Soylent Green

Soylent Green is a 1973 American dystopian thriller film directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young. Edward G. Robinson appears in his final film. Loosely based on the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, it combines both police procedural and science fiction genres; the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman and a dystopian future of dying oceans and year-round humidity due to the greenhouse effect, resulting in suffering from pollution, poverty, overpopulation, euthanasia and depleted resources.[2]

In 1973 it won the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film.

Soylent Green
Soylent green
Theatrical release poster by John Solie
Directed byRichard Fleischer
Produced byWalter Seltzer
Russell Thacher
Screenplay byStanley R. Greenberg
Based onMake Room! Make Room!
by Harry Harrison
StarringCharlton Heston
Leigh Taylor-Young
Edward G. Robinson
Music byFred Myrow
CinematographyRichard H. Kline
Edited bySamuel E. Beetley
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • April 19, 1973 (US)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,600,000 (rentals)[1]


The 20th century's industrialization led to overcrowding and Earth-wide pollution. Natural resources exhausted, nourishment of the population is provided by Soylent Industries, a company that makes food from ocean plankton. In 2022, 40 million people live in New York City; housing is dilapidated; homeless people fill the streets; many are unemployed; those few with jobs are only barely scraping by and food and working technology are scarce with most of the population surviving on rations produced by the Soylent Corporation. Their latest product is Soylent Green, a green wafer advertised to contain "high-energy plankton" from the oceans of the world, more nutritious and palatable than its predecessors "Red" and "Yellow" but in short supply.

New York City Police Department detective Frank Thorn lives with his aged friend and police analyst, Solomon "Sol" Roth. Roth remembers life before its current state and often talks nostalgically. He is well-educated and has a small library of reference materials to assist Thorn. While investigating the murder of William R. Simonson, a member of the wealthy elite, Thorn questions a concubine, Shirl, and Simonson's bodyguard, Tab Fielding, who was escorting Shirl when the murder took place. Thorn searches Simonson's apartment for clues and helps himself to Simonson's whisky, fresh produce, and beef.

Thorn gives Roth both volumes of the classified Soylent Oceanographic Survey Report he found in Simonson's apartment. Roth's research reveals Simonson was a member of the board of Soylent. Thorn tells his lieutenant, Hatcher, that he suspects an assassination: nothing had been stolen from the apartment, security was absent, and the perpetrator used a meat hook instead of a gun to make it look like Simonson was killed in a burglary. Thorn, suspecting Fielding as one of Simonson's murderers, visits Fielding's apartment and interrogates Fielding's concubine, Martha, helping himself to a teaspoon of strawberry jam, later identified by Roth as too great a luxury for the concubine of a bodyguard to afford. Shirl reveals that Simonson became troubled in the days before his death. Thorn questions a Catholic priest that Simonson visited; the priest first fails to remember Simonson and is then unable to describe the confession. Fielding later murders the priest.

Governor Santini closes the investigation, but Thorn ignores this and the Soylent Corporation dispatches Simonson's murderer to kill Thorn. He tracks Thorn to a ration distribution center, where police officers are providing security. When the Soylent Green there is exhausted, the crowd riots. The assassin attempts to kill Thorn in the confusion but is crushed by a "scoop" crowd-dispersion vehicle. In retaliation, Thorn assaults and threatens both Fielding and Martha; warning Fielding and his accomplices not to follow him and returning to Shirl, with whom he has established a sexual relationship.

Roth takes Soylent's oceanographic reports to a group of researchers, who agree that the oceans no longer produce the plankton from which Soylent Green is reputedly made, and infer that it is produced from human remains, the only conceivable supply of protein matching the known production. They also deduce that Simonson was murdered by the corporation because he had found this out from the reports and his influence inside the corporation. Roth is so disgusted with his degraded life in a degraded world that he decides to "return to the home of the God" and seeks assisted suicide at a government clinic.

Thorn rushes to stop him, but arrives too late. Roth is mesmerized by the euthanasia process' visual and musical montage – extinct forests, wild animals, rivers and ocean life. Before dying, he tells Thorn his discovery and begs him to expose the truth. Thorn boards a human disposal truck to the disposal center, where he sees the human corpses converted into Soylent Green, but is spotted and has to flee.

Returning to make his report, he is ambushed by Fielding and others. In the ensuing firefight, Thorn kills his attackers but is himself wounded. When Hatcher arrives, he tells him what he has discovered and urges him to tell the researchers so that they can make a case against Soylent and to spread the truth about Soylent Green. Hatcher promises that he will. Thorn is taken away by paramedics, shouting out: "Soylent Green is people!"



The screenplay was based on Harry Harrison's novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966), which is set in the year 1999 with the theme of overpopulation and overuse of resources leading to increasing poverty, food shortages, and social disorder. Harrison was contractually forbidden control over the screenplay and was not told during negotiations that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was buying the film rights.[3] He discussed the adaptation in Omni's Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies (1984),[3][4] noting, the "murder and chase sequences [and] the 'furniture' girls are not what the film is about — and are completely irrelevant", and answered his own question, "Am I pleased with the film? I would say fifty percent".[3]

While the book refers to "soylent steaks", it makes no reference to "Soylent Green", the processed food rations depicted in the film. The book's title was not used for the movie on grounds that it might have confused audiences into thinking it a big-screen version of Make Room for Daddy.[5]

This was the 101st and last movie in which Edward G. Robinson appeared; he died of bladder cancer twelve days after the completion of filming, on January 26, 1973. Robinson had previously worked with Heston in The Ten Commandments (1956) and the make-up tests for Planet of the Apes (1968). In his book The Actor's Life: Journal 1956-1976, Heston wrote "He knew while we were shooting, though we did not, that he was terminally ill. He never missed an hour of work, nor was late to a call. He never was less than the consummate professional he had been all his life. I'm still haunted, though, by the knowledge that the very last scene he played in the picture, which he knew was the last day's acting he would ever do, was his death scene. I know why I was so overwhelmingly moved playing it with him."[6]

The film's opening sequence, depicting America becoming more crowded with a series of archive photographs set to music, was created by filmmaker Charles Braverman. The "going home" score in Roth's death scene was conducted by Gerald Fried and consists of the main themes from Symphony No. 6 ("Pathétique") by Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6 ("Pastoral") by Beethoven, and the Peer Gynt Suite ("Morning Mood" and "Åse's Death") by Edvard Grieg.

A custom cabinet unit of the early arcade game Computer Space was used in Soylent Green and is considered to be the first video game appearance in a movie.[7]

Critical response

The film was released April 19, 1973.[8] Time called it "intermittently interesting", noting that "Heston forsak[es] his granite stoicism for once", and asserting the film "will be most remembered for the last appearance of Edward G. Robinson.... In a rueful irony, his death scene, in which he is hygienically dispatched with the help of piped-in light classical music and movies of rich fields flashed before him on a towering screen, is the best in the film."[9] New York Times critic A. H. Weiler wrote "Soylent Green projects essentially simple, muscular melodrama a good deal more effectively than it does the potential of man's seemingly witless destruction of the Earth's resources"; Weiler concludes "Richard Fleischer's direction stresses action, not nuances of meaning or characterization. Mr. Robinson is pitiably natural as the realistic, sensitive oldster facing the futility of living in dying surroundings. But Mr. Heston is simply a rough cop chasing standard bad guys. Their 21st-century New York occasionally is frightening but it is rarely convincingly real."[8] Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, calling it "a good, solid science-fiction movie, and a little more."[10] Gene Siskel gave the film one-and-a-half stars out of four and called it "a silly detective yarn, full of juvenile Hollywood images. Wait 'til you see the giant snow shovel scoop the police use to round up rowdies. You may never stop laughing."[11] Arthur D. Murphy of Variety wrote, "The somewhat plausible and proximate horrors in the story of 'Soylent Green' carry the Russell Thacher-Walter Seltzer production over its awkward spots to the status of a good futuristic exploitation film."[12] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called it "a clever, rough, modestly budgeted but imaginative work."[13] Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker was negative, writing, "This pompously prophetic thing of a film hasn't a brain in its beanbag. Where is democracy? Where is the popular vote? Where is women's lib? Where are the uprising poor, who would have suspected what was happening in a moment?"[14]

As of February 2019, Soylent Green has a 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 36 reviews.[15]

Awards and honors

American Film Institute Lists

Home media

Soylent Green was released on Capacitance Electronic Disc by MGM/CBS Home Video and later on laserdisc by MGM/UA in 1992 (ISBN 0792813995, OCLC 31684584).[16] In November 2007, Warner Home Video released the film on DVD concurrent with the DVD releases of two other science fiction films; Logan's Run (1976) and Outland (1981).[17] A Blu-ray Disc release followed on March 29, 2011.

See also


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, January 9, 1974 p 19
  2. ^ Shirley, John (September 23, 2007). "Locus Online: John Shirley on Soylent Green". Locus Online. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Jeff Stafford. "Soylent Green (1973)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  4. ^ Danny Peary, ed. (1984). Omni's Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies. ISBN 0-385-19202-9.
  5. ^ Harry Harrison (1984). "A Cannibalised Novel Becomes Soylent Green". Omni's Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies. Ireland On-Line. Retrieved September 7, 2009.
  6. ^ Charlton Heston (1978). Hollis Alpert, ed. The Actor's Life: Journal 1956-1976. E.P. Dutton. p. 395. ISBN 0525050302.
  7. ^ Goldberg, Marty; Vendel, Curt (2012). Atari Inc: Business is Fun. Syzygy Press. p. 45. ISBN 9780985597405. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  8. ^ a b A.H. Weiler (April 20, 1973). "Soylent Green (1973)". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  9. ^ "Cinema: Quick Cuts". Time. April 30, 1973. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 27, 1973). "Soylent Green". Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  11. ^ Siskel, Gene (May 1, 1973). "Scorpio & Soylent". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 5.
  12. ^ Murphy, Arthur D. (April 18, 1973), "Soylent Green". Variety. 22.
  13. ^ Champlin, Charles (April 18, 1973). "Grim Future in 'Soylent Green'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  14. ^ Gilliatt, Penelope (April 28, 1973). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. 131.
  15. ^ "Soylent Green Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  16. ^ "Soylent green / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc". Miami University Libraries. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  17. ^ "The Future Is Then". New York Sun. November 27, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2011.

External links


Blutkind ("Bloodchild" in English) is a double album released in 2000 by the German industrial group Wumpscut. The album is mostly a collection of Wumpscut's earliest material, save the new tracks 'Hang Him Higher' and 'Praise Your Fears'. Some tracks are taken from Wumpscut's original demo tapes in 1991 and 1992 and some are remixes from "Music for a Slaughtering Tribe". There are also 17 or so previously unreleased old tracks. The original tapes are: 'Defcon' and 'Small Chambermusicians'.

Remixes from "Music for a Slaughtering Tribe" are: 'Koslow', 'Soylent Green' and 'Default'.

Brock Peters

Brock Peters or Brock G. Peters (born George Fisher; July 2, 1927 – August 23, 2005) was an American actor, best known for playing the role of Tom Robinson in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird and for his role as "Crown" in the 1959 film version of Porgy and Bess. In later years, he gained recognition among Star Trek fans for his portrayals of Fleet Admiral Cartwright in two of the Star Trek feature films and Joseph Sisko, father of Benjamin Sisko, in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He was also notable for his role as Hatcher in Soylent Green.

Carlos Romero (actor)

Carlos Romero (February 15, 1927 – June 21, 2007), was an American actor, noted for his many appearances on television. Among them were six appearances on Rawhide, three appearances on Perry Mason, two of them as the murder victim, and four appearances on The F.B.I. in the 1960s, and nine appearances as Carlo Agretti on Falcon Crest in 1982-1983.

He was also cast in several films, including The Young Land, They Came to Cordura, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Professionals, The Appaloosa, and the cult classic Soylent Green.

In 1963, he was cast as Police Lieutenant Juan Garcia in the episode "Five Tickets to Hell", the series finale, of the CBS anthology series, GE True, hosted by Jack Webb. In the storyline, John Quigley (Bing Russell), a Chicago mobster travels to Chihuahua, Mexico, where he robs the mint of $500,000 and kills seven men in the commission of the crime. Garcia must then track down Quigley and his three accomplices. Barbara Luna also appears in this episode.

Dick Van Patten

Richard Vincent Van Patten (December 9, 1928 – June 23, 2015) was an American actor, businessman, and animal welfare advocate, whose career spans seven decades of television. He was best known for his role as patriarch Tom Bradford on the ABC television comedy-drama Eight Is Enough.

Van Patten began work as a child actor and was successful on the New York stage, appearing in more than a dozen plays as a teenager. He worked in radio, on Duffy's Tavern. He later starred in numerous television roles including the long running CBS television series, I Remember Mama and Young Doctor Malone. Later, he would star or co-star in many feature films, including Charly, Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Spaceballs, and Charlton Heston's Soylent Green. Van Patten was the founder of Natural Balance Pet Foods and National Guide Dog Month.

Edward G. Robinson

Edward G. Robinson (born Emanuel Goldenberg; December 12, 1893 – January 26, 1973) was an American actor of stage and screen during Hollywood's Golden Age. He appeared in 40 Broadway plays and more than 100 films during a 50-year career and is best remembered for his tough-guy roles as gangsters in such films as Little Caesar and Key Largo.

During the 1930s and 1940s, he was an outspoken public critic of fascism and Nazism, which were growing in strength in Europe leading up to World War II. His activism included contributing over $250,000 to more than 850 organizations involved in war relief, along with cultural, educational and religious groups. During the 1950s, he was called to testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare, but was cleared of any Communist involvement.

Robinson's roles included an insurance investigator in the film noir Double Indemnity, Dathan (adversary of Moses) in The Ten Commandments, and his final performance in the science-fiction story Soylent Green. Robinson received an Honorary Academy Award for his work in the film industry, which was awarded two months after he died in 1973. He is ranked number 24 in the American Film Institute's list of the 25 greatest male stars of Classic American cinema.

Frank R. Bowerman Landfill

The Frank R. Bowerman Landfill is a landfill in the western Santa Ana Mountains, in Orange County, California. It opened in 1990. The landfill is located between Limestone Canyon Regional Park and State Route 241.It is one of the largest landfills in California and the ninth largest in the United States. It contains an estimated 31 million tons of waste.

Fred Myrow

Fredric Myrow (July 16, 1939 – January 14, 1999) was an American composer. He is known for composing the soundtracks for Phantasm, Soylent Green and Scarecrow.

Harry Harrison (writer)

Harry Max Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey; March 12, 1925 – August 15, 2012) was an American science fiction author, known for his character The Stainless Steel Rat and for his novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966). The latter was the rough basis for the motion picture Soylent Green (1973). Harrison was (with Brian Aldiss) the co-president of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group.

Aldiss called him "a constant peer and great family friend". His friend Michael Carroll said, "Imagine Pirates of the Caribbean or Raiders of the Lost Ark, and picture them as science-fiction novels. They're rip-roaring adventures, but they're stories with a lot of heart." Novelist Christopher Priest wrote in an obituary,

Harrison was an extremely popular figure in the SF world, renowned for being amiable, outspoken and endlessly amusing. His quickfire, machine-gun delivery of words was a delight to hear, and a reward to unravel: he was funny and self-aware, he enjoyed reporting the follies of others, he distrusted generals, prime ministers and tax officials with sardonic and cruel wit, and above all he made plain his acute intelligence and astonishing range of moral, ethical and literary sensibilities.

Leigh Taylor-Young

Leigh Taylor-Young (born January 25, 1945) is an American actress who has appeared on stage, screen, podcast, radio and television.

Make Room! Make Room!

Make Room! Make Room! is a 1966 science fiction novel written by Harry Harrison exploring the consequences of unchecked population growth on society.

It was originally serialized in Impulse magazine.

Set in a future August 1999, the novel explores trends in the proportion of world resources used by the United States and other countries compared to population growth, depicting a world where the global population is seven billion, subject to overcrowding, resource shortages and a crumbling infrastructure. The plot jumps from character to character, recounting the lives of people in various walks of life in New York City (population around 35 million).

The novel was the basis of the 1973 science fiction movie Soylent Green, although the film changed much of the plot and theme and introduced cannibalism as a solution to feeding people.

Matthew Yuricich

Matthew J. Yuricich (January 19, 1923 – May 28, 2012) was an American special effects artist. Born of Croatian immigrant parents in Lorain, Ohio, he spoke only Croatian when he started grade school. After graduating high school in 1941, he joined the U.S. Navy. He served on the escort carrier USS Nassau, seeing combat in the Pacific Theater.Before becoming a special effects artist, Yuricich received a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he also played football and joined Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. He received Miami's 2006 Distinguished Achievement Award for his career achievements and was a charter member of the Phi Kappa Tau Hall of Fame.A pre-war friendship with pinup star Betty Grable allowed Yuricich entry into the movie industry after the war. As a matte artist, much of his early studio work was uncredited but included work on Forbidden Planet (1956), North by Northwest and Ben-Hur (both 1959). Some of his later credits are Soylent Green (1973, special photographic effects), Young Frankenstein (1974, uncredited), The China Syndrome and 1941 (both 1979), Blade Runner (1982), Ghostbusters and 2010 (both 1984), Fright Night (1985), Poltergeist II: The Other Side, The Boy Who Could Fly and Solarbabies (all 1986), Masters of the Universe (1987), Die Hard (1988), Field of Dreams (1989), Dances with Wolves (1990) and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991).

Yuricich won the 1976 Academy Special Achievement Award for visual effects in the movie Logan's Run. He was nominated for the best visual effects Oscar for his work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977. His brother is Academy Award-nominated special effects artist Richard Yuricich.

Mike Henry (American football)

Michael Dennis Henry (born August 15, 1936) is an American retired actor and former football linebacker. He is most well known for his role as Tarzan in the 1960s trilogy.

Music for a Slaughtering Tribe

Music for a Slaughtering Tribe is the third release and first full-length album by the German electro-industrial project Wumpscut.

Richard Fleischer

Richard O. Fleischer (; December 8, 1916 – March 25, 2006) was an American film director known for such movies as The Narrow Margin (1952), Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Soylent Green (1973).

Russell Thacher

Russell Thacher (c. 1919 – October 1, 1990) was an American author and film producer who co-produced the films Soylent Green and The Last Hard Men together with Walter Seltzer.

Born in Hackensack, New Jersey, Thatcher attended New York University and Bucknell University, before serving in the United States Navy during World War II.In addition to working as an editor at Omnibook Magazine and the Book-of-the-Month Club, Thacher authored the novels The Captain, The Tender Age and A Break in the Clouds. The Captain, Thacher's first novel, is set on board a Landing Ship, Tank in the Pacific Theater during World War II. The novel is notable for its early positive portrayal of homosexuality, exemplified in the characters of two crew members, though male eroticism is an undercurrent throughout the book. It was published by Macmillan in New York in 1951 and Allan Wingate in London in 1952, with subsequent paperback editions. In The Tender Age, Thacher writes about the experiences of a 17-year-old boy growing up in a town in New Jersey.In 1963, he was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, originally working for the firm in New York City before heading out west, where he was the studio's vice president for production. By the early 1970s was working on his own as a film producer. Together with Walter Seltzer, Thacher co-produced Soylent Green, the 1973 science fiction thriller, and The Last Hard Men, a 1976 Western prison break film; both films starred Charlton Heston. Other films he produced include Travels with My Aunt and The Cay, for which he wrote the teleplay.A resident of Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, Thacher died in Los Angeles at the age of 71 due to complications resulting from abdominal surgery, on October 1, 1990.


Soylent may refer to:

Soylent, a fictional food substance from Harry Harrison's 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!

Soylent Green, a 1973 film based loosely on Harrison's novel

Soylent (meal replacement), a brand of meal replacements that was first developed in 2013

"Soylent Green", a song on the 1993 Wumpscut album Music for a Slaughtering Tribe

Soylent Communications, the owner of the NNDB biographical database

The Omega Man

The Omega Man (stylized as The Ωmega Man) is a 1971 American science fiction film directed by Boris Sagal and starring Charlton Heston as a survivor of a global pandemic. It was written by John William Corrington and Joyce Corrington, based on the 1954 novel I Am Legend by the American writer Richard Matheson. The film's producer, Walter Seltzer, went on to work with Heston again in the dystopian science-fiction film Soylent Green in 1973.The Omega Man is the second adaptation of Matheson's novel. The first was The Last Man on Earth (1964) which starred Vincent Price. A third adaptation, I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, was released in 2007.

Thirst (1979 film)

Thirst is a 1979 Australian horror film directed by Rod Hardy and starring Chantal Contouri and Max Phipps and British actor David Hemmings. It has been described as a blend of vampire and science fiction genres, influenced by the 1973 film Soylent Green as well as drawing on the vampire folklore of Elizabeth Báthory – one of several vampire films in the 1970s to do so.

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