Steampunk is one of the most intriguing genres in fiction. Combining fantasy and sci-fi with retro-futuristic aesthetics, steampunk has plenty to offer the visual medium.
But finding a great steampunk movie can be hard, and it’s tricky to know where to even start.
Luckily, we’ve done the legwork and gathered a list of the top 10 best steampunk movies of all time!
The Best Steampunk Movies Ever
1. Steamboy 2004
This Japanese steampunk film is famous for the time and effort it took to make. With 180,000 hand-drawn frames, 10 years of production, and costing $26 million to make, Steamboy is one of the most expensive animated films ever made.
This effort paid off, however, and Steamboy deserves all the critical acclaim it got, and more. Steamboy is set in an alternate 19th-century Europe where steam power is at the head of technological advancement. The beautiful animation combined with the story makes Steamboy an iconic piece of steampunk cinema.
2. The Prestige 2006
Two rival magicians constantly trying to one-up each other. Technological marvels invented by Nikola Tesla. Christopher Nolan’s masterful writing and directing. Add that all together and you’ve got a brilliant film and an iconic steampunk spectacle.
The increasingly impressive (and dangerous) machines that the magicians use to raise the stakes
With stellar performances from Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, and Michael Cain, this well-crafted masterpiece keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. And with a Nikola Tesla played by David Bowie, few things can compete.
3. The Iron Giant 1999
This classic animated film follows the relationship between the titular giant, the boy it befriends, and the evil government determined to destroy it. If this heartwarming (or heart-wrenching, depending on who you ask) tale doesn’t initially seem like a steampunk film, the giant rusted robot living in a junkyard proves otherwise.
While the 1950s setting is a bit later than most steampunk films, The Iron Giant nevertheless captures the genre’s aesthetic along with the hearts of families everywhere.
4. City Of Ember 2008
City of Ember is based on a novel of the same name from 2003. The titular City of Ember is an underground city built for the survivors of a post-apocalyptic world. However, the generators that power the underground city are starting to fail, threatening its population.
The city’s crumbling infrastructure is filled with technology that seems advanced from our perspective but obsolete in the world of the film. This is matched by the clothes and other settings throughout, and the steampunk aesthetic is hard to miss.
5. Laputa: The Castle In The Sky 1986
Hayao Miyazaki is renowned for directing fantastical and beautiful films that inspire child-like wonder in the viewer. This early Studio Ghibli film does not only that, but also includes plenty of aspects of steampunk.
From incredibly advanced (yet dated-looking) robot giants to the castle in the sky itself, Laputa is a prime example of what the genre is capable of achieving. The settings include a Victorian-era mining town, giant airships, and a mysterious floating island with ancient and alien technology; what’s not to love?
Laputa: Castle in the Sky proves that animation is for people of all ages, and is a true steampunk classic.
6. Atlantis: The Lost Empire 2001
This often-overlooked Disney film puts a steampunk twist on the age-old legend of the lost city of Atlantis. Set in the early 20th-century, the plot follows cartographer Milo Thatch, who joins a group of explorers searching for the ancient lost civilization.
The 1914 setting clashes with a high-fantasy world of magic and mystery, with high-tech submarines and airships being given a rustic and dated feel.
Despite its initial poor reception, this film has since become a cult classic for steampunk fans.
7. The Rocketeer 1991
The Rocketeer is a little-known Disney superhero film with a small but enthusiastic cult following. The film follows stunt pilot Cliff Secord, who discovers a jetpack stolen by mobsters from Howard Hughes. Cliff then uses the jetpack to fly around without the need for a plane, as well as to impress and rescue others.
However, Cliff’s actions catch the attention of the mobsters, Hughes and the FBI who are also searching for the jetpack, and a group of Nazi spies.
Strange, wonderful, and full of what makes steampunk great, The Rocketeer stands out as a gem that deserved better.
8. Howl’s Moving Castle 2004
Another Studio Ghibli classic, Howl’s Moving Castle is actually loosely based on a 1986 novel of the same name. The film shares many similarities with Philip Reeves’ 2001 novel Mortal Engines, which was also inspired by the original book.
The titular moving castle has a strong steampunk aesthetic on its own, but the mix of early 20th-century technology and fantasy magic is what really ties it all together. Add in Hayao Miyazaki’s unparalleled directing, and you’ve got one of the best steampunk movies ever made, as well as one of the best films in general.
9. Snowpiercer 2013
By the same director as the Oscar-winning Parasite, Bong Joon-Ho, Snowpiercer follows the last remaining humans in a frozen post-apocalyptic world as they perpetually travel the globe in a giant train.
Steampunk in a more literal sense, Snowpiercer takes place almost entirely in the train with the outside world barely being seen. Its grim depiction of a near-future comes in the form of retro-futuristic technologies and machines, not least in the form of the train itself.
And while it came out 6 years prior to Parasite, Bong Joon-Ho’s masterful storytelling is clearly shown here. Well worth a watch.
10. The Golden Compass 2007
Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy deals with plenty of steampunk material, and this movie adaptation of the first book sure delivers.
Protagonist Lyra travels with a group of adventurers to the far north in search of missing children (including her close friend). From mechanical animals to secret labs to hot air balloons, the various characters and aesthetics all pay service to the source material, despite poor critical reception.
While there are far too many great steampunk-inspired films for just one list, there are a few other films that deserve some recognition.
A Trip To The Moon 1902
Early filmmaker Georges Méliès made this silent film before the concept of ‘steampunk’ was even conceived, and indeed at the end of the period that inspired the genre. This early sci-fi film manages to capture the exact mix of futuristic yet Victorian aesthetics that makes steampunk so intriguing.
Mortal Engines 2018
While this film may not have lived up to the standard set by Philip Reeve’s novel, the moving city set pieces and retro-futuristic aesthetic still make it stand out as peak steampunk fantasy.
Wallace And Gromit: The Wrong Trousers 1993
Definitely more ‘steam’ than ‘punk’, The Wrong Trousers still manages to somewhat fit in with the genre. Wallace’s fantastical invention being used against him melds with the retro setting to create a bizarre, funny, and classic animation.
So, there you are – 10 of the best steampunk movies ever made (with some extras)! We hope you enjoyed taking a look at these great films, and that you check them out to see what the steampunk genre has to offer.
Whether you’re a steampunk enthusiast or simply want to see a bit more about the genre, there’s something here for everyone.