The 100 Greatest Movies of the 1970s

The 1970s stand out as a revolutionary decade in cinema history, marked by a period of artistic innovation, narrative complexity, and the emergence of a new wave of filmmakers who would forever change the filmmaking landscape. This era witnessed the birth of blockbusters, the rise of independent cinema, and a significant shift towards more character-driven stories that reflected the social and political upheavals of the time. Let’s take a journey through the decade to explore some of the greatest movies of the 1970s, films that continue to inspire and captivate audiences around the world.

The 1970s were the beginning of what I like to call “The Second Golden Age of Film.” Future filmmakers may look back on the time from 1970 to 2000 as a period of great inspiration in times to come.

If disco-dancing was not your thing, you might have gotten the urge to go to the movie theater and see John Travolta dance instead in his classic Saturday Night Fever.

If you were busy trying to hook up with a girl or a guy, you might have gone to the drive-in movies for a chance to get scared by the Great White Shark in Jaws.

The 1970s were a phenomenal era. Not only was the country recovering from Vietnam and the Watergate scandal, but America was also booming with music and movies. On your 8-Track, you might have been listening to Elton John or the Bee Gees. At the theater, you might have experienced such great films as The Godfather or Star Wars.

The decade brought about many changes to American culture, including the Feminist Movement and the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans. The 1970s were also the years for certain disasters, such as tragic airline crashes and earthquakes. Hollywood tried to cash in on society’s awareness of these events by releasing popular disaster films like Airport, The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno. Studios also thought they could score home runs with the female demographic with such 1970s classics as An Unmarried Woman and Annie Hall.

Great actors like Dustin Hoffman, Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Jack Nicholson, and Meryl Streep all had great starring roles in some of the most influential films of the 1970s. The decade also introduced us to such future icons as Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver), Harrison Ford (Star Wars), Sylvester Stallone (Rocky), Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter), and Michael Douglas (The China Syndrome).

The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather (1972)

100 Movies of the 1970s

  • The Godfather (1972)
  • The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  • 10 (1979)
  • Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972)
  • Alien (1979)
  • All the President’s Men (1976)
  • Amarcord (1973)
  • American Graffiti (1973)
  • Animal House (1978)
  • Annie Hall (1977)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Badlands (1973)
  • Barry Lyndon (1975)
  • Battles Without Honour and Humanity (The Yakuza Papers) (1973)
  • Being There (1979)
  • Blow-Out (1973)
  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
  • Cabaret (1972)
  • Carrie (1976)
  • Catch-22 (1970)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  • Coming Home (1978)
  • The Conformist (1970)
  • The Conversation (1974)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Day for Night (1973)
  • Days of Heaven (1978)
  • The Day of the Jackal (1973)
  • Deep Red (1975)
  • The Deer Hunter (1978)
  • Deliverance (1972)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
  • Dirty Harry (1971)
  • Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  • The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
  • Enter the Dragon (1973)
  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
  • Five Easy Pieces (1970)
  • The French Connection (1971)
  • Frenzy (1972)
  • The Goodbye Girl (1977)
  • Grease (1978)
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Heaven Can Wait (1978)
  • I as in Icarus (1979)
  • Jaws (1975)
  • Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
  • Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
  • The Last Detail (1973)
  • The Last Picture Show (1971)
  • Last Tango in Paris (1972)
  • Little Big Man (1970)
  • Love Story (1970)
  • Mad Max (1979)
  • Manhattan (1979)
  • The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
  • Marathon Man (1976)
  • Martin (1977)
  • MASH (1970)
  • McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
  • Mean Streets (1973)
  • Midnight Express (1978)
  • Midway (1976)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Nashville (1975)
  • Network (1976)
  • Norma Rae (1979)
  • The Omen (1976)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
  • Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)
  • Patton (1970)
  • The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  • Rocky (1976)
  • Saturday Night Fever (1977)
  • Serpico (1973)
  • Solyaris (1972)
  • Stalker (1979)
  • Star Wars (1977)
  • The Sting (1973)
  • Straight Time (1978)
  • Superman (1978)
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • THX 1138 (1971)
  • El Topo (1970)
  • Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
  • Under the Flag of the Rising Sun (1972)
  • Up In Smoke (1978)
  • The Warriors (1979)
  • The Way We Were (1973)
  • The Wicker Man (1973)
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Woodstock (1970)
  • The Yakuza (1974)
  • Young Frankenstein (1974)

The New Hollywood: Directors and Their Vision

The 1970s were also characterized by the rise of “New Hollywood,” a movement led by young filmmakers who brought fresh perspectives and daring approaches to cinema. Directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Stanley Kubrick became household names, each contributing landmark films that reflected the era’s mood and challenged conventional storytelling.

  • The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974): Coppola’s epic saga of the Corleone mafia family not only won critical acclaim and numerous awards but also offered a dark critique of the American Dream, cementing its place as one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time.
  • Taxi Driver (1976): Scorsese’s gritty portrayal of urban alienation through the eyes of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) captured the disillusionment of post-Vietnam America, offering an unsettling glimpse into the psyche of a disturbed loner.
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971): Kubrick’s controversial adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel presented a dystopian future that explored themes of violence, free will, and the nature of evil, pushing the boundaries of visual storytelling.

The 1970s were not just about spectacle and innovation; they also delved deep into character studies and social commentary, reflecting the era’s tumultuous social landscape.

  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975): Milos Forman’s adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel, starring Jack Nicholson, tackled the oppressive nature of mental institutions and celebrated the human spirit’s indomitability, winning all five major Academy Awards.
  • Chinatown (1974): This neo-noir mystery, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, offered a cynical look at corruption and moral decay in 1930s Los Angeles, becoming a critical darling for its intricate plot and atmospheric direction.
  • Network (1976): Sidney Lumet’s satirical take on the television industry and its impact on society was both prophetic and poignant. It delivered a scathing critique of media manipulation and the pursuit of ratings at the cost of human dignity.

The 1970s remain a golden era of filmmaking. This decade broke new ground and pushed the boundaries of what cinema could achieve. The movies of the 1970s not only entertained but also challenged audiences, asking tough questions and exploring complex themes. They reflected the changing times, capturing the essence of an era while leaving a lasting legacy that continues to influence filmmakers and captivate audiences today. Looking back on these cinematic masterpieces, it’s clear that the 1970s were not just about the emergence of blockbuster films but also about the fearless exploration of storytelling, character, and the human condition.

Scroll to Top