Today: June 20, 2024

Silent Running

If any sci-fi film deserves a second shot at celluloid immortality, it’s Silent Running. 

The eco-apocalypse themed film marked the directorial debut of Douglas Trumbull—the man largely responsible for the special photographic effects on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Blade Runner. This is the guy who literally designed the sci-fi futures that we know and love so well. So why has Silent Running been so woefully ignored by the sci-fi community since its release in 1972? 

A huge part of the reason, no doubt, is its melancholiac tone. Film-fans tend to like their apocalypses big, bold, and loud—with a square-jawed, gun-toting hero ready to save the day. Or at least the leading lady.

Silent Running has none of the usual tropes. Rather it plays out like a hymn to lost humanity, with Bruce Dern as Adam, Noah, and the Last Man all rolled into one. It’s  a bitter-sweet harmony, in all the very best ways.

What’s more, Silent Running is suffused with ‘70s sentiments. It’s an unashamedly hippy-dippy, ‘let’s save the planet’ ride, complete with Joan Baez folk songs. And when you compare it with 1972’s other filmic offerings—The Godfather, Cabaret, The Poseidon Adventure, and Deliverance—it’s easy to see how it got lost in the mix.

Of course, some viewers simply found a film about a man trying to save what’s left of Earth’s plants, too saccharine, too preachy. Others loved Trumbull’s lush visuals, slow burn story-telling, and Big Themes. Mark Kermode is one of those on the side of the gods, calling Silent Running: “One of my all-time favourite movies and one of the greatest sci-fi films ever.” He’s not wrong. 

Fortunately Fabulous Film’s

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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