Top 10 Films of the Decade: The 70's -

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Top 10 Films of the Decade: The 70's

Mania's Picks for Best Movies of the 1970's

By Mania Staff     December 29, 2009

Much like the social and political climate of the 70’s, Hollywood brought out a lot of films that went from the dark and dangerous, showing us that horror could be right around the corner without our knowing it, to films that gave pure fantasy and hope for a bright future where evil could be soundly defeated. What made these films all the more believable was the large advances in special effects that let audiences believe they were transported to worlds far away or to feel like there was nothing but pure menace lurking just below the surface of the water. This decade also began to show just how far reaching franchises, with new ones that launched out of it and ones that built upon shows from the past. Here are ten films that we feel define the seventies in genre films.

10. Halloween

What could be simpler? Take a likable teenage girl and pit her against a hulking psychopath with a 12 inch butcher knife and see who wins. That is the premise of John Carpenter's 1978 low-budget indie movie "Halloween." The film terrorized teen-aged audiences and went on to earn 20 fold as much money as the budget. More importantly, it carved out a whole new genre of "slasher" films, with numerous imitators and follow-ons, each with escalating levels of graphic violence, countering Carpenter's premise that it's what you don't see that actually scares you.

9. Enter the Dragon

Enter the Dragon" deservedly holds a place in cinematic history for several reasons. Although Asian martial arts cinema was already going strong, this was the first produced by a major Hollywood studio. Bruce Lee stars as a Shaolin master tapped to infiltrate an underground fighting tournament. Lee is said to have reworked the script to allow the film to be a greater showcase for his Chinese heritage. It would sadly prove to be his last completed picture. He died just days before its release, but the film has gone on to earn its place in history.

8. A Clockwork Orange

It goes without saying that Stanley Kubrick must make the 1970s as well with his controversial adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. And unlike his 2001 odyssey, you won’t need hallucinogens to interpret it properly. While others have tried repackaging the futuristic violent tale over the years, Kubrick was first with his violent look into a futuristic chaotic version of Great Britain where Malcolm McDowell’s Alex DeLarge undergoes treatment to repress his lack of conscience towards humanity. Stanley would eventually have to pull “Clockwork” from U.K. circulation after receiving death threats and it wouldn’t be re-released there until 2000, the year after his death.

7. Monty Python's: The Holy Grail

The only comedy to make the list from this decade, the Holy Grail is a film that is still highly quotable to this day and has survived the test of time. The story of King Arthur and his quest for the Grail is one that is fraught with danger, from killer bunny rabbits to armless and legless knights as well as a visit to Castle Anthrax, and extended discussions on the political and social situation of the medieval times. After their compilation movie, the Monty Python group went for an all original movie that skewered a lot of material near and dear to their countrymen and sent it up in a way that it had not been done before and hasn't been done since. Few comedies can last past their decade of origin, especially as many date themselves, but the Holy Grail is a rare exception.

6. Superman

Prior to this 1978 movie, superheroes in the movies and TV could largely be chalked up to the old TV series of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. When Christopher Reeve donned the suit in Richard Donner's movie, audiences left the theater believing a man could fly. As an origin story, it's one that takes material from the various comic origins over the decades and reworks them into an engaging mainstream film that made audiences care about the characters, be amused by the villains and love the flying sequences. It was also a movie that made sure it wasn't all about the action as it spent time infusing plenty of heart into the characters, from the parents to the relationship between Lois and Clark.

5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Six months after Star Wars landed and changed science fiction film making, Steven Spielberg brought out his science fiction project that started some four years earlier and gave audiences a very human story. Where Star Wars was all about the fantastic and adventure, Close Encounters kept it all very close to reality, showing us what our first contact with aliens might be like. Draped in a mystery, the film shows the connection that some have to the visitors who were peeking into our world and trying to figure out how to communicate with us as they're on a different plane entirely. The family dynamic is very important in this film as is the drive to discover what's really going on for several people that are caught up in this.

4. The Exorcist

Rooted in "actual events" and encircled in controversy few horror films were as simultaneously acclaimed, successful, shocking and infamous as 1973's "The Exorcist". Based on a book which drew on a documented case of exorcism from decades earlier it wasn't the first "demonic child" film of the era, it's certainly one of the most prominent. The pillars of the film are a series horrific images (projectile vomit, a 360 head-turn) and sacrilegious acts performed by then 14-year-old actress Linda Blair. The result: a box office smash, several academy awards and Hollywood legend.

3. Jaws

The summer of 1975 gave rise to a new kind of movie which came in the sleek, dorsal-finned form of a 25 foot long eating machine called "Jaws." The work of fledgling director Stephen Spielberg, the movie deftly blended suspense, shock and humor that was so wildly successful in test screenings that the studio pushed it into an unprecedented number of theaters, and gobbled up box office receipts. The movie, which still holds up nicely today, is considered the first summer blockbuster, and propelled Spielberg on his path to becoming one of the most prolific and influential filmmakers of all time.

2. Alien

Horror films had a good run over the years and the ‘70s were particularly good for the genre, but the real surprise was a science fiction horror movie that was essentially a haunted house in space. Alien took the horror concept in a new direction and chilled audiences in a way they hadn't before, giving them creatures that truly inhabited the shadows and made you wary of eating certain foods. It was also one of the films that helped to slowly expand the role of women in leading roles for genre movies as Sigourney Weaver became a household name with this film with her portrayal as a smart, tough and very human character in an extremely frightening situation.

1. Star Wars

Love or hate what it became in the years to come, the arrival of Star Wars in theaters was nothing short of a cultural event for many kids and adults. George Lucas brought in massive changes to how special effects were done with this movie and it helped to spawn Industrial Light and Magic as well as Skywalker Sound which has produced some of the best soundtracks out there. At its core though is a movie that inspired many with its straightforward space opera story, surface level characters that eventually found a lot of depth in other media and something that became a modern day fairy tale for children. Star Wars is truly the game-changing movie of the ’70s.

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Showing items 1 - 10 of 39
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egoist 12/29/2009 2:43:49 AM

No Godfather?? Come on meow.

Chopsaki 12/29/2009 3:44:07 AM

Usually this site focuses on sci-fi, fantasy, horror but if your including gangster flicks then you gotta have Godfather 1 & 2 on the list. Also talking movies in general I'd give honorable mentions to Rocky, Dirty Harry, Dog Day Afternoon, Blazing Saddles & Young Frakenstien.

Anyways the one thing that alot of these films have in common is the score. Movies that emphasized orchestral scores over popular music of the time i.e disco hold up much better. Clothes and hair styles are another big fopaux. How great (or wrong) would it have been to see 1977's Carrie Fisher with her giant cinnabuns in a movie like Saturday Night Fever heh.

jppintar326 12/29/2009 5:13:55 AM

This list was a no brainer.  Although I think A Clockwork Orange was too much for me and Monty Python had probably one of the worst endings in movie history.  However, I am happy with the list.  Star Wars, Superman, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind are my all time favorite movies.  Halloween is the still the best even after the sequels and imitations.  Enter the Dragon shows there is Bruce Lee and then there is everybody else.  I haven't seen the Exorcist in years yet it would still disturb me.  Jaws and Alien are still very good.  No love for the underrated Jaws 2 though.  As sequels go, it was pretty good.  I mean the shark eats a helicopter.  How cool was that.

almostunbiased 12/29/2009 7:01:38 AM

The first time I saw Holy Grail, I was pissed how it ended, but now I appreciate it more.  I guess it was the shock.  I do believe that other than the horror movies, Williams did most of these scores.  I agree that music plays a big part in how you feel while watching a movie.  I would strike Halloween from this list and a clockwork orange, but Im not a fan so understand why they are here.  Godfather should def take at least one spot.

mellowdoux 12/29/2009 7:52:41 AM

Hey Chopsaki!

What the Hell is Young Frakensien?

DarthDuck 12/29/2009 8:02:24 AM

@mellow - you cannot be serious...

Another great list and wow, what a great decade!  From the movies listed to the ones that people keep adding this is truly a great decade for genre movies.

I can only assume the 80's are next and 1982 is considered one of the greatest genre years ever.  Looking forward to that!

Hobbs 12/29/2009 8:51:31 AM

70's are easy...the 80's will start causing more of a debate.

I'm guessing mellowdoux is either kidding or a youngster if he doesn' t know that movie. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest isn't genre either....otherwise I agree, it should be on this list. 

bennyhill 12/29/2009 9:07:16 AM

I can't wait for the 80's decade list either.  Nor can I wait for the 00 list... where they just repost the 80's list.

gauleyboy420 12/29/2009 9:37:49 AM


Monty Python SftHG is one of the best endings EVER!!

The ending SOLD the movie and is one of the reasons it's great. not a formulaic, ending, it is completely original, comes out of left field and leaves you like a crying baby lost in a supermarket.... CLASSIC!
It goes to show that when something is original, people tend to not "get" it and complain about it.


hanso 12/29/2009 9:39:18 AM

I don’t think they count gangster films as genre around here but yes The Godfather is the greatest single piece of cinema ever created in the history of the known universe. I love that film, I know some cats consider the sequel to be better but to me the first one is where it’s at.

Excellent list though.  Definitely looking forward to tommorow's.

Hobbs the 80s should open up but these should be a lock: Ghostsbusters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Back to the Future, The Terminator, Empire Strikes Back.

I'm interested in seeing what the end up placing the horror franchises like Friday the 13, Nightmare on Elmstreet in the list and what they do with the action stuff like Predator, Road Warrior and First Blood.

Anyway if when the 2000s list rolls out and there is no Children of Men I will riot!

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