Battlefield Earth (also referred to as Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000) is a 2000 American science fiction action film based upon the first half of L. Ron Hubbard's 1982 novel of the same name. Directed by Roger Christian and starring John Travolta, Barry Pepper, and Forest Whitaker, the film depicts an Earth that has been under the rule of the alien Psychlos for 1,000 years and tells the story of the rebellion that develops when the Psychlos attempt to use the surviving humans as gold miners.
Travolta, a long-time Scientologist, had sought for many years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. He was unable to obtain funding from any major studio due to concerns about the film's script, prospects, and connections with Scientology. The project was eventually taken on in 1998 by an independent production company, Franchise Pictures, which specialized in rescuing stars' stalled pet projects. Travolta signed on as a co-producer and contributed millions of dollars of his own money to the production, which commenced in 1999 and was largely funded by German film distribution company Intertainment AG. Franchise Pictures was later sued by its investors and was bankrupted in 2004 after it emerged that it had fraudulently overstated the film's budget by $31 million.
Battlefield Earth was released on May 12, 2000. The film was a critical and commercial failure and has been called one of the worst films of all time. Reviewers panned the film, criticizing virtually every aspect of the production including Travolta's acting, which many described as "hammy", overuse of angled shots and slow-motion, poor script, several plot holes and narrative inconsistencies, art direction, and dialogue. Audiences were reported to have ridiculed early screenings and stayed away from the film after its opening weekend, which led to Battlefield Earth failing to recoup its costs. The film went on to receive a total of eight Golden Raspberry Awards, which until 2012 was the most Razzie Awards given to a single film, additionally winning Worst Picture of the Decade in 2010. It has since become a cult film in the so bad, it's good vein.
Travolta originally envisioned Battlefield Earth as the first of two films to be adapted from the book, as the screenplay only covered the first half of the novel. However, the film's poor performance at the box office, as well as the collapse of Franchise Pictures, ended plans for a sequel.
In the year 3000, Earth has been ruled for 1,000 years by the Psychlos, a brutal race of giant humanoid aliens. The remnants of humanity are either enslaved by the Psychlos and used for manual labor or survive in primitive tribes living in remote areas outside Psychlo control. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper), a member of one such tribe, leaves his home in the Rocky Mountains on a journey of exploration. He joins forces with Carlo (Kim Coates), a hunter, but both men are captured by a Psychlo raiding party and transported to a slave camp at the Psychlos' main base on Earth, a giant dome built over the ruins of Denver, Colorado.
Terl (John Travolta), the Psychlo security chief on Earth, has been condemned by his superiors to remain indefinitely at his post on Earth as punishment for an unclear incident involving "the Senator's daughter". Aided by his deputy, Ker (Forest Whitaker), Terl devises a plan to buy his way off the planet by making a fortune using human slaves to mine gold in radioactive areas. Psychlos are unable to visit such areas due to the explosive interaction of the gas they breathe with radionuclide particles. Terl selects Jonnie as his "foreman" for the project and gives him a Psychlo education using a rapid-learning machine. Terl gives Jonnie a party of slaves and a Psychlo flying shuttle and orders him to go out and find gold.
After learning the Psychlos' language, history, and myriad other things from the rapid learning machine, Jonnie plots a human uprising against the Psychlos. He obtains gold from Fort Knox to satisfy Terl's demands, and uses the free time to plot a revolution. Jonnie and his followers find an abandoned underground U.S. military base with working aircraft, weapons, fuel, and nuclear weapons. They use the base's flight simulators to train themselves in aerial combat. When Terl returns, he orders more gold to be extracted, and tells how in the 21st century the Psychlos conquered Earth in only nine minutes. Jonnie warns Terl that he will be overthrown and the humans will retake Earth, citing the United States Declaration of Independence as inspiration, to which Terl scoffs.
After a week of training, the rebels launch a mass uprising against the Psychlos using Harrier jump-jets and other weapons. Carlo sacrifices himself to destroy the dome over Denver, and the Psychlos inside suffocate in Earth's atmosphere, which they are unable to breathe. Jonnie captures a Psychlo teleportation device and uses it to teleport an atomic bomb to the Psychlo home world. The ensuing detonation causes the entire Psychlo atmosphere to explode, wiping out the Psychlo world. The film ends with the humans in control of Earth but facing an uncertain future, along with Terl and Ker who survived the base destruction. Terl is now imprisoned inside Fort Knox in a makeshift cell of gold bars, while Ker sides with the victorious humans, and helps in their hard effort to rebuild their civilization.
- John Travolta as Terl
- Barry Pepper as Jonnie Goodboy Tyler
- Forest Whitaker as Ker
- Kim Coates as Carlo
- Sabine Karsenti as Chrissy
- Richard Tyson as Robert the Fox
- Kelly Preston as Chirk
- Michael MacRae as District Manager Zete
- Shaun Austin-Olsen as Planetship Numph
- Tim Post as the Assistant Planetship
- Michael Byrne as Parson staffer
- Christian Tessier as Mickey
- Sylvain Landry as Sammy
- Earl Pastko as the Bartender
- Noël Burton as the Clinko Learning instructor
Author Services Inc. and Church of Scientology
Golden Raspberry Awards
Fears of Scientology influence
Fraud by Franchise Pictures
Cancelled follow-ups and sequels