Best Movies of the 1970s
Here are our picks for the 70s best films!
Honorable Mention: Badlands
The artful feature film debut of director Terrence Malick is an ode to Americana. Loosely based on actual events, Badlands follows two rebellious teenagers who fall in love and go on a killing spree in the heart of America. It's a surprisingly romantic, yet starkly disturbing film featuring gorgeous cinematography of the American landscape and two powerful, breakout performances from Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek.
10. The French Connection
Featuring Gene Hackman is his best role as real-life NYDP detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle, The French Connection has his anti-hero obsessively hunting a dangerous drug smuggler. This is a well-crafted film from top to bottom from it's excellent screenplay, to it's great acting, superb direction, intense editing, and one of the best car chases in cinematic history. Here we have the ultimate character-driven police thriller.
Thanks to an incredible cast, genius screenplay, and unrestrained direction, Deliverance is a landmark movie. This psychological thriller has four friends (Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox) going on a fun trip down the Cahulawassee River which turns into a fight for survival. It's a grossly graphic, intensely instinctual, and extremely emotional story which reveals the true nature of man.
8. Taxi Driver
Director Martin Scorsese burst onto the scene with this shocking look at the effects of PTSD and the seedy underworld of New York City. It's a stylish, gritty neo-noir which features an extraordinary performance from Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle, a Vietnam vet who witnesses the crime in his city and decides to do something about it. His spiral downwards into vigilantism makes for an interesting watch, keeping you glued to the screen until the devastating final frames.
7. All the President's Men
The true story of Woodward and Bernstein is a frantic and intriguing look into the life of a newspaper as the two expose President Richard Nixon's notorious Watergate scandal. In the lead roles, both Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman give outstanding performances which keep the film totally engaging. It's got expert direction by Alan J. Pakula, an Oscar-winning screenplay by William Goldman, and moody cinematography and lighting by Gordon Willis.
One of the most influential science fiction films of all time, Alien has a unique aesthetic and surprising screenplay that's both frightening and fun. Sigourney Weaver plays Ellen Ripley in her breakout role alongside the rest of the working class cast under the direction of the visionary Ridley Scott. It's got a great score by Jerry Goldsmith, a completely original story by Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, and awesome production design from the outside of the spaceship and it's innards to the infamous creature itself.
The greatest achievement in Sylvester Stallone's career is his romantic-comedy-disguised-as-a-sports-movie, Rocky. This film wears it's big heart on it's sleeve as we follow down-on-his-luck boxer Rocky Balboa when suddenly he gets a one-in-a-million shot for the heavyweight title, proving that dreams can come true with enough hard work and determination. However, the focus remains on the love story between Rocky and pet shop employee Adrian even with those great training montages and boxing matches in between set to that triumphant and motivating Bill Conti musical score.
4. Apocalypse Now
A horrifying trip into the heart of darkness, Apocalypse Now has a commando sent into the jungles of Vietnam to assassinate a rogue Colonel who's set up his own kingdom deep inside enemy territory. It's a shocking movie from Francis Ford Coppola which remains the best film about the senseless war in Vietnam due to it's wonderful cinematography, haunting score, and astonishing performances from it's accomplished cast including Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Larry Fishburne, and Marlon Brando. This is still Coppola's greatest achievement and the most difficult film he ever made.
The first superhero movie is still the greatest as Richard Donner's Superman from 1978 did the impossible by making audiences believe a man could fly. The cast is superb with Christopher Reeve playing a ordinary, clumsy reporter Clark Kent and stalwart, super-powered planetary defender Kal-El both with ease, while Margot Kidder is feisty and fearless as Lois Lane, and Gene Hackman portrays Lex Luthor as a supremely confident and nefarious villain. It's got that iconic theme from composer John Williams, stunning special effects, and a wonderful story by Mario Puzo.
Steven Spielberg's biggest challenge was this shark tale based on the best-selling book which has a sheriff, a fisherman, and a marine biologist hunting down a great white shark that's killing citizens of a beach town flooded with tourists on Independence Day weekend. Featuring a trio of magnificent performances from Roy Schneider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw, the film follows the diverse shark hunters as they learn from each other, overcome fears, and rise up to fight for their families, honor, and vengeance. This is still one of the best horror films, has some of the most thrilling sequences ever shot, and yet still finds time for intimate human moments and levity that make it all feel so realistic and poignant.
1. Star Wars
The best film of the 70s is Star Wars. Inspired by Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers sci-fi serials, George Lucas' fantasy came true when he made this film which he describes as the most expensive low-budget movie ever made. This was not an easy movie to make as it was a completely original story with never-before-seen special effects which continue to dazzle audiences today. More than any other movie, this one changed the filmmaking industry by making pure escapism accessible for people of all ages. It's cast is brilliant with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford all in breakthrough roles supported by the likes of veteran actors like Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness. It's a fun, action-packed adventure full of drama, comedy, and romance that has deep political meaning and spiritual context.