The Birth of Both Sci Fi and SFX: A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès

Ed Newman
4 min readApr 1, 2019

How much do you know about this sci-fi epic and its creator?

It’s probably one of the most memorable scenes in movie history (right) from the 1902 sci-fi spectacle A Trip the the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la Lune). But how much do you know about this historic film and its director Georges Méliès? If you’re like me, probably very little. Here are several factoids and some of the connections they triggered for me.

Georges Méliès was a groundbreaking film maker who pioneered story telling in the new visual medium of motion pictures. Before Méliès films, moving pictures would show a horse prancing or a train rushing past, all new and exciting in 1900 but nothing substantive. The French director, however, carried the medium to a new level as a method of telling stories and A Trip to the Moon, at just under 13 minutes, in length really is quite a tale.

Méliès was a true original, like Stanley Kubrick, but also Kubrick’s antithesis. If we begin with The Killing, Kubrick’s output from 1956 to 1999 was eleven feature films. By way of contrast, the French director produced 520 films.

The novels of Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, were influential catalysts for A Trip to the Moon. According to The Village Voice, this film has been placed on the list of 100 Greatest Films of the 20th Century. (In 1902 it was probably the greatest.)

Like Alfred Hitchcock, the director Méliès frequently appears in many of his films. By “many” I mean 300, and in this film he is the leading character, Professor Barbenfouillis.

When I watched the first scene, in which a pandemonium ensues, it was impossible not to recognize an echo of a similar scene that occurs in Woody Allen’s Zelig in which a pandemonium takes place, with papers being tossed and a chaotic hubbub following. It seems obvious that Allen was tipping his hat to “pay tribute” to this earlier work.

The film begins with a meeting of important astronomers who are each given telescopes so as to turn their attention to the moon. A team is selected and the next scene shows a giant cannon aimed skyward. The astronomer-explorers seal themselves into a space capsule shaped like a large bullet, which a…

Ed Newman

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon