Iconic Films Of The 1970s That Are Still Relevant Today

The 1970s stands out as one of the most influential decades in film history. It was during that time that many of Hollywood’s most recent iconic stars, directors, and writers proved their talents. Not only did films during this decade honor their predecessors, but they also paved the way for the film industry as we know it today. Many of the films that people consider to be classic were born out of this era and are considered just as excellent as when they were first released. Take a look back at these iconic 70s films.

A Clockwork Orange Is Packed With Social Commentary

Alex and Droogs
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Based on Anthony Burgess’s novel of the same name, A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film that covers themes of morality, psychology, crime, and more. Based in a dystopian near-future Britain, a gang led by a teenager named Alex (Malcolm McDowell) commit all kinds of atrocities such as assault and rape which they refer to as “ultra-violence.”

Alex is eventually captured and is attempted to be rehabilitated through a horrific psychological process. The film was a smashing success, getting nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. However, some audiences were shocked by the graphic nature of the film.

Chinatown Put A Spin On History

Jack Nicholson
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, the 1974 mystery is inspired by the California Water Wars, a series of conflicts regarding Southern California water at the beginning of the 20th entry. Jack Nicholson plays Jake Gitties, a private who is initially hired to expose an adulterer. However, he soon finds himself involved in something much larger than himself.

Directed by Roman Polanski, the film is praised for its elements of film noir and its in-depth plot structure. At the 47th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for 11 Oscars, taking home Best Original Screenplay.

Taxi Driver Is A Different Look At Heroism

Robert de Niro in ab
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

A psychological thriller, Taxi Driver, was written by Paul Schrader and directed by Martin Scorcese. Taking place after the Vietnam War in a corrupt version of New York City, veteran (De Niro) takes up work as a nighttime taxi driver. Over time, he slowly loses his sanity and makes plans to assassinate a presidential candidate and the pimp of an underage prostitute.

Upon release, the film was praised by audiences and critics and was nominated for four Academy Awards. Even renowned critic Roger Ebert claimed that it was one of the best films he had ever seen.

One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest Set A Record At The Academy Awards

Jack Nicholson
United Artists
United Artists

Based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest follows recidivist criminal, Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), who agrees to be institutionalized in a mental facility although not actually mentally ill.

By doing so, he hopes to avoid manual labor and live out his days in comfort, however, his plan backfires. Since its release in 1975, the film has been considered one of the greatest of all time, being the second to win all five major Academy Awards.

Animal House Set The Bar For Comedies

John Belushi in Animal House
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Written by Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney, and Chris Miller, Chris Miller, and directed by John Landis Animal House is a college comedy. Set in 1962, the film follows a raucous group of fraternity members who try and fight against the strict rules enforced by the dean of Faber College.

While the film had mixed reviews upon its release in 1978, critic Roger Ebert proclaimed it one of the best films of the year. The highest-grossing comedy of all time, the film was made for only $2.8 million and grossed $142 million.

Jaws Still Keeps People Out Of The Water

Movie Cover
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1975, Jaws is a thriller-horror about a massive man-eating great white shark that is plaguing the east coast beach town of Amity Island. It is then up to police chief Martin Brody (Martin Scheider) to hunt and kill it along with marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and shark hunter (Robert Shaw).

Although the production of the film had countless setbacks, it all paid off in the end, being recognized as “a watershed moment” in film history, changing the Hollywood business model. Today, it is regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.

Rocky Redefined Sports Films

Rocky running
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Rocky is a 1976 sports drama film directed by John G. Avildsen and written and starring Sylvester Stallone. It’s a story about a boxer, Rocky Balboa, who is down on his luck, working as a debt collector for a loan shark in Philadelphia. Boxing on the side, he eventually gets a chance to compete in the world heavyweight championship.

With a budget of just $1 million, the film made over $225 million, making it the highest-grossing film of 1976. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, it won Best Picture and established Stallone as a full-blown movie star. Since its release, there have been seven sequels including the Creed films.

Apocalypse Now Showed The True Horrors of War

Charlie Sheen
United Artists
United Artists

Apocalypse Now is a 1979 Vietnam War film directed by Francis Ford Coppola with an ensemble cast including Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Sam Bottoms, Dennis Hopper, among others. Based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, it tells the story of Captain Benjamin Willard (Sheen) who is charged with assassinating Colonel Kurtz (Brando), a rogue Army Specialist officer who is accused of murder and went off the grid.

The production was plagued with catastrophes including rampant drinking and drug use, pushing filming over half a year past schedule. Although it had slightly mixed reviews upon release, it is now considered one of the greatest films ever made.

Alien Brings The Uneasiness Of Space To The Screen

Creature
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Released in 1979 and directed by Ridley Scott, Alien follows the crew of the spaceship Nostromo on a return mission to Earth. Unfortunately, they encounter the “Alien,” an extremely aggressive and bloodthirsty extraterrestrial which is released onto the ship. From there, the crew members must fight for their lives while trapped inside a ship far in the depths of space.

The film was well-received and won the Academy Award for Best Special Effects and three Saturn Awards. Currently, it’s the seventh-best film in the science fiction genre according to the American Film Institute and has been preserved by the Library of Congress.

Close Encounters Of The Third Time Is Out Of This World

Alien ship
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

A passion project of Stephen Spielberg, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is considered to be one of his finest works. The film tells the story of Roy Neary, a blue-collar worker whose life is turned upside down after he encounters an unidentified flying object.

Made on a budget of $20 million, the film grossed over $300 million worldwide, earning numerous nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and is revered by the American Film Institute. Deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress in 2007, the film was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.

The French Connection Was The First-Rated Film To Win Best Film

Group of NYPD detectives
20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

Directed by William Friedkin, the film was based on Robin Moore’s 1969 novel The French Connection: A True Account of Cops, Narcotics, and International Conspiracy. Released in 1971, The French Connection became the first R-rated film to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture, although also took home Best Actor, Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The film follows two NYPD detectives, whose real-life counterparts were based on Narcotics Detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Gross who were trying to take down a French heroin smuggler.

The Deer Hunter Demonstrated The Horrors During And After The Vietnam War

The main three
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Released in 1978, The Deer Hunter follows the lives of three blue-collar steelworkers (Robert de Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage), whose lives are turned upside down after fighting in the Vietnam War. Although the film was over-schedule and over-budget, costing $15 million, the film was a smashing success, taking home five Academy Awards and grossing over $49 million.

One of the films most memorable moments includes a game of “Russian roulette” at a Vietnam POW camp. Although the scene displays de Niro and Walken’s incredible acting talent, it was highly controversial among audiences.

All The President’s Men Told A True Story

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

All the President’s Men is a neo-noir political thriller centering on the Watergate scandal under the presidency of Richard Nixon. Based on the book of the same name by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the film stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the novel’s authors, as they investigate Watergate for The Washington Post.

The film was nominated for numerous Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTA awards in numerous categories, eventually being selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Halloween Was The Beginning Of A Huge Franchise

Michael Meyers
Compass International Pictures
Compass International Pictures

Directed and scored by John Carpenter, Halloween is an independent slasher film starring Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut film and Donald Pleasence. The film follows Laurie Strode (Curtis) who is stalked by the serial killer, Michael Meyers, who escaped a sanitarium and goes on a killing spree on Halloween night.

Earning $70 million worldwide, the film was an overall success, as well as setting the bar for future slasher films. Although there was some controversy regarding sadism and misogyny, the film grew into a franchise which constructs a background, connecting Laurie Strode and Michael Meyers.

Where Were You In ’62?: American Grafitti

Mel's Drive-In
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Directed by George Lucas American Graffiti follows a group of high school students and everything they get themselves into over the course of a night. This film has an ensemble crew including Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, and which drew crowds.

Furthermore, it is a testament to the rock and roll/car culture that came from the baby boom generation after World War II. Working on a meager budget of $777,000, it turned out to be one of the most profitable films of all time grossing more than $200 million.

Serpico Tells The Story of A Real Undercover Police Officer

Al Pacino in Serpico
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

A biographical crime film starring Al Pacino and directed by Sidney Lumet. It is an adaptation of Peter Maas’s biography of the New York Police undercover officer, Frank Serpico. The film and the book follow Serpico’s life between the 12 years of 1960 and 1972. While working as an upstanding undercover officer, Frank Serpico is exposed to the corruption of other New York police officers.

It is then up to him and what he’s willing to risk to expose it. The film earned numerous accolades, including Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Godfather Part II Is Argued To Be Better Than The First

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Released just two years after The Godfather, director Francis Ford Coppola gifted the world with The Godfather Part II. Starring Al Pacino and Robert de Niro, the film acts as both a sequel and a prequel to the original film. One part of the film follows Michael Corleone (Pacino), the focus in The Godfather as he attempts to protect the family business after an assassination attempt.

The other, acts as a sequel, following a young Vito Corleone (De Niro), as he grows up to establish the family business. Nominated for eleven Academy Awards, it also was the first sequel to ever win Best Picture, with some claiming it’s superior to the first film.

The Godfather Remains At The Top

Vito Corleone
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Released in 1972 and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather is based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name. Starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, the story focuses on the Corleone New York crime family between the years 1945 to 1955.

During that time, we witness the family under the patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando) and the evolution of his son Michael (Pacino) going from a reluctant family member to a mafia boss. At the time, it was the highest-grossing film ever made and was praised by critics, and is ranked the second-greatest film in American history by the American Film Institute.

The Exorcist Horrified Audiences

Linda Blair
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The Exorcist is a 1973 supernatural horror film based on the 1971 novel by William Friedkin, who also wrote the screenplay and produced the film. It is the first film in The Exorcist series and follows a 12-year-old girl who becomes possessed. Her mother then seeks out two priests who attempt to exorcise the demon from her daughter.

After its release on December 26, 1973, there were mixed reviews. Some audiences loved it, while others suffered from physical reactions such as fainting and vomiting. Since then, it has been named one of the greatest horror films of all time and was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture.

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry with a gun
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Directed by Don Siegel, Dirty Harry is the first in the series, starring Clint Eastwood as San Francisco Police Department Inspector Harry Callahan. The film takes a lot from the Zodiac Killer case in San Francisco, as “Dirty” Harry hunts down a similar villain.

Being a commercial and critical success, the film’s neo-noir style set the stage for numerous preceding movies including The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, and more. Although the film was controversial regarding concerns such as police brutality, overall, Eastwood’s performance was revered and several other Dirty Harry films were made.