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Top 5 Decade Defining Actors of the 1970s

In The 70s, They Ruled The World

With the announcement that Robert Redford is set to retire from acting following the release of his next film, we can’t help but reflect on his lifetime of cinematic accomplishments. Along with these four other juggernauts, there’s no denying that his performances over the course of the 1970s were his best, since many are now considered instant classics in the eyes of critics everywhere.

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#5: Bruce Lee (1940 – 1973)

A career cut tragically short, Bruce Lee achieved a lot in a short life! During the ‘60s, the martial-arts expert worked mainly in fight choreography, and struggled to find success as an actor (the suggestion being that his ethnicity was preventing a U.S. breakthrough). In Hong Kong he was a hit, though, making movies such as “The Big Boss” and “Fist of Fury.” Making a complete 180, Warner Bros. signed him up for “Enter the Dragon” – the biggest commercial success of his life, and one he wouldn’t live to see released.

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#4:  Robert Redford (1936 -)

A future recipient of the Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Redford found fame in ‘69 with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Next he appeared opposite Barbra Streisand in “The Way We Were,” and scored his biggest box-office hit with “The Sting.” Reliving the glory of “Butch Cassidy” by again pairing with actor, Paul Newman, and director, George Roy Hill; Redford plays a con-man, but his acting abilities were the real deal. They carried over to 1976, when he indulged his political side by trying to solve the Watergate scandal in “All the President’s Men.”

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#3: Al Pacino (1940 -)

This guy’s career is particularly hard to nail down to one decade, but largely for his part in “The Godfather” series, he was a huge star of the ‘70s. He played mobster Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic gangster film, and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He boycotted the ceremony though, believing his role to be ‘lead actor’ material! Ironically, he went on to be nominated for the desired award four times during the decade – including one nomination for “The Godfather: Part II.”

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#2: Jack Nicholson (1937 -)

Like other actors on our list, it’s hard to confine Nicholson’s excellence to one time period; after all, he’s had such an illustrious career. But Oscar nominations for his roles in “The Last Detail” and “Chinatown,” as well as the first of three wins for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” make this decade a particular success! As Randle McMurphy he plays a forcibly repressed man who tries to break out; and as an actor, Jack Nicholson sure breaks the mold!

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#1: Robert De Niro (1943 -)

He’s as A-List as they come, and he tops our talented tree! De Niro found fame within a partnership he formed in the early ‘70s with director Martin Scorsese, beginning with “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver.” By ‘77, everyone was ‘talking to him’ (or at least about him!), and a role as Michael Vronsky in the Vietnam War movie “The Deer Hunter” further established his reputation. Of course, he also managed the small feat of playing the Oscar-winning part of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather: Part 2” – what a man!

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