Daleks. Wookies. Tribbles. The diversity of sci-fi on film and TV is so rich it could fill an entire quadrant. In a universe that's still expanding, here's a brief history of highlights, milestones, and oddities.
A Trip to the Moon"] (1902) Georges Melies' groundbreaking silent-film journey to the moon á la Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. One small step for man, one giant step for cinema.
Metropolis (1926) Fritz Lang releases his silent-film masterwork about a futuristic hypermechanized city. So visually stunning, it was rereleased in 1984 with a spacey rock & roll soundtrack.
Things to Come (1936) Based on H.G. Wells' prescient novel, this ambitious epic predicts World War II but guesses it will last until 1950.
Flash Gordon (1936) The proto- space cowboy bursts onto the scene in his trademark phallic spaceship. Film serials would rule sci-fi into the 1940s.
The War of the Worlds (1938) Before doing magic tricks on the Tonight Show, Orson Welles scares the bejesus out of the entire nation with an earth-shattering radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' classic Martian-invaders story.
Captain Video (1949) TV's first spaceman beams onto the airwaves. His prop budget is only $25 a week, but he can still afford an Opticon Scillometer, Cosmic Ray Vibrator, and Atomic Rifle.
Destination Moon (1950) This Oscar winner (for special effects) becomes one of the first sci-fi films to be based on realistic contemporary science. Revived the genre for the '50s.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) This anti-arms race parable still holds up in the post-Cold War era. What's not to love about a movie that introduces the phrase ''Klaatu barada nikto'' into the sci-fi lexicon?
The Thing (1951) Forget John Carpenter's schlocky 1982 effects-heavy remake. Producer Howard Hawks' spare, atmospheric original gives the sci-fi genre a touch of class-despite that carrot-from-outer-space alien.
This Island Earth (1955) Klingons weren't the first aliens with big foreheads. This big-budget spacefest introducing the brainoid Metalunians is among the first sci-fi pictures to feature lavish sets and extravagant F/X.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) Action director Don Siegel takes Cold War paranoia and the sci-fi genre to new heights with this classic pod-people horror story. So chilling, it's been remade twice in 1978 and 1994.
Forbidden Planet (1956) MGM's elegant update of Shakespeare's The Tempest set on a planet called Altair IV makes Robby the Robot as big a '50s film icon as Rock Hudson.
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) Sci-fi goes existential with an introspective little movie about a man who downsizes to oblivion.
The Twilight Zone (1959) Rod Serling's anthology TV series not only visits the Fifth Dimension; it showcases such budding young acting talents as Robert Redford and William Shatner.
The Jetsons (1962) Prime time's first animated sci-fi series makes life in the 21st century look almost livable.
Dr. Who (Britain 1963, U.S. 1978) This TV show is almost as old as its hero a regenerating Time Lord who's still traveling around the cosmos in an old London police box.
The Outer Limits (1963) ABC unveils a Twilight Zone wannabe. Most memorable for its haunting opening credits (''There is nothing wrong with your TV set .We are controlling transmission '').
Lost in Space (1965) CBS sends a typical sitcom family hurling into space. Stars sci-fi's cutest robot the 'bubbleheaded booby'' whose most famous line is ''Warning! Warning, Will Robinson!''
Star Trek (1966) NBC launches the starship Enterprise and unwittingly unleashes what will become the greatest sci-fi hit of all time.
Barbarella (1967) Yes, that's Ted Turner's wife in space-age minis. The ultimate psychedelic sci-fi movie.
Planet of the Apes (1968) Charlton Heston makes slapping his neck into an art form in this simian social satire. Spawned four sequels and two TV series.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) The trip of the decade, Stanley Kubrick's seminal epic celebrates the beauty and banality of technology with visual effects that are unprecedented in their elaborateness. Finally, sci-fi for grown-ups.
Star Wars (1977) The first of George Lucas' trilogy sucks up money like a black hole and changes the look of sci-fi forever with its hyperrealistic F/X. Ushers in the cosmic video-game era.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Steven Spielberg's New Age answer to paranoid '50s space movies with nice aliens, for a change. Called the greatest movie ever made by science-fiction guru Ray Bradbury.
E.T. (1982) Steven Spielberg does it again. The alien looks a bit like a removed gallbladder, but he's still one of the big box-office champs of all time.
Blade Runner (1982) Film noir meets the space age in this gritty, groundbreaking cult favorite about replicant existentialism.
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) Even more popular than the original television series, this sequel brings feature film-quality effects to the small screen.
Terminator 2 (1991) One word: morphing. Tim Purtell and Benjamin Svetkey