The 1970’s had a ton of iconic and brilliant movies. While everyone still knows The Godfather films, Taxi Driver, Star Wars, Rocky, and Jaws, as we start to get further away from the era of disco, there are certain classics that feel like they might be starting to fade away. Perhaps part of this is because you can no longer wander the aisles of the video store and be reminded of them. With so much current streaming content, you really have to dig to find some of these films. Being film lovers we want to encourage people to spend the time to watch some of these, so we came up with some suggestions.
What surprised me when I started to compile my list was how few good comedies the 70’s had. It seemed to be mostly Woody Allen and Mel Brooks films, which are obviously still well-known. I love 70’s films, and there are so many people should see. I hate when someone tells me they haven’t seen Jaws or Star Wars, but what about the films that are not as famous, will they just disappear? So here is my list of films that people should still seek out.
- The Conversation (1974), Francis Ford Coppola’s best lesser-known film, showcases surveillance and paranoia, Gene Hackman is awesome in the lead role. Watch for a young Harrison Ford.
- The Sting (1973), Newman and Redford’s other movie.
- The Parallax View (1974), Conspiracy theorists will love this film. Iconic scene on top of the Seattle Space Needle.
- Executive Action (1973), For those that were excited about the recently released JFK assassination files, see this film. It’s a discount version of Oliver Stone’s JFK but it was first and less convoluted.
- The Shootist (1976), John Wayne’s final film.
- 1776 (1972), A musical about the American Revolution! Yes!
- …And Justice for All (1979), Al Pacino is out of order, or maybe it’s Craig T. Nelson, or maybe we are out of order, someone is definitely out of order.
- The Marathon Man (1976), Parodied in a 90’s episode of Seinfeld. A dental nightmare.
- Serpico (1973), An important film exposing 1970’s NYC police corruption.
- Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979), People love Holy Grail, but I love the blasphemy and humor of this film.
MG: So many good films with so much great acting. The Conversation might be my favorite Gene Hackman role. This is a “must see” film in an age where we seem to have given up on any semblance of privacy. …And Justice For All was my first courtroom drama and maybe first Pacino film. The 70’s were the decade of Pacino.
The 70’s are a treasure trove of edgy, dramatic filmmaking by a young group of emerging cinema titans like Coppola, Scorcese, and Lumet. There is a prevailing darkness and paranoia in 70’s dramas – an obvious reflection of the traumas of Vietnam and Watergate. It feels like now is the time for these types of films to come back to pop culture. Here are some of my thoughts:
- The Drowning Pool (1976) Paul Newman in a southern-gothic crime mystery.
- Coming Home (1978) It was a bold move to cast “Hanoi Jane” Fonda in a film about Vietnam vets. But it led to best actor trophies for both her and John Voight.
- A Bridge Too Far (1977) Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Gene Hackman, James Caan…all its missing is Pacino. Great WWII film.
- Mean Streets (1973) Scorcese’s breakout film with Robert DeNiro so young you’ll almost not recognize him.
- Three Days Of The Condor (1975) Plenty of paranoia in this CIA thriller.
- One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Next (1975) This is an acting showcase, not only by Nicholson, in my favorite role of his, but the rest of this ensemble cast, including a young Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, and stoic Will Sampson. Yes, this swept the major Oscar categories, but it still feels like it’s fading somehow.
- The Candidate (1972) Takes on a new relevance, post-Trump.
- Lenny (1974) Dustin Hoffman as controversial comic Lenny Bruce.
- Deliverance (1972) Known for banjos and squealing pigs – it’s worth actually sitting down and watching the unsettling film. Burt Reynolds proves he can act.
- Soylent Green (1973) Sci-fi mystery set in a world ravaged by global warming ironically starring Charlton Heston.
DJ: Great list. I have never seen The Drowning Pool. Glad you included A Bridge Too Far, it almost made my list too. Robert Redford makes a huge dent in both our lists showing up in four films. I almost included Brubaker but it was released in 1980, have to use that on our 80’s list.