'Soylent Green Is People!' Charlton Heston's Strange Sci-Fi Movie Quote

By | February 2, 2021

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Source: IMDB

When Charlton Heston delivers the line "Soylent Green is people!" at the end of the film Soylent Green (1973), it's a clumsy collision of cinematic drama and science-fiction. Soylent Green looked at some serious real-world issues, like overpopulation, inequality, and scarcity of resources, and the future it depicted was a scary one. Yet with one hammy line -- just four words -- Heston tells us something we already knew, boiling down the sci-fi complexities to a childish simplicity.

"Soylent Green is people" is a movie line that lives on not because it is clever or even climactic -- it's just obvious and weird. Many aspiring screenwriters dream of coming up with something as perfect as Dirty Harry's tough talk or a Corleone-style euphemism. Few, if any, would hold up "Soylent Green is people" as a line worth emulating -- yet it's consistently listed as one of the most memorable lines in movie history.

It Had Foundations In A Bleak Philosophy

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The police hold back the crowds. Source: (filmfestival.gr)

Soylent Green and the book it is based on are considered neo-Malthusian. Thomas Robert Malthus, an economist in the late 1700’s proposed that people multiply faster than the amounts of food and material available to them and unless population growth is checked my moral restraint, famine, or war, poverty and degradation would result. That is indeed the result in Soylent Green, where because of overpopulation, the masses live in poverty, and the only food they have to eat is soylent, a combination of natural and artificial foods, processed into crackers. Each day of the week, the masses are supposed to eat a different colored cracker; the colors denote what they are consuming.