The era of manned trips to the Moon saw a resurgence of interest in the science fiction film in the 1970s. Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, both released in 1977, contained a mystical element reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The space discoveries of the 1970s created a growing sense of marvel about the universe that was reflected in these films. However, the early 1970s also saw the continued theme of paranoia, with humanity under threat from ecological or technological adversaries of its own creation.
Notable films of this period included Silent Running (ecology), the sequels to Planet of the Apes (man vs. evolution), Westworld (man vs. robot) and THX 1138 (man vs. the state), and Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (man vs. brainwashing).
The conspiracy thriller film was a popular staple of this period, where the paranoia of plots by the national government or corporate entities had replaced the implied communist enemy of the 1950s.
These films included such efforts as Alien, Capricorn One, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Logan's Run, The Day of the Dolphin, Soylent Green and Futureworld.
The slow-paced Solaris made by Andrei Tarkovsky and released in 1972 (and remade as a much shorter film by Steven Soderbergh in 2002) matches and in some assessments exceeds 2001 in its visuals and philosophic scope, while other critics find it plodding and pretentious.
The science fiction comedy had what may have been its finest hours in the 1970s, with Woody Allen's Sleeper and Dan O'Bannon's Dark Star. In 1979, three notable science fiction films appeared. Star Trek: The Motion Picture brought the much loved television series to the big screen for the first time.
Alien upped the ante on how scary a screen monster could be. And Time After Time pitted H. G. Wells against Jack the Ripper, with a screenplay by Nicholas Meyer, who would later go on to direct two of the installments in the Star Trek film series.
Following the huge success of Star Wars, science fiction became bankable and each major studio rushed into production their available projects. As a direct result, Star Trek was reborn as a movie franchise that continued through the 1980s and 1990s.
Ridley Scott's Alien was significant in establishing a visual styling of the future that became dominant in science fiction film through its sequels and Scott's Blade Runner; far from presenting a sleek, ordered universe, these films presented the future as dark, dirty and chaotic.
Thanks to the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, escapism became the dominant form of science fiction film through the 1980s.
The big budget adaptations of Frank Herbert's Dune and Arthur C. Clarke's sequel to 2001, 2010, were box office duds that dissuaded producers from investing in science fiction literary properties. The strongest contributors to the genre during the second half of the decade were James Cameron and Paul Verhoeven with The Terminator and RoboCop entries.
Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial became one of the most successful films of the 1980s. An influential film release was Scanners (1981), a film that would be imitated several times over the next two decades.
From 1980, the distinction between science fiction, fantasy, and superhero films blurred, thanks in large part to the influence of Star Wars. From 1980 on, every year saw at least one major science fiction or fantasy film, which critics disparaged and were ignored on Oscar night, except in the technical categories.
The 1980s and later saw the growth of animation as a medium for science fiction films. This was particularly successful in Japan where the anime industry produced Akira (1988) and Ghost in the Shell (1995).
Serious animation has not yet proven commercially successful in the U.S. and Western-made animated science fiction films such as Light Years (1988), The Iron Giant (1999) and Titan A.E. (2000) did not draw a significant viewing audience. However, anime has gradually gained a cult following and from mid-1990s its popularity has been steadily expanding worldwide.