Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of the 1970s

Script written by Nick Spake. A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, science fiction hit several new milestones in film. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 sci-fi movies of the 1970s. For this list, we’re taking a look at the films that tackled science fiction from different perspectives and helped make the genre as popular as ever with mainstream audiences. Special thanks to our users jkellis, mojoo and Andrew A. Dennison for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest.
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Script written by Nick Spake.

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of the 1970s


A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, science fiction hit several new milestones in film. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 science fiction movies of the 1970s.

For this list, we’re taking a look at the films that tackled science fiction from different perspectives and helped make the genre as popular as ever with mainstream audiences. Keep in mind we’re excluding superhero films from this list, so sorry, Superman, you’ll have to sit this one out. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades of sci-fi flicks from the 1950s to the 2000s.

#10: “Sleeper” (1973)

What, Woody Allen made a science fiction film this early in his directing career? Who’d a thought it? Actually, “Sleeper” is really more of a sci-fi sendup than it is straightforward science fiction. That’s just what makes the film so refreshing, though, especially considering that sci-fi hadn’t really been viewed under a comedic lens up until this point. “Sleeper” contains some of Allen’s wittiest physical comedy, sharpest satire, and most consistently hilarious dialogue, poking fun at the past and present just as much as it does the future.

#9: “The Andromeda Strain” (1971)

When an alien germ causes an entire town to drop dead, the government assembles a team of doctors to investigate. A majority of the film takes place in an underground laboratory where our heroes study the specimen. If you’re looking for an action-heavy sci-fi thriller, this one probably isn’t for you. There’s more staring at computer screens and scientific jargon than there are chases or shootouts here. True enthusiasts of science, however, will appreciate “The Andromeda Strain” for smartly observing its subject matter from a detailed, technical point of view.

#8: “Silent Running” (1972)

Bruce Dern is an intergalactic hippie determined to protect Earth’s last remaining gardens, which have been transported to a greenhouse in space. Is “Silent Running” overly preachy about protecting the environment? Without a doubt. To be fair, though, this was one of the first sci-fi films with a green theme before every sci-fi film started shoving Mother Nature down our throats. “Silent Running” sincerely captures the beauty of nature and outer space. At the same time, it also says something thought provoking about the effects of isolation and need for companionship.

#7: “Solaris” (1972)

As far as science fiction films go, “Solaris” is among the most intimate ever made. The movie contains little action or large-scale production values, primarily setting itself in various rooms of the space station in which two characters have a conversation. That by no means makes “Solaris” boring. If anything, it makes it fascinating with the sophistication of a stage play. The film isn’t about throwing millions of dollars at the camera, but examining the notions of humanity and loss. While it cost little to make, “Solaris” will leave you with plenty to think about.

#6: “Soylent Green” (1973)

In 2022, the world has become so overpopulated that people sleep in hallways, the air is hardly breathable, and basic food is considered a luxury. New York’s population of 40 million becomes short one, however, when a Board member of the Soylent Corporation is murdered. Enter Charlton Heston as a detective who discovers the murder is linked to a new food product called Soylent Green. This intriguing mystery all comes down to what Soylent Green is made of, which is every bit as disturbing as the ingredients for hotdogs.

#5: “Logan’s Run” (1976)

“Logan’s Run” was far from the first movie about a savior who discovers his utopian society is actually a dystopian society. By 1976, this was a pretty standard convention for most science fiction fare. What makes “Logan’s Run” memorable is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Instead, it’s more of a fun, campy fugitive on the run movie that still provides solid thrills today. The film is also creditable for its retro sets and effects, which perfectly capture how the 1970s thought futurist cities and technology would look.

#4: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978)

Where the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was all about what the audience doesn’t see, the 1978 remake puts more emphasis on what the audience does see. With a bigger budget and Philip Kaufman behind the camera, the thriller expands upon the original’s universe to create a successful standalone picture. It never becomes consumed by new technology and visuals, however, staying true to the spirit the 1956 film set. With just the right mix of old and new, it’s exactly what any good remake should be.

#3: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)

This landmark in director Steven Spielberg’s career centers on Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, an ordinary man that encounters a UFO. Being a film that’s all about the universe’s unsolved mysteries, “Close Encounters” leaves the audience with a million questions running through their minds. Are these extra-terrestrials lethal or peaceful? What are their intentions with Roy? How will the government react to these beings? Everything pays off in the final act, as the film answers the ultimate question mankind has pondered for centuries, “Are we alone in the universe?”

#2: “Alien” (1979)

A creature breaks loose and terrorizes a group of people. That setup is nothing new. The reason “Alien” remains one of best movies of its kind, though, isn’t because of the premise. It isn’t even because of the alien, although the little face-hugger is pretty petrifying. The film’s sense of terror is derived from its setting, in the vast recesses of space where no one can hear you scream. Ridley Scott crafted the most suspenseful environment possible through ominous cinematography and claustrophobic sets, making every inch of his sci-fi horror flick crawl with dread.

Before we beam up to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Slaughterhouse-Five” (1972)
- “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (1976)
- “THX 1138” (1971)
- “Dark Star” (1974)
- “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979)

#1: “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” (1977)

Aside from its immortal characters, quotable dialogue, groundbreaking effects, creative action, alluring lore, heart-pounding musical score, and endless imagination, what is it that makes “Star Wars” so enduring? Perhaps it’s because George Lucas managed to take elements of almost every iconic story in existence, from the legend of King Arthur to the films of Akira Kurosawa, and create something that was familiar, yet one of a kind. The end product was not only a sci-fi triumph, but also a new iconic story that will stay with us until the end of time.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite sci-fi movie from the 1970s? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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