War of the Worlds: The Movies

H.G. Wells’ apocalyptic novel has inspired filmmakers and storytellers since it was first published in 1898. In 1938 Orson Welles (no relation) presented the story as a now-notorious radio play (see our page on that production). But it wasn’t until 1953 that it fell into the right filmmaker hands: specifically, into the hands of the now-legendary George Pal. The Wells Estate was so pleased with the film that they offered Pal his choice of any other Wells’ property (he chose The Time Machine, which we also profile – and rightfully so – on our “Classic Sci-Fi” pages).

Another big-screen production premiered in 2005, this one starring the ubiquitous Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg. Set in contemporary New Jersey, this was not a sequel but was “freely adapted” from the Wells novel.

And there’s more…

IMDB.com lists more than a dozen film and TV productions based – more or less – on the Wells novel. Some of the connections are quite laughable, others are presumed to be straight-to-video-level sequels… But the first movie set a very high bar for anyone presuming to tell this story on film.

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