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Silent Running (1972)

GP  |   |  Drama, Sci-Fi  |  10 March 1972 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 19,283 users  
Reviews: 198 user | 85 critic

In a future where all flora is extinct on Earth, an astronaut is given orders to destroy the last of Earth's botany, kept in a greenhouse aboard a spacecraft.



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Complete credited cast:
John Keenan
Marty Barker
Andy Wolf
Mark Persons ...
Steven Brown ...
Cheryl Sparks ...
Larry Whisenhunt ...


In a future Earth barren of all flora and fauna, the planet's ecosystems exist only in large pods attached to spacecraft. When word comes in that the pods are to be jettisoned into space and destroyed, most of the crew of the Valley Forge rejoice at the prospect of going home. Not so for botanist Freeman Lowell who loves the forest and its creatures. He kills his colleagues taking the ship deep into space. Alone on the craft with his only companions being three small robots, Lowell revels in joys of nature. When colleagues appear to "rescue" him, he realizes he has only one option available to him. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Amazing companions on an incredible adventure... that journeys beyond imagination! See more »


Drama | Sci-Fi


GP | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

10 March 1972 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Running Silent  »

Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)


ESP 21,077,972 (Spain)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Footage of the three ships drifting through space and the jettisoning of the domes appears in the story "Different Ones" from Rod Serling's Night Gallery TV series. In an usual twist, the TV episode aired December 29th 1971, months before the movie's release date of March 10th, 1972. See more »


Lowell (Bruce Dern) was arguing with another crew member about who would be best qualified to lead the assumed new forest service, citing his 8 years aboard the Valley Forge, yet he didn't realize one of the fundamental necessities for plant life later in the film when his forest was dying: light. The position of the domes, as well as the ships, must have been dictated by the need for sunlight as it would have been one of the main functions. At the very least automated systems should have warned him about losing the necessary light. See more »


Freeman Lowell: It calls back a time when there were flowers all over the Earth... and there were valleys. And there were plains of tall green grass that you could lie down in - you could go to sleep in. And there were blue skies, and there was fresh air... and there were things growing all over the place, not just in some domed enclosures blasted some millions of miles out in to space.
See more »


Edited into The Making of 'Silent Running' (1972) See more »


Silent Running
Lyrics by Diane Lampert
Music by Peter Schickele
Sung by Joan Baez
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

SILENT RUNNING (Douglas Trumbull, 1971) ***
13 October 2004 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Made in the wake of both 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968; the ultimate space opera) and EASY RIDER (1969; the era's biggest 'sleeper' hit), SILENT RUNNING was given the go-ahead by the executives at Universal – in an attempt to recapture the momentum of those two films – who even allowed special-effects wizard Douglas Trumbull to make his directorial debut, and this with unprecedented artistic freedom.

The film is a visual treat, featuring marvelous if unassuming special effects, though Trumbull manages to keep the technology firmly under control – it is all so simple but still very impressive (even more so in view of the budget). Bruce Dern is appropriately cast as the film's eco-friendly hero. Joan Baez's two songs are very much of the time, and yet add quite a lot of humanity to the 'outer space' events. The film's sets (an unused aircraft carrier conveniently converted into a spaceship!) are also notable. However, the film's most endearing elements are the two almost-human 'drones', Huey and Dewey, which contribute to some amusing and even touching interplay with Dern; they were an obvious influence on C-3P0 and R2-D2 from from the STAR WARS films.

Still, I found the film to be somewhat plodding - especially since Dern is, for most of the time, the only human being on screen. In the end, SILENT RUNNING is a pretty good film, and a deserved cult item, but not a classic in the strict sense of the word. That said, it is a whole lot better than the only other feature film Trumbull directed, the dull and overblown BRAINSTORM (1983).

Universal's SE DVD is so packed with extras, it's almost too much: even so, there's actually little repetition throughout the lengthy documentary, numerous interviews and Trumbull's and Dern's joint commentary - and, all in all, it serves as irrefutable proof of the importance and worth (as in experience-enhancing capabilities) of DVD bonus material. While I was not overwhelmed when watching the film proper, after going through the mass of supplements on offer here I had a new-found admiration for what Trumbull intended - and actually makes me look forward to a more open-minded second viewing!

34 of 52 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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