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


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

Annie Hall (1977), 93 minutes, D: Woody Allen
Bittersweet, cerebral, stream-of-consciousness, 70s, urban romantic comedy - a Best Picture-winner, about a New York couple's neurotic love affair. Many consider this Woody Allen's best work, and a transition from his earlier absurdist comedies to a richer, more thoughtful consideration of relationships. Innovatively filmed, with cartoon segments, flashbacks, monologues toward the camera, and other unique elements. Allen co-wrote, directed and stars as a kvetchy, neurotic, Brooklyn stand-up comedian Alvy Singer, wistfully recalling his bygone relationship with flighty, adorable, and irrepressibly Midwestern Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), an aspiring singer. (Film marks the fourth pairing of Keaton and Allen, who were also an off-screen couple at the time.) At first the cultural gap seems insurmountable, but despite their differences, they fall in love. As they get to know one another, they invariably attempt to change each other, causing friction and their eventual split. The film watches them try new relationships, as they reluctantly pull away from each other. The film, in actuality, chronicles the end of their relationship.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), 135 minutes, D: Steven Spielberg
A science-fiction epic and adventure story about the mysteries of UFO and extra-terrestrial appearances. A Middle-American from Indiana Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a utilities lineman, is confronted by a UFO on a deserted road at night as he investigates a power outage - a near-religious, life-transforming experience. Afterwards, he becomes obsessed with unexplained, mountainous shapes, and five musical notes. By piecing together clues, he is ultimately led to a rendezvous on Devils Tower in Wyoming with Jillian (Melinda Dillon), a mother whose young boy Barry (Cary Guffey) was kidnapped by the aliens. There in the exhilarating climax, they witness an arriving spacecraft, the dazzling mother-ship, greeted by a top-secret scientific establishment led by Claude Lacombe (Francois Truffaut).

Eraserhead (1977), 100 minutes, D: David Lynch

The Goodbye Girl (1977), 111 minutes, D: Herbert Ross

The Hills Have Eyes (1977), 89 minutes, D: Wes Craven
Wes Craven's follow-up feature to his debut, barrier-breaking, controversial horror flick The Last House on the Left (1972) was this outrageous and savage story about a degenerate, inbred, cave-dwelling cannibalistic family of marauders hiding in the desert hills. In contrast was the suburban family that they preyed upon - the vulnerable, vacationing Carter and Wood families stranded off the "main road." Emphasis was placed on the class-war conflict between the two groups: the remaining survivors of the civilized families and the mutant, feral family. He toned down some of the gore and violence, although there was still rape, baby-kidnapping, gun murder, crucifixion-burning, the chomping of a pet parakeet head, stabbings, a dog attack, and a rattlesnake-bite induced death. Director Craven even added elements of black comedy (Ethel's hysterical exclamation about her charred husband's body: "That's not my Bob!"). The tagline gave away Craven's approach - show an innocent family transgressing and forced to kill to survive: "A nice American family. They didn't want to kill. But they didn't want to die." Craven's final blood-red freeze-frame emphasized that self-defense had crossed the line toward sadistic revenge.

Julia (1977), 116 minutes, D: Fred Zinnemann

Killer of Sheep (1977), 90 minutes, D: Charles Burnett

The Last Wave (1977, Australia), 106 minutes, D: Peter Weir

Madame Rosa (1977, Fr.) (aka La Vie Devant Soi), 105 minutes, D: Moshé Mizrahi

Saturday Night Fever (1977), 119 minutes, D: John Badham
John Badham's melodramatic, out-dated film was the biggest musical sensation and blockbuster of the late 1970's (from co-producer Robert Stigwood) - adapted by screenwriter Norman Wexler from Nik Cohn's New York Magazine story "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night." It features one of the most famous song soundtracks in film history, and was responsible for the Disco Craze phenomenon, launching hot disco clubs (like Studio 54) and the film super-stardom of 19-year old John Travolta, previously best known as one of the Sweathogs of the television sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. The film's soundtrack is the most recognizable, with a slew of high-pitched Bee Gees songs from the Gibbs: "Night Fever," "How Deep is Your Love," "More Than a Woman," "You Should Be Dancin'," and "Stayin' Alive" (which accompanies a memorable opening scene when the working-class protagonist struts down the sidewalk to the lyrics: "Oh, you can tell by the way I walk / I'm a woman's man, no time to talk"). In the classic coming-of-age tale, a conflicted, teenaged Italian-American anti-hero from Brooklyn, Tony Manero (John Travolta with the film's sole Oscar nomination) works in a dead-end job as a clerk in a local hardware store and lives at home with his oppressive, verbally-abusive blue-collar family. But after dark, he becomes the dynamic, white polyester-clad stud (with platform shoes, flared pants, and a wide-collared shirt) and undisputed dancing legend of a local nightclub (the 2001 Odyssey), with dancing partner Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) for a dance contest. The uneducated macho Manero seeks escape from his desperate plight of a staid home life and unambitious friends by finding recognition on the dance floor. However, his swaggering, troubled character also expresses arrogance, racism, immaturity, obnoxiousness, and misogyny (he sexually abuses and disregards girlfriend Annette (Donna Pescow)). (A PG-rated version was released without the coarse language and explicit sex scenes.) Additional popular songs on the soundtrack included Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You" and the Trammps' "Disco Inferno." Unbelievably, the soundtrack was completely ignored by the Academy, causing a critical outcry.

Soldier of Orange (1977, Neth.) (aka Soldaat van Oranje), 165 minutes, D: Paul Verhoeven

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977, UK), 125 minutes, D: Lewis Gilbert

Star Wars (1977) (aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), 121 minutes, D: George Lucas
The first of a trilogy of fantasy films by writer/director George Lucas, and one of the most financially-successful films of all time, with amazing technological effects. A sci-fi adventure saga "in a galaxy far, far away", quasi-Western film, about a galactic battle between good (the rebel forces) and evil (the Imperial Galactic Empire). The characters are proto-typical: a young farmboy hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a desert planet, a villainous, black-garbed sinister Lord Darth Vader (voice of James Earl Jones) - an aide to the leader of the Empire Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), a wise Jedi knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), daring starship pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford), captured rebel Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), a furry Wookie and two robotic droids. With two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983).

Suspiria (1977, It./W. Germ.), 98 minutes, D: Dario Argento

Three Women (1977) (aka 3 Women), 124 minutes, D: Robert Altman

The Turning Point (1977), 119 minutes, D: Herbert Ross

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