theatrical release poster by John Solie
|Directed by||Richard Fleischer|
|Produced by||Walter Seltzer
|Screenplay by||Stanley R. Greenberg|
|Based on||Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison|
Edward G. Robinson
|Music by||Fred Myrow|
|Cinematography||Richard H. Kline|
|Editing by||Samuel E. Beetley|
|Running time||97 minutes|
|Box office||$3,600,000 (rentals)|
Soylent Green is a 1973 American science fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charlton Heston and, in his final film, Edward G. Robinson. The film overlays the police procedural and science fiction genres as it depicts the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and a hot climate due to the greenhouse effect. Much of the population survives on processed food rations, including "soylent green".
The film, which is loosely based upon the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison, won the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film in 1973.
In 2022, with 40 million people in New York City alone, housing is dilapidated and overcrowded; homeless people fill the streets and food is scarce; and most of the population survives on rations produced by the Soylent Corporation, whose newest product is Soylent Green, a green wafer advertised to contain "high-energy plankton", more nutritious and palatable than its predecessors "Red" and "Yellow", but in short supply.
New York City Police Department detective Robert Thorn lives with his aged friend Solomon "Sol" Roth, a former scholar who helps Thorn's investigations. While investigating the murder of William R. Simonson, a director of the Soylent Corporation, Thorn questions Shirl, a concubine (referred to as "furniture"), and Tab Fielding, Simonson's bodyguard, who, when the murder took place, was escorting Shirl to a store selling meat "under the counter" for Simonson. Thorn later gives Roth the Soylent Oceanographic Survey Report, 2015 to 2019 found in Simonson's apartment. At the police station, Thorn tells his lieutenant (Hatcher) that he suspects an assassination: nothing was stolen from the apartment, its sophisticated alarm and security cameras failed to detect the intruder, and Simonson's bodyguard was conveniently absent. Continuing his investigation, Thorn visits Fielding's apartment and questions 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. Under questioning, Shirl reveals that Simonson became troubled in the days before his death. Thorn questions a Catholic priest Simonson had visited, but the priest at first fails to remember Simonson and is later unable to describe the confession. Fielding later murders the priest to silence him.
New York Governor Joseph Santini, once Simonson's partner in a high-profile law firm, orders the investigation closed, but Thorn disobeys and the Soylent Corporation dispatches Simonson's murderer to kill Thorn. He tracks Thorn to a ration-distribution where police officers are providing security. When the Soylent Green there is exhausted and the crowd riots, the assassin tries to kill Thorn during the confusion, but is crushed by a riot-control vehicle.
Roth takes Soylent's oceanographic reports to a like-minded group of researchers known as the Exchange, who agree that the oceans no longer produce the plankton from which Soylent Green is reputedly made, and conclude it is made from human remains. Unable to live with this discovery, Roth seeks assisted suicide at a government clinic called "Home". Thorn rushes to stop him, but arrives too late, and is mesmerized by the euthanasia process's visual and musical montage— a display of forests, wild animals, rivers, and ocean life, now extinct. Under the influence of a lethal drug, Roth tells Thorn his discovery and begs him to expose the truth. To this end, Thorn stows himself aboard a garbage truck to the disposal-center, where he sees human corpses converted into Soylent Green. Returning to make his report, he is ambushed by Fielding and others; and having failed to summon his colleagues, converses with Shirl before connected to Hatcher. Thorn then retreats into a cathedral filled with homeless people, where he kills Fielding but is seriously injured. When the police arrive, Thorn urges Hatcher to spread the word that "Soylent Green is people!".
- Charlton Heston as Thorn
- Leigh Taylor-Young as Shirl
- Chuck Connors as Fielding
- Joseph Cotten as Simonson
- Brock Peters as Hatcher
- Paula Kelly as Martha
- Edward G. Robinson as Sol Roth
- Stephen Young as Gilbert
- Mike Henry as Kulozik
- Lincoln Kilpatrick as the Priest
- Roy Jenson as Donovan
- Leonard Stone as Charles
- Whit Bissell as Santini
- Celia Lovsky as the Exchange Leader
- Dick Van Patten as Usher #1
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 kept from knowing during negotiations that it was MGM buying the film rights. He discussed the adaptation in Omni's Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies (1984, ISBN 0-385-19202-9; edited by Danny Peary), noting that the "murder and chase sequences [and] the 'furniture' girls are not what the film is about — and are completely irrelevant" and answered his own rhetorical question "Am I pleased with the film? I would say fifty percent".
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.
This was the 101st and last movie in which Edward G. Robinson appeared; he died of cancer twelve days after the filming, on January 26, 1973. Heston was the only member of the crew that Robinson told of his cancer (immediately before filming the scene of Robinson's character's death), knowing that this knowledge would deeply affect Heston, and therefore his playing of the scene. Robinson had previously worked with Heston in The Ten Commandments (1956) and the make-up tests for Planet of the Apes (1968).
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.
Critical response 
The film was released April 19, 1973. Time called it "intermittently interesting"; they note that "Heston forsak[es] his granite stoicism for once" and assert 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." 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."
American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "Soylent Green is people!" - #77
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Science Fiction Film
Home video 
Soylent Green was released on laserdisc by MGM/UA in 1992 (ISBN 0792813995, OCLC 31684584). In November 2007, Warner Home Video released the film on DVD concurrent with the DVD releases of two other sci-fi films; Logan's Run (1976) and Outland (1981). A Blu-ray Disc release followed on March 29, 2011.
Cultural references 
Soylent Green is referred to in a number of television series and other media, either for dramatic or comedic effect.
Starting in the summer of 2011, a green wafer containing plankton was released under the name 'Soylent Green'. Created and produced by the Parallax Corporation, and manufactured under official license, its packaging is an imaginary concept of how Soylent Green might have been sold.
- "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
- Jeff Stafford. "Soylent Green (1973)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- Harry Harrison (1984). "A Cannibalised Novel Becomes Soylent Green". Omni's Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies. Ireland On-Line. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
- A.H. Weiler (April 20, 1973). "Soylent Green (1973)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- "Cinema: Quick Cuts". Time. April 30, 1973. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- "Soylent Green Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills Nominees
- AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
- "Soylent green / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.". Miami University Libraries. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
- "The Future Is Then". New York Sun. November 27, 2007. Retrieved 2011-06-12.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Soylent Green|
- Soylent Green at the Internet Movie Database
- Soylent Green at AllRovi
- Soylent Green at Rotten Tomatoes