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THX 1138 (1971)

tomatometer

88

Average Rating: 6.9/10
Reviews Counted: 59
Fresh: 52 | Rotten: 7

George Lucas' feature debut presents a spare, bleak, dystopian future, and features evocatively minimal set design and creepy sound effects.

92

Average Rating: 7/10
Critic Reviews: 12
Fresh: 11 | Rotten: 1

George Lucas' feature debut presents a spare, bleak, dystopian future, and features evocatively minimal set design and creepy sound effects.

audience

75

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 27,192

My Rating

Movie Info

Based on his award-winning student short, George Lucas's debut feature cerebrally celebrates the possibility for individual freedom against all odds. In a 1984-esque white-washed future underground dystopia where sexuality is banned, all humans sport shaved heads and the same shapeless outfits as they go about their work in a mandated state of sedation, listening to exhortations to "Buy and Be Happy." Black-clad robot cops chant a mantra to their victims that "everything will be all right" and

PG,

Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy

George Lucas, Walter Murch

Sep 14, 2004

Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (61) | Top Critics (12) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (7) | DVD (33)

The empty space surrounding the vulnerable man emphasizes the exertion involved rather than the goal of escape: like the hologram who came to life because he wanted to, THX finally achieves his humanity by an assertion of will.

January 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

With political paternalism rampant at both extremes of the spectrum, Lucas is onto something. In any case, we'll know for sure in about a generation.

June 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Visually it is often extraordinary, with Lucas playing on perspectives and dislocations throughout, nowhere more brilliantly than in the 'prison' represented by a limbo of whiteness that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I have a good many reservations about the film's ideas, but they are greatly outweighed by my admiration for a technical virtuosity that by fair means and foul achieves exceptional emotional intensity at the same time.

May 9, 2005 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Lucas described THX as 'an artifact from the future,' and we're supposed to struggle for understanding. That's part of its hypnotic undertow.

September 13, 2004 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The whole thing feels like a hypnotic dreamscape, so luminously stark, from its white-on-white abstract sets to the wide-eyed, bald, near catatonic residents of this world.

September 13, 2004 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

long and cumbersome

January 19, 2014 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

Slow sci-fi drama for die hard Lucas fans only.

January 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Tedious pacing contributes to the confusing nature of the movie, but George Lucas' restored "THX-1138" is essential viewing to distinguish his artistic vision before he transformed Hollywood.

May 7, 2009 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

Meditative and downbeat rather than crowd-pleasing, the film includes a few sequences that suggest the direction Lucas career later took.

June 5, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Enhancing the film with special effects and a clearer presentation, Lucas has turned something that was relatively unwatchable into something that can endure as a sci-fi classic.

November 2, 2006
Christianity Today

Masterpiece? I'd hazard to say so, for as much of what it says to what it leaves to the viewer.

December 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

A high concept window in on the direction George Lucas could have gone.

October 27, 2005
ColeSmithey.com

The general bleakness of the film, its themes and the author's youthful anger could not be erased with digital technology.

June 25, 2005 Full Review Source: Draxblog Movie Reviews

A modest, somber vision of the future.

May 4, 2005 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

For a film that warns about the dangers of consumerism, one can only wonder how many more times will Mr. Lucas force this lesser work of his upon an uncaring public before he lets the film slip back into obscurity.

April 14, 2005 Full Review Source: FilmJerk.com
FilmJerk.com

THX 1138 shows that Lucas was once interested in letting actors act, and in letting the audience think for themselves. It reveals just how much his technological toys have crippled him as a storyteller.

February 26, 2005 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

Lucas' bleak debut is a film markedly dissimilar from his more famous trilogy.

November 1, 2004 Full Review Source: Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

A pretentious regurgitation of worn-out sci-fi cliches by a novice filmmaker who had yet to find his way.

October 19, 2004 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Comments (2)
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

It's colorization in sheep's clothing--don't you be duped into thinking otherwise.

October 7, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

The thought put into the world of THX 1138 clearly shows a respect for the audience who crave to know more than just basic plot and character development.

October 6, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Snobs
Film Snobs

Neglected on its initial release, this now stands as a classic science fiction movie and one of the most remarkable debuts of the 70s.

October 6, 2004 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Audience Reviews for THX 1138

An excessively cold sci-fi that deserves credit not so much for its plot (Lucas doesn't seem to care enough about exploring his ideas to make some consistent social commentary) as it does for its technical merits, with a great use of visual effects and sound design.
June 6, 2014
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

This is George Lucas's feature film debut: a startling feature length remake of a short film he made as a student in film school.

The story is a futuristic sci-fi dystopia sort of thing in the vein of Orwell or Huxley, with some Kafka thrown in for good measure. Everything is very bland, cold, clinical, and dominated by the color white. Everyone has a shaved head, and no one stands out from anyone else. Everyone is also under the control of mind altering drugs that regulate their behavior, thoughts, and emotions and they are always nder constant surveillance.

One citizen in particulatr though, known as THX 1138, wants that all to end, and begins a quest to break free from this confining world and escape to a place where individuality might just be a possibility.

The style and stroytelling are extremely minimalist, and the plot is really bare bones. There's some dialogue, but it is very sparse, so most of the world building is done through visuals and sound design, both of which are top notch. This is art directed to the nth degree, and that's what makes it really enjoyable and fascinating. If only Lucas had continued ot make more films like this, then he might be celebrated as one of the best art film directors ever. I'm not kidding.Lalo Schifrin gives a nicely haunting score, and the performances, especially from Duvall and Pleasance are pretty good.

All in all, this is a pretty striking piece of work. It might have been nice to have a bit more explanation and backstory, but as an experimental exercise in tone and mood, and just an overall creepy and hypnotic experience in general, this is some wonderful stuff.
March 22, 2012
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

This George Lucas breakthrough film is an interesting take on an Orwellian future, especially for its visual and aural boldness. Unfortunately, its story is as sterilized as its scenery.
October 27, 2011
Matheus Carvalho

Super Reviewer

George Lucas' debut feature film is a dystopian society film about an underground society where people are controlled and everything is monitored. THX 1138 reminds me heavily of George Orwell's 1984. I am a huge fan of Dystopian novels/films etc. I was very much impressed with Lucas' first film and I consider it a Sci Fi masterpiece and a classic. I thought it was beautifully filmed, and told. The story was well paced and featured a lot of parallels of what was going to become the now famous Star Wars trilogy. THX 1138 has an impressive cast of actors, and they have great chemistry. I loved Donald Pleasence in this film, and is one of the best actors of this period. Robert Duvall also gives a splendid performance as THX, the title character of this picture. Watching this film, you feel like you're reading a George Orwell / Aldous Huxley novel. The world that THX tries to escape from is exactly how I pictured Huxley's world in Brave New World, and it's laws and restrictions on the people living in the underground dystopia echo that of Orwell's 1984. In many ways, THX 1138 is a stepping stone for Star Wars, without it, George Lucas couldn't have crafted Star Wars. I don't believe that THX 1138 is greater than Star Wars, but I would say that both films are two of s kind. They're very different, but there is so many similarities as well. THX 1138 is a masterful film that is a classic of the genre, and with a strong story and great acting and drama, THX 1138 is a compelling film not to be missed by fans of Sci Fi or Lucas fans in general.
July 5, 2011
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

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