The Science Fiction Genre: Film Codes and Conventions Explained

Dune - So The Theory Goes - Science Fiction

Humanity has always been entertained by the thought of ‘What If?’ Even from the early days of cinema, science fiction has been a genre of adventure and excitement, a place to break new ground, both in storytelling and with moviemaking techniques. From extra-terrestrial life to alternate realities, science fiction is where anything can happen.

History of Science Fiction

Widely considered the first science fiction film, La Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) by Georges Méliès revolves around a group of people who travel to the Moon, and escape the clutches of lunar inhabitants. This was the first time film had captured anything of that scale and was heavily influenced by Jules Verne’s novels Around the Moon and From the Earth to the Moon. Shot in 1902, sci-fi took off and has become a pillar of cinema.

During the 1950s, films like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet became hits, with many studios producing multitudes of sci-fi films to capitalise on its popularity. Throughout the next several decades, science fiction has played home to Oscar winners, technological breakthroughs and rich ideas.


Science fiction films often share several themes, from a long list of ideas and characters. Common themes include technological advances, space travel, distant worlds, extra-terrestrial life and humanity’s struggle. It is not uncommon for the genre to blend with others such as horror, romance, and adventure. Lead characters will often be the intrepid hero, like Star Wars’ Han Solo or someone initially out of their depth who rises to the occasion, such as Alien’s Ripley.

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