Like a bug on a windshield, the full-length trailer for Ant-Man smacked itself on the web this week. Paul Rudd, in his first comic book leading role, plays small-time thief Steve Lang who gets mixed up with a substance that allows him to shrink in size but increase in strength. (Check out IFC’s version of what a ’90s Ant-Man would have looked like!)
Although it’s the first time a live-action Ant-Man appeared on the big screen, the Marvel hero goes all the way back to a 1962 issue of Tales to Astonish. And in that time, there’s been some pretty incredible shrinking people committed to celluloid, leaving behind some really once-big shoes to fill for the ol’ Ant-Man.
So in tribute to his forebears, here are Ant-Man’s 5 best miniaturized ancestors in film.
5. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
An unabashedly fun Rick Moranis plays patriarch Wayne Szalinski who, indeed, shrinks his kids (as well as the neighbors) in a family movie that’s mercifully light on the saccharine. The practical effects are a treat to watch, with a gigantic yard filled with gargantuan wildlife that separates the quarter-inch chitlins from the front door. You’ll be surprised how emotionally attached you can get to an ant.
4. TIE: Phantom Planet & Attack of the Puppet People
A B-movie plot device like a shrink ray can’t go without acknowledging a few B-movies, and these two are delightfully ridiculous. Featured in a Season Nine episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the 1961 movie Phantom Planet considers, as Crow puts it, that “people are just balloons” when an astronaut crash-lands on a diminutive planet that shrinks him down to a fraction of his size. Following in that goofy vein, Attack of the Puppet People — which was also riffed by the MST3K crew in RiffTrax form — a lapsed puppeteer shrinks unsuspecting folk down to a small, befriendable size. While both movies are enjoyable on their own, we’d recommend the MST3K-ified versions first.
3. Fantastic Voyage
A theme park ride disguised as a movie, the 1966 sci-fi flick Fantastic Voyage takes a surprisingly grim backdrop (an attempted Cold War assassination) and turns it into a rollicking adventure when a diverse crew are ensmallened and injected to fight a brain clot in the scientist who created the technology. With only a limited amount of time to stay shrunk, the film becomes Speed in a Corpuscle and a classic in the genre.
2. The Incredible Shrinking Man
Adapted for the screen by the late Twilight Zone dignitary Richard Matheson, The Incredible Shrinking Man goes existential when grimacing lead Grant Williams is exposed to a war analogy-heavy cloud and begins to slowly, steadily shrink. The smaller he gets, the more amusing the obstacles: kissing his wife, sitting in chairs, battling arachnids. The film ends on a emotionally ambiguous note, with the lead contemplating his everlasting significance in the universe while knowing he’ll never stop shrinking.
An ’80s popcorn flick if there ever was one, Innerspace depicts a “miniaturization Space Race” between two labs that are competing for the technology. During a hijacked experiment, Dennis Quaid and his inner-spacepod are condensed and injected into hapless bystander Martin Short. Featuring pixie dream girl Meg Ryan, the always-perfect Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo, and jaw-dropping effects that were pulled off without any CGI assistance, this Joe Dante masterpiece is endlessly rewatchable and clearly a cinephile’s celebration of all the “miniature mayhem movies” that came before it.