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The Black Hole is a 1979 science fiction movie directed by Gary Nelson. It stars Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, and Ernest Borgnine. The voices of the main robot characters in the film are provided by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens (both uncredited). The music for the movie was composed by John Barry. Alan Dean Foster novelized the screenplay.

An Earth exploratory ship, the USS Palomino, discovers an impressively massive black hole with a missing Earth ship, the USS Cygnus parked just outside its event horizon, somehow defying its gravity. Setting off to solve the mystery of the Cygnus are: the Palomino's Captain, Dan Holland (Forster); his First Officer, Lieutenant Charlie Pizer (Bottoms); journalist Harry Booth (Borgnine); ESP-sensitive scientist Dr. Kate McCrae (Mimieux); Dr. Alex Durant (Perkins), the expedition's civilian leader; and the robot V.I.N.CENT("Vital Information Necessary CENTralized"). The Palomino attempts a dangerous fly-by of the ship, which is dark and apparently derelict. As they come within close range of it, the buffeting they experience due to the black hole's gravity suddenly ceases. They complete their fly-by with tantalizing signs that someone may still be aboard, but do not realize the gravity-free zone is artificial and limited; slipping outside it, they are almost drawn into the black hole.

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As the crew repairs the Palomino, they discover that the Cygnus is not only functional but inhabited by a crew of faceless robots and their human commander, Dr. Hans Reinhardt, who intends to take the Cygnus into the black hole to see what awaits him on the other side. Trivial matters like what happened to the original human crew or that Earth tried to recall his mission years ago do not concern him.

Oh did we forget to mention this is a Disney movie?

The movie contains very clear homages in style and plot to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Forbidden Planet, and to the studio's own prior 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; it's possible they originally intended to create a similar "proverbial good science fiction film". The success of Star Wars meant that assorted cute robots and laser battles were crammed in, making the tone somewhat schizophrenic. The goofy robot shooting gallery scene seems particularly out of place.note 

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Many consider this film to be Disney's biggest flopnote  (which lead to countless jokes about the company's money being tossed into the eponymous hole), and that it represents everything that was wrong with Ron Miller's leadership of the company. In actual fact, it made $35m on a budget of $20m, so it did earn a slight profit for the company; nonetheless, not very many people regard the film as one of Disney's finer moments. (However, it is considered a science fiction classic and is often cited alongside Blade Runner and TRON as examples of films that failed upon first release only to be critically reappraised and become cult favorites later on.) On the plus side, along with one other movie that was released the same year, it was the first ever Disney movie to be given a PG rating; something that ultimately would lead to the creation of Disney's separate non-Disney branded label, Touchstone Pictures in 1984 (with the PG-rated Splash as its first release).

The film is currently in development for a remake by TRON: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski. This film even gets a Shout-Out in Legacy as a poster in Sam's room.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: According to the novelization, during the eighteen months of the Palomino's journey its crew found nothing more evolved than a few insignificant microbes. It also suggests that other similar missions had similar results.
  • Absurdly Dedicated Worker:
    • The creepy cloaked and mute robots on the Cygnus continue to water and care for the massive hydroponics bay despite Dr. Reinhardt supposedly being the only one left aboard who needs to eat or breathe. In fact the former crew have been subject to Unwilling Roboticisation and the bay is used to feed them as well.
    • When the Cygnus is being pummeled by asteroids, and in the novelization at least begins to be ripped apart by the black hole's gravity, none of the cloaked robots react to preserve their lives at all, continuing to man their posts. It's made poetically ironic when Dr. Reinhardt is trapped by a falling viewscreen and begs for help, only to be ignored by the crew he roboticized.
  • Accidental Pun: When the Palomino first enters the black hole's gravity field, Charlie says that the ship is "bucking like a bronco."
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: The black hole's "Einstein-Rosen Bridge" ("wormhole" in plain English).
  • Adaptation Expansion: The novelization adds in a lot of detail, such as defining Dr. McCrae's "ESP" as a wireless cybernetic interface, and a wonderfully grim conversation regarding rehydrated Christmas dinner, complete with rehydrated giblets. It also explains why just letting the decompressed cargo hold's contents escape the ship wasn't an option. It was apparently full of irreplacable pharmaceuticals.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: There are also several scenes where it's hinted Maximillian is actively deciding whether or not to follow Reinhardt's orders. In the end it abandons him to his death.. In the novel, the robot is much more loyal to Reinhardt even if it also abandons him to his death at the end.
  • All There in the Manual: On screen, Kate's ESP link with a robot comes off as a bit of an Ass Pull, but the novelization actually explains it's not paranormal but rather some form of wireless interface she possesses.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The ending appears to imply this, though except for a pair of ultra-rare Gold Key Comic issues continuing the story, what happens after the crew go through the black hole remains unchronicled.
  • Androids Are People, Too: The opening scene makes it clear that the Palomino's crew consider V.I.N.CENT a full friend and colleague, but they don't extend the same courtesy to any of the Cygnus's robots except B.O.B., who is the same model as V.I.N.CENT. In fairness, the cloaked robots appear nonsentient (in fact, not only are they sentient, they're human), the Sentries are mute and ambiguously self-aware at best, and Maximillian is a monster even Reinhardt is scared of.
  • Antimatter: In the novelization, a (very helpful) side effect of the anti-gravity field is also to permit antimattter to be used as fuel to power the engines of the Cygnus, and consequently said field.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Durant doesn't think it credible that Reinhardt would have programmed his "robots" to have human emotions ... even though it's obvious that both V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. have them, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, so it must be a known technology. note 
  • Artificial Gravity: One of Reinhardt's breakthroughs is an anti-gravity forcefield that protects the Cygnus from the black hole, though judging from its layout the Cygnus must have been built with some form of interior artificial gravity.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: What Reinhardt believes will happen inside a black hole, where conventional physical laws break down. This is what happens to the survivors in the novelization.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Reinhardt quotes from Genesis.
    "And darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."
  • Badass Boast: "We are going through," even as the meteor storm plows all around the Cygnus and is severely damaging the ship. In the novelization after the meteor storm, when the hole's gravity begins to overwhelm the Cygnus anti-gravity field.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Near the end the characters are inexplicably seen climbing from the Cygnus to the probe ship through the vacuum of space without space suits. Reportedly space suits were to be used in this sequence but the cast disliked their design and there wasn't enough time to redesign themnote .
  • Be Careful What You Wish For / Tempting Fate: After winning the first shootout with Reinhardt's robots, Old B.O.B. wishes that "Reinhardt and Maximillian had been out there." He gets his wish partially granted later and ends up fatally damaged as a result.
  • Being Watched: Dr. Kate McCrae says that she feels like there are a million eyes watching the Palomino crew when they first enter the Cygnus through the reception area.
  • The Blank: The robot crewmen have metal plates where their faces might otherwise be, and exhibit no expression or emotion.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Dr. Reinhardt's story that the rest of the Cygnus crewmen willingly left him alone with the ship is full of so many inconsistencies that it was only a matter of time before the truth came out.
    • Reinhardt also claims that a communication error prevented him from answering the Palomino's hail. As Holland notes, that still doesn't explain why he waited so long to turn on the lights, which let them know the ship wasn't a derelict. B.O.B. later says he only did this because he was worried the Cygnus would get damaged if the Palomino impacted it.
    • Harry in the novelization. When him and Charlie leave the Palomino to help Dan and Kate, he fakes to have broken his leg to avoid to fight, and when alone he rushes back to the Palomino attempting to go back to Earth, leaving everyone else stranded in the Cygnus.
  • Bully Hunter: After hearing how Captain S.T.A.R. did something nasty to Old B.O.B. in payback for losing a shooting contest, V.I.N.CENT. decides to return the favour by out-shooting the android (including 'accidentally'' hitting him with a ricochet) causing Captain S.T.A.R. to blow a fuse.
  • Burial in Space: Done by the "robot" crewmen, which tips off the suspicions of the Palomino's crew that all is not as it appears aboard the Cygnus.
  • Chair Reveal: A nicely underplayed version. The protagonists enter a huge bridge manned by silent black-robed figures. Maximillian floats down from an upper deck and deploys whirling cutting blades. Just when things are getting tense, a nearby chair swivels round from its console to introduce Dr. Hans Reinhardt.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The probe ship. There are two scenes that show how Reinhardt sends a probe ship near the black hole and back before sending the Cygnus in. This scenes seem unnecesary until both the Palomino and the Cygnus are destroyed or severely damaged, and the probe is the last ship standing and both sides scramble to reach it.
  • Collapsing Lair: Inverted when Reinhardt is killed in the destruction of the Cygnus. It's also a Justified Trope given that the Cygnus is being crushed in the intense gravity of the black hole.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: There was a Newspaper Comic, drawn by Jack Kirby, and the movie was adapted by Whitman Comics, an imprint of Gold Key Comics. The Gold Key title actually went on to publish two extremely rare original stories, the only official fiction to be set after the events of the film.
  • Comm Links: Holland has his transmitter in the collar of his shirt, which Rienhardt mockingly imitates at one point. Kate's ESP also provides covert communication with their robot.
  • Conspicuous CG: The opening credits, featuring a wireframe representation of a black hole's gravity well. State-of-the-art for 1979, it was originally produced for the trailers, but then executives wanted it in the film itself. It looked spectacular at the time, but some may feel it hasn't aged well.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The meteor storm that hits with almost divine timing, right as the story begins its climax.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: After Kate discovers the truth about the drones, Reinhardt has her taken away to be turned into one. She barely escapes a laser lobotomy.
  • Cool Starship: The Cygnus is a sort of glass cathedral spaceship that runs on pure awesomenote .
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Cygnus, at least in the novel, is stated to have been built heavily armed in the case she needed to defend of attacking aliens —which never popped up, see also "Absent Aliens" above.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Gary Nelson as the humanoid unmasked by Durant.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Maximillian drills a hole in Durant's chest, then throws his body onto some power busbars. In the novelization, he's "just" drilled down by Maximillian's lasers from afar.
  • Cyber Cyclops: Maximillian.
  • David vs. Goliath: Lampshaded by Reinhardt on seeing V.I.N.CENT. face off with Maximillian.
  • Deadpan Snarker: V.I.N.CENT., thanks to his endless store of quotations.
    • B.O.B. gets a couple of snarks in, too....
      [S.T.A.R. approaches V.I.N.CENT. and B.O.B. in the shooting gallery]
      B.O.B.: Oh, Lord! He wants a rematch!
      V.I.N.CENT.: As an old navy hero once said, Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
      B.O.B.: He also said something about going in harm's way.note 
    • Maximillian even gets a shot in, too. While Dan, Charlie, and V.I.N.CENT. are in the elevator with in, V.I.N.CENT. quotes "the bigger they are, the harder they fall." Maximillian immediately does a 180° roll to heads down in response to this, and then V.I.N.CENT gets the last word in with a 360° roll.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The mission of the Cygnus is described as the same as that of the Palomino: "to discover habitable life in outer space."
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Captain S.T.A.R. blows a fuse after V.I.N.CENT. beats it in a shooting contest, though that ricochet shot V.I.N.CENT. 'accidentally' put in its chest can't have helped.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Dr. Reinhardt. If the crew of faceless cloaked humanoids lead by a floating red killbot with blender blades wasn't an indication, the man himself gives you another big hint by wearing bright red outfits for many of his scenes...
  • Dirty Coward: Harry Booth. He talks big about trying to overpower Reinhardt's robots, take control of the Cygnus, and head back to Earth... but as soon as he finds out what actually happened to the rest of Reinhardt's crew, he immediately changes his mind ("If they couldn't pull it off, what chance do we have?")... which leads to his ill-advised attempt to steal the Palomino and make for Earth alone.
    • He has a good point about not being able to take control of the ship. His decision to abandon his friends... not so much.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The way the Cygnus is destroyed. Things begin when the Palomino is eliminated by the lasers of the former as it goes out of control, damaging the Cygnus, and especially in the novelization spiral out of control thanks to the meteorites impacting and damaging her.
  • Disney Death: Averted for anyone hoping that Old B.O.B. would miraculously survive that last shootout with Maximillian.
  • Dope Slap: Amusingly inverted version, with Reinhardt triple-slapping his own forehead when rebuking Maximilian for the Sentries' failure against V.I.N.CENT. and Old B.O.B.
  • The Dragon: Maximillian.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: Fortunately V.I.N.CENT. has anti-gravs and the obligatory grappling hook of any Do-Anything Robot. Others aren't so lucky.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Durant rips off the shiny metal faceplate of a 'robot' to reveal a human face underneath.
  • The Dreaded
    • The eponymous black hole is described like an Eldritch Abomination that might one day devour the Universe.
    • The Palomino crew (except V.I.N.CENT., but that's likely bravado) are wary of tangling with the menacing Maximillian and even its creator claims to be afraid of it.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Until Reinhardt orders the security drones to shoot at all humanoids not at their posts.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Say what you will about Reinhardt's obvious madness and psychopathy, but he was right about this particular black hole being an endpoint for a wormhole.
  • The End Justifies The Means
    Reinhardt: What would you have said, Mr Booth, if the authorities...would have called back Columbus just before he discovered the New World? You wouldn't even exist. I'm about to prove to you that the end justifies the means.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Dr. Reinhardt is genuinely upset at Durant's death and chastises Maximillian for killing him.
    Dr. Reinhardt: You shouldn't have done that! He was a good man.
  • Evil Plan: Actually averted, at least initially, with regards to the Palomino and its crew. As Reinhardt explains to Alex and Kate, he knows the trip through the black hole is a one-way journey; all he wants is for the Palomino to observe and record as much as possible, with no indication of keeping the visitors with him. It's not until Alex decides to stay on board and Reinhardt is made aware that Holland, Kate and the others have discovered the fate of the original crew that things escalate.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Cygnus control tower, with its menacing appearance, fits well the trope before being torn free of the Cygnus near the very end, as the ship desintegrates
  • Explosive Decompression: Several guard bots are blown out of the hydroponics dome when a meteor makes a hole in the roof. Also in the novelization it's mentioned explosive decompression is a rotten and messy way to die. Of course Reinhardt experiments it, his eyes bulging out as the Cygnus control tower is torn away due to the black hole's intense gravity.
  • Expy: V.I.N.CENT. is a slightly less effeminate, and considerably more competent version of C-3P0 (with an R2-D2 style body).
  • Extremely Short Time Span: Except for the Gainax Ending, the entire film takes place over, at most, twelve hours.
  • Facial Dialogue: V.I.N.CENT. can do this despite being a Tin-Can Robot with mock eyes, by raising (indicating surprise or pain) and lowering (usually Oh, Crap!) his top cover.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: When Maximillian drills a hole in Durant's chest. Yes, there's a book in the way so you can't see it, and yes, there's no visible blood; but he still drills a hole in his chest. The sound effect for the drill — and Anthony Perkins' agonized scream — makes it all the worse. It's part of the reason why this is the first PG-rated Disney production.
    • It's worse than that, actually. Maximillian doesn't just drill a hole in Durant's chest; he slices Durant's chest into hamburger. And the sound Durant makes isn't so much a scream as it is a strangled gurgle... because his lungs are being chopped up.
  • Fantastic Racism: V.I.N.CENT. is regarded as a member of the Palomino's crew, but ironically claims not to like other robots. He has a snobbish attitude to the Cygnus androids, but gets on fine with B.O.B who is the same model. In turn the androids and Maximillian bully B.O.B and (unsuccessfully) attempt the same with V.I.N.CENT.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Dr. Reinhardt ends up in a (possibly literally) hellish burning landscape, while being trapped in Maximillian's body. Long before that, of course, he zombified his entire crew into wretches too mindless to even notice their ship collapsing around them - another Fate Worse than Death.
  • Five-Man Band: Captain Holland (The Hero), Charlie Pizer (The Lancer), Dr. Durant (The Smart Guy), Harry Booth (The Big Guy), Dr. McCrae (The Chick).
    • V.I.N.CENT. would be The Big Guy as he does most of the fighting and heavy lifting (ironically he's the smallest member of the team). Booth is The Load (and Sixth Ranger, as he's a journalist attached to the Palomino crew).
  • For Science!: Dr. Reinhardt's ostensible motivation. Also Dr. Durant's.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: Glowy but otherwise fairly realistic — they produce a beam that is instantly continuous between weapon and target, with no travel time or "bolts", and leave burn marks everywhere.
  • From My Own Personal Garden: During Reinhardt's No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine moment, he tries to pass off the garden as "tiny" — it is, in fact, huge, far more than one man would need for food or to recycle oxygen. He maintains it at its original full size in order to feed the entire zombified crew.
  • Fun with Acronyms: V.I.N.CENT. (Vital Information Necessary CENTralized), B.O.B (BiO-sanitation Battalion) and Captain S.T.A.R (Special Troop, Arms Regiment).
  • Gainax Ending: Seemingly a literal trip through hell and heaven. At least it's foreshadowed. The novelization may be even stranger, with all of the surviving crew merging into one entity and their combined consciousness permeating an entire new universe.
  • Going Down with the Ship: Reinhardt says he stayed with the Cygnus (though he admits his flair for the dramatic gesture is responsible) when ordering the crew to Abandon Ship, and claims to be surprised they never made it back to Earth.
  • Going for the Big Scoop: Booth slips away to snoop around the ship, and urges the others to take over the Cygnus and take it back to Earth so they'll be heroes. He changes his tune when his own life's at stake though.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: Dr. Reinhardt has the mad scientist's disheveled long beard.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: Averted by pure accident; when comparing outlines of known deep-space vessels to the Cygnus's profile, V.I.N.Cent coincidentally calls one "Russian", not "Soviet". Although it was common to use the two names interchangeably during the Cold War, including when referring to spacecraft, the decision to not use Soviet provided a bit of future-proofing here.
  • Gun Twirling: Captain S.T.A.R. spins its laser pistols after winning a round of target shooting.
  • Guns Akimbo: Everyone, both sentry robots and humans, wields two of the double-barreled laser pistols (one barrel above the handle, one below) issued on the Cygnus. It's actually pretty effective when laying down suppressive fire, though it's not so great for pinpoint accuracy.
    • V.I.N.CENT. and B.O.B. are also equipped with laser emitters in both of their front "arms." (Their grasping manipulators extend to the sides, from their "shoulders.") V.I.N.CENT.'s are disabled (i.e., shot out) by the automated security system soon after boarding Cygnus. They are then repaired twice: He gets a temporary fix for the shooting gallery scene, and a permanent fix from B.O.B. shortly thereafter, to aid the humans during the final battle. (This is one of the signs the shooting gallery scene was a last-minute addition.)
  • Homage: Apart from the obvious similarities to 2001 and Star Wars, there are definite hints of Forbidden Planet and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
  • Herr Doktor: First name Hans, last name Reinhardt, speaks with a slight German accent, played by an Austrian actor... und he ist ein Doktor!
  • Human Resources: Reinhardt really doesn't like mutineers.
    • There are several clues that give their fate away: Harry spots one of the "robots" walking with a limp, the hydroponics garden is far larger than it needs to be for one man, none of the crew took their uniforms or other gear with them when they "abandoned ship", and Dan witnesses what looks like a funeral for one of the "robots."
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Entering a black hole apparently sends you to Hell. Or through heaven.
  • Idiot Ball: Reinhardt would've avoided so much trouble if he had just remembered to keep B.O.B. out of reach from the Palomino crew instead of letting it become pals with V.I.N.CENT. and telling it what actually happened to the crew of the Cygnus...no one else on the ship could have told them anything, since they're all robots without speech capability. In the novelization, B.O.B. explains that Reinhardt and Maximillian missed reprogramming him to be obedient, as they did all the other robots on the ship, because he was deactivated during the mutiny, and he has survived with his personality intact since then by acting like he had been reprogrammed.
    • Reinhardt again in regards to Maximillian. It wasn't very smart to create a robotic assistant that is physically superior to you, has an aggressive personality, a mind of its own, and clearly demonstrates a tendency to think it over before deciding to follow your orders. You'd think Reinhardt would have been smart enough to install a remotely controlled kill switch in Maximillian, but his arrogance could have also caused him to not even consider the thought that he couldn't control his own creation...until Maximillian started displaying behavior that he clearly didn't anticipate, and by then it would have been too late.
    • Of course, all of Reinhardt's mistakes make perfect sense when you realize that the man is completely insane.
    • The Cygnus was the vessel Kate's father was stationed aboard. Harry Booth met Reinhardt and was well aware of the scientist's history re: the Cygnus. Yet no one recognizes the vessel at first sight, forcing Vincent to scroll through several wildly incompatible options (including space stations, not voyaging craft) before finally confirming it to be the Cygnus. That's like the daughter of the captain of a space shuttle mission not being able to recognize the shuttle.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Dr. Durant uses this line of reasoning. It holds true... for a while.
    Holland: Locking warheads into firing position.
    Durant: Hold it, Dan, they've got to be friendly. They could have blasted us right out of the sky by now.
  • Immortality: The novelization explains that Reinhardt wants to plunge the Cygnus into the black hole hoping to emerge in an Universe where normal time does not flow, thus obtaining eternal life or nearly so that way.
  • Immune to Bullets: Maximillian to lasers. Not to a drill, though.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The sentry robots. Justified... somewhat... in that their laser guns are double-barreled and apparently meant to be held Guns Akimbo style. The sentries aren't bad at laying down suppressive fire (as shown when they pin the crew down just before Harry decides to take off without them), but they have terrible aim when trying to actually hit them.
  • Incoming Ham: As noted by Booth, Reinhardt has a flare for the dramatic, waiting for just the right moment for his Chair Reveal.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "Maximilian Schell inside Maximillian's shell in Maximilian's Hell" in the "Hell" scene.
  • Industrialized Evil: The machine used to convert the crew to cyborgs.
  • Indy Escape: A gigantic (and suspiciously-spherical) red-hot meteor comes rolling down the Cygnus's central shaft as the heroes rush across a small footbridge in its path. Comes complete with Dramatic Slip. It predated the trope maker by a year.
  • Jump Scare: While tame by today's standards - and even by late-1970s standards - Alex's unmasking of a "robot," revealing a groaning, zombie-like face undernearth had no precedent in a Disney live-action film and was quite disturbing for the time.
    • While Holland is snooping around, a sliding door whooshes opens right next to him to reveal a glowering Maximillian.
  • Karmic Death: Reinhardt is pinned down by debris as the ship heads towards the black hole. Maximillian leaves, so he begs the humanoid robots to help him. Thanks to his own programming which turned them into mindless zombies in the first place, they completely ignore him and continue to follow their routines as he dies painfully and slowly.
    • Maximillian gets one of his own; his signature weapons are those horrible drills, and he gets a neat little hole drilled in his own torso by V.I.N.CENT., in much the same way that he had eviscerated Dr. Durant.
  • Killer Robot:
    • Many consider Maximillian the uber-example of this trope. A single glaring red eye, a barely-humanoid frame to put it into the Uncanny Valley, and those damn drill-claws...
    • The S.T.A.R serve as Mecha-Mooks, each armed with twin under-over laser pistols.
  • Large Ham: Reinhardt most of the time, Booth some of the time, and a couple of one-shots:
    Kate: There are people in there. I know it. I feel it!
    B.O.B.: You and your friends are in GRAVE danger.... This is a death ship.
    • Interestingly, while B.O.B.'s dialogue is hammy, Slim Pickens chose to underplay the line, delivering it in a matter-of-fact way. It works better than one might expect.
  • Leave No Man Behind: When he finds out the truth about the Cygnus, Holland has no interest in dangerous heroics; he just wants to leave in the Palomino. However when Kate is captured he leads the others to rescue her, telling Pizer to leave without him If I Do Not Return. When he's pinned down on the way back Holland orders Pizer to leave, but Pizer rushes to the rescue instead. Booth however fakes a leg injury so he can slip back and take off without them.
  • Mad Scientist: Reinhardt ticks all the boxes: great genius, huge ego, Large Ham, refusal to accept the boundaries of society, morality or physics as we know it. The only person he shows genuine empathy for is a fellow scientist who shows unquestioning awe in his genius. He also has no hesitation in using human beings as raw material for his grandiose project.
  • Magical Security Cam: Reinhardt watches the Palomino crew with one of these late in the movie.
  • Meaningful Name: The Cygnus, named for a constellation which probably has a black hole.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The sentry robots, who are also graduates of the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.
  • Nightmare Face: The brief glimpse of the "humanoid-robot's" face when Durant removes the reflective faceplate; although still clearly alive, the crewman's face almost looks like a corpse, and the eyes seem on the verge of hemorrhaging.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine
    Dan Holland: It's only dinner.
    V.I.N.CENT: "... said the spider to the fly."
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: It starts out as a hard sci-fi exploration flick, in that the Palomino maneuvers like a real spacecraft with the main thruster and attitude jets, and everyone in the spacecraft is weightless except when they are under acceleration, etc. Then Dr. McCrae is asked to use her ESP to talk to their Robot Buddy (though the novelization explains it is not actually paranormal-related, but due to a cybernetic implant). Then they board the Cygnus, which has an Artificial Gravity forcefield developed by Reinhardt from his research on the black hole. There's a gradual process of moving from 4 to 1 on the scale, with the human characters moving around outside the Cygnus in shirtsleeves near the end with no noticeable ill effects.note  Then they travel through the black hole itself and through the afterlife(?).. The novel stays in 4 except at the very end.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Harry Booth takes the Palomino in an ill-fated escape attempt, and Dr. Reinhardt subsequently blasts the Palomino to its doom which kills Booth in the process, crashing into the Cygnus's port side antigravity forcefield generatornote , which throws the Cygnus off balance.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Booth steals the Palomino before the others get back to it, but ends up doing them a favour as Reinhardt was intending to blast the spaceship the moment the it got clear. Alarmed by Booth's inept piloting, Reinhardt orders its destruction too soon and the wreckage crashes into the Cygnus.
  • Our Doors Are Different: The requisite hatches that slide up, down, apart and sideways. In one scene a door slides up halfway from the deck, providing cover for the Killer Robots' lower half while they fire over the top.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: The movie treats the eponymous black hole as a wormhole, even going so far as to have the characters travel through it and come out "unharmed" on the other side, though the journey itself is pretty trippy. This is averted in the novelisation.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: The cartoon google eyes for B.O.B. and V.I.N.CENT., which were hastily glued onto them to compensate for the fact that their original computer screen eyes failed to work on the first day of shooting.
  • Oh, Crap!: Charlie's reaction when he figured out the probe ship they're using to escape the Cygnus is actually programmed to go into the black hole.
    • S.T.A.R. gets a good one despite not having any facial features (it helps that his performer, Tommy McLoughlin, is a mime) when V.I.N.CENT challenges him to a shooting contest. He knows V.I.N.CENT's model of robot can outgun him (B.O.B. shot circles around him once, and he only won the rematch by cheating), he can't push V.I.N.CENT around... and dozens of other sentries are watching. S.T.A.R. most likely knows that this is not going to end well for him.
    • Kate has a serious Oh, Crap! when V.I.N.CENT tells her the true nature of the humanoid robots.
    • Alex has a similar one a moment later, when he sees the lobotomized Cygnus crew member himself.
  • Outrun the Fireball: The scene where the heroes try to make it across a tunnel before a huge meteor plowing through the ship reaches them. It was in all the trailers.
  • Playing Gertrude: Maximillian Schell was 48-49 during filming. Reinhardt was probably supposed to be at least ten years older, given that he was not only missing in space for twenty years but was said to be the mission commander. Using the actor's age as a starting point, twenty years ago, he would have been a bit younger than Dan (who was probably only a Captain using the U.S. Army/Airforce ranking system, not Navy); closer to Charlie's age in fact. This is probably why the beard and gray were added to Schell's makeup.
  • Psychic Powers: Dr. McCrae has a telepathic link with V.I.N.CENT.. According to the novelization, it's thanks to a cybernetic implant in her brain.
  • Putting on the Reich:
    • The Sentry robots' stiff gait comes close to resembling a "goose-step" march.
    • During dinner Reinhardt wears the red uniform-like outfit along with a fancy medal, and continues wearing them both when taking the Cygnus towards the black hole.
    • Then there's the name, Hans Reinhardt, and even Maximillian.
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: A brief example between Charlie and V.I.N.CENT(who tends to talk in quotes):
    Charlie: You know what they say about "all work and no play".
    V.I.N.CENT: "All sunshine makes a desert." So the Arabs say.
  • Railing Kill: Several of the bridge crew start going this way when the meteorites are pounding them.
  • Rage Helm: Maximillian has a bright red eye with a furrowing brow sculpted/painted above it, making it look like he's permanently scowling.
  • Recycled In Space: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Both it and The Black Hole involve a ship captained by a Mad Scientist rebelling against conventional authority, who reluctantly takes the heroes on board because he wants to show off his achievements — which only one of the protagonists is sympathetic to — and who intends to dive his ship into a maelstrom. There are No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine scenes in both stories.
    • The original concept for the film was The Poseidon Adventure in space, and it shows in the last twenty minutes.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: Maximillian, the security drones, most of Reinhardt's outfits, and the lobotomy machines in the Cygnus's medical bay. It's a rather dark "dried-blood" red too. Even the so-called 'black' hole is actually red-and-black, and is compared to something out of Dante's Inferno.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • Alex Durant finally realizes that Reinhardt is mad and tries to save Kate...too late.
    • Holland says that maybe Harry Booth did them a favor by trying to leave the rest of them behind.
      • Charlie correctly shoots this down: "I'm sure that's not what he had in mind. He was trying to save his own skin!"
  • Reinventing the Telephone: Dr. McCrae's ESP does have a necessary function plotwise; to allow Kate and V.I.N.CENT. to exchange information without Reinhardt and Maximillian overhearing. And it appears to be a more reliable means of transmission than radio, as she was able to make contact when V.I.N.CENT. had lost comms while doing repairs outside the Palomino.
  • Robot Buddy: V.I.N.CENT. and Old BOB. Maximillian, not so much.
  • Robotic Psychopath: Maximillian. When Maximillian slaughters Alex Durant, Reinhardt berates it for killing a "good man". Clearly, he does not control the robot fully, and it has a malevolent will of its own - when the ship is later disintegrating, Maximillian leaves Reinhardt to die, despite the fact that his predicament was clearly visible to it.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The Black Hole is likened to a gateway to Hell. Or Heaven. Have doubts? Watch that climax again... if you dare.
    • This movie has religious symbolism out the wazoo: in addition to the foreshadowing comparisons of the Black Hole with Hell ("My god, it's right out of Dante's Inferno"; "Every time I see one of these things I expect to see a guy in a red suit with a pitchfork"), Durant says it may lead "into the mind of God". Reinhardt likens V.I.N.CENT. and Maximilian to David and Goliath and quotes from Genesis. The Cygnus looks like a Gothic cathedral, the control panels on the bridge look like stained glass windows, and the humanoids are dressed like monks. Lampshaded when Reinhardt offhandedly remarks that it's another of his "theatrical gestures".
      • In fact, one planned ending involved a reveal that shows Dr. McCrae as one of the angels depicted among the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.
    • Durant tries to shield himself from Maximillian... with a book. His admiration of knowledge is useless against the murderous truth.
  • Scenery Porn: The interior of the Cygnus resembles a high tech-cathedral of steel and glass with mammoth, lengthy corridors and ominous lighting.
  • Sequel Hook: The ending left the door wide open for a follow-up movie featuring the Palomino crew's adventures through the black hole, but no sequel was ever produced. However there was a comic book adaptation by Whitman Comics that did this.
  • Shooting Gallery: V.I.N.CENT. shows off its superior shooting skills in a competition with Captain S.T.A.R on a laser shooting range. The latter is such a Sore Loser it blows a fuse, though V.I.N.CENT. 'accidentally' ricocheting a beam into S.T.A.R's chest in payback for cheating can't have helped either.
  • Shout-Out: After the combined Reinhardt and Maximillian are left in hell, the other characters' journey through heaven is depicted by a single long multiplane shot reminiscent of the Ave Maria segment in Fantasia (the segment in that film meant to represent the "sacred," following the "profane" of the demons in "A Night On Bald Mountain").
    • The end sequence can possibly be considered a major one to Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy, with Dr. Hans Reinhardt and Maximilian joining the Cygnus's ruins in Hell, the remaining voyagers journeying past the Cygnus's wreckage and through the black hole as Purgatory, and meeting the angelic figure as they journey through bright, luminescent cathedral-shaped doors as they approach a planet as their journey towards Heaven.
  • Slow Doors: Averted; the doors are fast, and one cuts off the crew from the Palomino as it's about to launch without them.
  • Sound-Only Death: Durant's murder.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Old B.O.B. (he got his accent from having been programmed in Houston.)
  • Space Madness: Dr. Reinhardt, though Booth hints that the good Doctor wasn't all that stable before he left Earth. Dr. Durant is only willing to say the isolation has made Reinhardt a little eccentric.
  • Starship Luxurious: The Cygnus is constructed on a grandiose scale to match Dr Reinhardt's ego, more suited to a generation ship than a vessel of exploration. There some sardonic comments on how much taxpayers money was wasted to build it.
    • Given more overt justification in the novelization. The ship's deep-space exploration mission was originally expected to be multi-generational in the first place, with a crew of about a thousand to maintain it and pass control over to their descendants over time. Technology Marches On later left the ship obsolete; it's said that the Palomino can cover the same mission in 5 years with a crew of less than 10 that it would've taken the Cygnus decades with its full complement to perform. That same obsolescence is what motivated the recall of the Cygnus in the first place.
  • The Stoic: Dr. Reinhardt is presented this way at least in the novelization, with Harry Booth's remarks being the one most close to put him out of his senses.
  • Swirly Energy Thingy: The funnel-shaped accretion disc around the black hole.
  • Technobabble: Most visible in the novelization. Of course it comes with the territory...
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Between robots, would you believe. The crew and Dr Reinhardt have to tell off V.I.N.CENT. and Maximillian from trying to one-up each other.
  • This Is a Drill:
    • V.I.N.CENT. has a drill. He asks Maximillian to say hi to his drill near the end of the movie.
    • Maximillian's own spinning claw-saw would also qualify.
  • Tim Taylor Technology; In the novel, what dooms the Cygnus is damage to her antimatter engines, not the anti-gravity projectors, after the Palomino crashes into it. Reinhardt tries several times to increase the output of the working ones to increase both speed and the strength of the anti-gravity field, but in vain.
  • Tin-Can Robot: B.O.B. and V.I.N.CENT..
    Charlie Pizer: When I signed on for this I didn't know I'd be playing straight man to a tin can.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dr. Durant ignores some pretty obvious signs that Dr. Reinhardt is less than sane until it's too late.
    • Harry Booth attempts to escape by himself in the Palomino, and both he and the Palomino are destroyed, with the Palomino wrecking the Cygnus's port side antigravity force field generator -in the novel, what is damaged is the control center of the port engines-.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: One trailer for the movie showed Durant's death.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: The movie depicts the black hole as a giant space whirlpool. Especially evident near the end of the film, where closeups show it as a giant red whirlpool. In recent years the scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson has been very vocal in his criticism of how the titular black hole was treated in this film. In its defense, at the time the film was made much less was known about black holes (for example, the first simulation of the actual look of one surrounded by an accretion disk came in the same year it was released.)
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: The sad fate of the Cygnus crew after they tried to take control of the ship from Reinhardt.
  • Villain Ball: Dr. Reinhardt's decision to have the crew of the Palomino killed after his secret was discovered, rather than let them flee resulted in the destruction of the Palomino, the Cygnus, and, indirectly, Maximilian's destruction and Reinhardt's eventual fate. Had Reinhardt told them to go in peace after Durant unmasked a cloaked "robot" they would've had no other choice anyway, leaving the field clear for Reinhardt to pursue his plans; then again, that wouldn't have been enough villainy. In the novelization, it's also due to Reinhardt's own ego and vanity; he's unwilling, even in the face of his greatest expedition, to allow the Palomino crew to return to Earth and blemish his reputation with the truth of what he'd done to the Cygnus crew.
  • The Voiceless: Maximilian never actually speaks; he presumably is able to communicate somehow, since Reinhardt seems to understand him, but the audience doesn't see any sign of it, which of course makes him all the more unsettling.
    • He does, however, let out an electronic sounding shriek when V.I.N.CENT. drills him at the end.
  • Visual Pun: Looks like Reinhardt ended up wearing Maximilian, that is, Maximilian Schell is inside Maximilian's shell note 
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Kate covers her mouth to keep from throwing up when she sees the face of the lobotomized Cygnus crew member. Hard to blame her, really.
  • Wham Line: From Reinhardt after Maximilian kills Durant:
    Hans Reinhardt: Protect me from Maximilian.

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