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Top 70s Sci-Fi Cult Classic Movies

70s sci-fi cult classic movies will leave you awe-struck by their brilliant stories, which stand the test of time even with their dated special effects.

By Ray ShikinamiPublished 6 years ago 11 min read

Bored of watching modern day rom-coms and mainstream plots? You might want to put on some sci-fi cult classics from the 1980s. Audiences back them seemed open to some pretty far-out movies, and some science fiction films more than others became classics among a small, loyal following.

These cinema classics leave you awe-struck by their brilliant stories, which stand the test of time even with their dated special effects. Vintage 1970s cinema. There are quite a few sci-fi cult classic movies from the 1970s you should opt to watch some time soon.

A remake of that other cult classic sci-fi film about an alien invasion of plant-like pods, Invasion of Body Snatchers is a must-watch if you are looking for the ultimate sci-fi movie alien invasion.

Dr. Matthew Bennell, played by Donald Sutherland (President Snow from The Hunger Games), starts getting complaints from his patients that their loved ones have turned into emotionless things. They look the same. Sound the same. But aren't the same. As the doctor starts his research, he ends up finding that those “humans” are actually aliens who replace you when you go to sleep.

Featuring an all-star cast of 1970s character actors (including a young pre-Fly and Jurassic Park Jeff Goldblum and a post-Star Trek Leonard Nemoy), this 1970s sci-fi cult classic in some ways outshines the original with its oppressive horror, tense atmosphere, and downright nightmarish ending. Both this and the original are great science fiction films. Just forget any of the other remakes.

George Lucas makes blockbusters, not cult classics. Star Wars is a sci-fi masterpiece, but it isn't a sci-fi cult classic. If you want to see Lucas make a smaller, intense sci-fi film that really was too much for audiences of the 1970s to handle, you got to go back to his first film.

THX-1138 presents an Orwellian futuristic state-controlled society. Citizens, stripped of individuality (hair, emotions, and even names) are policed by a force of robocop lookalikes in a manufactured enclosure. Robert Duvall plays THX 1138, who starts developing feelings. Undergoing a personal revolution, he attempts to escape from his society and their own self-made prison. But can you really bring change to an institution destroyed by scientific advancement?

Don't go in expecting George Lucas's fun space adventures. This is a dark, bleak tale. No hope. No joy. Audiences of the 1970s were a little too overwhelmed by its cynicism, but, over time, the movie developed a cult following, becoming one of the best 70s sci-fi cult classic movies – some that say this film is a better science fiction movie than Star Wars.

No, not the Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris TV series. The 70s sci-fi cult classic movie it's based on. Yes, it's based on a film. Yes, Michael Crichton (the guy who wrote Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain) made it. I have no idea why you haven't heard of it, either.

Westworld tells the story of an amusement park filled with life-like androids. In Westworld, eccentric millionaires can experience their wild, wild west fantasies, no matter how violent or rapey. Until one robot malfunctions, and goes on a rampage, killing people left and right. A few really scummy millionaires get more than they bargained for as run for their lives to escape Westworld.

Don't expect the HBO series Westworld for this one. Modern audiences may be let down by how straight forward this sci-fi classic is. But, for those up for a horror cult classic combining cowboys and computers, you might be up for a rare treat.

This cult classic sci-fi film will (attempt to) teleport you into the future-year 2074! I say attempt because this science fiction film makes little to no scientific or logical sense, but it's perfect for those looking for dated 1970s visions of the future.

The inhabitants of an isolated, domed city live in decadence and joy... until they turn thirty years of age, where they are "reincarnated"... forcibly. Some of them refuse and seek refuge by running away. They are (creatively) referred to as Runners. It is up to special patrolment called Sandmen to capture the Runners. Officer Logan (Basil from Austin Powers) is one such Sandman. In pursuit of a Runner paradise, he ends up discovering the truth behind the city’s strange practice... and decides to fight back.

If weird, silly, goofy films are your cup of tea, watch Logan's Run. If you want to see one of the corniest 70s sci-fi cult classic movies ever made, watch Logan's Run. Point is, just watch it.

Value nature? Long for a future full of plants and life and animals? Then this 70s sci-fi cult classic movie will either warm your heart or emotionally destroy you. One or the other.

Silent Running tells the story of an Earth devoid of plant life, after the biospheres collapse, yet human clings to life in the stars. An ecologist named Freeman Lowell, along with his crew of humans and adorable robots, curates a greenhouse in his space station. But when he is ordered to destroy his precious plants in order to make room for more supplies, Lowell, with the help of his precious robot companions, fights back for his beloved plants so the coming generations can see a green Earth once more.

Aimed for an environment-friendly audience, this science fiction film made an impact in the 1970s, where people only were starting to protect the environment. With certain world governments turning a blind eye to our ecosystem and science, maybe modern audiences might join the cult audience for this cinema treasure.

Back in the 1970s, this Stanley Kubrick film was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. And rated X. Oh, my droogs, let me make you ready for a bit of the real ultra-violence...

Based on Anthony Burgess's dystopian novel, our "hero" Alex is teenage boy into milk drinking, the ol' in-out, and... ultra violence. After murdering a woman with a giant phallic statue, Alex is sent to prison... and becomes the subject of an experimental behavior modification procedure. This therapy turns our "heroic" tramp into someone who’s completely defenseless and incapable of harming a fly... which is a sorry state to be in when a lot of people want to (justifiably) kick your ass.

Audiences of the 1970s were not ready for the level of brutality this film had to offer, but, when helmed by Stanley Kubric (who filmed the science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey) all that violence becomes poignant. Most people are revolted, but, to the audience of this 70s sci-fi cult classic movie, get ready for "good for laughs and lashings of the old ultra-violence."

Ever watch Mad Max: Fury Road? As a fan of classic sci-fi, it hurts me to consider that you don't already know this, but did you know that's the fourth film in a series of 80s and 70s sci-fi cult classic movies? And that they're all made by the guy who made Babe and Happy Feet? And all star Mel Gibson--

Wait, don't go away. Millenial audience, come back, please.

Mad Max is the story of Max, a road warrior officer who ends up targeted by a crazy biker gang. With his family at risk, Max treks across the apocalyptic, Australian wasteland to find a hope at survival.

While the beginning of this movie is a little slow, the third act really kicks it into fifth gear. I won't spoil the explosive finale, but I suppose you can say it... cuts deep?

And it made Mel Gibson into a cinema sex icon... before the anti-semetic rants... look, there's a reason Tom Hardy plays Max in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Audiences from the 1970s must've hungered for more apocalyptic sci-fi cinema. While Soylent Green is no 1984-esque dystopian, this cult classic sure paints a grim future for our planet Earth.

Set in a futuristic, over populated New York City where people are fighting for food and basic supplies, an NYPD detective Thorn (Charlton Heston) investigates a mysterious murder. All leads end in the same place: Soylent Green, the sole source of food in the food-starved future. After the governor stops the official investigation, Thorn digs deeper, discovering more than he expected... and comes back to the same question: "What is Soylent Green?"

Modern audiences may see the twist coming a mile away, but, back in the 1970s, sci-fi fans, fresh off of the cinema masterpiece Planet of the Apes (also starring Heston), had their minds blown.

Now who wouldn’t love to be the sole survivor of a mutant attack? No one? That sounds like a horribly bleak existence? That's fine. While audiences may never want to live in a horrible hellscape of nightmares, they sure do like to watch it, as all the popular 70s sci-fi cult classic movies can attest.

Which is the reason why apocalyptic films like The Omega Man become sci-fi cult classics.

In this 1970s adaptation of Richard Matheson's science fiction novel I Am Legend, Charlton Heston gets to be the lone normal human in a city overrun by light-sensitive mutants who stalk him all night long. Fans of the original sci-fi novel may be disappointed, as the film replaced cold dread with vicious action... but, seeing how popular this 1970s film is, a lot of people seemed to love it just fine.

And yes, modern audiences, this is based on the same book Will Smith's I Am Legend is based on.

Movie buffs love John Carpenter. The man pumps out cult classic films, from the dystopian Escape from New York to nightmarish The Thing. But, while Carpenter's greatest cinema contribution of the 1970s may be Halloween, Dark Star is another must-watch movie.

This film, unique among 70s sci-fi cult classic movies, features the crew of the Dark Star, a ship set to explore deep space. Its crew, though, may be going slightly mad. Portraying a satirical view of a crew growing apathetic and crazy on a long, almost pointless mission, this movie will keep you amused with its light humor.

Though ignored on release (its initial audience expected serious sci-fi where crew people didn't graffiti the walls of their science labs), it found an audience among sci-fi fans asking why the Starship Enterprise crew from Star Trek never got cabin fever out in space.

Few 1970s sci-fi films are as bizarre as Zardoz. John Boorman, the director, was too high to make a coherent film, resulting in a cinematic experience too weird for even the 1970s to get.

Starring former James Bond actor Sean Connery, Zardoz is the story (and I'm really trying to make sense of this weird sci-fi film) of a post-apocalyptic future where Earth is (casually) ruled (maybe?) by an advanced and intellectually superior race called the Eternals who control the fierce and intellectually inferior humans called the Brutals by creating an imaginary God named Zardoz. However, a Brutal named Zed (Connery) discover the true story behind Zardoz.


Trying to make this sci-fi cult classic sound logical in any fashion is impossible. The audience for this movie should know ahead of time that this film is an acid trip of weirdness. The film opens with a giant floating stone head vomiting out rifles while declaring "The gun is good! The penis is evil!"

If you can watch that, then this sci-fi cult classic may be the right movie for you.

There are many interesting 70s sci-fi cult classic movies. Sci-fi romance movies can be an interesting blend of two completely different genres. You'd be forgiven for thinking The Man Who fell to Earth is an example of this. In reality, this cult classic is a cinematic exploration of human nature, from its vices to its virtues.

But the audience really came to see David Bowie's cinematic debut.

In the movie, an alien named Thomas Newton (David Bowie) comes to Earth to find a way to bring water back to his dying planet. Using his knowledge of advanced technology, Thomas invents different tools to save his planet, but, along the way, falls in love with a pretty, shy girl. But soon, his whole plan is put to risk when the government learns that Thomas Newton is actually an alien.

This 1970s cult classic draws in an audience with an icon of the 70s (Bowie), but there is so much more to this film than just him. Fair warning: you may not be in such a high place when The Man Who Fell to Earth ends.

You’ve probably heard about this cult classic as "The Original Midnight Movie." Cinemas still show this cult classic musical to this very day, making it the longest theatrical run of any movie.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a movie that’ll never get old. Featuring a diverse cast of characters and perfect infusion of both modern sexuality and classic 1930s and 40s horror and sci-fi visuals, this sci-fi cult classic features two young "lovers" stuck in the mansion of the creepy alien scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter (played by the always wonderful Tim Curry) and his creation: a tall, strong, verile man named Rocky!

The film, unique among 70s sci-fi cult classic movies, draws in an audience that is at once nostalgic for classic sci-fi and horror tropes (the dark old house, the mansion) and longing for progressive mindsets of sexuality and sex. In short, "Don't dream it – be it."

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About the Creator

Ray Shikinami

Freelance writer between jobs. Will write for food.

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