemo and the Underwater City (1969): There’s no better Nemo than Robert Ryan. No better ship than the Nautilus. The costumes alone are fantastic, but the sets, the pace, the dialog, and of course Chuck Connors make this a slow, yet fantastic rendition of the Verne classic.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954): Currently in pre-production by Bryan Singer, Kirk Douglas as Ned and James Mason as Nemo kicked the crap out of the original Fantastic Voyage. Eat your heart out Buck Rogers and Star Trek, exploration never looked so good. This sparked a remake every 10-20 years. A trend only likely to continue given the wonder of the story.
Around the World In 80 Days (2004): Jackie Chan pairs well with Jules Verne to be oh so Steampunk. More Shanghai Knights than Around The World In Eighty Days, the remake had better effects than the 1956 classic. Although the classic did sport Pith helmets, which can be combined with a number of gadgets to protect from plasmid nullifiers…
Master of the World (1961): Everything Jules Verne kinda’ works. Especially when the irony of a blimpy airship driven by a pacifist blowing up earthly military targets. Vincent Price is fantastic. And Bronson doesn’t bring a big gun, which is probably for the best.
The Island Of Dr Moreau (1977): While it lacks the trinketry, it comes with a mad scientist making were(ish)-things. The remake had way too much computery whatnot to be Steampunkish, but it did sport Brando… So there’s that… I’ll go ahead and throw in the Island Of Lost Souls (1932) here, ’cause they feel right together. #pantherwomanftw
Arsène Lupin (1932): While this movie was remade eventually, it never got Steampunky enough to be on the main list. It’s refined though, with burning stagecoaches. It’s cerebral enough, just without the requisite fantasy and gadgetry. But a good flick. Gentleman thief, master of disguise, and although he’s French, a real ladies man. He’s the opposite of Sherlock Holmes and a remake with mondo gadgetry would be just wonderful in my book. Like Robin Hood, but French. Like Jaque Clouseau, but cooler.
Time After Time (1979): H.G. Wells, Jack The Ripper, yada yada yada.
Honorable mention: The Wizard of Oz (1939): OK, there’s a tin man, a wizard behind a curtain who turns out to be a gadgetierre, about as much symbolism as you can handle, and a balloon. But, it’s the 1930s, it’s the Great Depression, and it just misses the mark to be Steampunk. Now, go forward a few years and Oz the Great and Powerful makes much more sense. But of course, The Wizard of Oz was a great movie so it goes first. Also, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and then Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), because while they have electricity, they have gadgets and of course Oompa Loompas… And there’s a fable. Fables are important… While we’re on the subject of Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean has a pretty high Steampunk quotient… While we’re on the subject of oceans, Waterworld was awful. While we’re on the subject of nothing, don’t forget The Illusionist.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001): It’s Disney and it’s cheesy. But the kids will enjoy it and you might not hate it as much as you hate a few of the other movies you watch…
Steam Boy (2004): Classic story of whether the good or bad steampunkers get the next big advance. Kinda’ like Finding Dory. But with jetpacks instead of ocean and moar Akira instead of cute fishies.
9 (2009): Post-apacolyptic sock puppets strewn with gadgetry turned out to be a little too creepy for my kiddo, but yours might enjoy it… I liked it, in all its sepia-loud-monstrous-momentuseses-plus-svords.
Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa (2005): According to Neal Stephenson, Isaac Newton was an alchemist trying to transmute lead to gold. Which would explain why he was put in charge of the London Mint. Edward Elric (not to be confused by Moorcock’s Elric) is an alchemist in a very science vs. alchemy kind of way. Moments of Steampunk, but by and large a bit too fantasy for all that. I mention the cartoon movie here, but more it’s all about the cartoon series, and the other one, and then the other one… FYI, in case you missed this, pre-production has begun yet again for a Full Metal Alchemist movie. For about the fifth time.
Disney’s Treasure Planet (2002): Pirate air ships, robot buddies, rocket surfboards, cyborg shipmates, and of course, Disney. My daughter enjoyed this one more than I did.
Howl’s Moving Castle (2004): Plenty of options in the cartoonverse for Steampunk. There’s too much magic here but a flying castle is hard to overlook…
April and the Extraordinary World (2015): With a classic anime look and feel, here we find a world stuck in the age of steam. There’s a talking cat, multiple Eiffel Towers, flying ships, gas masks, and the invention of electricity to free mankind from stifled mothers of invention.
Honorable Mention: Castle In The Sky (1986), the proof is in the title and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
And honorable mention to all the Dr. Who ever.
So, in summary, there are some good flicks here. But there’s nothing good about this…
Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the LARPing type who are content to rub-n-buff Nerf guns into gear-driven oscillators, it’s that there’s never a shortage of argumenting. So, if you feel the need to point out the more daft of my references, or how glaringly (and surely purposefully) omitted your favorite cinematic treasure, then please, feel free to comment on my doltish oblivion.
Had the idea for this one during a yoga class the other day. It starts out like this:
This may sound a little surprising, but yoga and business have a lot in common. Yoga teaches us about depth and focus. But as I’ve learned, yoga can also provide valuable lessons about how to successfully run a business. And not just in regards to emotional IQ. Here are some of the top lessons that I’ve brought to how I do business from my yoga practice.
So you don’t like that one post I wrote 9 years ago? Or the one from two days ago? Or a whole series of articles I wrote because they aren’t pertinent to you? Or because you disagree with my opinion (I don’t put a ton of opinions on here btw)?
Keep in mind, this is a blog. I’ll write about what interests me, or what’s on my mind. That might be Rainbow Dash fan fiction. Or how much I identified with a character in a movie or video game recently. Or how to do IFS-style loops and arrays in Powershell when translating some logic from Bash to Powershell. Or how to repair a volume in OS X. You can read it, or not… I enjoy writing and I’ll bet most people will encounter something useful here, but not everything will appeal to everyone. And that’s fine. For both of us.
What I do care about: Mistakes. Even if it’s an old article, I’d like to indicate when the tech has changed. But keeping up with 4,000+ articles is hard, and I can’t know when each needs to either be forked into a second article that’s current or when I need to indicate a version number. Or if I’m just wrong. It happens… Or even grammatical issues with articles. I care about all of that.
In fact, I might even be willing to make others editors here, and am always willing to accept guest content and recommendations for articles (I get about one a week and write about 80% of what people ask me to write). Use the comments as you wish. But please nice when letting me know there are mistakes or outdated content. I make nothing off this site and with the high load of traffic, it does cost a pretty sum to maintain, after all.