Ray Bradbury, the iconic science fiction writer, has died at the age of 91. The author penned some of the most memorable fantasy stories of the 40s and 50s and helped elevate writing science fiction from pulp to a recognized art form. He is the author of more than 27 novels and story collections — most famously “The Martian Chronicles,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” — and more than 600 short stories.
In his tales, the author created vast and memorable worlds based in harrowing visions of the future or distant worlds. Understandably Hollywood frequently turned to the author’s vivid flights of fantasy for ideas. Here are some of the best movies and television shows based on Bradbury’s works:
1. It Came from Outer Space (1953)
This movie, based on Bradbury’s story — spaceship crashes in Arizona, aliens assume forms of Earthlings — was Invasion of the Body Snatchers before that 1956 classic (or the 1954 Jack Finney novel it was based on) even existed. Bonus points for the very good use of 3D from ace scifi director Jack Arnold.
2. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
This Eugene Lourie film was Godzilla before Godzilla: an atomic blast awakens a dinosaur that terrorizes New York City, with great early stop-motion effects work by Ray Harryhausen.
3. Moby Dick (1956)
Bradbury penned the screenplay for this adaptation of the classic Melville novel — despite the fact he’d never finished the book. He finally read it 150 times (according to one of his retellings), then shouted, “I am Herman Melville!” and polished off the script that day. Director John Huston drove Bradbury nuts toward the end, but the author got his revenge, writing a novel (Green Shadows, White Whale) and a short story (“Banshee”) about the experience.
4. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
The only work that Bradbury would call science fiction (he preferred the title “fantasy” for his books) the film was directed by French auteur Francois Truffaut and starred Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack and Oskar Werner. Based in a dystopian future, the story follows a fireman whose duty is to destroy all books, but begins to question his task.
5. The Illustrated Man (1969)
Based on Bradbury’s novel, the movies’ primal tattooed dude (Rod Steiger), whose “skin illustrations” give visions of the future to those who look at them. Directed by Jack Smight.
Rock Hudson, Bernadette Peters, and Roddy McDowell are sent to Mars to colonize the red planet against the wishes of the inhabitants. While according to one biographer, Bradbury found the miniseries “just boring,” the rest of us enjoyed watching the conflict between the Martians and the earthlings.
7. The Electric Grandmother (1982)
Based on Bradbury’s story “I Sing the Body Electric”, Maureen Stapleton stars as a gentle, ageless grandmother who brings love to a motherless little girl.
8. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
The Disney-made horror movie tells the dark tale of a mysterious traveling carnival that comes to town. Led by the ominously tattooed Mr. Dark, the circus lures townsfolk to their doom by promising to fulfill their childhood desires.
9. The Jar (1964 and 1986)
A short story about a rube who buys a weird specimen in a jar, this was filmed twice for Alfred Hitchcock TV shows: the first in 1964, directed by Norman Lloyd (the 97-year-old star of this year’s Cannes Film Festival); the second, in 1986, directed by Tim Burton (between the feature films Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice).
10. The Ray Bradbury Theater (1985-1992)
Each episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater started with the author in his office studying his mementos. He wrote 65 episodes, many of which were based on his stories, for the syndicated series that ran from 1985 to 1992.