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It seems strange to realize that in the 1990s -- with Jurassic Park the Star Wars trilogy Terminator 2 and ET The Extra-Terrestrial topping any list of the most popular and successful movies ever made and a hit like Independence Day in 1996 -- that science fiction was the bastard stepchild of the movie business for most of the twentieth century Westerns might not have interested all viewers but they usually stood up for traditional moral ideals on some level and gangster movies normally included enough action to attract mass audiences and were a vehicle for stardom or at least respect for many an actor including Humphrey Bogart and George Raft -- by contrast until Harrison Ford came along in Star Wars it can be argued that no serious actor ever got a career boost out of his role in a science fiction film Science fiction was a genre that neither the studios and their production heads nor the producers who worked for them nor most directors and screenwriters professed to understand And it was a genre with which most adult audiences were uncomfortable As a genre it didnt seem to stand for anything other than storytelling of a peculiar kind and it didnt necessarily offer the kind of action that audiences could follow easily How did this virtual orphan of the movie business rise from such humble origins to become -- along with horror films -- the most successful genre of the 1980s and 1990s The process was a long slow one measured in almost incremental movement for much of the century The earliest science fiction films were merely extensions of the whole idea of movies as a novelty -- as diversion for the masses on a flickering screen The first science fictionfantasy films of any note were made by the French filmmaker George Melies a stage magician and producer who had begun experimenting with film projectors on stage in the mid-1890s He devised
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