Are you looking for an all-time classic to watch for the first time? Would you like to rediscover the best gems from the past? We have you covered! The 1970s was a great decade for movies, as so many fantastic films were released that year, and we made a least of 10 great movies from the 70s. They belong to different genres and they are all important to the industry for various reasons. Let’s take a look at the list below!
10. The Sting (1973)
George Roy Hill
If you haven’t heard of this 1973 classic from director George Roy Hill, you’re in for a treat! Fans of heist movies will love the film that pretty much defined the genre, featuring an all-star cast giving career-defining performances. Robert Redford and Paul Newman play Johnny Hooker and Henry Gondorff, two con men – one experienced, the other less so – who decide to take down an Irish American crime boss (Robert Shaw) and get their revenge. Though this sounds simply enough on paper, The Sting unfolds in a beautifully complex, tense way, with elaborate schemes and mystery to uncover, all while our charming protagonists risk their own lives. Said protagonists are the main reason to watch the movie, as their chemistry makes it a pleasure to watch, but The Sting has also held up surprisingly well and still remains a very gripping film to this day.
9. Alien (1979)
What better film to discover Ridley Scott’s filmography than the movie that not only created an entire subgenre, but also gave us one of the most iconic women heroines in film history? Said heroine is Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the leader of a spaceship called the Nostromo, whose crew suddenly find themselves at risk when they make an unexpected stop and inadvertently bring the titular alien species on board. Needless to say, everyone’s lives are at risk, even more so since they know absolutely nothing about said species. But when some secrets are revealed about the Nostromo’s real mission and some of its passengers’ motivations, the stakes become even higher. Alien is jam-packed with themes and subtext, while also remaining one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, helmed by a superb Sigourney Weaver performance.
8. Eraserhead (1977)
No list of great movies from the 1970s would be complete without at least one David Lynch entry, and Eraserhead is one of the very best films in an excellent filmography – which is even more impressive, considering it’s also his debut feature. Just like most of Lynch’s movies, Eraserhead is not a very accessible film: it defies definitions and it’s best described as a nightmarish journey that you simply have to experience. It begins with a man (Jack Nance) and his pregnant wife (Charlotte Stewart) moving to a new flat near a manufacturing plant, and, from there, it evolves into a non-linear, extremely surreal watch that’s dense with symbolism and subject to many interpretations. Whether you’re a fan of Lynch’s or you’re discovering his films for the first time, Eraserhead is worth a watch as the film that established the filmmaker’s signature style, as Screen Rant explains.
7. Mirror (1975)
Andrei Tarkovsky is another director who defined film history, and he released many great movies in the 1970s: Stalker (1979) is one of them, but for this list, we picked Mirror (Zerkalo), which is his most popular film. It’s also another film that has no clear plot, but simply a series of scenes that, together, define a man’s life. Said man is dying, and in Mirror, he remembers his past – from his childhood and family to the war – which also tells the story of his country’s history, and the director’s own past. It’s a highly personal film for Tarkovsky, and it’s also a deeply affecting watch.
6. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War movie is another milestone of cinema – this time, it’s a film that defined the war genre. The film is set in 1970s, when Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) embarks on a dangerous journey through Vietnam in the company of an unlikely group of people that includes a freelance photographer (Dennis Hopper) and an officer who loves surfing (Robert Duvall). His mission? To terminate an officer named Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has reportedly been driven mad by the war. Just like the title suggest, Apocalypse Now is a nightmarish, grandiose epic that takes you deeper and deeper into the darkness of war. Needless to say, it’s not to be missed.
5. Chinatown (1974)
As noir films go, Chinatown is the best you’ll get. At the center of the film is private detective J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson), who is hired for a simple investigative job but finds himself entangled in a web of secrets that goes so deep that it will almost drive him mad. But Gittes is resourceful and determined, and as he gets closer and closer to the enigmatic Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), he begins to put together various pieces of a puzzle until the full picture is finally revealed. Jack Nicholson excels in one of his best, most disquieting performances of his career, in a film that’s so immersive that it will draw you into its world from the very first shot.
4. Jaws (1975)
How can a simple film about sharks terrorizing a beach town become one of the most popular, beloved movies of all time? Because of the talent in front of and behind the camera. Jaws revolves around a policeman named Brody (Roy Scheider), who moves from a big city to a small New England town when he is made its sheriff. There, he discovers that there are sharks killing people on the beach, and he tries to keep everyone safe, since the mayor decides to keep the beaches open to attract tourists. Director Steven Spielberg is at his best in Jaws, employing groundbreaking cinematic techniques to make this an experience like no other. If you haven’t seen it yet, it will have you on the edge of your seat.
3. Star Wars (1977)
Though only the first Star Wars movie was made in the 1970s, we might as well have listed the entire original trilogy, as watching Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is bound to have you hooked. The film follows the adventures of a young man named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), whose life is turned upside down when he embarks on a journey with a Jedi named Obi Wan-Kenobi (Alec Guinness), a smuggler named Han Solo (Harrison Ford), his co-pilot Chewbacca and droids R2D2 and C3PO to rescue a princess (Carrie Fisher’s Leia). The enemy is the evil Darth Vader (James Earl Jones), leader of the Galactic Empire, and our heroes are the Rebellion who seeks to free the galaxy. Star Wars is one of the best sagas ever made, where the brilliance of its characterisation matches the technical skill on display, such as the genre-defining score by John Williams.
2. Taxi Driver (1976)
Robert De Niro is the titular taxi driver in one of the best movies Martin Scorsese has ever made, telling the parable of an anti-hero who descends into chaos when his desire to rid his city of corruption becomes an obsession. Travis Bickle, the film’s protagonist, is an extremely lonely man, and Taxi Driver immerses us into his universe as we follow him drive various people around and try to remain sane. Taxi Driver is an incredibly well-crafted movie, with haunting visuals and sound accompanying our anti-hero’s descent into darkness and we’re left pondering about morals and society.
1. The Godfather (1972)
Francis Ford Coppola
The first film in our list also happens to be one of the best movies of all time – not to mention, one of the best gambling movies, if you’re a fan of the game. The first film in Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy is based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel of the same name, and follows a powerful New York mafia family, depicting the rise and fall of its empire. Said family makes up the Corleone empire, led by Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), whose youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), is reluctant to take over the family business. When he does, he begins to get entangled in a web of power dynamics that make it impossible for him to go back to his routine, drawn into a world of violence and betrayals. The Godfather is a stunning, well-written epic that will immediately draw you into its world. With too many iconic scenes to name – the horse head, the exploding car, the casino scene, the baptism, and many more, it’s the film that gave birth to the mob genre as we know it today, and it’s driven by fantastic performances from the entire cast.
The 10 films listed above are all great movies from the 1970s that provide the best the decade had to offer. From heist movies to surreal nightmares to the best of the noir and sci-fi genre, there’s something for everyone in our list. Happy watching!