6.6/10
20,633
179 user 115 critic

Rollerball (1975)

In a corporate-controlled future, an ultra-violent sport known as Rollerball represents the world, and one of its powerful athletes is out to defy those who want him out of the game.

Director:

Norman Jewison

Writer:

William Harrison (screenplay)
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Popularity
4,903 ( 185)

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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
James Caan ... Jonathan E.
John Houseman ... Bartholomew
Maud Adams ... Ella
John Beck ... Moonpie
Moses Gunn ... Cletus
Pamela Hensley ... Mackie
Barbara Trentham ... Daphne
John Normington ... Executive
Shane Rimmer ... Rusty, Team Executive
Burt Kwouk ... Japanese Doctor
Nancy Bleier ... Girl in Library
Richard LeParmentier ... Bartholomew's Aide (as Rick LeParmentier)
Robert Ito ... Strategy Coach for Houston Team
Ralph Richardson ... Librarian
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Storyline

In a futuristic society where corporations have replaced countries, the violent game of Rollerball is used to control the populace by demonstrating the futility of individuality. However, one player, Jonathan E., rises to the top, fights for his personal freedom, and threatens the corporate control. Written by Jeff Hansen <jmh@umich.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

It's More Than Just a Game! See more »

Genres:

Action | Sci-Fi | Sport

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

UK | USA | Canada

Language:

English

Release Date:

25 June 1975 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Rollerball See more »

Filming Locations:

Frankfurt, Germany See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$30,000,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Algonquin See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Jonathan E. (James Caan) heads for the computer bank in Geneva, Switzerland, it's the Palais des Nations at the same place. See more »

Goofs

Plenty of times one of the Houston skaters wears a number 3 shirt. The number 3 shirt should always be worn by a biker. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Pregame announcer: Good evening everyone! And welcome to Houston, the energy city, home of the defending Rollerball World Champions. This key international battle pits the divisional champions, visiting Madrid, against powerful Houston. - - And here they come to a standing ovation. On the track comes Houston! Houston, lead by captain Jonathan E, again their leading scorer this year.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Scrolls to Screen: A Brief History of Anime (2003) See more »

Soundtracks

Symphony No. 8: First Movement
(uncredited)
Composed by Dmitri Shostakovich
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
What do Bach, Princess Ardala and Fiddler on the Roof have in common?
4 October 2012 | by rooprectSee all my reviews

At first glance you'd never guess the same director who did the wonderfully charming "Fiddler on the Roof" would turn around 2 years later and do the dark, dystopian chiller "Rollerball". But he did.

But in both films, we see the same powerful strategy: a complex, philosophical brain-twister beneath a deceptivly simple exterior. "Fiddler on the Roof" was seemingly a linear story about a struggling Jewish family's good & bad times. But the real meat of the story was about the conflict between old ways and new (tradition vs. progress). Here in "Rollerball" we have another seemingly linear story about an athlete in a violent, futuristic sport. But the real meat is the conflict of brutal human nature vs. suppression (again, a sort of "tradition vs. progress"). As with "Fiddler on the Roof", director Norm Jewison doesn't hit us over the head with any preachy sermon but instead leaves us to digest the situation.

"Rollerball" has the same powerful, brooding quality that we see in many of the 70s scifi masterpieces, like "THX 1138", "Soylent Green", "Planet of the Apes", "Blade Runner" (yeah I know that one was 1982), and the one that started them all, "2001: A Space Odyssey". Cold, sterile sets, disturbing situations and powerful use of silence characterize these films. By today's standards they might be considered slow, but depending on how you like your scifi, that might be right up your alley.

In a nutshell, the story is about a futuristic society that has largely done away with civilian violence. It has done this by "subsidizing" violence by way of a global pasttime: a hyper-violent sport called Rollerball. Note: as a parallel story, we learn that cut-throat corporate competition has been similarly squelched by the government creating monopolies. And thus society finds peace. Or does it? You can probably see the brilliant metaphors being woven here. This isn't an ordinary scifi romp, it's a powerful socio-political allegory. It cuts to the heart of human nature the way the great writers H.G. Welles, Mary Shelley and George Orwell did. No, you won't see a lot of laser battles, spaceships and aliens. But here you'll see an excellent example of what scifi was designed to do: comment on our current human condition by creating a fictional (extreme) scenario as a cautionary tale.

Excellent, and I mean EXCELLENT performances by James Caan (The Godfather, Misery), John Houseman (The Paper Chase, The Fog), Maud Adams (3 James Bond films), Moses Gunn (every 70s TV show from Hawaii 5-O to Shaft), and a particularly gripping performance by Pamela Hensley (Princess Ardala in "Buck Rogers" homina homina) make this an all-star powerhouse of 70s talent.

The music deserves a special mention of its own. From the opening notes of Bach's Toccata in Dm (the creepy "Dracula" theme) to Albinoni's haunting Adagio in Gm (check it out on YouTube... saddest song ever), "Rollerball" doesn't hold back.

They don't make 'em like this anymore. But there are a few modern scifi films that come close: "Moon", "District 9" and "Solaris" come to mind.

If you liked the films I mentioned in this review; if you liked the 70s classics "Catch-22" and "Coma" and "Stepford Wives"; if you like films that are both entertaining and works of art, do NOT miss Rollerball.

For laughs, after you watch Rollerball (1976), check out the remake done in 2002 ...and see how far we've come :/


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