Top 10 Movies of the 1970s

Script written by Richard Bush. The 1970s saw Hollywood focus on the harsh truths of war, rich cinematography and movies on a blockbuster scale. For our series of the Best Movies of All Time, we’ve chosen ten movies per decade based on their iconic status, critical acclaim, box-office success, and watchability. And just so you know, we’re not necessarily choosing the movies your film studies professor would pick. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, in this installment of our series on the greatest movies of all time, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movies of the 1970s. Special thanks to our users Andrew A. Dennison, troll, christiane_06, Jerome Magajes, richardbain, JakeMaringoni and sheridan bath for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script by Richard Bush.

This decade saw Hollywood focus on the harsh truths of war, rich cinematography movies on a blockbuster scale. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, in this installment of our series on the greatest movies of all time, we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movies of the 1970s.

For our series of the Best Movies of All Time, we’ve chosen ten movies per decade based on their iconic status, critical acclaim, box-office success, and watchability. And just so you know, we’re not necessarily choosing the movies your film studies professor would pick.

So sit back and relax as we make an offer you can’t refuse, in a galaxy far, far away…

#10: “Rocky” (1976)

It’s a true underdog story. “Rocky” embodies everything that is great about the American dream and shows us that opportunities can arise at any moment. Rocky ‘the Italian Stallion’ Balboa is just your average small-time boxer. However, when cocksure heavyweight champion Apollo Creed decides he wants to give a little guy a chance, Balboa steps into the ring. That makes for realistic fight scenes, plenty of Stallone grunting and overall a truly heart-warming story.

#9: “The Deer Hunter” (1978)

Juxtaposing the lives of three friends before and after their time in the Vietnam War, “The Deer Hunter” shows us the true toll of a gruesome conflict. As well as seeing the after-effects of ‘Nam, we also experience horrific examples of the deadly games in which American prisoners of war were forced to participate. “The Deer Hunter” lifts the veil on sometimes-glamorized depictions of war and gives us an emotionally draining, perfectly acted, ambitious, Oscar-winning film.

#8: “Jaws” (1975)

Accompanied by a killer John Williams soundtrack that chills to the bone, Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” is the story of a Great White Shark that terrorizes a small resort town, and the team that’s hired to take it out. Infamous for its graphic and gruesome scenes, “Jaws” became one of the highest-grossing films ever. But it’s not all blood and guts: “Jaws” is respected because it is not inhabited by one-dimensional horror movie stereotypes, but by layered, human characters.

#7: “Chinatown” (1974)

Not only did this Roman Polanski film earn an Oscar for its screenplay; it also cemented Jack Nicholson’s place in Hollywood history. PI Jake Gittes specializes in uncovering cases of infidelity, so a cheating husband is a regular case. However, after a Mrs. Mulwray asks him to track her high-profile husband, he soon realizes everything isn’t what it seems. Spiraling into a web of deceit, seduction and murder, we anxiously follow Gittes every step of the way.

#6: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)

This multiple Academy Award-winning movie tells the tale of Randle McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson, who fakes mental illness to avoid prison. Ultimately becoming the rebellious wildcard of the loony bin, McMurphy surges new life into his fellow patients and locks horns with the oppressive Nurse Ratched. Even with Nicholson’s sometimes-frenetic energy, it’s the gloomy atmosphere of this flick that makes it truly engrossing from start to finish.

#5: “A Clockwork Orange” (1971)

A bit of the old ultra-violence anyone? Following young Alex DeLarge and his gang of delinquent droogs, Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” is about free will as much as it’s about mindless anarchy. Its overt violence is credited with helping to loosen cinema standards when it came to the rough stuff, to the point where the filmmaker himself questioned its content. Even so, it’s a landmark piece of filmmaking that was nominated for multiple Oscars.

#4: “Taxi Driver” (1976)

One of the most significant milestones in the Martin Scorsese/Robert De Niro partnership, this film is the story of a Vietnam vet who wants to clean up the streets of New York as a vigilante cab driver. Although there is very little action in the film, we witness the grueling underbelly of NYC from the viewpoint of an obsessive and fretful insomniac. Scorsese’s storytelling and character development really take over, producing a film that enthralls you to the end.

#3: “Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Set against the backdrop of the gritty Vietnam War, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” follows a group of soldiers who are given the task of assassinating a rogue colonel. Its masterfully executed war theme comes accompanied with snappy dialogue as well as horrific, yet very realistic, scenes of plunder and destruction. By recreating the conflict instead of scrutinizing it, Coppola managed to make what’s considered the greatest Vietnam War film in a decade full of them.

#2: “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” (1977)

This financially successful juggernaut made sci-fi a phenomenon. When the plans to destroy the dreaded Death Star end up in the hands of a farm boy, we embark on a journey of Sith versus Jedi, lightsabers, spaceships, robots and the Force. Not only was this space adventure aesthetically impressive; its intricate storyline and characters also built a hardcore fanbase overnight and influenced all who came after it – and it’ll continue to do so for a long, long time.

Honorable Mentions

- “Alien” (1979)
- “American Graffiti” (1973)
- “The French Connection” (1971)
- “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)
- “The Exorcist” (1973)

#1: “The Godfather” (1972)

Brought to the big-screen by Francis Ford Coppola, this blockbuster shattered box-office records, earned universal critical praise and was even lauded by Mafia men for its realism. Following Michael Corleone as he reluctantly yet ruthlessly works his way to the top of the Mob; this film and its sequel changed cinema with their influence. With undisputed violence, complex social hierarchies and pursuit of the American dream as themes, “The Godfather” was a smash that audiences also couldn’t refuse.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite movie of the ‘70s? For more thrilling top 10s be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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