The 140 Essential 1970s Movies

#50

The Long Goodbye (1973)
97%

#50
Adjusted Score: 100.031%
Critics Consensus: The Long Goodbye is a cool as ice mystery that retains Robert Altman's idiosyncratic sensibilities.
Synopsis: "It's OK with me...." Applying his deconstructive eye to the "film noir" tradition, Robert Altman updated Raymond Chandler in his... [More]
Directed By: Robert Altman

#49

Dawn of the Dead (1979)
93%

#49
Adjusted Score: 96.412%
Critics Consensus: One of the most compelling and entertaining zombie films ever, Dawn of the Dead perfectly blends pure horror and gore with social commentary on material society.
Synopsis: Viewers who haven't seen George Romero's low-budget horror masterpiece Night of the Living Dead, might be at a loss during... [More]
Directed By: George A. Romero

#48
Adjusted Score: 100.724%
Critics Consensus: One of the more cutting-edge films of the 1970s, this religious farce from the classic comedy troupe is as poignant as it is funny and satirical.
Synopsis: Monty Python delivers the group's sharpest and smartest satire of both religion and Hollywood's epic films. Set in 33 A.D.... [More]
Directed By: Terry Jones

#47

Five Easy Pieces (1970)
88%

#47
Adjusted Score: 94.334%
Critics Consensus: An important touchstone of the New Hollywood era, Five Easy Pieces is a haunting portrait of alienation that features one of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances.
Synopsis: A disaffected man seeks a sense of identity in one of the key films of Hollywood's 1970s New Wave. Once... [More]

#46

The Deer Hunter (1978)
93%

#46
Adjusted Score: 100.511%
Critics Consensus: Its greatness is blunted by its length and one-sided point of view, but the film's weaknesses are overpowered by Michael Cimino's sympathetic direction and a series of heartbreaking performances from Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken.
Synopsis: The Deer Hunter moves from the steel mills outside of Pittsburgh to the mountains of Pennsylvania to the jungles of... [More]
Directed By: Michael Cimino

#45

Serpico (1973)
90%

#45
Adjusted Score: 93.861%
Critics Consensus: An engrossing, immediate depiction of early '70s New York, Serpico is elevated by Al Pacino's ferocious performance.
Synopsis: This is the real-life story of a New York cop who takes on corruption in the police department.... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#44

The Jerk (1979)
81%

#44
Adjusted Score: 83.782%
Critics Consensus: Crude, crass, and oh so quotable, The Jerk is nothing short of an all-out comedic showcase for Steve Martin.
Synopsis: Carl Reiner directs Steve Martin (who co-wrote the script with Carl Gottlieb) in this gag-laden comedy about an idiotic white... [More]
Directed By: Carl Reiner

#43

Day for Night (1973)
100%

#43
Adjusted Score: 103.15%
Critics Consensus: A sweet counterpoint to Godard's Contempt, Truffaut's Day for Night is a congenial tribute to the self-afflicted madness that is making a movie.
Synopsis: Known to English-speaking audiences as Day for Night, La nuit américaine was director François Truffaut's loving and humorous tribute to... [More]
Directed By: François Truffaut

#42
#42
Adjusted Score: 92.23%
Critics Consensus: Visually stunning and achingly performed, Ingmar Bergman's chamber piece is a visceral rumination on death and sisterhood.
Synopsis: This grim but unforgettable film stars Liv Ullman and Ingrid Thulin as the sisters of dying cancer patient Harriet Andersson.... [More]
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman

#41

Deliverance (1972)
90%

#41
Adjusted Score: 98.216%
Critics Consensus: Given primal verve by John Boorman's unflinching direction and Burt Reynolds' star-making performance, Deliverance is a terrifying adventure.
Synopsis: Adapted from James Dickey's popular novel, John Boorman's 1972 movie recounts the grueling psychological and physical journey taken by four... [More]
Directed By: John Boorman

#40
Adjusted Score: 83.272%
Critics Consensus: Rocky Horror Picture Show brings its quirky characters in tight, but it's the narrative thrust that really drives audiences insane and keeps 'em doing the time warp again.
Synopsis: This low-budget freak show/cult classic/cultural institution concerns the misadventures of Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) inside... [More]
Directed By: Jim Sharman

#39
#39
Adjusted Score: 93.902%
Critics Consensus: Disturbing and thought-provoking, A Clockwork Orange is a cold, dystopian nightmare with a very dark sense of humor.
Synopsis: Stanley Kubrick dissects the nature of violence in this darkly ironic, near-future satire, adapted from Anthony Burgess's novel, complete with... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#38

Network (1976)
92%

#38
Adjusted Score: 99.03%
Critics Consensus: Driven by populist fury and elevated by strong direction, powerful acting, and an intelligent script, Network's searing satire of ratings-driven news remains sadly relevant more than four decades later.
Synopsis: When anchorman Howard Beale is forced to retire his 25-year post because of his age, he announces to his viewers... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#37

Eraserhead (1977)
90%

#37
Adjusted Score: 95.615%
Critics Consensus: David Lynch's surreal Eraserhead uses detailed visuals and a creepy score to create a bizarre and disturbing look into a man's fear of parenthood.
Synopsis: This surreal nightmare examines male paranoia. Our hero and title character, Henry, faces a number of horrifying obstacles in meeting... [More]
Directed By: David Lynch

#36
#36
Adjusted Score: 84.727%
Critics Consensus: A visual treat rich in symbolism, The Holy Mountain adds another defiantly idiosyncratic chapter to Jodorowsky's thoroughly unique filmography.
Synopsis: The most powerful individuals in the solar system are out to become gods and rule the universe.... [More]
Directed By: Alejandro Jodorowsky

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 101.267%
Critics Consensus: Made with obvious affection for the original, Young Frankenstein is a riotously silly spoof featuring a fantastic performance by Gene Wilder.
Synopsis: In this spoof of Mary Shelley's gothic tale, the grandson of Victor Frankenstein, a neurosurgeon, has spent his life living... [More]
Directed By: Mel Brooks

#34

Harold and Maude (1971)
84%

#34
Adjusted Score: 88.735%
Critics Consensus: Hal Ashby's comedy is too dark and twisted for some, and occasionally oversteps its bounds, but there's no denying the film's warm humor and big heart.
Synopsis: Harold, the 20-year-old son of a wealthy, neglectful woman, tries to gain attention for himself with various hilariously staged "suicides."... [More]
Directed By: Hal Ashby

#33
Adjusted Score: 100.843%
Critics Consensus: Close Encounters of the Third Kind is deeply humane sci-fi exploring male obsession, cosmic mysticism, and music.
Synopsis: Steven Spielberg followed Jaws (1975), his first major box-office success, with this epic science fiction adventure about a disparate group... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#32

The Conversation (1974)
98%

#32
Adjusted Score: 103.588%
Critics Consensus: This tense, paranoid thriller presents Francis Ford Coppola at his finest -- and makes some remarkably advanced arguments about technology's role in society that still resonate today.
Synopsis: Made between The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), and in part an homage to Michelangelo Antonioni's art-movie... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

#31

Barry Lyndon (1975)
90%

#31
Adjusted Score: 97.913%
Critics Consensus: Cynical, ironic, and suffused with seductive natural lighting, Barry Lyndon is a complex character piece of a hapless man doomed by Georgian society.
Synopsis: Based on the Victorian novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, this film tells the complex story of a sensitive, intelligent, and... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#30

Wanda (1971)
91%

#30
Adjusted Score: 94.206%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: With her first and only feature film - a hard-luck drama she wrote,directed, and starred in - Barbara Loden turned... [More]
Directed By: Barbara Loden

#29
Adjusted Score: 103.95%
Critics Consensus: A haunting journey of natural wonder and tangible danger, Aguirre transcends epic genre trappings and becomes mythological by its own right.
Synopsis: The most famed and well-regarded collaboration between New German Cinema director Werner Herzog and his frequent leading man, Klaus Kinski,... [More]
Directed By: Werner Herzog

#28

Badlands (1974)
98%

#28
Adjusted Score: 104.234%
Critics Consensus: Terrence Malick's debut is a masterful slice of American cinema, rife with the visual poetry and measured performances that would characterize his work.
Synopsis: "He wanted to die with me and I dreamed of being lost forever in his arms." A young couple goes... [More]
Directed By: Terrence Malick

#27

Mean Streets (1973)
97%

#27
Adjusted Score: 103.233%
Critics Consensus: Mean Streets is a powerful tale of urban sin and guilt that marks Scorsese's arrival as an important cinematic voice and features electrifying performances from Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro.
Synopsis: "You don't make up for your sins in church; you do it in the streets; you do it at home.... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#26
Adjusted Score: 95.079%
Critics Consensus: The talents of director John Landis and Saturday Night Live's irrepressible John Belushi conspired to create a rambunctious, subversive college comedy that continues to resonate.
Synopsis: Director John Landis put himself on the map with this low-budget, fabulously successful comedy, which made a then-astounding 62 million... [More]
Directed By: John Landis

#25
Adjusted Score: 95.515%
Critics Consensus: Electrified by searing performances from Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk, A Woman Under the Influence finds pioneering independent filmmaker John Cassavetes working at his artistic peak.
Synopsis: John Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence is about a housewife (Gena Rowlands) on the brink of insanity and her... [More]
Directed By: John Cassavetes

#24

The Conformist (1970)
98%

#24
Adjusted Score: 105.214%
Critics Consensus: A commentary on fascism and beauty alike, Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist is acclaimed for its sumptuous visuals and extravagant, artful cinematography.
Synopsis: The conformist is 1930s Italian Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a coward who has spent his life accommodating others so that... [More]
Directed By: Bernardo Bertolucci

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 99.398%
Critics Consensus: Framed by great work from director Sidney Lumet and fueled by a gripping performance from Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon offers a finely detailed snapshot of people in crisis with tension-soaked drama shaded in black humor.
Synopsis: Based on a true 1972 story, Sidney Lumet's 1975 drama chronicles a unique bank robbery on a hot summer afternoon... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#22
Adjusted Score: 105.289%
Critics Consensus: A cult classic as gut-bustingly hilarious as it is blithely ridiculous, Monty Python and the Holy Grail has lost none of its exceedingly silly charm.
Synopsis: From its opening multi-language titles (that sure looks like Swedish) to the closing arrest of the entire Dark Ages cast... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones

#21

Blazing Saddles (1974)
91%

#21
Adjusted Score: 97.105%
Critics Consensus: Daring, provocative, and laugh-out-loud funny, Blazing Saddles is a gleefully vulgar spoof of Westerns that marks a high point in Mel Brooks' storied career.
Synopsis: Vulgar, crude, and occasionally scandalous in its racial humor, this hilarious bad-taste spoof of Westerns, co-written by Richard Pryor, features... [More]
Directed By: Mel Brooks

#20

Being There (1979)
94%

#20
Adjusted Score: 98.673%
Critics Consensus: Smart, sophisticated, and refreshingly subtle, Being There soars behind sensitive direction from Hal Ashby and a stellar Peter Sellers performance.
Synopsis: Hailed as a genius for his simplistic approach to life, an aging gardener with a childlike naïveté rises, by accident,... [More]
Directed By: Hal Ashby

#19

Nashville (1975)
91%

#19
Adjusted Score: 97.155%
Critics Consensus: Robert Altman captures the bravado and cynicism of the American dream in Nashville, a sprawling epic bursting with vivid performances and an unforgettable soundtrack.
Synopsis: Released 30 years ago, when the nation was still reeling from the Vietnam War and Watergate, this prophetic all-American mosaic... [More]
Directed By: Robert Altman

#18

Don't Look Now (1973)
94%

#18
Adjusted Score: 101.3%
Critics Consensus: Don't Look Now patiently builds suspense with haunting imagery and a chilling score -- causing viewers to feel Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie's grief deep within.
Synopsis: A married couple is haunted by a series of mysterious occurrences after the death of their young daughter in this... [More]
Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 99.403%
Critics Consensus: A taut, solidly acted paean to the benefits of a free press and the dangers of unchecked power, made all the more effective by its origins in real-life events.
Synopsis: A reconstruction of the discovery of the White House link with the Watergate affair by two young reporters from the... [More]
Directed By: Alan J. Pakula

#16

The Exorcist (1973)
84%

#16
Adjusted Score: 92.011%
Critics Consensus: The Exorcist rides its supernatural theme to magical effect, with remarkable special effects and an eerie atmosphere, resulting in one of the scariest films of all time.
Synopsis: Novelist William Peter Blatty based his best-seller on the last known Catholic-sanctioned exorcism in the United States. Blatty transformed the... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#15
Adjusted Score: 94.622%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a smart script and documentary-style camerawork, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre achieves start-to-finish suspense, making it a classic in low-budget exploitation cinema.
Synopsis: Just as Hitchcock's Psycho was based on the life of deeply disturbed farmer Ed Gein, so is this little story... [More]
Directed By: Tobe Hooper

#14

Halloween (1978)
96%

#14
Adjusted Score: 103.268%
Critics Consensus: Scary, suspenseful, and viscerally thrilling, Halloween set the standard for modern horror films.
Synopsis: A young boy kills his sister on Halloween of 1963, and is sent to a mental hospital. 15 years later... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#13

Rocky (1976)
94%

#13
Adjusted Score: 100.905%
Critics Consensus: This story of a down-on-his-luck boxer is thoroughly predictable, but Sylvester Stallone's script and stunning performance in the title role brush aside complaints.
Synopsis: A slightly dimwitted amateur boxer from Philadelphia's tough neighborhood gets a surprise shot at fighting for the heavyweight championship, while... [More]
Directed By: John G. Avildsen

#12
#12
Adjusted Score: 104.137%
Critics Consensus: Realistic, fast-paced and uncommonly smart, The French Connection is bolstered by stellar performances by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider, not to mention William Friedkin's thrilling production.
Synopsis: This gritty, fast-paced, and innovative police drama earned five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay (written by Ernest... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#11

Chinatown (1974)
99%

#11
Adjusted Score: 107.043%
Critics Consensus: As bruised and cynical as the decade that produced it, this noir classic benefits from Robert Towne's brilliant screenplay, director Roman Polanski's steady hand, and wonderful performances from Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.
Synopsis: A private detective, Jake Gittes, hired to investigate an adultery case, stumbles on the plot of a murder involving incest... [More]
Directed By: Roman Polanski

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 106.205%
Critics Consensus: Drawing on strong performances by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola's continuation of Mario Puzo's Mafia saga set new standards for sequels that have yet to be matched or broken.
Synopsis: Francis Ford Coppola's legendary continuation and sequel to his landmark 1972 film, The Godfather, parallels the young Vito Corleone's rise... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

#9

Stalker (1979)
100%

#9
Adjusted Score: 102.887%
Critics Consensus: Stalker is a complex, oblique parable that draws unforgettable images and philosophical musings from its sci-fi/thriller setting.
Synopsis: Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker, an allegorical science fiction film like his earlier Solaris, was adapted from the novel Picnic... [More]
Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky

#8

Alien (1979)
97%

#8
Adjusted Score: 108.502%
Critics Consensus: A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole.
Synopsis: "In space, no one can hear you scream." A close encounter of the third kind becomes a Jaws-style nightmare when... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#7

Annie Hall (1977)
97%

#7
Adjusted Score: 104.896%
Critics Consensus: Filled with poignant performances and devastating humor, Annie Hall represents a quantum leap for Woody Allen and remains an American classic.
Synopsis: "Annie Hall" is a comical look at the up and down relationship between a New York City TV writer and... [More]
Directed By: Woody Allen

#6

Jaws (1975)
98%

#6
Adjusted Score: 107.168%
Critics Consensus: Compelling, well-crafted storytelling and a judicious sense of terror ensure Steven Spielberg's Jaws has remained a benchmark in the art of delivering modern blockbuster thrills.
Synopsis: Based on Peter Benchley's best-selling novel, Steven Spielberg's 1975 shark saga set the standard for the New Hollywood popcorn blockbuster... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#5

Taxi Driver (1976)
97%

#5
Adjusted Score: 106.916%
Critics Consensus: A must-see film for movie lovers, this Martin Scorsese masterpiece is as hard-hitting as it is compelling, with Robert De Niro at his best.
Synopsis: "All the animals come out at night" -- and one of them is a cabby about to snap. In Martin... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#4

Apocalypse Now (1979)
98%

#4
Adjusted Score: 106.245%
Critics Consensus: Francis Ford Coppola's haunting, hallucinatory Vietnam War epic is cinema at its most audacious and visionary.
Synopsis: One of a cluster of late-1970s films about the Vietnam War, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now adapts the Joseph Conrad... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

#3
Adjusted Score: 101.415%
Critics Consensus: The onscreen battle between Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher serves as a personal microcosm of the culture wars of the 1970s -- and testament to the director's vision that the film retains its power more than three decades later.
Synopsis: With an insane asylum standing in for everyday society, Milos Forman's 1975 film adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel is a... [More]
Directed By: Milos Forman

#2
Adjusted Score: 106.143%
Critics Consensus: A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possibilities of blockbuster filmmaking and things have never been the same.
Synopsis: Nineteen years after the formation of the Empire, Luke Skywalker is thrust into the struggle of the Rebel Alliance when... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#1

The Godfather (1972)
98%

#1
Adjusted Score: 111.05%
Critics Consensus: One of Hollywood's greatest critical and commercial successes, The Godfather gets everything right; not only did the movie transcend expectations, it established new benchmarks for American cinema.
Synopsis: Popularly viewed as one of the best American films ever made, the multi-generational crime saga The Godfather is a touchstone... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

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