Greatest Films of the 1970s
Greatest Films of the 1970s


Greatest Films of the 1970s
1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979

1971

Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Bananas (1971), 82 minutes, D: Woody Allen

Brian's Song (1971) (TV), 73 minutes, D: Buzz Kulik

Carnal Knowledge (1971), 97 minutes, D: Mike Nichols

A Clockwork Orange (1971, UK), 137 minutes, D: Stanley Kubrick
Provocatively adapted from the famous novel by Anthony Burgess. A glossy, stylish, graphically-violent, controversial, futuristic, science-fiction satire about the effects of crime and punishment (aversion therapy and brainwashing against violence) on a British teenaged punk. After a night of hooliganism with his vicious gang of droogs, including gang rapes and beatings, a sadistic Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is captured. In a grim, unorthodox governmental experiment, he is re-programmed, through his love for Beethoven's music, to reject violence, but he is dehumanized in the process of being cured. Vengeance is revisited upon him by his former victims after he is released into the society.

Death in Venice (1971, It.) (aka Morte a Venezia), 130 minutes, D: Luchino Visconti

Dirty Harry (1971), 103 minutes, D: Don Siegel

Duel (1971), 90 minutes, D: Steven Spielberg

The Emigrants (1971, Swe.) (aka Utvandrarna), 148 minutes, D: Jan Troell

Fiddler on the Roof (1971), 180 minutes, D: Norman Jewison

The French Connection (1971), 104 minutes, D: William Friedkin
An action-packed, intense, gritty, Best Picture-winning crime thriller filmed on location and based on a true story, starring two hard-nosed, vulgar New York City police cops who expose an international, heroin-smuggling operation based in Marseilles - headed by suave, elusive, mastermind crime boss Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey). Passionate, tough, pushy, and unorthodox narcotics detective Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) recklessly and obsessively fights crime with partner Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider). With the breath-taking, famous elevated-railway scene of Doyle fearlessly chasing a runaway train - with Charnier's henchman Pierre Nicoli (Marcel Bozzufi) in a borrowed car while narrowly dodging traffic and bystanders. A sequel four years later chased Charnier to Marseilles.

Get Carter (1971, UK), 111 minutes, D: Mike Hodges

Harold and Maude (1971), 90 minutes, D: Hal Ashby

Klute (1971), 114 minutes, D: Alan J. Pakula

The Last Picture Show (1971), 118 minutes, D: Peter Bogdanovich
Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry. A bleak, black and white cinematic modern-day classic, set in the small, northwestern (fictional) Texas town of Anarene in the period between the end of World War II and the Korean War in the early 50s. A poignant, coming-of-age tale of the loss of innocence for teenagers in the slowly-dying town, symbolized by the closing of the local picture palace, owned by Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson). The story is about a pair of HS football players, seniors Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) - who has an affair with the lonely football-basketball coach's wife Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges) - who dates the sexy, self-centered, spoiled student beauty Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd in her film debut) and enlists after being dumped. Other desperate townsfolk are also having affairs - Jacy's loose mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn) with oilfield worker Abilene (Clu Gulager).

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), 120 minutes, D: Robert Altman
A classic, dark-toned, moody anti-Western from iconoclastic and offbeat director Altman, based on the novel McCabe by Edmund Naughton. The dimly-lit, lyrical and cynically-bleak tale presented the American dream gone sour, in a revisionist western that concluded with a prolonged shootout. Gloomy folk music from Leonard Cohen organically complemented the pace of the film. With great cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond - beautifully photographed, with Altman's cinematographer creating an antique-like, painterly portrait of the unsightly town at the turn of the century. A mysterious, roguish, bearded small-time, frontier drifter and two-bit gambler John McCabe (Warren Beatty) opened up a brothel/casino in the great northern, wintry wilderness settlement of Presbyterian Church - a grimy, lamp-lit and shoddy mining town. He had used his winnings to build a classy saloon-casino-brothel in the remote, makeshift Washington community. But then the film portrayed his ultimately unsuccessful efforts to build a capitalistic business. Amiable, not-very-bright braggart McCabe, with entrepreneurish ambitions forged what he believed would be a profitable business alliance-partnership with shrewd Cockney drifter-prostitute Mrs. Constance Miller (Julie Christie) - she would be the madam of the whorehouse and manage the prostitutes, with a promise to transform the initial tents into a classy and professional bordello within the soon-to-be booming town. She helped to stabilize the operation and make it a successful enterprise, but she was addicted to pipe-smoked opium, and she had sex with McCabe as a paying customer. Due to his lucky success, McCabe was confronted by representatives of the Harrison and Shaunessy Mining Company that wanted to buy him out for $5,500 (the offer was increased to $6,250), but he inexplicably turned them down. McCabe stubbornly refused to be bought out by the corporate zinc mining company. He then faced the ugly consequences - the appearance of three hired enforcers: gunmen Butler (Hugh Millais), Breed (Jace Vander Veen) and Kid (Manfred Schulz). In the final celebrated sequence set during a snowstorm, he temporarily and cowardly evaded their tracking by taking refuge in the church, then shot and killed the three men, but mortally-wounded himself. McCabe succumbed alone in a snowdrift - a victim to big business, while Mrs. Miller succumbed to her addiction to her drugs.

Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), 183 minutes, D: Franklin J. Schaffner

Play Misty For Me (1971), 102 minutes, D: Clint Eastwood

Shaft (1971), 100 minutes, D: Gordon Parks

Straw Dogs (1971, UK), 118 minutes, D: Sam Peckinpah
Sam Peckinpah's unflinching vigilante thriller starred Dustin Hoffman as David Sumner, a bookish, mild-mannered, pre-occupied, effete American mathematician on sabbatical in a rural England town with his attractive and provocative newly-wed bride Amy (Susan George). Sumner was transformed from a meek, spineless, bullied and pacifist academic into a rampaging homicidal husband and protective home-owner. He erupted cathartically with bloody violence after locals raped Amy and later laid siege to their house. He retaliated in a climactic bloodbath sequence with vicious scalding, shotgun blasts, clubbing, and use of a mantrap - understandably redemptive yet mostly unsatisfying.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971, UK), 110 minutes, D: John Schlesinger

Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song (1971), 97 minutes, D: Melvin Van Pebbles
Actor/director/writer Melvin Van Peebles' X-rated, confrontational cult film was the first true blaxploitation film - it was specifically designed to upset white audiences (advertised with "Rated X by an All-White Jury"), with Peebles himself playing the part of the sex-hungry, violent anti-hero. The successful independent film (budgeted at $150,000) was released by independent distributor Cinemation, and aimed at urban black audiences. It was an anti-White, anti-authority diatribe - explained in the film's opening: "This film is dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man...Starring: The Black Community." It caused tremendous controversy for its militancy, under-age sex, anti-white sentiment, revenge-themes, and violence, although it was one of the most important black American films of the decade. It was supplemented with jump-cuts, experimental lighting, freeze-frames, tinted and overlapping images and montages as it chronicled the successful (uncharacteristically) flight of a black fugitive nicknamed "Sweet Sweetback" (due to his large-sized manhood and insatiable sexual prowess) through Los Angeles - and toward and across the Mexican border.

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), 102 minutes, D: Monte Hellman

Walkabout (1971, UK/Australia), 95 minutes, D: Nicolas Roeg

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), 100 minutes, D: Mel Stuart

W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971, Yugo/W. Germ.) (aka W.R.: Misterije Organizma), 85 minutes, D: Dusan Makavejev


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