List of 1970s movies to watch

[Number of movies rated as of 6/16/2014 is 1399]

It is widely agreed that the 1970s was American cinema’s golden age. I recently watched A Decade Under the Influence (2003) which explores some of the best films of the era. Netflix describes it as “an ode to the art form, one that pays homage to the ‘auteurs’ that emerged from that distinctive time period, such as Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.”


There are, of course, more movies–important movies–that can be added to this list but I thought I’d put down some of the ones mentioned in the documentary that I haven’t seen and/or aren’t that well-known. These are all now in my queue and I’m going to be slowly wading into them over the course of the next year or so. Enjoy!


Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970): Award-winning actress Faye Dunaway portrays tortured former model Lou Andreas Sand, who, after suffering a nervous breakdown, leads a reclusive life at the beach. Her former lover Aaron visits with plans to record her story on tape. The tales unfold, but are Lou’s memories real or mere delusions? Barry Primus, Barry Morse and Roy Scheider co-star in director Jerry Schatzberg’s Golden Globe-nominated psychological descent into madness.

Scarecrow (1973): Meeting on a lonely stretch of California highway while thumbing their way east, loner ex-con Max (Gene Hackman) and likable loser Lionel (Al Pacino) decide to travel in tandem. Along the way, they develop a profound friendship, but it gets put to the test when Lionel faces a devastating reality. Director Jerry Schatzberg’s fascinating character study features sterling supporting performances by Eileen Brennan and Richard Lynch.

The French Connection (1971): Tough-as-nails narcotics detective “Popeye” Doyle and his partner, Russo, are in hot pursuit of a suave French drug dealer who may be the key to a multimillion-dollar heroin-smuggling operation in this classic crime thriller inspired by true events.

Dirty Harry (1971): When a madman dubbed “The Scorpio Killer” terrorizes San Francisco, hard-boiled cop Harry Callahan — famous for his take-no-prisoners approach to law enforcement — is tasked with hunting down the psychopath.

Play Misty for Me (1971): Silver-tongued radio disc jockey Dave (Clint Eastwood) can’t help but notice the persistent calls from a female to “play ‘Misty’ for me.” But a chance meeting with infatuated fan Evelyn leads to a brief and steamy love affair. Dave quickly learns he’s in for more than a little night music, and that Evelyn will stop at nothing — even the return of one of Dave’s old flames — to have him all to herself. The film marks Eastwood’s directorial debut.

The Last Picture Show (1971): There’s not much to do in the windswept Texas hamlet of Anarene, where the town’s only cinema is about to close forever. So high schoolers Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) lust after incorrigible flirt Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd) while trying to chart their uncertain futures. When Duane heads for Korea after joining the service and Jacy gets shipped off to college, Sonny is left behind in a veritable ghost town.

The Conversation (1974): Francis Ford Coppola follows The Godfather with this intimate film about an audio surveillance expert who faces a moral quandary when he suspects that a couple whose conversation he’s been hired to record will be murdered.

McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971): From director Robert Altman comes a dazzling original film capturing the essence of frontier life while overturning Old West myths. John McCabe (Warren Beatty), an entrepreneurial vagabond, moves to a ramshackle Pacific Northwest town to establish a saloon/brothel. He soon meets the shrewd Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie), a professional madam with years of experience; together, they start a booming business and a blossoming relationship.

Sleeper (1973): Health-food store owner Miles Monroe (Woody Allen, who also directs) bites the dust in 1973 and ends up cryogenically frozen, only to be defrosted in a dystopian future in which people pleasure themselves with an “orgasmatron” and dissidents’ brains are “electronically simplified.” Upon becoming a hunted man, Miles masquerades as an android butler in the home of a self-indulgent poet (Diane Keaton) — but the ruse doesn’t last.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974): Ex-thief Thunderbolt and fun-loving drifter Lightfoot team up with Thunderbolt’s shady old associates to restage a robbery of a bank. Writer-director Michael Cimino kicked off his career with this irreverent caper thriller full of crackling dialogue.

Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (1967): A young couple’s romantic bliss is shattered in this dark drama from Martin Scorsese. When a Catholic reformed street thug (Harvey Keitel) finds out that his girlfriend (Zina Bethune) was raped years earlier, he’s unable to cope with the revelation. Despite his deep feelings for the girl, he’s chained to a repressive moral code and a social milieu that assigns women to one of two categories: virgin or whore.

Mean Streets (1973): In director Martin Scorsese’s look at New York City’s Little Italy, a small-time hood deals with the pressures of working his way up the ranks of a local mob, while coping with his family’s disapproval of his epileptic girlfriend.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975): To get money for his gay lover’s sex-change operation, Sonny (Al Pacino) — who’s married with kids — teams up with Sal (John Cazale) to rob a New York bank on a scorching-hot summer day. The stickup goes awry when the press gets wind of the circus sideshow-esque story. Chris Sarandon, Charles Durning and James Broderick co-star in this classic Sidney Lumet-directed film based on an actual event from the 1970s.

The King of Marvin Gardens (1972): Uptight deejay David Staebler (Jack Nicholson) travels to Atlantic City, N.J., to learn more about an outlandish, get-rich-quick scheme cooked up by his manic brother, Jason (Bruce Dern). Despite David’s suspicions, he plays along — but when the plan’s flaws become evident, neither Jason nor his beauty-queen girlfriend (Ellen Burstyn) heed David’s protestations. Director Bob Rafelson’s evocative drama costars Scatman Crothers.

Carnal Knowledge (1971): Mike Nichols directs a sterling cast in this trailblazing film, which chronicles the sexual mores and escapades of two college pals — loathsome misogynist Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) and shy, neurotic Sandy (Art Garfunkel) — over two decades. Jonathan and Sandy embody a laundry list of emotional dysfunction as they move from one relationship to the next. Candice Bergen, Rita Moreno and Oscar-nominated Ann-Margret co-star as the women in their orbit.

A Touch of Class (1973): Glenda Jackson collected an Oscar for her sterling performance as a shrewd British fashion designer who falls for married insurance adjuster Steve Blackburn (George Segal). Their liaison begins swimmingly, but a succession of comic pitfalls complicate matters. Those include a meddling friend (Paul Sorvino), a coupe with clutch problems and Segal’s dislocated back, leading to what started as a run-of-the-mill affair ending on an unexpected note.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974): Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar playing Alice Hyatt, a destitute widow who must find the strength to go on for her young son (Alfred Lutter) in the face of loneliness and fear, in this classic slice of 1970s cinema from director Martin Scorsese. When the pair lands in Tucson, Ariz., Alice takes a job at a diner and meets a customer (Kris Kristofferson) who helps mend her fractured heart. The film spawned the popular TV sitcom “Alice.”

An Unmarried Woman (1978): A groundbreaking film at the time of its release, director Paul Mazursky’s poignant portrayal of a woman dealing with the dissolution of her marriage won many honors, including Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Screenplay and Actress (Jill Clayburgh). When her seemingly perfect husband (Michael Murphy) leaves her for another woman, devastated wife Erica (Clayburgh) must find untapped strength within herself to build a new life.

Klute (1971): Thoroughly inhabiting what is by far one of her greatest roles, Jane Fonda won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as a manipulative big-city prostitute who helps a small-town detective named Klute (Donald Sutherland) solve a missing persons case. “Working girl” Bree Daniels (Fonda) dismisses men as victims of their own base instincts — until she meets the incorruptible Klute and starts to fall for him.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969): A Depression-era dance marathon with a large cash prize brings out the worst in its desperate contestants in director Sydney Pollack’s powerful drama starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin and Gig Young (who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar). The competitors — including a jaded young woman, a drifter and a pregnant farm girl — push one another to the brink of exhaustion, and finally into the unthinkable. Susannah York and Red Buttons also star.

All the President’s Men (1976): The film that launched a thousand journalism school students, All the President’s Men chronicles how the work of reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) contributed to the public downfall of President Richard M. Nixon. The duo connected a Washington, D.C., hotel break-in with a Nixon “dirty tricks” team assigned to discredit Democratic rivals, launching a series of tense events that forced Nixon to resign.

Shampoo (1975): In this racy satire set in the narcissistic world of late 1960s Los Angeles, a womanizing hairdresser trying to open his own salon in Beverly Hills has trouble juggling his business and sexual affairs.

Coming Home (1978): While her husband is in Vietnam, Sally Hyde volunteers at a veterans’ clinic, where she encounters embittered paraplegic Luke Martin. Feeling progressively disconnected from her spouse, Sally begins an emotional and physical affair with Luke.

The Last Detail (1973): In this classic 1970s road movie, Officers Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and Mulhall (Otis Young) must escort a young sailor (Randy Quaid) to a New England military prison, where the 18-year-old is about to serve eight years for a trivial offense. Determined to cram all the living they can into one lost weekend, the boys booze, brawl and fornicate their way to their ultimate destination. Both Nicholson and Quaid deliver Oscar-nominated performances.

Being There (1979): The uncomplicated life of simple-minded Chance is changed after a run-in with wealthy Eve, and soon his “wisdom” — mostly garden related — has Washington’s political elite hailing him as brilliant.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s