Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reader Results: The Ten Greatest Science Fiction Films of the 1970s

Well, another Reader Top Ten has come to an end, and the participation for this go-round has been amazing.  I want to thank everyone who submitted a list.  I loved reading your selections, and also your reasons behind those selections.

The subject this time was the ten best science fiction films of the seventies, and I asked when I started, if you recall, whether darkness and dystopian-ism would triumph for readers, or if Star Wars-style swashbuckling would carry the decade.

I'm afraid the list doesn't provide a definitive answer, as you shall see. 

We have a tie for tenth and eleventh place:

Silent Running (1972)

Westworld (1973)

In spaces 7, 8, and 9, there is another tie:

THX-1138 (1971)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Superman: The Movie (1978)

In 6th place is....

A Clockwork Orange (1972)

In 5th place:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

In 4th place:

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

At third is...

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978)

And we have a bloody TIE for first and second place.

Both of the following films drew exactly 32 votes (which is precisely twice the amount of votes our third place winner, CE3K accrued).

Star Wars (1977)

Alien (1979)
So, as you can see, darkness and light battled it out right until the end in the 1970s, didn't they?  We had new hope and alien terror going hand-in-hand into the 1980s.

It's also intriguing to note that both Robert Wise and George Lucas made it onto the list for two films apiece. And Michael Crichton material was at the heart of both Westworld and The Andromeda Strain.

Above ten and eleven, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Mad Max would have tied at twelfth and thirteenth. Colossus: The Forbin Project and Rollerball were tied for fourteenth and fifteenth.

In terms of my own feelings, I was especially gratified to read all the reader love for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  That film is a great, visually-dazzling work of art, and too often dismissed as bad Star Trek.  

So, what do you think?


  1. I think I failed immensely when I did my list. No mention of Dark Star, Terror of Mecha Godzilla, Close Encounters, or The Black Hole.

    1. David,

      No need to be so hard on yourself, my friend. A top twenty could have included all those films! This was a tough one to assemble, because there are so many great films from the 1970s.

      All my best,

    2. All great films except "Silent Running", which is quite a piece of propaganda. Evil corporations, a malevolent government, nuclear weapons, ignorant, insensitive humans, it's all here. Bruce Dern and crew blast off on a gigantic spaceship loaded with the last remaining forest of a doomed Earth. Dern, as the main character, actually murders his crew mates but that's okay because he saving a forest. Later in the movie, he notices that the forest is dying and he can't figure out why. After he killed everyone and faked a ship malfunction, he flew out into deep space. Gee whiz! Turns out, the Sun isn't as strong in deep space. Duh! I thought this guy was a scientist. I managed to stay with this movie until Dern is laying in bed then reaches his hand out to gently caress the "Conservation Pledge" hanging on his wall. I understand the importance of the Earth's ecosystem, but this movie's "man is bad" message was more than I could watch.

  2. John the final results proves to me that the 1970s was an impressive decade for science-fiction films with a wide variety of content. Great list!


    1. Hi SGB,

      I agree totally. The breadth of these films is amazing. From aliens on Earth (Superman, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Close Encounters) to dystopias (THX-1138, A Clockwork Orange), to space environmentalism (Silent Running), to swashbuckle (Star Wars) and pure terror (Alien). What a great decade it was for genre films...

  3. Awesome Job and thanks for all of your hard work as always.
    No easy task.

    I really think Godzilla is quite upset and headed our way.

    1. Hi SFF,

      Yeah, Godzilla didn't make the final cut, but he did get name-checked quite a bit in reader lists! :). I think the problem for Godzilla is actually the same one that the Apes films suffer from: With multiple votes in the decade, the votes get split. Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Conquest all got mentioned on various lists, but divided the "Ape" vote. Similarly, Godzilla appeared for Hedorah, Megalon and Terror of Mecha Godzilla quite a bit, but similarly divided votes. My personal preference would have been for Hedorah, though. God, I love that film!

    2. Hedora was the best of the 70s. Another fine point mon ami.

    3. Godzilla Vs. Hedorah...Big G battles a monster that actually sucks smog from smokestacks, seeps and pukes pollution on anything and everything and manages to morph from slow-moving slug to odd, flying creature. Oh, and this is the movie that Godzilla actually flies in by using his atomic breath as a thruster. The people that made this movie were likely drug-addled at the time. There are many inexplicable moments, like animated scenes that pop into the movie out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. There is a scene where everyone at a party suddenly appears to have fish heads. Hedorah flies over people which melts their heads into a blue goo. There's a psychic little boy, a score featuring hippies playing awful '60s music and an anvil-heavy environmental message. It's the artsy-fartsy Godzilla!