Must-see movies of the 1970s, from “Jaws” to “Being There”




In terms of the connection between the film industry’s past and the present, perhaps no decade embodies the dividing line better than the 1970s.

Riveted by Vietnam and Watergate, the 1970s saw a new generation of filmmakers create iconic works, as well as the rise of the modern blockbuster with “Jaws” and “Star Wars”, which not only rewrote the models for release. summer but the expectations of the studios.

As a result, putting together a list of essential movies from those years required many tough choices and still surpassed 10, with the added cheat that “The Godfather”, for these purposes, is included in a sprawling two-part saga.

Even that, the list seems incomplete, given the long tails of movies like “Apocalypse Now”, “Flight Over a Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Animal House”, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, ” American Graffiti “,” Alien “,” Dog Day Afternoon “,” Close Encounters of the Third Kind “,” The Sting “,” Young Frankenstein “,” The Omen “,” The French Connection “,” The Rocky Horror Picture Show ” , “Three Days of the Condor” and “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, although some of them have clearly aged better than others.

Heck, you could put together a perfectly respectable roster just using a combination of 1976 movies and ones starring Jack Nicholson.

The choices were further complicated by the talent involved with them, raising the question of whether “Chinatown,” directed by convicted rapist Roman Polanski, can be separated from it and taken its own way. (Because a movie consists of more than its director, it ultimately made the cut.)

With this disclaimer, here is “The Essentials” for the 1970s, presented in chronological order:

Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

George C Scott in ‘Patton’

Few film images are more striking than George C. Scott strutting in front of an American flag as the rude and self-destructive general of World War II. Patton saw himself as a man living in bad times, but Scott’s performance is one for the ages.

Clint Eastwood in
Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry”

Clint Eastwood’s detective carried a big gun, investigated a zodiac-like killer, and defined a popular genre of self-defense films. There’s more nuance than that and humor in director Don Siegel’s original film, which inspired multiple sequels and spawned a character that later “Go For It. Make my day ”would be echoed by, among others, President Reagan.

Marlon Brando in
Paramount Pictures

Marlon Brando in “The Godfather”

Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s mafia novel belongs to any list of the best movies of all time. Beyond the oft-cited performance by Marlon Brando, the films launched a whole generation of stars, including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, James Caan, Diane Keaton and Robert Duvall.

'The Exorcist'
courtesy warner brothers

‘The Exorcist’

William Friedkin’s horror classic about demonic possession gave audiences nightmares, the most notable in a decade that further changed the contours of the genre with “The Omen” and “Halloween.”

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in
Paramount Pictures

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway in “Chinatown”

Jack Nicholson played the tough, nosy sleuth in Polanski’s gripping 1930s Los Angeles Greed and Corruption story, with notable works by Faye Dunaway and John Huston.

Bud Gray / Universal Pictures


Audiences screamed in unison at the oceanic thriller from then-28-year-old director Steven Spielberg that filled movie theaters while making moviegoers think before taking the plunge into the water.

Peter Finch in 'Network'
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / United Artists

Peter Finch in ‘Network’

Few writers have seen the future of media more acerbic than Paddy Chayefsky, with his somber satire about a presenter (Peter Finch) who thunders: “I’m as crazy as hell, and I’m not going to no longer support it, “turning into an audience dynamo on a network where the head of programming (again, Dunaway) will do anything – anything – for the odds.



Sylvester Stallone’s underdog story about a struggling palooka kicked off the heavyweight championship is a touching sports film with a level of charm and sweetness that has worn off in the series (and series). of suites that followed.

Robert De Niro in
Colombia Pictures

Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver”

The collaborative genius of De Niro and director Martin Scorsese produced a disturbing look at alienation, violence, and inappropriate hero worship. The result is a film with disturbing aspects, even if it is difficult to fully appreciate the cinema of the 70s without it.

Warner Bros.

“All the President’s Men”

Journalism has never appeared as a nobler calling than in this tense thriller starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein, the die-hard journalists who helped expose Watergate. Also thanks to writer William Goldman for coming up with the Deep Throat line never actually said, “Follow the money.”

Diane Keaton in
United artists

Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall”

Woody Allen is another problematic figure, but he wrote, directed, and starred in a series of great comedies in the ’70s, nothing better than this original romance with Keaton as the main character.

Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill in
Sunset Boulevard / Corbis Historic / Getty Images

Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill in “Star Wars”

While not even the best movie in the series, George Lucas’ space epic started it all, with an impact on movies, special effects, and even video games that continue to catch on in pop culture with a strength that cannot be overstated.

Peter Sellers in
United artists

Peter Sellers in “Being there”

Released 12 days before the end of the decade, the whimsical tale of Chance (Peter Sellers) – a simple-minded gardener who stumbles into national politics – works brilliantly on almost every level, most notably as an uplifting tale 40 years later. And you really have to watch the final outings to fully appreciate Sellers’ direct performance, as well as the restraint of those playing in front of him.

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