Mad Scientists

 

“Now I know what it feels like to be God!”

My choices for the ten best Mad Scientists films

  • Bride of Frankenstein
  • Frankenstein
  • The Invisible Man
  • Altered States
  • Jurassic Park
  • Son of Frankenstein
  • From Beyond
  • Re-Animator
  • The Fly
  • Island of Lost Souls

Ah, the wild egos and bizarre experiments of the mad scientist. He’s been a mainstay of both horror and science fiction  (notice that this list falls under both genres) since talking pictures began. For the ’30s and ’40s, almost all science fiction involved mad scientists.

I have mixed feeling about this subgenre. So many good movies are part of it, but it is fundamentally very conservative. The films are seeped in a fear of science, change, and advancement of any kind. They applaud ignorance and proclaim that both morality and safety require humans to cling to the status quo. The best Mad Scientist films avoid the proselytizing and find something less restrictive to say.

Mad Scientists are motivated either out of evil or arrogance. When evil, the scientist normally is working either for his own petty gain, or to enslave the world, and his inventions are his tools. In the ’30s and ’40s, he was likely to use his creations to somehow sexually harass a beautiful girl that had caught his eye. It would be up to the non-scientific star of the movie to rescue her.

The arrogant scientist is often trying to help the world, but his experiments end up bringing ruin to him instead.  These latter scientists are split between those who experiment on themselves, and those who experiment on (or create) others. Either way, it doesn’t work out well. While the evil scientist is rarely the star of the film, the arrogant one usually is. He is warned by more level-headed colleagues, and by a love interest, to give up his dangerous and blasphemous experiments, but he is too obsessed. He is an addict, and knowledge (knowledge that man should never gain) is his drug.

Through the ’60s, mad scientists tended to work alone in secret labs, but in recent years, with a realization that most scientific research is done by teams, the mad scientist has lost his lonely status. Instead, there are mad scientific organizations. In films that use the updated structure, the arrogance (or evil) no longer belongs to the person doing the experiments, but to a company or government official with authority over the insane project.  Often, the scientists will attempt to stop the project, but the less educated boss, with dreams of company bonuses or power through a new weapon, will push on to the bitter end.

For a film to fit in the Mad Scientist category, there must be a mad scientist at the center of the film, not just science-gone-wrong (as in 28 Days or The Omega Man) or a mad scientist off in the wings (Day of the Dead).

This list has a more than average number of films on other lists, because so many of the Classic Horror films were Mad scientist pictures.

Mad Scientist Films:

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Mad Scientist Films Sorted by Year:

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