50 Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 1970s – Rolling Stone
Home Movies Movie Lists

50 Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 1970s

From cosmic head trips to adventures in galaxies far, far away

ph

It was the decade that gave the world the maverick New Hollywood drama, the Nixon-era paranoid thriller, the slasher flick, the all-star disaster movie, the gross-out comedy and the modern mega-blockbuster. But the Seventies were particularly kind to one specific cul-de-sac of cinema: the science fiction film, a subset category that was still buzzing from its late-Sixties head-trip phase courtesy of 2001: A Space Odyssey. As the Age of Aquarius slowly slid into the beginning of the nation’s Watergate-and-disco period, you could still find sci-fi movies that wanted to blow an audience’s possibly addled, probably enhanced mind. But by the end of the 1970s, it was possible to have checked out postapocalyptic action-adventures, future-shock case studies, technophobic nightmares, low-budget exploitation movies about what-if scenarios and big-budget space operas — all of which fell under the S.F. umbrella and helped turn the genre into a gamechanger. And as anyone who saw Guardians of the Galaxy or Interstellar last year will tell you, the influences of this period are still showing up in theaters near you.

So, in honor of the 10-year-period that made science-fiction filmmaking what it is today, we are counting down the 50 best sci-fi movies of the 1970s. Some of them belong in the greatest-of-all-time canon; others, we will fully admit, are the cinematic equivalent of a ripe Camembert. But each of these helped the decade redefine where science fiction could go on the big screen, whether it was in a grungy grindhouse or a state-of-the-art multiplex. This is where the genre genuinely started to boldly go where it had never gone before.

ph
1

‘Alien’ (1979)

Outside of Jaws' prolonged tease that leads to its money-shot shark reveal, no Seventies spectacle builds its dread and anticipation toward one scene as beautifully as director Ridley Scott's extra-terrestrial horror. (No matter how many times you've seen it, the alien's violent explosion from Kane's stomach is deeply, profoundly upsetting.) Before we get to That Scene, Alien is merely one hell of an office drama in space — a submarine thriller set among the stars. Then it morphs into a haunted-house chiller dropped into the cosmos, creating unbearable tension from the film's close-quarters locale. At the movies, outer space was once a source of wonder, curiosity, adventure — after Alien, it was a new canvas for our nightmares, a place where no one could hear you scream. TG

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.