The Best Sci-Fi Films Of The Seventies
Messrs James Olson, Arthur Hill and David Wayne in The Andromeda Strain, 1971. Photograph by Zuma Press/Eyevine
Five futuristic movies that are as fresh today as they were 40 years ago .
Mr Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was released at the tail end of the 1960s and was arguably the catalyst for an ascendant, modern age of science-fiction moviemaking. As the following decade unfolded, a slew of great films were released, each one taking the genre to bold new frontiers.
None more so, perhaps, than Mr Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. One of his most deeply personal films, it somehow manages to merge two distinct types of sci-fi – meditative, philosophical musing and family-oriented wonderment – into a bona-fide blockbuster.
As the film celebrates its 40th anniversary with a digitally remastered re-release, it feels like the perfect time to revisit this period of iconic sci-fi cinema. Its retro-futuristic tropes can be felt everywhere from Guardians Of The Galaxy to Gucci (the Italian brand’s AW17 campaign is a salute to the 1970s space age).
Here then, is our own celebration of 1970s sci-fi – five films (beyond Star Wars) that perfectly encapsulate the exploratory, fantastical filmmaking of the day.
Ms Diane Keaton and Mr Woody Allen in Sleeper. Photograph by The Moviestore Collection
Most people exploring the back catalogue of Mr Woody Allen start with his defining 1977 work Annie Hall and work forwards. To do so, however, would mean missing out on films such as Sleeper, a farcical masterclass in Marx Brothers-type slapstick fused to an indisputably cool, post-Mr Kubrick sci-fi setting. It’s also worth watching for the inflatable space suit, the instant pudding monster and Mr Allen’s blossoming on-screen chemistry with Ms Diane Keaton.
Photograph by Allstar Picture Library
The most dread-inducing haunted-house movie, wrapped up in the most abjectly beautiful sci-fi world. There’s not much that hasn’t already been said about the combined vision of Sir Ridley Scott (director), Mr Dan O’Bannon (screenplay), Mr HR Giger (visual effects) and Ms Sigourney Weaver (lead actor). Put simply, together they created the perfect film for the “perfect organism”. And if you’re wondering, that scene with Mr John Hurt is still as distressing. Yes, it is.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Mr David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth. Photograph by Photoshot
The late Mr David Bowie was responsible for more iconic, otherworldly pop-culture moments than perhaps any other figure of the 20th century. At the pinnacle of his film work, draped over a white leather chair and staring listlessly through a wall of television screens, sits the scarlet-haired Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell To Earth. In this film, Mr Bowie and director Mr Nicolas Roeg conjure up a deceptively harrowing tale of an alien sent to save his dying planet, only to become waylaid by the trappings of earthbound wealth. This is Ziggy Stardust with added ennui.
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Photograph by Universal Pictures/Photofest
Twenty-two years before Jurassic Park cemented author Mr Michael Crichton’s name in cinema lore, his novel _The Andromeda Strai_n was adapted for the big screen. Concerning the discovery of a deadly space spore aboard a downed satellite, the film is a far cry from the hysterical virus-on-the-loose disaster movies that have occasionally appeared over the years. Instead, we’re treated to a taught, serious procedural about the team of scientists working to contain the problem. Never before or since have subject matter and antiseptic ice-white sci-fi sets worked together in such perfect synthesis.
Mr Alexander Kaidanovsky in Stalker, 1979. Photograph by Mosfilm/REX Shutterstock
Often (unfairly) left in the shadow of Mr Andrei Tarkovsky’s better known sci-fi masterpiece Solaris, Stalker is a work of great philosophical and psychological weight. It concerns a journey through “the zone”, led by the titular stalker (Mr Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy), to a room that supposedly can fulfil one’s most deep-seated desires. The zone itself is one of the great “characters” of alternative sci-fi, a borderline sentient location traumatised by the scattered, pained debris of modern society.