B movies boast a proud tradition of rugged rocketeers. Narrowing the field to 10 proved a daunting task. Here's hoping the following roster will stand as a salute to all the "Rocket Jocks" of fantasy filmdom. Let the countdown begin.

10. WILLIAM HOPPER, 20,000,000 Miles to Earth
Hopper is best known as Perry Mason's no-nonsense personal investigator Paul Drake. But just after beginning that seminal series, Drake co-starred, with some of Ray Harryhausen's most heartfelt effects, as a two-fisted astronaut. The lone survivor of a trip to Venus, Hopper is forced to track down a particularly ferocious example of Venusian fauna that roams the Italian countryside.

9. ERIC FLEMING, Queen of Outer Space
Is this thing a comedy, or someone's idea of plausible science fiction? In either case, stalwart Eric Fleming isn't laughing. Soon to rise to stardom as Rawhide trail boss Gil Favor, Fleming keeps a straight face opposite Zsa Zsa Gabor (the only citizen of Venus with a thick, eastern-European accent) and her curvy Venusian freedom fighters.

8. RICHARD CRANE, Rocky Jones
Dependable Richard Crane hustled through such genre faves as The Alligator People, The Devil's Partner and others. He made his mark, however, as square-jawed space ranger Rocky Jones, starring in the threadbare tele-series of the same name. The program boasted special effects that were ambitious beyond the producer's means, but a likable cast sparked by Crane's flinty good humor, made the nonsense enjoyable.

7. MARSHALL THOMPSON, It! The Terror From Beyond Space
Thompson was a cult-film regular who brought life to some of Britain's better sci fi efforts (First Man Into Space, Fiend Without a Face). In what is arguably Ed Cahn's most convincing thriller, Thompson delivers a genuinely affecting performance as a falsely accused killer who must help rid his ship of the titular, bloodthirsty predator.

6. GERALD MOHR, Angry Red Planet
Hammy smoothy Gerald Mohr never failed to deliver a likable characterization despite his inherent smarminess. A film fixture since the late 30s, Mohr was just beginning to show his age in this 1960 shocker, but is still engaging as the spaceship's first in command. Even Jack Kruschen as the token, Brooklyn cornball can't seem to shake Mohr's typically casual presence.

5. REX REASON, This Island Earth
Few actors ever delivered a line with more stentorian authority than Rex Reason. This earnest, groundbreaking sci fi film has many assets -- imagination, suspense, color -- and Rex is not the least of them. In lesser hands, his Dr. Cal Meacham would come off as too good-looking and smart to be true. Yet Reason, still a relative amateur at the time, helps bring credibility to the outlandish scenario through a convincing portrayal.

4. LLOYD BRIDGES, Rocketship X-M
Bridges was one of the most ingratiating actors ever to walk on a sound stage. With a subtly mischievous delivery, he tackled a variety of roles and helped bring genuine humor to this immensely enjoyable and important film. Hustled through production to beat George Pal's Destination Moon to theaters, its downbeat ending (which Bridges objected to) is one of its major assets.

3. WILLIAM LUNDIGAN, Riders to the Stars, Men Into Space
Why William Lundigan? Because Lundigan took sci fi so darned seriously. A lightweight lead with some solid performances to his credit (check out Follow Me Quietly), his earnest characterization helped make Riders to the Stars a convincing exploration of the possibilities of space flight. Likewise, Men Into Space, which aired just as NASA was getting its act together, treated the subject matter realistically and soberly (sometimes a trifle too soberly). Along with memorable appearances on Science Fiction Theater -- most importantly the pilot episode -- these portrayals brought credibility to an often-misunderstood genre.

2. BUSTER CRABBE, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers
Who DOESN'T like Buster Crabbe? The one shining example of successful superhero casting, Crabbe brought the funny papers to life. The guy even played Tarzan, for corn's sake! Muscles bulging, nostrils flaring, tousled blond hair waving, he was one of the B's best and most durable heroes. Handsome and engaging into his senior years, this guy was Flash in the flesh.

1. EDWARD KEMMER, Space Patrol
Kemmer starred in a pair of my favorite 50s shockers -- Giant From the Unknown and The Spider aka Earth vs. the Spider. He'll always be remembered, however, as Buzz Corry of TVs wildly popular Space Patrol. A likable actor with an easy, earnest delivery, Kemmer was convincing as a planet-hopping adventurer possessed of a fatherly maturity.

"See the fantastic binocular murder!"
Horrors of the Black Museum

"Head hunting teenagers lost in the haunted castle!"
The Headless Ghost

"A woman's beauty the lure for his dangerous desires!"
Revenge of the Creature

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