This should be an interesting one. Now when this week’s guest, Abbey Weaver, suggested a Top 5 70s Movies it was a daunting task as it’s a whole decade to cover. I eventually managed to whittle it down to just 5. But bear in mind that this is about favourite films, not a best of list. If this were the best films then you’d probably be seeing both Godfathers, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, and The Exorcist. But they haven’t made my favourites. Even so there were some great films I wish I could have fitted in, Annie Hall, Grease, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Alien. So here we go with our Top 5 1970s Films.
- Shuggie: Network – Its scary how much more relevant Network has become today. I only watched this one recently, but it was so fantastic and shockingly relevant for a film made in 1976. About a television network struggling for ratings. After Peter Finch’s news anchor Howard Beale announces he plans to kill himself whilst on air, before launching into an angry tirade when he promises to apologises for it, Faye Dunaway’ head of programming looks to exploit it for ratings. It’s very telling that television and news has become even more desperate for ratings, and you can see how television uses people now, just like Beale and his breakdown was exploited in Network. The acting is outstanding, Dunaway, Finch, and Beatrice Straight all won acting Oscars. This is a brilliant piece of film making, and one that you should absolutely seek out if you haven’t seen it yet.
- Abby: Fiddler on the Roof – A father attempts to uphold his family’s religion and tradition whilst his three eldest daughters wish to marry for love, a classic emotive story. This film adaptation of the Broadway musical captures the grit of their poor lives with impressive scenery shots and sets, creating an aesthetically beautiful piece of drama. It is easy for film adaptations to shorten plot lines to make a precise, abridged version, weakening the story. However, I find that this film does not do that; it takes its time and retains the gravitas of the plot. Thus, it earns its place in this Top 5.
- Shuggie: Rocky – Rocky is the best sport film of all time, and launched one of the most successful franchises ever. This film was the making of Sylvester Stallone, and whilst his acting is not often celebrated, he put in a performance in Rocky that he wasn’t able to match until the 7th film in the franchise nearly 40 years later, in Creed. What many people also forget is that Stallone actually wrote the film as well, and in doing so really inspired the archetype for the underdog story that has been retold so many times in following sport films. Whilst there have been fights done better since, I do think that the final bout between Stallone’s Rocky and Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed does feel truly brutal, and by being shot through the ropes does really make you feel like a spectator on it. It’s pure feel good underdog drama.
- Abby: Alien – Alien… where to start? A truly iconic 70s classic to be sure. It remains really thrilling from beginning to end with its gripping plot, featuring the dreadful demise of a space-crew. The film is garnished with a plethora of horrific scenes, with its terrific Alien becoming the heart of its horror. What’s great about it is: it’s sense of place, how it throws you into a setting so completely alien (had to be said!) to us. It immerses you in these ominous corridors and its shroud of cigarette-smoke. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley stand steady & strong throughout and drives the film Two hours of immersion in something completely different to our daily lives!!
- Shuggie: Jaws – Jaws was one of Spielberg’s first films, and it’s still one of his best. It’s credited with starting the summer blockbuster, where Spielberg has dominated for a long time. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws is the fairly simple premise of a giant great white shark terrorising a summer resort town, but it is executed perfectly. Spielberg, along with legendary composer John Williams’ simplistic but brilliant score, managed to create a genuinely terrifying film at times. The scenes with the shark attacks are so tense. The three central cast members Roy Scheider as Chief Martin, Robert Shaw as Quint, and Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper are brilliant. They bring three such different ways of looking at the situation and it makes for such great interplay between them. Jaws is a superb thriller, popcorn flick, and still the high bar for killer shark films that nothing since has managed to touch.
- Abby: All the President’s Men – This political thriller is a film I greatly appreciate. Based on the 1974 non-fiction book, the film follows the reporters, Carl Bernstein, played by Dustin Hoffman, and Bob Woodward, Robert Redford, and their story in uncovering the Watergate Scandal in the early 70s. One amazing feature of this film is that it was made just years after the scandal, the political themes were so intense and current for the audience, it is an incredibly brave and bold film. The actors do an incredible job, holding the audience’s concentration throughout and the film itself is filled with tension and mystery. A thrill to watch and I definitely recommend it.
- Shuggie: Star Wars – As you may be aware I’m a huge Star Wars fan, and it all started back in 1977, with the film retroactively titled A New Hope. It came a couple of years after Jaws, and really cemented the summer blockbuster as a staple of the film calendar. It’s one of the few episodes that actually manages to stand-alone as it’s own single narrative and it’s a fantastic story. This also brought us so many of the greatest film characters of all time; Han Solo, Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, and Darth Vader. Star War is not just a great film by itself, but it successfully started the biggest franchise in the world, one that still gets people ridiculously excited to this day. Easily one of the greatest films of not just the 70s, but also all time.
- Abby: Monty Python and the Holy Grail – What an eccentric performance!! Moving from the more serious selection above, my top 2, is more light-hearted. Monty Python definitely makes my Top 5 because their influence on British comedy as a group has been immense. It cannot go unmentioned, neither can their devoted cult following. In this film the quest for the holy grail is the loose ‘story’ that brings this historic carnage together. This series of sketches, fantastically written, produces body-shaking laughter throughout. A true British comedy classic; sharply witty and undeniably silly.
- Shuggie: Monty Python And The Holy Grail – What could possibly beat Star Wars? Well only the single funniest film that I’ve ever seen. In 1975 Monty Python brought us their first feature film (as opposed to a collection of sketches), and it is absolutely hysterical from start to finish. Holy Grail is a film that I can rewatch nearly endlessly, and I still find new things in it. There are so many iconic moments such as the Frenchmen, the Knights Who Say Ni, “bring out your dead”, the killer rabbit, and The Tale of Sir Lancelot, which in my opinion is the funniest sequence ever put to film. There are so many more great and memorable sequences that I could name, and the comedic performances from the Pythons are sensational. Not only the greatest comedy film of all time, but to me the best film of the 70s.
- Abby: Animal House – My number 1 1970s films can be no other than this classic American comedy. This film is outrageously funny from start to finish, following the events of a fraternity at Faber College, bringing mayhem wherever it goes. Carried by the uproarious John Belushi and many more, this film brilliantly brings to life the hilarious brotherhood of the frat. The music, comedic timing and plot line create scenes of absurd anarchy such as the food fight scene (starting a craze of food fights across America no doubt) and the toga party leading to the final, chaotic scene of absolute revenge. Definitely my favourite of the 1970s and I highly recommend it.
So those are our favourite films from the 1970s. What are your favourite films from the 70s? What do you think the best decade of film is? Let me know in the comments.