The 140 Essential 1970s Movies

#50

The Long Goodbye (1973)
94%87%

#50
Adjusted Score: 97591%
Critics Consensus: An ice-cold noir that retains Robert Altman's idiosyncratic sensibilities, The Long Goodbye ranks among the smartest and most satisfying Marlowe mysteries.
Synopsis: Private detective Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) is asked by his old buddy Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton) for a ride to... [More]
Directed By: Robert Altman

#49

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
92%90%

#49
Adjusted Score: 93111%
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: As hordes of zombies swarm over the U.S., the terrified populace tries everything in their power to escape the attack... [More]
Directed By: George Romero

#48

Life of Brian (1979)
96%93%

#48
Adjusted Score: 100423%
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: Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) is an average young Jewish man, but through a series of ridiculous events, he gains a... [More]
Directed By: Terry Jones

#47

Five Easy Pieces (1970)
89%84%

#47
Adjusted Score: 93599%
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: Rejecting his cultured upper-class background as a classical pianist, Robert Dupea (Jack Nicholson) opts for a blue-collar existence, working in... [More]
Directed By: Bob Rafelson

#46

The Deer Hunter (1978)
86%92%

#46
Adjusted Score: 97200%
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: In 1968, Michael (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Steven (John Savage), lifelong friends from a working-class Pennsylvania steel... [More]
Directed By: Michael Cimino

#45

Serpico (1973)
91%88%

#45
Adjusted Score: 93826%
Critics Consensus: An engrossing, immediate depiction of early '70s New York, Serpico is elevated by Al Pacino's ferocious performance.
Synopsis: Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) is an idealistic New York City cop who refuses to take bribes, unlike the rest of... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#44

The Jerk (1979)
83%84%

#44
Adjusted Score: 85347%
Critics Consensus: Crude, crass, and oh so quotable, The Jerk is nothing short of an all-out comedic showcase for Steve Martin.
Synopsis: Navin (Steve Martin) believes he was born a poor black child in Mississippi. He is, however, actually white. Upon figuring... [More]
Directed By: Carl Reiner

#43

Day for Night (1973)
98%91%

#43
Adjusted Score: 100401%
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: A film director (François Truffaut) tries to get his movie made while observing the real-life dramas in his actors' lives.... [More]
Directed By: François Truffaut

#42

Cries and Whispers (1972)
94%90%

#42
Adjusted Score: 96266%
Critics Consensus: Visually stunning and achingly performed, Ingmar Bergman's chamber piece is a visceral rumination on death and sisterhood.
Synopsis: As Agnes (Harriet Andersson) slowly dies of cancer, her sisters are so deeply immersed in their own psychic pains that... [More]
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman

#41

Deliverance (1972)
89%82%

#41
Adjusted Score: 94433%
Critics Consensus: Given primal verve by John Boorman's unflinching direction and Burt Reynolds' star-making performance, Deliverance is a terrifying adventure.
Synopsis: Four city-dwelling friends (Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox) decide to get away from their jobs, wives and... [More]
Directed By: John Boorman

#40
#40
Adjusted Score: 82155%
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: In this cult classic, sweethearts Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), stuck with a flat tire during a storm,... [More]
Directed By: Jim Sharman

#39

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
88%93%

#39
Adjusted Score: 95007%
Critics Consensus: Disturbing and thought-provoking, A Clockwork Orange is a cold, dystopian nightmare with a very dark sense of humor.
Synopsis: In an England of the future, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his "Droogs" spend their nights getting high at the Korova... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#38

Network (1976)
92%93%

#38
Adjusted Score: 97791%
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: In this lauded satire, veteran news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) discovers that he's being put out to pasture, and... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#37

Eraserhead (1977)
90%82%

#37
Adjusted Score: 94727%
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: Henry (John Nance) resides alone in a bleak apartment surrounded by industrial gloom. When he discovers that an earlier fling... [More]
Directed By: David Lynch

#36

The Holy Mountain (1973)
84%88%

#36
Adjusted Score: 85126%
Critics Consensus: A visual treat rich in symbolism, The Holy Mountain adds another defiantly idiosyncratic chapter to Jodorowsky's thoroughly unique filmography.
Synopsis: A Mexican master (Alexandro Jodorowsky) leads a Christ figure (Horacio Salinas) and other disciples to a mountain of immortal wise... [More]
Directed By: Alexandro Jodorowsky

#35

Young Frankenstein (1974)
94%92%

#35
Adjusted Score: 99287%
Critics Consensus: Made with obvious affection for the original, Young Frankenstein is a riotously silly spoof featuring a fantastic performance by Gene Wilder.
Synopsis: Respected medical lecturer Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) learns that he has inherited his infamous grandfather's estate in Transylvania. Arriving... [More]
Directed By: Mel Brooks

#34

Harold and Maude (1971)
86%93%

#34
Adjusted Score: 89904%
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: Cult classic pairs Cort as a dead-pan disillusioned 20-year-old obsessed with suicide and a loveable Gordon as a fun-loving 80-year-old... [More]
Directed By: Hal Ashby

#33
Adjusted Score: 99000%
Critics Consensus: Close Encounters of the Third Kind is deeply humane sci-fi exploring male obsession, cosmic mysticism, and music.
Synopsis: Science fiction adventure about a group of people who attempt to contact alien intelligence. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) witnesses an... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#32

The Conversation (1974)
97%89%

#32
Adjusted Score: 102018%
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: Surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is hired by a mysterious client's brusque aide (Harrison Ford) to tail a young... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

#31

Barry Lyndon (1975)
89%92%

#31
Adjusted Score: 94985%
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: How does an Irish lad without prospects become part of 18th-century English nobility? For Barry Lyndon (Ryan O'Neal) the answer... [More]
Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

#30

Wanda (1970)
92%70%

#30
Adjusted Score: 94860%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Wanda (Barbara Loden) is a wanderer in a dreary Rust Belt town, drifting from bars to motels, jobs to jobs... [More]
Directed By: Barbara Loden

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 99948%
Critics Consensus: A haunting journey of natural wonder and tangible danger, Aguirre transcends epic genre trappings and becomes mythological by its own right.
Synopsis: Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), a ruthless Spanish conquistador, vies for power while part of an expedition in Peru... [More]
Directed By: Werner Herzog

#28

Badlands (1973)
97%90%

#28
Adjusted Score: 101016%
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: Inspired by real-life killers Charles Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate, this tale of crime and love begins in a dead-end town.... [More]
Directed By: Terrence Malick

#27

Mean Streets (1973)
96%84%

#27
Adjusted Score: 100697%
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: A slice of street life in Little Italy among lower echelon Mafiosos, unbalanced punks, and petty criminals. A small-time hood... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#26
Adjusted Score: 94839%
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: When they arrive at college, socially inept freshmen Larry (Thomas Hulce) and Kent (Stephen Furst) attempt to pledge the snooty... [More]
Directed By: John Landis

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 92970%
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: Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands), desperate and lonely, is married to a Los Angeles municipal construction worker, Nick (Peter Falk). Increasingly... [More]
Directed By: John Cassavetes

#24

The Conformist (1971)
98%90%

#24
Adjusted Score: 102627%
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: Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is a member of the secret police in Mussolini's Fascist Italy. He and his new bride,... [More]
Directed By: Bernardo Bertolucci

#23

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
96%90%

#23
Adjusted Score: 99509%
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: When inexperienced criminal Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) leads a bank robbery in Brooklyn, things quickly go wrong, and a hostage... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#22
Adjusted Score: 104162%
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: A comedic send-up of the grim circumstances of the Middle Ages as told through the story of King Arthur and... [More]
Directed By: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones

#21

Blazing Saddles (1974)
89%91%

#21
Adjusted Score: 93569%
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: In this satirical take on Westerns, crafty railroad worker Bart (Cleavon Little) becomes the first black sheriff of Rock Ridge,... [More]
Directed By: Mel Brooks

#20

Being There (1979)
95%92%

#20
Adjusted Score: 98941%
Critics Consensus: Smart, sophisticated, and refreshingly subtle, Being There soars behind sensitive direction from Hal Ashby and a stellar Peter Sellers performance.
Synopsis: Simple-minded Chance (Peter Sellers), a gardener who has resided in the Washington, D.C., townhouse of his wealthy employer for his... [More]
Directed By: Hal Ashby

#19

Nashville (1975)
91%84%

#19
Adjusted Score: 96777%
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: In this acclaimed Robert Altman drama, the lives of numerous people in the Tennessee capital intersect in unpredictable ways. Delbert... [More]
Directed By: Robert Altman

#18

Don't Look Now (1973)
94%76%

#18
Adjusted Score: 99887%
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: Still grieving over the accidental death of their daughter, Christine (Sharon Williams), John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter (Julie Christie)... [More]
Directed By: Nicolas Roeg

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 99488%
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: Two green reporters and rivals working for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), research... [More]
Directed By: Alan J. Pakula

#16

The Exorcist (1973)
84%87%

#16
Adjusted Score: 90397%
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: One of the most profitable horror movies ever made, this tale of an exorcism is based loosely on actual events.... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 92979%
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: When Sally (Marilyn Burns) hears that her grandfather's grave may have been vandalized, she and her paraplegic brother, Franklin (Paul... [More]
Directed By: Tobe Hooper

#14

Halloween (1978)
96%89%

#14
Adjusted Score: 102485%
Critics Consensus: Scary, suspenseful, and viscerally thrilling, Halloween set the standard for modern horror films.
Synopsis: On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was... [More]
Directed By: John Carpenter

#13

Rocky (1976)
91%69%

#13
Adjusted Score: 96820%
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: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a small-time boxer from working-class Philadelphia, is arbitrarily chosen to take on the reigning world heavyweight... [More]
Directed By: John G. Avildsen

#12

The French Connection (1971)
96%87%

#12
Adjusted Score: 103907%
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: New York Detective "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner (Roy Scheider) chase a French heroin smuggler.... [More]
Directed By: William Friedkin

#11

Chinatown (1974)
99%93%

#11
Adjusted Score: 105174%
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: When Los Angeles private eye J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by Evelyn Mulwray to investigate her husband's activities,... [More]
Directed By: Roman Polanski

#10
#10
Adjusted Score: 106048%
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: The compelling sequel to "The Godfather," contrasting the life of Corleone father and son. Traces the problems of Michael Corleone... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

#9

Stalker (1979)
100%92%

#9
Adjusted Score: 102233%
Critics Consensus: Stalker is a complex, oblique parable that draws unforgettable images and philosophical musings from its sci-fi/thriller setting.
Synopsis: In an unnamed country at an unspecified time, there is a fiercely protected post-apocalyptic wasteland known as The Zone. An... [More]
Directed By: Andrei Tarkovsky

#8

Alien (1979)
98%94%

#8
Adjusted Score: 107520%
Critics Consensus: A modern classic, Alien blends science fiction, horror and bleak poetry into a seamless whole.
Synopsis: In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#7

Annie Hall (1977)
97%92%

#7
Adjusted Score: 107455%
Critics Consensus: Filled with poignant performances and devastating humor, Annie Hall represents a quantum leap for Woody Allen and remains an American classic.
Synopsis: Comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) examines the rise and fall of his relationship with struggling nightclub singer Annie Hall (Diane... [More]
Directed By: Woody Allen

#6

Jaws (1975)
97%90%

#6
Adjusted Score: 104753%
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: When a young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island,... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

#5

Taxi Driver (1976)
96%93%

#5
Adjusted Score: 103902%
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: Suffering from insomnia, disturbed loner Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) takes a job as a New York City cabbie, haunting... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#4

Apocalypse Now (1979)
98%94%

#4
Adjusted Score: 104824%
Critics Consensus: Francis Ford Coppola's haunting, hallucinatory Vietnam War epic is cinema at its most audacious and visionary.
Synopsis: In Vietnam in 1970, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) takes a perilous and increasingly hallucinatory journey upriver to find and terminate... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

#3
Adjusted Score: 102577%
Critics Consensus: Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher are worthy adversaries in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, with Miloš Forman's more grounded and morally ambiguous approach to Ken Kesey's surrealistic novel yielding a film of outsized power.
Synopsis: When Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) gets transferred for evaluation from a prison farm to a mental institution, he assumes... [More]
Directed By: Milos Forman

#2
Adjusted Score: 104455%
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: The Imperial Forces -- under orders from cruel Darth Vader (David Prowse) -- hold Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hostage, in... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#1

The Godfather (1972)
97%98%

#1
Adjusted Score: 110739%
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: Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, this mob drama, based on Mario Puzo's novel of... [More]
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

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