In the early hours of August 6, Curiosity the robot is expected to land on Mars. Sent by Nasa, the Mars rover is fitted with high-tech cameras to capture clearer-than-ever-before images of the planet, images that will be broadcast around the world. Sci-fi fans, however, may be disappointed at all the pictures of craters and red rocks - after all, moviemakers have been visiting the planet for decades, delivering their own vision as to what the red planet really looks like.
Here are just a few of the fictitious Martian movies you can watch in preparation for Curiosity's real-life landing.
The sci-fi writer Philip K Dick's story We Can Remember it for You Wholesale was turned into a visually spectacular action movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1990. He's Doug McQuaid, a worker on Earth who has disturbing dreams about Mars and visits a virtual reality vacation company (Rekall) to simulate a trip to the red planet. Instead, his brain gets zapped and he comes out thinking he's a secret agent. Dick's favourite themes of perception, identity, real and imagined memories are all explored while Arnie kicks butt on his way to save the grumpy people of dusty Mars. (Note: in the 2013 remake starring Colin Farrell, McQuaid doesn't go to Mars at all).
Nasa refused to act as scientific advisers on this 2000 movie due to some huge scientific inaccuracies in the script. In the near future, a team is sent to Mars to terraform the planet. Tom Sizemore, Terence Stamp, Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss are among the crew who find themselves in trouble when their ship crashes and it's not long before they're dropping like flies on the planet's inhospitable surface and being hunted by the computer that's supposed to help them. The script is dull, but this is worth catching for the stark Martian landscape and for spotting the scenes of Kilmer and Sizemore together (they reportedly fell out and refused to be on set at the same time, meaning scenes were often performed to body doubles). Note: Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars, with Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins, was released in the same year and isn't much of an improvement.
Edgar Rice Burroughs first introduced readers to John Carter 100 years ago (in the novel A Princess of Mars), but many ideas from his books had been appropriated by filmmakers before this 2012 movie adaptation. Taylor Kitsch plays the American Civil War vet Carter, who discovers a pendant in a cave that transports him from 1868 Arizona to the planet Barsoom (Mars). There he gets caught up in the war between Zodangans and Heliumites, befriends the odd-looking Tharks and falls for a princess. While not sure whether it's aimed at children, teenagers or adults, this nonetheless looks fantastic and is one of the few movies that makes Mars almost look like an interesting place to live (they have cool flying machines!).
Ghosts of Mars
The horror director John Carpenter visits Mars of the future (2176 to be exact), a place filled with unpleasant characters, including Ice Cube's bad guy Desolation Williams. It's up to Lt Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) to take him into custody but it's a tricky mission since most of the locals have become possessed by aliens since they opened a tunnel door that let out those ghosts of Mars. Uh-oh. It's like Carpenter's own Assault on Precinct 13 in space, as Ballard and Desolation grudgingly team up to try to survive the goth-like zombies with the help of Jason Statham in his first Hollywood role.
A classic sci-fi thriller from 1978, written and directed by Peter Hyams, Capricorn One was inspired by allegations that the Apollo moon landing was a hoax. Just before the first manned mission to Mars, it is discovered a fault would kill the astronauts in-flight, so the craft is launched empty and the crew is flown to an abandoned army base where they are ordered to help fake the footage of the flight to Mars or put their families at risk. Few are in on the secret and when a journalist investigates, he finds his life in danger. Tense conspiracy fare, with brilliant performances from James Brolin, Elliot Gould and Hal Holbrook.
Based on 1960s trading cards, this Tim Burton movie is camp, kitsch and utterly bonkers. A star-studded cast - including Pierce Brosnan, Martin Short, Natalie Portman, Annette Bening, Michael J Fox, and Jack Nicholson and Glenn Close as the US president and first lady - watch as dome-headed Martians surround Earth in flying saucers and launch a full scale invasion, zapping everyone in their path. Partially set in flashy Las Vegas, and complete with a cameo from Tom Jones, this homage to 1950s sci-fi B movies is packed with surreal humour and well worth seeking out.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, this 1964 sci-fi flick has to be seen to be believed. The story, in a nutshell, is this: a group of Martians kidnap Santa (and a couple of Earth children for good measure) and take them back to Mars to bring happiness to Martian kiddies. With sets seemingly made of paper (much of the movie was filmed in a hangar on a budget of $200,000) and actors who couldn't act, this certainly earns its reputation as a bad movie, and a silly one at that.
Quatermass and the Pit (aka Five Million Years to Earth)
Quatermass and the Pit began as a 1950s BBC TV serial created by Nigel Kneale and was then translated into a trilogy of sci-fi/horror movies from Hammer productions featuring the character Professor Bernard Quatermass. In this 1967 movie, the professor deduces that an object discovered underground in London is an ancient Martian spacecraft. Humans are apparently linked to the dead alien race subconsciously, which explains why people are soon running around screaming at each other because they're possessed by ETs. "Men will be turned killers by a mysterious power! Women will be defiled! It could happen in your lifetime!" exclaimed the trailer - you have been warned.