The 10 Best Dieselpunk Movies

24 Jun

Dieselpunk is a fantastic reimagining of the period from about 1920 through the 40s. Dieselpunk tends to be darker than its steampunk cousin. It’s flexible in that it can incorporate stories which do NOT take place in that time period but are heavily permeated with that period’s feel and flare. A noir style detective piece set on the planet Zamboozala 6 for instance would be dieselpunk if the feel were indeed central to the piece. Stories set around the technology level of the period most certainly count too.

Thus it is that we list the 10 best Dieselpunk movies made, even though in almost all cases the film makers did not set out to make their films be “Dieselpunk” or indeed were even aware of the term.

10. Captain America

The most recent on this list, and while not the jaw dropping classic some of the others ones are, it’s a very, very fun film.

9. Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow

Sky Captain is utterly and completely Dieselpunk. It’s pretty much written to encapsulate the definition. It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous movie and rather than the dark side of Dieselpunk, it’s quite light and pleasant. I present here the original short the theatrical version was based off of.

8. Sucker Punch

This move never got the props it deserved. Critics were divided but personally, i loved this film. It’s no epic oscar winner, but it was insanely mind blowing as a visual feast. It’s the kind of movie you voice your enjoyment of with profanity while watching. (“DUDE! HOLY FFFFFFF….”)

7. Mad Max: The Road Warrior

Surprised by this one? An action classic it is definitely dieselpunk. Everyone’s obsessed with diesel for one. Post apocalyptic, the societal tech is diesel era and that fact does permeate the film. Plus, it’s one of the best action movies ever. It was made back when there were no CGI and stunts had to be real. A far away and madcap time called… the 80s.

6. Sin City

Hot damn was this movie fun. I had some issues with it vs the graphic novels, which is strange because they were almost shot to shot perfect, but never the less this film is extremely fun and well done.

5. City Of Lost Children

Now we get to the films which are… actually great films. The films before this are “awesome” but past the fanboy excitement, most of these next films actually possess true, deep cinematic greatness. City of Lost Children for instance. It is truly like a dark, dieselpunk fairy tales, utterly otherworldly and moving.

4. Dark City

Sky Captain may be utterly dieselpunk, but Dark City practically invents it. This scores so high on the list because if there was one movie i’d point to in order to explain what dieselpunk really is, it’s Dark City. It’s also a flat out fantastic fantastical flick.

3. Brazil

Terry Gillian’s masterpiece.  It’s… a dystopian satire? The film that invented retro futurism? A staggeringly effective and moving portrayal of the classic indivicual being drowned by the state and society story? This film is greatness. And kind of weird.

2. Eraserhead

This film is not kind of weird. It ate weird for breakfest and then two girls one cupped it. David Lynch’s first film. It’s beyond a classic. It’s one of those films that as ridiculously fucked up as it is, you have to have watched it simply because… it’s fucking Eraserhead. You simply have to have watched it at some point otherwise you fail at life.

1. Blade Runner

Sci fi? Check. Film noir? Check? A classic? Check. Jaw dropping to watch? Check. Moving to the point of leaving you in a different state of reality when over? Check. Masterful attention to detail? Check. Blade Runner. It doesn’t get much better. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a better sci fi film. It might seem hardly dieselpunk, but although set firmly in the future the 40s noir feeling permeates every shot, every minute of the movie. It’s gritty, and the tech is not shiny, it’s kind of gritty and messy too. A masterpiece of film making by any standard.


Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


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18 responses to “The 10 Best Dieselpunk Movies

  1. dieselpunksencyclopedia

    June 30, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Bravo, Paul!

  2. dieselpunksencyclopedia

    July 5, 2012 at 4:54 am

    Reblogged this on Dieselpunk Encyclopedia.

  3. Peter

    August 7, 2012 at 2:09 am

    Great list. I’ve seen most of these, but am in the process of re-watching a few.

    What do you make of adventure films set in the ’30s, such as the Indiana Jones series or Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze? Worthy as dieselpunk, in your opinion?

    The Doc Savage movie did suffer from a bit of the campiness that some idiots infused the 60s Batman show with, but the original pulps provided awesome source material. I understand there is a new Doc movie in the works, and they’re keeping the Depression-era time period.

    • paulms

      August 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      I would argue that Doc Savage is not Dieselpunk so much as the authentic inspiration for Dieslepunk. He and the other great pulps and serials are in their own league. A dieselpunk REMAKE of them would be… dieselpunky. But they are authentically from the era and create their own genre from which Dieselpunk can draw inspiration.

      Obviously this point is debatable. But i see all these ‘whatever’punk, steampunk, dieselpunk, atompunk, etc as retro futurism. Which means it’s key that the repainting of the era is done from outside the era. The pulps are from the era which means they technically can’t qualify, even though they’re the quintessential examples of fantastical imaginings from that period.

  4. Single Malt Serials

    November 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    What about Mutant Chronicles? Is that Dieselpunk?

    • paulms

      November 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      I never actually saw it. I have no idea.

      • Peter

        February 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm

        I recently picked up The Mutant Chronicles DVD from a $5 DVD bargain bin, specifically because I had seen the title appear on some list of dieselpunk films. It’s a mediocre B-movie, so the price tag was appropriate. It’s a sort of sci fi/horror movie that isn’t an especially great or original take on either genre. While it’s set on earth in the distant future, much of the look of the film seems more like a war-torn 1940s setting, hence the dieselpunk feel. The main characters also travel to the place where they must fight the zombie-like mutants in a sort of diesel-powered flying machine that looks like a giant metal bathyscaphe.

  5. s1thv1c10us

    January 2, 2013 at 3:14 am

    can there be sci fi elements in dieselpunk? Can Dieselpunk be set in the future?

  6. Dan Dubinsky

    February 6, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Dieselpunk is a Cyberpunk sub-genre and Blade Runner was probably the definitive Cyberpunk movie. Though I can appreciate the comparison because Sci-Fi+Noir=Awesome.

  7. John D. O'Brien

    May 9, 2013 at 3:19 am

    Blade Runner IS Cyberpunk.

    That movie, that ONE movie, along with “Neuromancer” (the novel), pretty much invented the Cyberpunk genre.

    So I can’t really agree that it belongs in the Dieselpunk sub-category. It’s far more “Cyber” than “Diesel,” even if it has some elements in it that eventually helped to spawn Dieselpunk.

  8. John Taylor

    May 18, 2013 at 4:13 am

    9 by Timur Bekmambetov and the Rocketeer deserve honorable mentions here, I believe, as an Intro to dieselpunk imagery if nothing else.

  9. Jander Katze

    February 1, 2014 at 11:50 am

    I have to argue that Blade Runner is most definitely Cyberpunk (in which Dieselpunk was spawned), and that City of Lost Children is Steampunk. Great list though.

  10. Daniel

    February 18, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    Why people make mistakes between Steampunk, Dieselpunk and Cyberpunk?? They do not have the same!! Starting by the ages… Steam=XIX, Diesel=XX, Cyber=XXI…please, don’t shuffle these cultures!

  11. Dakota

    March 13, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Rocketeer? Let me say it again… Rocketeer? The comic INVENTED Diesel punk. Blade runner just shouldnt even be on the list let alone number one.

  12. ohboy

    July 28, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    “This film is not kind of weird. It ate weird for breakfest and then two girls one cupped it.”
    :slowclap.gif” best description ever

  13. Elinor Smith/mary/

    March 15, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    Sport to the people-nothing special to say/urah!


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