12 movies and shows about miniaturisation


You’ve all seen Ant-Man by now, right? If not, change that immediately it’s brilliant. And it got us thinking about some of the other films and TV shows that have had fun with miniaturisation. It’s a common trope in everything from ’50s b-movies to the most recent season of Doctor Who. Here are some of the most interesting examples.


This obscure shocker was an early entry into the sub-genre. It was directed by Ernest B Schoedsack, who had rather more success in 1933 with King Kong. A group of scientists travel to Peru to meet the reclusive Dr Alexander Thorkel (Albert Dekker). Turns out he’s a murderous loon and he promptly shrinks them down in size. They must then evade him and his cat, Satanus (subtle, eh?) until the effect wears off.


I Am Legend author and all round legend himself Richard Matheson wrote the script for this ground-breaking science fiction adventure. When Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is covered with a mysterious spray he slowly starts to shrink, day-after-day getting smaller and smaller. The film’s brilliance lies in the fact that it doesn’t rush to reach microscopic level we feel Scott’s confusion and horror at his own plight. And while his affliction is temporarily arrested by an antidote, it’s not long before he’s tiny enough to live inside a doll’s house and get picked on by his cat (a common theme in this list). Terrific stuff.


An oft-forgotten William Hartnell story, this was at one time pegged to be the very first Doctor Who serial. It ended up becoming the opening story of the second season instead a relief because it is, to be blunt, a bit of a bore. The three-parter finds the Doctor and his companions Ian, Barbara and granddaughter Susan shrunk down to microscopic size by a malfunction with the TARDIS. They must then contend with a giant fly, a prowling cat (again!) and a conspiracy surrounding the deadly insecticide DN6. It’s one of several classic Who episodes to play with the miniaturisation trope: 1977’s “The Invisible Enemy” is an unashamed homage/rip-off of Fantastic Voyage and 1979’s “The Armageddon Factor” also features a shrink ray.


Richard Fleischer’s seminal shrinking movie still stands up as an imaginative and exciting journey into the strangest place of all: the human body. Both the USA and the Soviet Union have developed incredible miniaturisation technology, but it only works for a limited time. Scientist Dr Jan Benes has figured out the key to make it work permanently, and plans to defect to the USA (who are the goodies in this scenario, naturally) but an assassination attempt leaves him in a coma, with a blood clot on the brain.

A team is then assembled and embark on a daredevil mission: they must shrink down, enter the doc’s body and remove the clot, with only an hour before they’re returned to full size (which would, presumably, be extremely messy).

Sure, it’s not the most scientifically accurate film, and there are numerous plot holes (which author Isaac Asimov was apparently only too happy to point out when he was brought on board to write the novelisation), but it’s imaginative and fun and was, at the time, quite unlike anything seen on screen before.


Notorious Batman-ruiner, Joel Schumacher made his directorial debut with this daft comedy. Pat Kramer (Lily Tomlin) is a suburban housewife who is shrunk by an experimental perfume. Instead of the horror of The Incredible Shrinking Man, however, Kramer becomes a celebrity and things seem to be on the up for her until she’s kidnapped by a group of crazy scientists. Daft as you like, The Incredible Shrinking Woman is sporadically funny but Lily Tomlin is good value in the lead and the three other roles that she plays in the film.


Innerspace plays out like a comedy take on Fantastic Voyage. Dennis Quaid stars as Lt Tuck Pendleton, a naval aviator who volunteers for an experimental programme. He is shrunk down, with the intention of being injected into the body of a rabbit, but in a fluke of bad timing, the lab is attacked by a rival organisation. The syringe with Pendleton in is stolen and he is accidentally injected into innocent grocer and hypochondriac Jack Putter (Martin Short).

What follows is a very entertaining, very silly and none-more-’80s spy caper. Meg Ryan stars as Pendleton’s estranged girlfriend, and his incredible journey brings them back together. Future Star Trek: Voyager star Robert Picardo also makes an impression as the Cowboy, though not necessarily for the right reasons his accent is, er, dubious to say the least.


Ghostbusters‘ Rick Moranis starred in this Disney comedy as Wayne Szalinski, yer typical mad scientist. He invents a shrink ray and, as you may have guessed from the title, goes and points it at his kids. It’s the sort of rookie mistake we all make from time to time.

While it’s no classic, the original Honey, I Shrunk… is good, sweet-natured fun and proved, ironically, to be a huge money-maker for Disney. It was followed three years later by Honey, I Blew Up The Kid not as horrifically violent as it sounds and the direct to video threequel Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves in 1997.


A surprisingly nuts episode from the more-often war-torn Deep Space Nine. Dax, Chief O’Brien, and Dr Bashir take one of the station’s Runabouts to investigate a spacial anomaly and are shrunk to miniature size. They must then get back to the Defiant and be restored to their proper size before an attack from their lizard enemies, the Jem’Hadar, destroys them all. Sadly the show’s producers didn’t take the opportunity to cross over with The Next Generation and bring back Data’s cat Spot…


Robert Englund guest stars in this episode of the hugely popular, if rather lightweight, fantasy show. He plays Gammill a creepy fella who manages to shrink Phoebe, Paige and Piper. He hasn’t taken into account their supernatural powers, however, and it’s not long before they’re back to normal.


Farscape‘s miniaturisation episode finds the crew of the Moya shrunk down by a gang of evil bounty hunters. Only Crichton and Noranti escape and they must work with arch-nemesis Scorpius (at this point in the show already practically one of the good guys) to get them back to normal size. Farscape was never afraid to be goofy and this episode does not disappoint in that regard.


Cult director Ben Wheatley directed Peter Capaldi’s second adventure, which may be the darkest point of a distinctly murky season. The Doctor, Clara and a squad of soldiers (including the ever reliable Michael Smiley) are miniaturised and must venture through the guts of a dying Dalek. It’s a good episode, well played and written, though the design of the Dalek itself is arguably not as adventurous as it could have been.

ANT-MAN (2015)

All of which brings us bang up-to-date with Marvel’s latest. While the film has had a muted box office reception (in Marvel terms, anyway) critically it feels like a return to form after the muddled Age Of Ultron. Fantastic effects really bring the miniaturisation concept to life and the climactic battle usually where superhero movies fall down is wonderful. Taking place entirely in a little girl’s bedroom, it’s an act of pure, inventive joy that really plays with the shifting sense of scale.

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