Today is the 91st birthday of a man who will live forever. Ray Bradbury had a profound effect on science fiction, on fantasy, on film, and on the future. Had he not become a writer, Bradbury would have been a magician, but in a lot of ways, he got to do both.

Fortunately, some of his most iconic movies are available to stream right into your eyeballs using the wonders of technology (that Bradbury probably predicted). In case you want to discover the writer’s work or want to enjoy them all over again, here are five of those films and where to see them.

5. It Came From Outer Space (1953)

The Pitch: In Universal’s first 3D movie, writer and astronomy hobbyist John Putnam (Richard Carlson) heads to the crash site of a meteor outside a small town in Arizona, but instead of space rocks, he believes it’s actually an alien spacecraft. Of course, he’s ridiculed, but the townspeople probably should have listened.

This film is a classic of the genre and toys with expectations quite harmoniously.

Bradbury is given credit for the story since he wrote the original script treatment, and film historian Tom Weaver mentions on the DVD commentary that it’s likely that Harry Essex (who is given screenplay credit) took Bradbury’s work, wrote some new dialogue, and took credit where credit wasn’t necessarily due. It’s a grand first film work for Bradbury which came out the same year that “Fahrenheit 451″ was published.

You can watch it instantly on Amazon.

4. The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

The Pitch: In that same year, Bradbury also saw another monster movie hit screens with his signature. However, the Bradbury connection here isn’t nearly as strong. Producers Jack Dietz and Hal E. Chester wanted Bradbury to write the screenplay, but they settled for buying the rights to his short story “The Foghorn” and taking several elements from it to create The Beast with several other writers. The result is a loose adaptation, but there’s still a giant monster from the sea rising up to the “mating call” of a horn being sounded, and he definitely destroys the crap out of a lighthouse.

Bradbury’s friend Ray Harryhausen did all the stop motion effects for the film, which was the first live action movie to feature a beast released after an atomic blast. It may have started a trend there.

You can watch it instantly on Amazon.

3. Moby Dick (1956)

The Pitch: It speaks loudly to Bradbury’s abilities that he was able to create so many different stories (even though he can be wrongly reduced to being a science fiction author), and it speaks even louder that he was the screenwriter behind the Gregory Peck-starring, John Huston-directed adaptation of Herman Melville’s voluminous classic.

Bradbury co-wrote the script with Huston, which was apparently a less-than-joyous undertaking (probably because Huston’s giant hat kept getting in the way). The film is a beast of an adventure (taken directly from a highly difficult novel), and Bradbury wrote about his time working on the script with Huston in “Green Shadows, White Whale.” Needless to say, the Oscar-winning director was a bit difficult.

Fortunately, he made unbelievably strong movies, and this one is no exception.

You can watch it instantly on Amazon.

2. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

The Pitch: Ah, the big one. The work that most recognize as Bradbury’s crowning achievement as a writer. At least, it’s the one that high school literature teachers force most upon their students.

The novel is a stern but humorous adaptation on a future where books are burnt and mankind lives hedonistically. The movie – the first color film from Francois Truffaut (and his only English-language movie). Bradbury had little to do with the movie’s production, although he did suggest using Bernard Herrmann to Truffaut (and the score is appropriately amazing). Plus, the film features cinematography from a director famous in his own right: Nicolas Roeg.

The result is a thoroughly 60s piece of filmmaking that’s at some points flat and other points as thrilling as the novel.

You can watch it instantly on Amazon.

1. The Illustrated Man (1969)

The Pitch: It’s almost in celebration of Bradbury’s start that an anthology be filmed. The main story involves a man (Rod Steiger) who is hunting down the witch who gave him the images – which come to life (so to speak) when stared at. He meets a drifter (Robert Drivas) who scoffs at the idea until he’s pulled into the world of the illustrations.

It’s a long, strange trip.

Unfortunately, it’s not the best kind of trip. Twilight Zone alum Jack Smight directs here, but his final product is a gawky sort of mess with more than a little overacting from Steiger (surpirse!). But, it still finds its mark a few times and is at least worth checking out.

Which you can, over at Amazon.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Bradbury! Here’s to at least 91 more!


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