Revisiting the 70s: The 25 Films That Shaped a Generation

Some of the most renowned filmmakers in history debuted their first masterpieces throughout the 1970s. Several now-iconic prestige dramas, crime movies, and escapist entertainment for all audiences reached new heights. Do you agree with this list of 25 from an online thread?

1. The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather Marlon Brando, Salvatore Corsitto
Image Credit Paramount Pictures.

Mario Puzo's novel of the same moniker is outclassed by Francis Ford Coppola's legendary crime movie. The Corleone family is the focus of the organized crime drama starring Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, and Marlon Brando. The Godfather was the highest-grossing film for a while and won three Oscars, including Best Picture.

2. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse Now Martin Sheen
Image Credit: United Artists.

A mission to find and kill a renegade colonel who has killed unarmed civilians and is regarded as a demigod by a tribe is given to an American captain during the Vietnam War. Generally inspired by the novel Heart of Darkness, it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

3. Alien (1979)

Alien Sigourney Weaver
Image Credit: 20th Century-Fox.

Winner of an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, this sci-fi horror is about a spaceship crew's response to a distress signal that turned out to be an alien invasion on their ship. The hero character, Ellen Ripley, is played by Sigourney Weaver.

4. Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver Robert De Niro
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Following the critical and commercial successes of previous works, Martin Scorsese depicted Robert De Niro as a marine turned cab driver bent on vigilante justice to rid the streets of its corruption. This seeming precursor to The Equalizer pulled off four Academy nominations, including Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

5. Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown Faye Dunaway
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This precise representation of the original sin of Los Angeles won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay amongst 11 nominations. Detective Jake is hired for what he thinks is an infidelity case. Instead, he is thrust into the dreadful realm of Los Angeles water politics due to his pursuit of the seductive but mysterious Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), whose secrets are much more sinister than he could have ever anticipated.

6. The Godfather Part II (1974)

The Godfather Part II Al Pacino
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

 At this point, Michael Corleone seeks to expand the criminal heritage handed down. He becomes blind-sided to an imminent danger while striking business deals. Winning six of nine nominations tells of the character of this sequel that continues in the step of the prequel in outclassing the novel. And to think the director never wanted a sequel. Of the trilogy, this is the best pick.

7. Jaws (1975)

Image Credit Universal Pictures.

After a problematic production, Steven Spielberg's gripping creature film based on the Peter Benchley novel went on to shatter box office records and change the movie business for good. Although numerous sequels to the suspenseful story of a great white shark menacing a New England seaside hamlet were released, none lived up to the Spielberg-esque expectation.

8. Barry Lyndon (1975)

Barry Lyndon
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

While Ryan O'Neal played Barry Lyndon in this two-chapter drama, Lyndon poses as a widow's husband. He cheats his way to the top of 18th-century British society. The movie won four Academy nominations.

9. Stalker (1979)

Stalker Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy
Image Credit: Goskino.

Two men, the writer, and the professor, are led by a man known as the stalker (Alexander Kaidanovsky) through the bleak post-climactic terrain known as “the Zone” in pursuit of “the Room.” In this mysterious place, people's wishes can reportedly be accomplished. The sci-fi revolves around the nature of human desires.

10. Star Wars (1977)

Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope
Image Credit: 20th Century-Fox.

Combining the experience of samurais, superheroes, and WWII fighter pilots, George Lucas directs the story that created a multi-billion dollar series, accruing seven Grammys. It tells of a gung-ho farm lad named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who discovers the ways of “the Force” and aids in rescuing the galaxy from an oppressive Empire.

11. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A Clockwork Orange Malcolm McDowell
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Alex, a psychotic criminal, is held captive for rape and murder. He agrees to participate in a government experiment therapy to have his sentence reduced, but things go wrong. Typically known for its explicit scenes, it's pretty impossible to forget the sight of a young offender being made to watch films to rehabilitate him with his eyes propped open.

12. Network (1976)

Network William Holden, Faye Dunaway
Image Credit: United Artists.

Two TV anchors battle for showtime and ratings, with one of them taking her concepts to unsettling extremes. The film is more striking now than it was then because nearly every outrageous event depicted in its portrayal of a fictional television network run by evil executives has subsequently occurred in real life.

13. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Louise Fletcher
Image Credit: United Artists.

In Milo Forman's classic examination of the institutional process and, more broadly, human nature, Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher star as a criminal fabricating insanity and a cruel nurse. It is a timeless masterpiece whose grandeur is very rarely disputed. It is one of only three movies to win the “Big Five” Oscars—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

14. Nashville (1975)

Nashville Karen Black
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Gospel singer Linnea and lawyer and political activist Delbert have a contentious union. In Nashville's music scene, rival country singers Barbara and Connie compete against one another. With the intersecting pull of fame, money, and politics on stage at the center of country music, this masterwork explores the selling-out of America.

15. The Conversation (1974)

The Conversation Gene Hackman
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Harry Caul, played by Gene Hackman, is a surveillance expert stationed in San Francisco. His most recent task was to spy on a couple as they walked through a busy downtown park. This presented an alluring professional challenge, threatening to lure him into a deadly mystery. It is a fascinating thriller that examines how privacy boundaries are being breached by technology. It also provides a chilling portrait of isolation and breakdown.

16. The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist 1973
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

The bridge between belief and disbelief is seen in the helplessness of a mother and a priest as he tries to exorcize a demon out of a young girl who spins her head like an owl, amongst other demon-possessed acts. The visual shock and stun it exudes make this movie one of the scariest ever.

17. Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1975)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Image Credit: EMI Films.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a humorous parody of the bleak circumstances of the Middle Ages as presented through the King Arthur myth. It is set against the backdrop of a current murder investigation. When the legendary king of the Britons sends his knights to search out the Holy Grail, they encounter a wide variety of horrors. 

18. Eraserhead (1977)

Eraserhead Movie
Image Credit: Libra Films.

Henry (Jack Nance) is a timid common man who lives in a wasteland completely equipped for the duties of marriage and parenting. David Lynch drags us into his strange imagination rather than meeting us in the open. At the height of the midnight cinema circuit, its stunning images, aggressive sound design, and casual, homey surrealism made it a cult favorite.

19. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Dog Day Afternoon Al Pacino
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Al Pacino is fresh from the fame of The Godfather as his character leads a robbery at a nearby Brooklyn bank to pay for his lover's operation. But when the heist does not go as planned, he is forced to take hostages. It covers the heist and hostage crisis that John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturale orchestrated in 1972 at a Brooklyn-based Chase Manhattan branch.

20. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Marilyn Burns
Image Credit: Bryanston Distributing Company.

The movie centers on a group of friends who, while traveling to see an old farmstead, are attacked by a cannibal family. To draw in a larger audience and serve as a subtle commentary on the political situation of the time, the movie was advertised as based on real-life occurrences. Although the murders of serial killer Ed Gein served as inspiration for Leatherface and a few minor plot points, the story itself is entirely made up.

21. Cabaret (1972)

Cabaret e1683060461100
Image Credit: Allied Artists Pictures.

The narrative of Sally Bowles (played by the legendary Liza Minnelli) exists on two levels: the world of the Kit Kat Club and the actual world. It's a movie that's equally spooky and upbeat.

22. Halloween (1978)

Halloween Jamie Lee Curtis
Image Credit: Compass International Pictures and Aquarius Releasing.

Six-year-old Michael Myers relentlessly offed his 17-year-old sister, Judith, on a chilly Halloween night in 1963. He received a 15-year prison sentence. But on October 30, 1978, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and flees Smith's Grove while being transported for a court date. He returns to the peaceful Haddonfield, Illinois, where he searches for his next victims.

23. The Conformist (1970)

The Conformist Stefania Sandrelli
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Jean-Louis Trintignant portrays Marcello, a member of Mussolini's secret police, as a weak man whose plan to kill his former professor is derailed by an adulterous interest in his wife (Dominique Sanda). This incredibly evocative thriller examines the passive souls that enabled the fascism that overtook Italy during World War II.

24. All The President's Men (1976)

All The President's Men Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

This anxiety-inducing masterpiece exposed more than what was initially known about the Watergate saga that pushed President Richard Nixon out of office, including Deep Throat's identity. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman combine as the journalist characters to make this American biography a classic in subject matter and the delusion it caused.

25. Blazing Saddles (1974)

Blazing Saddles Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Fictionally, the first African-American sheriff was Cleavon Little's Bart. His appointment was to create the chaos that would evict an entire town, making room for a railroad venture that would rake in millions for the corrupt politicians of the Wild West. 

Source: Reddit

Amaka Chukwuma is a freelance content writer with a BA in linguistics. As a result of her insatiable curiosity, she writes in various B2C and B2B niches. Her favorite subject matter, however, is in the financial, health, and technological niches. She has contributed to publications like Buttonwood Tree and FinanceBuzz in the past and currently writes for Wealth of Geeks.