1970s Sci-Fi Violent Classic More Powerful Than Ever, Stream Right Now Without Netflix

By Brian Myers | Published

For those who have stayed true to their decision to cut back on their streaming services, missing out on yesterday’s hits and cult classics has become an unfortunate reality. Thankfully, free streaming platforms like Tubi have recently upped their game and have made it possible to watch one of the greatest sci-fi classics from the 1970s. Rollerball is now available to watch for free on this quickly growing on-demand streaming service.

James Caan Stars As Jonathan, A Rollerball Player

Based on the short story Roller Ball Murder, which was published in a 1973 issue of Esquire, the film Rollerball follows veteran Houston Rollerball player Jonathan (James Caan), whose team sponsor is one of a handful of powerful corporations that control society. In this dystopian setting, books have been digitized, their contents altered at the will of the obscenely wealthy oligarchy in command.

One of the oligarchs, Energy Corporation executive Mr. Bartholemew, approaches Jonathan and offers him a very generous retirement package if Jonathan will announce his retirement during an upcoming Rollerball bout.

Jonathan refuses, creating a battle of wills between an aging Rollerball player and one of the most powerful men in the world. To try to force Jonathan into retirement, Mr. Bartholemew foments rapid rule changes to the sport, making it more violent. Eventually, these changes will have deadly consequences for several of the players.

Directed By Norman Jewison Of Fiddler on the Roof Fame

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Rollerball was the brainchild of writer William Harrison, who penned the original short story and was charged with adapting it for the screenplay. United Artists brought on famed director Norman Jewison to guide the film to completion. Jewison, who went on to direct the classic films Moonstruck, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Agnes of God, had already chalked up three Oscar nominations for best director for In the Heat of the Night, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, and Fiddler on the Roof.

Rollerball Was A Massive Success In Theaters

Produced on a budget of $6 million, Rollerball was a big money maker for United Artists. By the end of its theatrical run, Rollerball brought in an astounding $30 million in box office receipts, the equivalent of $177 million in 2024 dollars. Within a decade, the film garnered a new generation of fans when it was released on multiple home video formats.

The Cast

Starring James Caan as Jonathan and John Houseman as Mr. Bartholemew, Rollerball was supported by a cast of faces familiar in the 1970s. Maud Adams, who later became known as a Bond Girl in the film Octopussy, was cast as Jonathan’s wife, while veteran character actors Moses Gunn and John Beck give unforgettable performances.

The 2002 Remake

Critics largely panned the film after its release, but the movie has grown to be highly revered in the years since. Rotten Tomatoes has Rollerball listed with a respectable 67 percent, and it has been nominated for several American Film Institute lists. A 2002 remake was produced, directed by John McTiernan and starring Chris Klein in the role originally held by Caan.You can watch Rollerball for free on Tubi. Viewers who want a commercial-free experience can also find the film streaming on Amazon.