Greatest Films of the 1970s
Greatest Films of the 1970s

Greatest Films of the 1970s
1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979


Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

All the President's Men (1976), 138 minutes, D: Alan J. Pakula
Alan J. Pakula's mystery-thriller and taut docu-drama about President Nixon's Watergate scandal and abuse of power followed two real-life, young, persistent investigative journalists at the Washington Post. [Executive producer and co-star Robert Redford's well-known concern for political issues was reflected in his on-screen portrayal in this substantive film.] The detailed, dialogue-rich script, based on the 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning non-fiction book by the reporters, created an authentic and credible feel. The two main Hollywood actors in the lead roles as clashing Post reporters who reluctantly worked together seamlessly became their characters with contrasting styles and personalities: Robert Redford as the determined junior reporter Bob Woodward, and Dustin Hoffman as the more experienced and outspoken liberal Carl Bernstein. The intrepid rookie duo uncovered a possible connection, through a dogged search for clues, hunches, and informants (including the mysterious Deep Throat), between the 1972 Watergate burglary and an Oval Office staffer. As they uncovered dirty tricks and other illegal, conspiratorial activities, the famous catch-phrase: "Follow the money" (entirely invented for the film), became popularized.

Black and White in Color (1976, Fr./Ivory Coast/W.Germ/Switz.) (aka Noirs et Blancs en Couleur), 90 minutes, D: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Bound For Glory (1976), 147 minutes, D: Hal Ashby

Carrie (1976), 97 minutes, D: Brian De Palma
Director Brian De Palma's first commercial hit was this bloody, R-rated supernatural horror film based on Stephen King's 1974 best-selling novel of the same name - his first published work. The story was about a socially-outcast, shy and timid, abused and bullied high-schoolgirl (Sissy Spacek) possessed with retributive telekinetic powers when she became angry or frightened. In the opening scene, she was thoroughly embarrassed and tormented by fellow students in the girls locker-room when she experienced menstruation for the first time. Unpopular with boys, she was also chastised by her religiously fanatical, delusional, and sexually-repressed mother Mrs. Margaret White (Piper Laurie), who indoctrinated Carrie with the idea that all sex was evil. Carrie vengefully murdered high school senior prom-goers (shown in split-screen) after being humiliated with a cruel trick. With her date Tommy Ross (William Katt) after being announced as the King and Queen of the prom in a fixed election, she was doused with a bucket of pig's blood from above. In pain and feeing rage and disbelief, Carrie retaliated by locking all the doors of the gym with the power of her mind. She then set the place on fire, while also causing car crashes outside. When she returned home later to her vengeful mother (who thought she had discovered sex), Carrie was subjected to a cleansing bath, and then her mother attempted to cure her by killing her with a large kitchen knife. Before Carrie's death and the burning of the house around her, she impaled her mother (in a crucifix position) with numerous knives in the house. The film has always been noted for its second, jump-scare shock ending - a nightmarish dream sequence in which Carrie's surviving classmate and best friend Sue Snell (Amy Irving) was grabbed by Carrie's bloody hand bursting out of the ground from the rubble of the White home.

In the Realm of the Senses (1976, Jp.Fr.) (aka Ai No Korîda, Realm of the Senses, or L'Empire Des Sens), 105 minutes, D: Nagisa Oshima
Director Oshima's shocking and intense film of extreme, all-consuming sexual obsession, madness and immersion (bordering on pornography in its uncut version, with frequent shots of an erect penis and fellatio) was seized and banned by US Customs and postponed in its censored release. This erotic Japanese masterpiece about painful passion told the story of a torrid, increasingly intense and dangerous, true-to-life, almost non-stop sexual affair between gangster businessman/inn owner Kichi-zo (Tatsuya Fuji) (the husband of the brothel madam) and one of his maid-servants, former prostitute Sada Abe (Eiko Matsuda) in mid-1930s Japan. It had an orgy scene, sexual violence, sex games (including food inserted into her vagina before consumption), and masochism (forcible use of a wooden dildo, bite-wounds, and S&M, among other practices). In the scenes between Kichizo and Sada Abe, there were explicit shots of unsimulated fellatio (while he passively laid back and smoked a cigarette) with a close-up of semen dripping from her mouth, unsimulated penetration, a wide variety of sexual positions and sexual acts, etc.), vaginal insertion of a hard-boiled egg, masturbation during a bloody menstrual period, and the depiction of the infamous, violent scene of their disturbing practice of auto-erotic asphyxiation with a red scarf. Eventually, when Sada grew jealous of her partner's continuing sexual relations with his wife, she threatened to cut off his penis. The film climaxed with his bloody genital dismemberment after murderous strangulation so that she could keep his member inside of her. Afterwards, the empowered female carried around her master-lover's severed genitals in a handkerchief for four days - an enactment of her proprietary feelings about his member - until she was arrested.

L'Innocente (1976, It./Fr.) (aka The Innocent), 115 minutes, D: Luchino Visconti

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976, UK), 140 minutes, D: Nicolas Roeg

Marathon Man (1976), 125 minutes, D: John Schlesinger

Network (1976), 120 minutes, D: Sidney Lumet
A prophetic, explosive, provocative satire from screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky about the medium of network television and its abusive, self-prostituting quest for ratings. Chief UBS TV (a fourth-rated fictional broadcasting system) veteran news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is driven insane when told that he will be fired after twenty-five years because of low ratings. On the air, the beserk newsman tells his audience that he will committ suicide during his final live broadcast. A ratings-mad, cold-blooded, ambitious programming VP Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) exploits the furor when ratings zoom. Messianic hero and cult celebrity Beale continues to report the news and evangelistically urges his viewers to go to their windows and yell: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" The craggy, dissenting head of the news division Max Schumacher (William Holden) is fired, as the network is overtaken by a multinational conglomerate and alliances are made with urban guerrilla terrorists for programming ideas. Married Schumacher, in a mid-life crisis, has a May-December affair with Diana and leaves his wife (Beatrice Straight).

1900 (1976, Fr./It./W. Germ) (aka Novecento), 320 minutes, D: Bernardo Bertolucci

The Omen (1976), 111 minutes, D: Richard Donner

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), 135 minutes, D: Clint Eastwood
A great Eastwood revisionistic western, and considered his personal favorite. [Note: It was Eastwood's fifth-directed film and eighth Western as a performer. His next western would be nine years later. It was one of the last few major studio Westerns until the 1990s, marked by Eastwood's own Unforgiven (1992).] Eastwood fully fleshed-out the title character Josey Wales, who became a vengeful, ex-Confederate rebel guerrilla fighter who refused to surrender. Earlier as a farmer during the Civil War along the Kansas-Missouri border, he had witnessed the massacre of his family and pillaging of his farm in a border raid led by marauding renegade Union Red Leg soldier Captain Terrill (Bill McKinney). Regarded as an outlaw after the war, wanted man Wales journeyed westward to Texas, still haunted by the slaughter and driven to murderous revenge. He joined a band of Confederate irregulars under Bloody Bill Anderson (John Russell). He was pursued by bounty hunters and other lawmen, including reluctant Confederate regimental Captain Fletcher (John Vernon). However, the angry loner-fugitive began to regain some of his humanity when he rescued aging Indian Cherokee Lone Watie (Chief Dan George). He also saved farm family settlers from Comanche raiders - pretty love-interest Laura Lee (Sondra Locke) and her spirited, self-righteous Grandma Sarah (Paula Trueman), on their way to settle down on an abandoned ranch near the ghost town of Santa Rio.

Rocky (1976), 119 minutes, D: John G. Avildsen
The phenomenally successful, uplifting, "sleeper" film that was filmed in a record twenty-eight days with a paltry budget of about $1 million, and ultimately grossed well over $100 million. (This low-budget film was positioned between two early "blockbusters" - Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and Lucas' Star Wars (1977).) Its screenwriter and major star, Sylvester Stallone, was an unbankable unknown at the time - an underdog actor/writer in the film industry (with 32 previously-rejected scripts) similar to the boxing 'bum' in the film. Stallone supposedly wrote the script for the sports comeback film over a three-day period. The action-packed, 'feel-good' crowd-pleasing story, shot mostly on location, tells of the rise of a small-time, has-been, underdog Philadelphia boxer against insurmountable odds in a big-time bout with Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), with the emotional support of a shy, hesitant, loving girlfriend named Adrian (Talia Shire) and wily fight manager Mickey (Burgess Meredith). The low-key film was a combination of On the Waterfront (1954), Marty (1955), and a fairy-tale, Cinderella rags-to-riches story. The original Rocky film, from Oscar-winning director John G. Avildsen, packed movie houses, and beat out formidable competition for Best Picture: All the President's Men, Bound For Glory, Network, and Taxi Driver. It was followed by four inferior sequels: Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990) and another entry titled Rocky Balboa (2006).

Small Change (1976, Fr.) (aka L'Argent de Poche, or Pocket Money), 104 minutes, D: François Truffaut

Taxi Driver (1976), 112 minutes, D: Martin Scorsese
One of Martin Scorsese's greatest films, about a violent, alienated, unfocused, psychotic NYC taxi driver fatalistically disturbed by the squalid, hellish urban underbelly of pimps, whores, winos, and junkies. Ex-Marine Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) works the night shift through Times Square in his cab, encountering nightmarish Gothic horrors, moral decay and lowlifes. Off hours during the day, he kills time by frequenting sleazy porno houses and eating junk food. His one feeble attempt at social and emotional contact - a date with a blonde political campaign worker Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) fails miserably when he takes her to a porn film. His fantasized one-man campaign/mission to clean up the streets focuses on saving a prepubescent child prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster). It ends with a failed political assassination attempt, and a rage-filled, pent-up blood-bath massacre, including the killing of Iris' pimp "Sport" (Harvey Keitel). In the aftermath, the repellent character emerges as a vindicated, folk savior-hero.

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