A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this last-man-on-Earth saga is pretty grim in the end. It depicts the aftermath of germ warfare, with whole civilian populations dropping dead in their tracks. Violence is frequent and includes much machine-gunning, car-crashing, and stabbing. A bit of the early '70s' "blaxploitation" influence is evident, in both the strong African-American characters and some vintage name-calling ("honky"). A few shots show the heroine nude, and she has a spicy sexual affair with the hero. Language includes "bastard" and "ass"; characters drink and make references to drugs. Although it's rated PG, that rating was given before PG-13 existed; it would warrant the higher rating today.
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What's the story?
In the post-apocalyptic "future" of 1977, a missile battle between the USSR and China tainted the planet with man-made plague bacteria, killing billions of people and leaving the rest to slowly turn into semi-psychotic albino mutants. The one disease-free survivor is hard-charging Robert Neville (Charlton Heston), a former army doctor who injected himself with an experimental vaccine. Neville uses the deserted U.S. city as his own personal playground, driving new cars and cranking up a movie theater projector to watch films alone. But after dark, it's serious business. The light-fearing mutants and their leader Matthias (Anthony Zerbe) are on a quasi-religious mission to destroy all technology; to them, Neville represents the civilization that brought on this calamity. They attack his fortified home every night, which he defends with guns and firebombs.
Is it any good?
Despite the dated fashions and style, the film -- based on the same Richard Matheson novel that inspired 2007's I Am Legend -- still has some punch. When Neville experiments with his own blood as a cure, the movie edges toward turning him into a Christ-like figure. That said, as played by rugged icon Heston, Neville is a macho man who doesn't shy away from fights and dives eagerly into a love affair with a female survivor. She's played by an African-American actress -- very progressive for the day but also carries a bit of "blaxploitation" movie baggage.
Still, even though some viewers consider it laughable, there's enough about The Omega Man to make it a compelling vision of what happens after the world ends, and less-jaded younger viewers might find it worth viewing and discussing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hollywood's fascination with post-apocalyptic stories. Do you think a situation like the one in the movie could ever really happen? Which is scarier -- a movie like this or a slasher horror flick with fountains of blood? Why? Families can also discuss Matthias' followers' grudge against technology. Does it still seem like a relevant issue today? Families who've read Richard Matheson's source novel or seen either of the other movies it inspired -- 1964's The Last Man on Earth and 2007's I Am Legend -- can compare the different versions. How are they different or the same?
- In theaters: August 1, 1971
- On DVD or streaming: May 15, 2007
- Cast: Anthony Zerbe, Charlton Heston, Rosalind Cash
- Director: Boris Sagal
- Studio: Warner Home Video
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Book Characters, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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