Karen: Here we are, already in the 70s. Just like the 50s, this was a great decade for science fiction. The 70s start out with a lot of very cerebral, socially aware films. However, after Star Wars, we would see a ton of rip-offs all in the space opera-vein. Don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars, but it could be argued that its success resulted in the juvenilization of the genre. On the other hand, it also opened a lot of doors for more sci fi films to get made. Two sides of the same coin, really.
But regardless, there were so many good films in this span of years that I couldn't limit myself to just five. Again, I'm trying to pick out the best films, ones that hold up and are still influential today. I'm sure I'll be leaving someone's favorite out, so let's hear about it in the comments. Once more, in no real order, here are my picks.
1. A Clockwork Orange (1971): I'd have to say this is one disturbing film. Is it about the evils of behavior control? The need for change to come from within and not be forced upon one? The dangers of a totalitarian society? I don't know exactly, but I do know I could never hear "Singin' in the Rain" without thinking of this movie. It's a film that I'm glad I've seen, but not one I really want to watch again. Still, it had a real impact.
2. The Andromeda Strain (1971): I wasn't sure about including this flick, because I don't know that it's truly been influential or that popular. But it's always stuck with me -maybe because I went on to a career in science. The threat of the space virus, the race against the clock, it was all very exciting stuff, and certainly seemed plausible.
3. Soylent Green (1973): Charlton Heston's fourth science fiction features him as a detective in an over-populated dystopian near-future. As he tries to solve a murder, he discovers the secret of the little crackers the government provides the masses for food. In case the one person in the world who doesn't know the ending is reading this, I won't spoil it for them. This was Edward G. Robinson's final film, and he does a wonderful job in it. The scene with him at the euthanasia center, watching the surround-screen showing how beautiful Earth once was, and Heston crying, saying, "I didn't know" -that's a heart-breaker.
4. Rollerball (1975): In the future, corporations have taken over the world and Rollerball serves as a gladiatorial-style blood sport to appease the masses. Player Jonathan E. (James Caan) has become too popular however, and his unwillingness to retire drives the corporations to make the game increasingly more dangerous, in an effort to kill him. But rugged individualism is not so easily defeated. I don't think this film has attained classic status (although it was very badly remade a few years ago), but it still has something to say about the dangers of corporate power - or any totalitarian society for that matter.
5. The Omega Man (1971): Charlton Heston's third sci fi film is a rootin' tootin' action flick. I know, many people would say this film has its problems. And it does -the vampire-like Luddite bad guys are fairly ridiculous looking. The obsession with Christ allegories doesn't help either. But dang it, this is a very watchable and fun sci fi film! Based only slightly on Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, Heston's plight of loneliness comes across very strongly ("There is no phone ringing!!"). In some ways I prefer Vincent Price's Last Man On Earth, but that is really more of a horror film. Don't get me started on the Will Smith version.
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): I really like the first 3/4 or so of this film. Watching Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfus) become completely obsessed with UFOs after an encounter is fascinating. His journey to Devil's Tower, and the parallel journey of investigator Lacombe (Francois Truffaut) is exciting stuff. It's when we get to the happy aliens and people bouncing out of the gigantic UFO that I feel a bit let down. But still, a heck of a film. Far better than Spielberg's E.T., which nauseated me to no end.
7. Alien (1979): It's really a horror movie set in outer space. The Nostromo is like a gigantic haunted mansion with nasty surprises springing out at us. The design of the Alien was terrifying and unique. It's been imitated (usually poorly) so many times now, that it might be easy to forget just how suspenseful and frightening it truly was when it came out. But this is a classic, no doubt about it.
8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): This film has a nice slow burn until it hits full on paranoia and keeps that level high until the very end. There are some indelible images from this movie -the garbage trucks with the mysterious gray 'stuff' in the back, the pods and the pod people in their early stages, and of course, the final scene, with Donald Sutherland emitting a frightful wail. This is a film that stays with you.
9. Logan's Run (1976): I figured if I included Omega Man, I might as well include this film. Again, it has its problems. But it was big and bright and certainly captured my 12 year old imagination. We don't get a lot of background about how this strange, population-controlled society evolved, but then, this is really an action film. Although skinny Michael York would have to work with a personal trainer nowadays to be believable! The film had some great visuals, my favorite being the interrogation scene towards the end -"There_is_no_Sanctuary!" There's talk this is going to be remade, but I can't see why -it is such a product of the 70s, like disco. Who needs a remake.
10. Star Wars (1977): And here we are, to the big enchilada: the film that either made sci fi a popular, important genre or ruined it forever, depending on your mindset. But I love the film. There's no denying the enormous impact it's had. The visuals are still fantastic -I still get a shiver when that Star Destroyer passes overhead -and it's a classic tale of coming of age. Am I glad it exists? You bet!
Okay, I expect to hear an earful this time. Where's Star Trek the Motion Picture? What about the Apes sequels? Some of the films I considered and left off: Westworld, Silent Running, and the previously mentioned Star Trek. Some of my guilty pleasures made it, like Omega Man and Logan's Run, while I just couldn't bring myself to put Zardoz on the list, no matter how much I enjoy seeing Sean Connery in a red diaper. So let's hear it from you!
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