The 1970s was the decade that gave the world disco, bell-bottoms, and The Love Boat. Between all the denim and ABBA, the film industry flourished as countless classic movies were released. Iconic directors like Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas released their debut films during the 70s, while legendary franchises Star Wars and Alien were born.
The 1970s produced various genres as filmmakers flourished and spread their creative wings. Some of the decade’s most celebrated films include space operas, tense crime family stories, epic war sagas, and medieval parodies: fans of these films flocked to IMDb to rate them,
‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) — IMDb Rating: 8.2
Directed by Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver tells the story of Travis Bickle, the titular taxi driver. As Bickle spends his nights driving around New York City, he becomes disillusioned with the decay he claims is corrupting his city, evidenced by the rise of drugs and prostitution.
Robert De Niro is terrific as Bickle, and the actor gives one of the most iconic performances of his career. Jodie Foster also shines as a child prostitute that Bickle befriends while trying to save her from her abusive pimp. The movie’s famous “you talkin’ to me?” speech” is still quoted to this day.
Taxi Driver is available to stream on Netflix.
‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ (1975) — IMDb Rating: 8.2
The second film from beloved comedy group Monty Python, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the most popular comedies of all time. Directed by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, the film is a parody of medieval films and the story of King Arthur, finding the king and his men in a series of hilarious situations.
Despite being almost fifty years old, Holy Grail is still often referenced, with the battle with the black knight proving to be one of its most enduring scenes. “‘Tis but a scratch” and “It’s just a flesh wound” have become stock quotes, while the killer rabbit remains iconic.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is available to stream on Netflix.
‘The Sting’ (1973) — IMDb Rating: 8.3
A crime caper that follows two professional con men trying to scam a mob boss, The Sting stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the two criminals. Regarded as having one of the greatest screenplays ever, the film won an Oscar for its writing.
One of the most stylish films of all time, George Roy Hill’s The Sting is a culmination of everyone involved being at the top of their game. The quintessential con film, it is easy to trace its influence on the crime capers that followed, from its stylish design to its smooth-talking characters.
‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) — IMDb Rating: 8.3
Set in a dystopian Britain, young delinquent Alex (Malcolm McDowell) leads a small gang of thugs as they go on a violent crime spree. Eventually arrested and thrown in jail, he volunteers for a rehabilitation program to reduce his sentence, but the treatment has unforeseen side effects.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, A Clockwork Orange was met with a polarizing reception at release. Controversial due to its depictions of graphic violence, the film has gained a cult following in the years since its release and is considered one of Kubrick’s best films.
A Clockwork Orange is available to stream on HBO Max.
‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979) — IMDb Rating: 8.5
Based on Joesph Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now is set during the Vietnam War and follows a US Army Captain (Martin Sheen) who is tasked with assassinating a colonel who has gone rogue. The watershed Francis Ford Coppola film follows the captain’s nightmarish journey through the war-torn jungle.
Another now universally praised film that was polarizing at release, Apocalypse Now had a disastrous production and even inspired a feature-length documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, about its troubled development. The fact that the film was even released, let alone as a masterpiece, is an achievement in itself.
‘Alien’ (1979) — IMDb Rating: 8.5
Proving that in space, no one can hear you scream, Ridley Scott’s Alien is set in a future where humanity has mastered space travel. When the crew of the spaceship Nostromo responds to a distress signal, this diversion soon becomes a fight for survival as an alien creature begins to pick them off one by one.
The ultimate science-fiction horror film, Alien takes the idea of a slasher film and ups the tension by placing it in space. The titular alien, the xenomorph, is terrifying as it stalks its prey, letting out bloodcurdling shrieks before claiming its victims.
‘Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope’ — (1977) IMDb Rating: 8.6
From one science-fiction powerhouse to another, A New Hope started the cultural juggernaut that’s influence is felt across all media. Originally just called Star Wars at release, George Lucas’ seminal film follows young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as he first meets his unforgettable companions and begins his journey as a Jedi.
The impact of Star Wars cannot be understated, as films, television, and video games since its release have all drawn inspiration from its epic space opera setting. Modern shows such as The Mandalorian keep the franchise alive while exploring new regions of the universe.
Star Wars: Episode 4 — A New Hope is available to stream on Disney+.
‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ (1975) — IMDb Rating: 8.7
When a prisoner fakes insanity to avoid jail time, he finds himself locked in a battle of wills with a tyrannical nurse after being placed under her care in a mental hospital. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is as hilarious as heartbreaking as the new arrival befriends his fellow patients.
Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher both shine as the two leads, with the pair winning Oscars for their performances. Considered one of the greatest dramedies of all time, the film also stars Danny DeVito, Brad Dourif, and Christopher Lloyd.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is available to stream on HBO Max.
‘The Godfather Part II’ (1974) — IMDb Rating: 9
The Godfather Part II had the unenviable task of following what many consider the greatest film of all time, but somehow the sequel is a success. Part II serves as both a sequel and a prequel to the first film, as it tells two different storylines about a younger Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) and his son Michael (Al Pacino) in the present day.
Following its predecessor in winning the Oscar for Best Picture, the film became the only sequel to do so until it was joined by The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
The Godfather: Part II is available to stream on Paramount+.
‘The Godfather’ (1972) — IMDb Rating: 9.2
The highest-rated film of the 1970s, and the second-highest-rated on the site overall, The Godfather is one of cinema’s most beloved films. Telling the story of the Corleone family, the film follows Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) as he plans to pass the family business to his son Michael (Al Pacino).
The third Coppola film to make the top ten films of the decade, The Godfather is one of the most influential films of all time. Every crime and mafia story that has followed can be traced in some way to the film’s influence.
The Godfather is available to stream on Paramount+.
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