Films

The 25 greatest movies of the 70s

It's a common cliché that they don't make them like they used to but when it comes to 70s cinema, it's really quite true.

Seen as the golden era for Hollywood, when mainstream movies would be imbued with an intelligence and riskiness that has since been somewhat watered down, in just 10 years, we've been given a whole library's worth of rewatchable classics.

To celebrate everything that the 70s brought to movie history, we've assembled a list of the 25 definitive films of the era. Let us know if we've missed any out at the bottom.

  • A Clockwork Orange

    A Clockwork Orange

    Year: 1971 One of the most coontroversial fiilms of the… More details

    A Clockwork Orange

    A Clockwork Orange

    Year: 1971

    One of the most coontroversial fiilms of the era, Stanley Kubrick's magnum opus gave us an uncomfortable look at a dystopian future where gangs of youths engage in "ultra-violence". Still pertinent now, the Oscar-nominated film was problematic on release due to the high levels of violence. Kubrick himself withdrew the film in the UK where it wasn't seen until 2000, by which time its cult status had grown even larger.

  • The French Connection

    The French Connection

    Year: 1971 The first R-rated film to win Best Picture at… More details

    The French Connection

    The French Connection

    Year: 1971

    The first R-rated film to win Best Picture at the Oscars helped to bring in a new era of gritty crime dramas that typified the edgy cinema of the 70s. Gene Hackman's Oscar-winning turn as a "take no prisoners" cop showcased the breathtaking moral ambiguity that pervaded in films of the era. Unwilling to make the leads overly sympathetic or easy to like, William Friedkin's film was a breath of fresh, or actually rather filthy, air.

  • Deliverance

    Deliverance

    Year: 1972 Commenting on the noticeable cultural divide in… More details

    Deliverance

    Deliverance

    Year: 1972

    Commenting on the noticeable cultural divide in America while also providing nail-biting suspense, Irish director John Boorman's landmark thriller was a bit of a shock to the senses when it was initially released. Even now, the infamous "squeal like a pig" scene is still as harrowing as it was back then. It also turned Burt Reynolds into a star, giving him a breakout role as the macho leader of the group.

  • The Getaway

    The Getaway

    Year: 1972 Based on Jim Thompson's classic 50s novel, The… More details

    The Getaway

    The Getaway

    Year: 1972

    Based on Jim Thompson's classic 50s novel, The Getaway was always destined for the big screen. Its relentless pace and suspenseful setpieces meant it was a natural fit for cinema and with Sam Peckinpah's assured hand, the film was a massive success. The chemistry between Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw was given an added edge with the pair indulging in an affair off-screen while Peckinpah's knack for directing while drunk worked out surprisingly well.

  • The Exorcist

    The Exorcist

    Year: 1973 After The French Connection, director William… More details

    The Exorcist

    The Exorcist

    Year: 1973

    After The French Connection, director William Friedkin showcased his considerable versatility by moving onto the horror genre with this iconic masterpiece. Still perceived now as one of the scariest films ever made, The Exorcist became the first horror movie to ever get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Ignoring the lesser sequels and the prequel, its power to shock and haunt remains intact and it paved the way for the horror genre to be taken more seriously.

  • Mean Streets

    Mean Streets

    Year: 1973 The first film to bring attention to the… More details

    Mean Streets

    Mean Streets

    Year: 1973

    The first film to bring attention to the 31-year-old director Martin Scorsese, this gritty crime drama was a refreshingly realist alternative to the glamour of The Godfather. It was also the first time audiences truly became aware of both Robert De Niro and Harvey Kietel who played small-time gangsters trying to fit into the larger scene. Looking back now, it provides a raw blueprint for not only Scorsese's future output but for most gangster films made since.

  • The Sting

    The Sting

    Year: 1973 Re-teaming the unbeatable duo of Paul Newman and… More details

    The Sting

    The Sting

    Year: 1973

    Re-teaming the unbeatable duo of Paul Newman and Robert Redford after the massive success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid weas a bit of a no-brainer. Thanfully their next project lived up to the large expectations that were placed upon them. The 30s set crime caper was a runaway hit thanks to the effortless charm of the two leads and the smart, surprising script. It was deservedly showered in Oscars and still remains one of the finest con-artist movies ever made.

  • Chinatown

    Chinatown

    Year: 1974 Another 70s offering that boasted a leading man… More details

    Chinatown

    Chinatown

    Year: 1974

    Another 70s offering that boasted a leading man with more depth and moral ambiguity than we ever get to see these days, Chinatown remains the most effective American crime film ever made. Despite strong turns in Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, it was Jack Nicholson's performance as private detective Jake Gittes that truly turned him into a star. It's also one of the rare films that boasts a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Which means you're literally not allowed to dislike it.

  • The Conversation

    The Conversation

    Year: 1974 It was quite the year for Francis Ford Coppola… More details

    The Conversation

    The Conversation

    Year: 1974

    It was quite the year for Francis Ford Coppola with not one but two classic movies both nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. As well as a certain gangster sequel, he also released this unforgettable thriller starring Gene Hackman as a conflicted surveillance expert. Highlighting the moral issues of privacy invasion years before it became a talking point for society, it's a film that still remains scarily relevant.

  • The Godfather Part II

    The Godfather Part II

    Year: 1974 Whenever the argument arises over the… More details

    The Godfather Part II

    The Godfather Part II

    Year: 1974

    Whenever the argument arises over the inferiority of sequels, Francis Ford Coppola's first follow-up to The Godfather is commonly used as a classic example that bucks the trend. Along with Addams Family Values of course. Opening up the world of the original film and adding in some Oscar-winning De Niro brilliance, it's pretty much the greatest gangster movie ever made. Sorry Goodfellas.

  • Jaws

    Jaws

    Year: 1975 While Star Wars is often seen as the film which… More details

    Jaws

    Jaws

    Year: 1975

    While Star Wars is often seen as the film which invented the summer blockbuster, it was actually Steven Spielberg's terrifying tale of shark v man which changed how Hollywood viewed the warmer months. While the term might have been bastardised by countless examples of empty-headed action flicks, Jaws managed to combine seat-edge thrills with memorable performances and even bagged itself an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It spawned many copycat thrillers but it still stands proudly as the original and the best. Take that, Deep Blue Sea.

  • One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest

    One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest

    Year: 1975 This deservedly Oscar-sweeping drama caught Jack… More details

    One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest

    One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest

    Year: 1975

    This deservedly Oscar-sweeping drama caught Jack Nicholson at his very best as he played a reckless criminal who hoped to avoid his sentence by heading to a mental institution with unforgettably devastating consequences. It also gave us one of the decade's most formidable vilains in the passive-aggressive Nurse Ratched, played with chillding conviction by an Oscar-winning Louise Fletcher. Oh and random fact: it played in Swedish cinemas for 11 years straight.

  • All The President's Men

    All The President's Men

    Year: 1976 One of the most politically charged and… More details

    All The President's Men

    All The President's Men

    Year: 1976

    One of the most politically charged and ultimately important films of the decade teamed golden boy Robert Redford with Oscar nominee Dustin Hoffman to tell the story of two journalists investigating the Watergate scandal. Notable for its timing (the film was out just two years after Nixon's resignation) and also for its portrayal of journalists as heroes, rather than the traditional villains. Something we can obviously empathise with....

  • Carrie

    Carrie

    Year: 1976 While the horror genre suffered from overly… More details

    Carrie

    Carrie

    Year: 1976

    While the horror genre suffered from overly trashy elements in the 80s, the 70s showed that movies could be scary and have a soul. Brian De Palma's landmark adaptation of Stephen King's bestseller is a perfect example of this. Combining the requisite levels of gore and terror with a powerful tale of the dangers of both religion and bullying, the film surprised critics and even scored itself some Oscar nominations. The less said about the sequel the better.

  • Rocky

    Rocky

    Year: 1976 While we definitely applaud the bravely downbeat… More details

    Rocky

    Rocky

    Year: 1976

    While we definitely applaud the bravely downbeat tone of 70s cinema, we can't help but sing the praises of the decade's most feel-good films. Sylvester Stallone's breakout turn as the down-on-his-luck debt collector turned boxer was a massive crowd-pleaser turning the drama into a surprise sleeper hit and a success at the Oscars. It also meant that Rocky films were a fixture for the 80s and still resonate today.

  • Taxi Driver

    Taxi Driver

    Year: 1976 Following up an Oscar-winning role in The… More details

    Taxi Driver

    Taxi Driver

    Year: 1976

    Following up an Oscar-winning role in The Godfather Part II was never going to be easy. But for 33-year-old Robert De Niro, he continued his golden run with Martin Scorsese's blistering thriller about a marine turned taxi driver who is slowly losing his mind. It gave De Niro another Oscar nomination and catapulted Travis Bickle, and his immortal line "You talkin' to me?", into pop culture history books. Rumours of a sequel and a remake have thankfully quietened down. Stay away, yeah?

  • Annie Hall

    Annie Hall

    Year: 1977 Arguably Woody Allen's finest movie, Annie Hall… More details

    Annie Hall

    Annie Hall

    Year: 1977

    Arguably Woody Allen's finest movie, Annie Hall was a bittersweet romantic comedy that showed perceptiveness beyond what we were used to seeing within the genre and certainly more than what we've seen since. Allen's neurotic schtick was never sharper and his crumbling relationship with the girl of his dreams was funny and also incredibly sad. It's a must-see for anyone who's ever had their heart broken and for anyone who's only ever seen Allen's contemporary output and doesn't see what the fuss is all about.

  • Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

    Close Encounters Of The Thi…

    Year: 1977 After his ground-breaking blockbuster Jaws,… More details

    Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

    Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

    Year: 1977

    After his ground-breaking blockbuster Jaws, Spielberg wisely turned down offers to direct Jaws 2, King Kong and Superman to focus on an original science fiction script that he'd written and he re-teamed with Richard Dreyfuss to bring it to the screen. It was a huge success, both commercially and critically and perfectly encapsulated the sheer scale that Spielberg wanted to work with in his career. Opening in the same year as his close friend George Lucas's Star Wars, it was a banner year for science fiction.

  • Star Wars

    Star Wars

    Year: 1977 After Jaws showcased just what mainstream… More details

    Star Wars

    Star Wars

    Year: 1977

    After Jaws showcased just what mainstream audiences were looking for in the 70s, George Lucas took the idea of a blockbuster one step further. He decided to create a franchise. In the original, and arguably best, of his ground-breaking space operas, Lucas perfectly sets up a thrilling and totally unique universe that was like nothing cinemagoers had ever seen up until that point. He also made science fiction hip and marketable again. So for that, we can almost forgive Jar Jar Binks. Almost.

  • The Deer Hunter

    The Deer Hunter

    Year: 1978 One of the first films to examine the effects of… More details

    The Deer Hunter

    The Deer Hunter

    Year: 1978

    One of the first films to examine the effects of the Vietnam war on soldiers when they return home, Michael Cimino's powerful drama elicited another iconic performance from Robert De Niro who received yet another Oscar nomination for his work. It's a tough, uncompromising film which culimates in a horrifing game of Russian Roulette and its Oscar haul is a worthy reminder of how the Academy took more risks than they do now.

  • Halloween

    Halloween

    Year: 1978 This micro-budgetted horror film should have… More details

    Halloween

    Halloween

    Year: 1978

    This micro-budgetted horror film should have been a throwaway B-movie at best but at the hands of John Carpenter, it became the film which has been credited as starting the slasher movie genre (although strictly speaking it was Black Christmas). With the unstoppable villain Michael Mysers, Carpenter also created a bad guy who has haunted popular culture ever since and the spare, unshowy suspense of the film means that it's aged horribly well.

  • National Lampoon's Animal House

    National Lampoon's Animal H…

    Year: 1978 Proving that 70s cinema wasn't all doom and… More details

    National Lampoon's Animal House

    National Lampoon's Animal House

    Year: 1978

    Proving that 70s cinema wasn't all doom and gloom, this frat house comedy heralded in a new era of gross-out movies, which might be seen as a blessing and a curse. But before the subgenre became overrun with fart jokes, John Landis's late 70s classic was a refreshing change of pace. It also turned Saturday Night Live comedian John Belushi into a fully-fledged movie star and the legacy of the film can be seen from Porky's right through to American Pie.

  • Alien

    Alien

    Year: 1979 One of the last films of the decade was also one… More details

    Alien

    Alien

    Year: 1979

    One of the last films of the decade was also one of the most important. Blending sci-fi and horror in a way that hadn't been done before (at least not quite as successfully), Ridley Scott's terrifying thriller kicked off a franchise that was recently kickstarted with Prometheus. Subverting audience expectations by placing a female in the lead role, Alien was a feminist victory as well as an uncomfortably scary thrill-ride. Oh and it included the best dinner scene ever.

  • Apocalypse Now

    Apocalypse Now

    Year: 1979 Helping to usher out what was a rather… More details

    Apocalypse Now

    Apocalypse Now

    Year: 1979

    Helping to usher out what was a rather remarkable decade for Francis Ford Coppola, this seminal masterpiece meant that he's been in charge of not only the finest gangster film of the 70s but also the greatest war movie as well. Involving philosophy and existentialism within the framework of a war movie gave it an edge over similar films of the genre and has helped create a dedicated cult following who have been discussing and dissecting the film ever since.

  • Kramer Vs Kramer

    Kramer Vs Kramer

    Year: 1979 As one of the first movies to truly tackle the… More details

    Kramer Vs Kramer

    Kramer Vs Kramer

    Year: 1979

    As one of the first movies to truly tackle the thorny issue of divorce, Kramer Vs Kramer dared to subvert traditional expectations of what parenthood really means to most of us. As notions of motherhood and fatherhood started to shift throughout the era, we saw a film which showed that a father could be a single parent while a mother often has little interest in raising a child. Oscar-winning performances from Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep also helped to make this one of the most affecting dramas of the decade.

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