Visual Design in 80's - 90's Science Fiction


Sr Member
I've been struggling to put into words exactly what i'm trying to say with this topic. Like most people here I love movies, and I love Sci-Fi in particular. I enjoy seeing these unique worlds brought to life through a camera lens and while I have no particular preference for a certain era (I enjoy modern movies equally as much as older movies) I can't help but notice a consistently striking aesthetic in Science-Fiction films shot during the 1980's and 1990's.

The sets had a strong mechanical theme, sometimes dirty and lived-in but always very raw. Smoke and steam, dripping water, grease, thick bulkheads, and everything covered in corporate logos down to the seat cushions. At some point this changed and our idea of the future became clean and white, shiny and aluminium. Sterile. That's not to say there wern't films doing this before, 2001 A Space Odyssey comes to mind, but there was a clear pattern during these 20 years that suddenly and drastically changed.

Take for example these handful of films. Obviously technology advances and changes, but I think there's more to it than just technological advancement. At some point filmmakers decided that the future would no longer be harsh and gritty, but instead sleek and polished. Today there are very few Sci-Fi movies that subvert this trend. These films are just a few examples I quickly put together, but there are dozens more that can be highlighted. Perhaps i'm rambling, but I just admire this particular era of unique visual design.




Event Horizon




The Mad Professor

Master Member
I think it boils down to a design based on the setting itself. Basically, is the future an idealized future, or one that is an extension of us now. Is it where we WILL be, or where we WANT to be?


Master Member
No doubt the sci fi of the 80's, especially films like Alien, informed the look of space films to this day as industrial and cold with muted tones. Guardians of the Galaxy is the first giant departure and infused sci-fi with rich colors we haven't seen since the 1950's.
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