The 70’s was the era of my sci-fi awakening. At the time, I didn’t know it was called “science fiction”, I just knew I liked it. I remember the first time I saw THX 1138. I had no idea what I was watching, but I didn’t stop. I was captivated by films such as Andromeda Strain, A Boy and His Dog, the Planet of the Apes series, or anything with Godzilla. I still love sci-fi to this day.
Here are ten of my favorites 70’s sci-fi films, all of which are in my library, starting from the bottom to the top.
Synopsis: After Drax Industries’ Moonraker space shuttle is hijacked, secret agent James Bond is assigned to investigate, traveling to California to meet the company’s owner, the mysterious Hugo Drax. With the help of scientist Dr. Holly Goodhead, Bond soon uncovers Drax’s nefarious plans for humanity, all the while fending off an old nemesis, Jaws, and venturing to Venice, Rio, the Amazon…and outer space.
This movie is kind of a cheater. The main draw for this was 007, but this became my favorite James Bond movie immediately. The previous movie, The Spy Who Loved Me, ended telling us that James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only. However, Producer Albert R. Broccoli chose this movie as the next installment, after the success of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)
Synopsis: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is an American science fiction adventure television series produced by Universal Studios. The series ran for two seasons between 1979–1981, and the feature-length pilot episode for the series was released as a theatrical film several months before the series aired. The film and series were developed by Glen A. Larson and Leslie Stevens, based upon the character Buck Rogers created in 1928 by Philip Francis Nowlan that had previously been featured in comic strips, novellas, a serial film, and on television and radio.
This was another favorite movie of mine that was also turned into a TV series which ran for two seasons. I absolutely loved this show. By this time I was starting to really pay attention to special effects and production details. I noticed some familiar visuals and discovered that the props, costumes, special effects shots and even entire sets from the series Battlestar Galactica (1978) were used in this series. In my opinion, Gil Gerard had mad swagger, Twiki was the coolest, and Erin Gray kicked some major tush.
Synopsis: In a futuristic resort, wealthy patrons can visit recreations of different time periods and experience their wildest fantasies with life-like robots. But when Richard Benjamin opts for the wild west, he gets more than he bargained for when a gunslinger robot goes berserk.
Long before HBO kicked off their series (43 years earlier, to be precise), I saw this movie. I believed I saw this on TV and not the theater. The whole amusement park for rich vacationers story is pretty consistent with the HBO story. The main difference is we’re only dealing with one rogue robot. Still, memorable movie and one of my faves. This also spawned a series in 1980 that lasted only for one season.
Silent Running (1972)
Synopsis: In a future Earth barren of all flora and fauna, the planet’s ecosystems exist only in large pods attached to spacecraft. When word comes in that the pods are to be jettisoned into space and destroyed so that the spacecraft can be reused for commercial purposes, most of the crew of the Valley Forge rejoice at the prospect of going home. Not so for botanist Freeman Lowell who loves the forest and its creatures, so decides to take matters into his own hands to protect what he loves.
I saw this movie a few years after it was released. I think I was living in Germany at the time, but it’s been so long. I remembered how much I liked the robot companions. It would still be years later before I made the connection of these robots with the famous droids of Star Wars.
Logan’s Run (1976)
Synopsis: Sometime in the 23rd century… the survivors of war, overpopulation and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced world, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything. There’s just one catch: Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of carousel.
I actually did not understand this movie the on first watch. In my defense, I was only six years old. I didn’t get the whole age premise until a few years later. At the time and in the moment, I just knew it was futuristic and it looked cool. It spawned a TV series which ran from 1977 to 1978. I watched it every episode. There are rumors of a film remake.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Synopsis: When a destructive space entity is spotted approaching Earth, Admiral Kirk resumes command of the Starship Enterprise in order to intercept, examine, and hopefully stop it.
For me, this was a must see. The idea of seeing the original Star Trek crew back together on the silver screen was just a no-brainer. I don’t consider myself a Trekkie. I only watched the original series growing up, but I have seen and own every cinematic film from the franchise. As the 70’s came to a close, the special effects started to greatly improve. The visuals in this movie were decades beyond the original TV show. Literally.
The Black Hole (1979)
Synopsis: The explorer craft USS Palomino is returning to Earth after a fruitless 18-month search for extra-terrestrial life when the crew comes upon a supposedly lost ship, the USS Cygnus, hovering near a black hole. The ship is controlled by Dr. Hans Reinhardt and his monstrous robot companion, but the initial wonderment and awe the Palomino crew feel for the ship and its resistance to the power of the black hole turn to horror as they uncover Reinhardt’s plans.
This was another movie I saw with my parents. It was from Disney, so I think the approval was there even though it was nothing like any other Disney film. I distinctly remember my dad chuckling at some parts that he actually found amusing. This was one of the first movies I remember as being “epic”. It was unlike anything else I had ever seen, but it had remnants of other movies sprinkled throughout which, for me, was a welcomed feature. You could definitely agree when critics say it’s derivative. Looking back, I had fond memories and still consider it good fun.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Synopsis: After an encounter with UFOs, a line worker feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen.
The thing about this movie that made it different and a bit more convincing was the premise of being visited by beings from space. In the film they are only ones from space. As other movies involve individuals traveling or residing somewhere in a galaxy, there were no space pilots or laser guns in this movie. Even at a young age I could understand the fear and confusion each character experienced.
Synopsis: During its return to the earth, commercial spaceship Nostromo intercepts a distress signal from a distant planet. When a three-member team of the crew discovers a chamber containing thousands of eggs on the planet, a creature inside one of the eggs attacks an explorer. The entire crew is unaware of the impending nightmare set to descend upon them when the alien parasite planted inside its unfortunate host is birthed.
The first time I saw this was at a drive-in theater. I was nine years old. I remember how intense and surprising it was not knowing what to expect going in. I’m not even sure why my parents took me to see this. Maybe because they wanted to see it and there was no babysitter available. Either way, I am forever grateful. This has turned out to be one of my favorite film franchises. From sequels like Aliens to prequels like Prometheus, I’ve enjoyed the entire series of films.
Star Wars (1977)
Synopsis: Princess Leia is captured and held hostage by the evil Imperial forces in their effort to take over the galactic Empire. Venturesome Luke Skywalker and dashing captain Han Solo team together with the loveable robot duo R2-D2 and C-3PO to rescue the beautiful princess and restore peace and justice in the Empire.
This movie completely changed my life. I saw this movie the day it was released. After that, every time my mother gave me allowance or any kind of money, I would ride my bike up the street to the three-screen theater that was about a mile away from my home. I had to have watched this movie at least 25 times in the first year of its release. It was the first VHS, the first DVD, and the first Blu-Ray I ever owned.