Top 10 Defining Moments of 1970s America

Script written by Billy Keeley. This decade saw Americans continue to push for change while their country was troubled by one of its greatest scandals ever. For this list, we’ve chosen moments that we felt best represent this essential decade in American history. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 defining moments of 1970s America. Special thanks to our users bormannator for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Billy Keeley.

This decade saw Americans continue to push for change while their country was troubled by one of its greatest scandals ever. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 defining moments of 1970s America.

For this list, we’ve chosen moments that we felt best represent this essential decade in American history.

#10: Disco Peaks with the “Saturday Night Fever” Soundtrack
(November 15, 1977)


Though a slew of genres dominated the charts, none are more associated with the ‘70s than disco. The dance film “Saturday Night Fever”spawned an album featuring music from the Bee Gees, Kool & the Gang and more, and it quickly became America’s top-selling soundtrack. That meant hits like “Stayin’ Alive,” which emphasized pop music built on strong bass lines and high vocals, were unavoidable dance floor anthems for a brief but kinetic time.

#9: Civil Rights Spills into Sports
(1970s)


With racial barriers broken by athletes like Jackie Robinson, the Seventies represented the first full decade in which African-Americans regularly reached sports superstardom. Baseball slugger Hank Aaron did what many had considered impossible when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record; Arthur Ashe dominated tennis rankings; Walter Payton scorched the gridiron; and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook shot was unstoppable. The sports world would never be the same.

#8: Star Wars Takes us to a Galaxy Far, Far Away
(1977)


While young, talented filmmakers brought audiences everything from “Jaws” to “The Godfather,” it was undoubtedly “Star Wars” that had the greatest impact on Americans. Not only did George Lucas’s sci-fi masterpiece become one of the highest-grossing films of all time, but it also changed cinema forever. Its epic story, groundbreaking special effects, sweeping score, and multi-part presentation helped to lay the foundation for today’s big-budget blockbusters and media franchises.

#7: Earth Day and the Environmental Movement
(April 22, 1970)


The social campaigns of the sixties continued the next decade with the rise of the Environmental Movement. On April 22nd, 1970, the first Earth Day was held in order to combat Earth’s rapid depletion in the face of nuclear proliferation and resource shortages. It became a seminal event as millions gathered in places like Central Park to hear speakers raise awareness of the neglected issues afflicting Mother Nature. It also provided inspiration for the Environmental Protection Agency and Clean Air Act.

#6: Pentagon Papers and the Fall of Saigon
(1971 – 1975)


At the decade’s start, the U.S. was still haunted by the specter of Vietnam. Though President Nixon claimed to be reducing American involvement, he secretly approved further military action. This was revealed to the public when the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers in 1971, exposing direct reports of Nixon’s hidden agenda. Political pressure led America to withdraw, and Saigon fell to North Vietnam in 1975. But the damage had just begun.

#5: Computer Revolution: Founding of Apple and Microsoft
(1975 – 1976)


In the mid-Seventies, two companies were created out west that forever altered the country. In April of 1975, Paul Allen and Bill Gates founded Microsoft, initially developing computer programs. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne founded Apple a year later, offering their first machine, the Apple 1. Microsoft and Apple served as figureheads in the PC explosion and became responsible for much of America’s most innovative and popular technology.

#4: Roe v. Wade
(1973)


Despite women’s efforts, abortions were either completely illegal or greatly restricted in the early seventies. With the Roe v. Wade case, the Supreme Court was asked to deliver a verdict on the matter. They made major waves by declaring that abortions were permitted under the right to privacy so long as the fetus wasn’t developed enough to live outside the womb - instating a massive, legally binding coup for women’s rights.

#3: The Energy Crisis
(1973 – 1979)


America faced its greatest economic challenge of the time with the energy crisis. In 1973, the country was maximizing oil usage while production lowered. Dependent on Arab oil, trouble arose when U.S. support of Israel led rival nations to impose an embargo. Prices shot up, contributing to the inflation that was already wrecking the economy. America negotiated an eventual solution, but faced a similar, brief crisis in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution. As a result of the crises, the U.S. became more involved in Middle Eastern affairs, leading to the Camp David Accords and a treaty between Egypt and Israel.

#2: Opening the Door to China
(1972)


With Cold War tensions down, President Nixon attempted to establish relations with another nation: China. After a series of diplomatic maneuvers, Nixon agreed to visit China in 1972. The improvements were widespread and rapid, with China quickly becoming an important trade partner. The meeting convinced the Soviets to welcome further U.S. interaction, producing a series of weapons treaties. Nixon had successfully helped defrost long-standing Communist fears.

Honorable Mentions


The Introduction of Pong and Atari (1972)
Release of the VCR (1975)
Homosexuality Declassified as a Mental Disorder (1973 – 1975)

#1: Watergate Scandal and Nixon’s Resignation (1972 – 1974)


On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters, setting off one of the country’s most embarrassing scandals. Investigators discovered that the men held close connections to President Nixon, who had ordered his staff to participate in illegal surveillance and break-ins to monitor his enemies. When Nixon’s involvement became clear, he resigned. Faith in the government was shattered, affecting the general public for years to come.

Do you agree with our list? Which events do you think defined seventies America? For more informative top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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