Rollerball

 (1,102)
6.62 h 5 min1975R
The violent sport of Rollerball entertains citizens of a futuristic society controlled by corporations. A champion is determined to keep playing—despite pressure from corporate bigwigs for him to retire—but threatening the powers that be comes at a cost.
Directors
Not Specified
Starring
James CaanJohn HousemanRalph Richardson
Genres
Science FictionHorrorSportsAction
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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Producers
Norman Jewison
Studio
MGM Domestic Television Distri
Rating
R (Restricted)
Purchase rights
Stream instantly Details
Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
Devices
Available to watch on supported devices

Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

1102 global ratings

  1. 74% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 15% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Grant HReviewed in the United States on April 28, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
A 40 year old film that is more relevant today than it was back in 1975
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The message in this dystopian society is that the individual is not important. The corporation is important. The corporation controls everything and controls the individual. They try to control Jonathan. He rebels. They take his wife and give her to an elite member of the corporation. He rebels. The try to force him to retire. He rebels. They try to kill him in the last Rollerball game. He survives as the last player on his team and scores the winning shot.

It's good movie and very original. One of Caan's best roles.

Looking at this film through the lens of today's society there is a strong message. I remember when this film first came out. I'm not sure the message was received back then. I didn't understand the message this film was trying to tell back in 1975. I sure do now.
55 people found this helpful
Bud WigginsReviewed in the United States on May 3, 2019
4.0 out of 5 stars
Accurately Predicts the Career of NFL Legend Tom Brady!
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Rollerball is a 1975 science fiction movie based on the future career of NFL legend Tom Brady.

James Caan plays Tom who inexplicably is called Jonathan throughout the movie. He is the greatest rollerball player in the world, a game that is played exactly like the sportsball of today except that they use roller skates and motorcycles and a giant pinball fired out of a cannon.

The rest of the cast includes John Beck as Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski, Shane Rimmer as Bill Belichick and the great John Houseman as Roger Goodell.

Rollerball takes place is a dystopian world where everyone looks happy because they have a whole branch of the government devoted to luxury, they watch sportsball on a wall of TVs and take magic pills the rest of the time. All in all, pretty good as far as dystopias go. The world is run by corporations without the façade of elections that we have today.

Roger wants Tom Brady to resign because he wins too much and has become bigger than the game but Tom wants to keep playing until he is 45. Goodell resorts to all sorts of measures to get Tom to retire: he gives him his own TV special, he returns his wife Giselle who was stolen by a corporate executive, and he arranges for Gronk to become brain dead in a no-rules match against Tokyo. Tom lets Gronk linger in a vegetative state because he doesn’t notice any difference.

Rollerball is very prescient in predicting the career of Tom two years before he was even born. Some things in the movie have proven to be less accurate: In the movie, people enjoy their sportsball and sinister corporate meetings on a wall of multiple small TVs when of course today we prefer one giant TV. Also, instead of NFL Tom’s turtleneck, rollerball Tom uses a bolero hat for comic relief. He barely wears the hat but carries it around with hilarious results. Sometimes he throws it at people like Bond villain Oddjob. At one point the light colored hat is replaced with a dark colored hat which would symbolize something in a better movie.

Rollerball is not perfect but deserves credit as the best ever sportsball biography.
43 people found this helpful
Daniel R.Reviewed in the United States on August 20, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
The movie that made me feel like a grown up to watch
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Not gonna lie ... This movie holds a very special place in my heart as it was the first "adult" movie I snuck into as a little kid at old Ranch Mart Theater in Mission, Kansas back in '75. I was 12-years old sneaking into an "R" and it changed my life ... Lol. Too bad I messed up by going home and chanting "Jonathan ... Jonathan ... Jonathan!" in front of my mom and dad, who, unbeknownst to me,had already seen the movie and wanted to know how I knew what that was from an "R" rated movie. Oops ... the jig was up and I got extra chores for a couple weeks. Totally worth it!!!

Anyway, this is a truly terrific take on society made 40 years ago that almost predicted perfectly what's really going on today where corporations have literally been declared to be people but real people have had their rights stripped away. And don't even get me started on the complete lack of women's rights in the story. They're just there for the amusement of men. Ironically, the movie is supposed to be set in the year, 2018 annnnnnnnd well, I'll just leave it there.

This is just perfect 1970s cinema done right, and you absolutely SHOULD watch this movie and skip that loathsome remake they did in the 2000s. I love this film!!! Jonathan ... Jonathan ... Jonathan!
9 people found this helpful
Sam WxnilReviewed in the United States on July 25, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Outstanding speculative fiction -- caution: spoilers
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This is an excellent movie that makes stark predictions about the future (roughly 2020), as seen from some point in the mid-1970s. Corporations run the world, people are fed a constant diet of brutal, distracting violence, and nation-states have vanished from the political scene. About two of these three predictions seem to have come to pass. James Caan plays a kind of sensitive brute who has risen to the top of the Rollerball game (think gladiators on roller-skates, and motorcycles instead of lions), inspiring a popular counter-narrative about individual achievement that upsets the corporate overlords. The game was meant to illustrate the futility of individual action, not elevate singular heroes. He refuses to retire when they ask him to, so they ratchet up the pressure by systematically changing the rules of the game, making it more and more brutal in an attempt to kill him. They fail, and he prevails.

It's the next chapter, after the movie ends, that's really interesting to me. Caan's character has risen to the status of cult hero, and we are left to wonder what he'll do next. Try to overthrow the corporate oligarchy that tried to kill him? Take his revenge (through mob violence) against the corporations for the other ways they ruined his life? Become an overlord himself?

This is terrific writing. It's also well acted and well directed. One of my favorite movies about the near future.
14 people found this helpful
ApathyCurveReviewed in the United States on July 28, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars
Neo-political schlock becomes enduring art
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I first saw Rollerball forty years ago and I still love it today. The plot, of course, is absolutely terrible. Like most dystopian fiction, it is naive quasi-intellectual dribblige of the worst sort which spends two hours vainly wandering around in search of a relevant point to make. But you can't really expect much from a movie that was adapted from a short story which was originally published in a "men's magazine," so I won't knock off any stars for that. It is what it is.

The reasons to watch this movie today all boil down to production values. The lengths to which the producers went in order to make the titular sport look real are still astonishing to me. It helps a great deal that James Caan insisted on doing all of his own stunts. Even after dozens of viewings over the years, watching the arena scenes can still get my 50-something blood pumping. Also of note are the sets and ambiance. As with most 1970s science fiction movies, the shooting locations are showcases of New Brutalism and the decor is littered with Italian futurist design.

The way in which the cinematography seamlessly weaves the actors and extras into these elements in order to create a believable future is quite astonishing. Just as one example, the background extras all cast furtive glances at Caan (playing famous athlete Johnathon E) as he walks around in public. It is pervasive but not obtrusive, coming across as completely natural and believable. It's as if Peyton Manning had strolled into the local library and you watch as people begin to recognize him. Small directorial touches like that add an air of realism that no amount of computer graphics can create. Much as with Gattaca two decades later, the director and principle cinematographer took great pains to make their made-up world seem real to the audience rather than relying on special effects. We could do with a lot more of that today and a lot less CGI.

TLDR: Laugh at the ridiculous plot, but love the movie as a piece of art.
3 people found this helpful
B. L. WrayReviewed in the United States on December 4, 2022
2.0 out of 5 stars
So, this is a movie in search of itself.
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This train wreck of cinematography tries to tie a pointless plot into a sport and a nonsensical dystopian future with no real focus or purpose.

So we start out with a rollerball game where our hero leads his team to victory. Okay, off to a good start. Then the owner of the team cuts the worst victory speech in a "I am clearly the bad guy" tone ever. It makes no sense because to us, the team just won the game and made the owner money.... so why is he acting that way? Well, the movie falls on it's face trying to tell you.

You see, the company wants their star player to retire. Why? NO CLUE. He is winning, he isn't demanding, he is a team player.... there is no logical presentation to why they want him to quit. So, the main protag just goes on this conspiracy theory to show the audience how dystopian the future is.... and that goes no where either.

See, companies own the world now and they control the truth...... what does this have to do with the game? It doesn't. It just slows the entire film down.

The company which runs the game, pays the players seems to be utterly powerless to prevent the hero from playing... even though they could just suspend him or prevent him from taking the field at ANY time. Instead they change the rules of the game to comically evil levels. The final match is NO PENALTIES, NO SUBS, NO TIME.... so why even play the final game? Just start out and straight murk the other team.

Oh yeah, nothing comes of the final arc of the story. Hero survives, evil corp continues, nothing changes.....

This movie could of been far better if they just focused on the Rollerball and less everything else. They could of focused on the company wanting the hero to retire and he doesn't want to give up the game but he is too old to be a star.
Tony SolorzanoReviewed in the United States on September 3, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Timeless Cautionary Tale
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When Corporations rule the world, what happens to the idea of Humanity. Norman Jewison explores what is turning out to be a possible future for us in his 1975 Sci-Fi Classic, "Rollerball." James Caan, coming off his starring role in "Funny Girl," Plays Johnathon E, the most popular athlete in the game of Rollerball, a sport that combines Roller Derby, Motocross and no-holds Barred wrestling that was created by the Corporations that control the planet. Despite his popularity, the Sport was never meant to be anything more than a way for the masses to be distracted by the fact that their entire lives belong to the Corporations. Johnathon has become bigger than the game, and despite their best efforts, he won't retire from the sport. Systematically, the Energy Corporation, led by Mr. Bartholomew (John Houseman) makes the game more and more violent, resulting in members of Johnathon's Houstin team to suffer more than a few injuries, and deaths, including his teammate and best friend, "Moonpie, (John Beck)
The finale of the season, and the movie, involves a deathmatch between Houston and New York, where the future of teh sport as well as Johnathon's fate will be determined.

In the 45+ years since the movie's release, the intrusion of COrporate influence in Humanity has grown more and more. Will we end up as virtual slaves to a global Corporate conglomerate? Maybe, Maybe not. But What Rollerball does show is that despites the best efforts do eliminate Individualism, the Human Spirit will never surrender and true legends will rise.
2 people found this helpful
Zachary LittrellReviewed in the United States on July 27, 2020
3.0 out of 5 stars
For the love of the game
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The gory mess of Rollerball matches makes up for any shortcomings. Even before it descends into gladiatorial madness, it's a miracle anyone has ever managed to score a single point. The only thing keeping these lions and jackals from driving motorbikes over limbs and karate chopping necks is some vague rules, that promptly get changed anyway.

There is some dystopia plot around it, but as delightfully overserious Mr. Bartholomew can be, hounding and bribing Johnathon to quit, it's filler until we get to the next match. You have to sit through people giving each other funny looks and a librarian kicking a bizarre computer. 20 minutes shorter and I'd call this movie a masterpiece. So it's lucky to be anchored through the less exciting parts by John Houseman's Bartholomew and James Caan's Johnathon, an increasingly suspicious golden retriever shaped like a man that bites.

I gotta admit though, even if it's social commentary is long in the tooth by now, there sure is something special about footballers on roller blades beating the snot out of each other in a capitalism nightmare.
One person found this helpful
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