18 Films From the 1970s That Are Must-Sees

As someone with a degree in films, I can tell you this for sure – there is no one decade that corners the market on best movies. There are good offerings and equally terrible ones from every single one, but that just means there are gems to unearth no matter where you look!

Here are 18 films from the 1970s that we don’t think you should miss.

18. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

A mixture of slapstick, wordplay, satire, and meta-references made this medieval story work – it’s just as brilliant as the sketch comedy show.

17. A Clockwork Orange

Stanley Kubrick’s work is grounded in the 1960s, but his adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess, surprised and shocked audiences in the most lasting way possible.

16. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Actor Jack Nicholson thrived in the 70s, starring in 15 films. This one earned him an Oscar nomination (and win).

15. The Last Picture Show

Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich set this film in the past, shot it in black and white, and used it to showcase how the old ways were slowing fading away. Roger Ebert said the movie “is above all an evocation of mood,” and he was (as usual) right.

14. Jaws

The first “summer blockbuster” put Steven Spielberg on the map as it frightened people around the world from going into the ocean. Its editing and iconic musical score have rendered it a classic.

13. The French Connection

Gene Hackman’s career peaked in the 70s, and he won an Oscar for his role in this cop thriller.

12. Taxi Driver

As usual, you can trust director Martin Scorsese to capture the cesspool violence of humanity in NYC – this jarring, almost-horror film is a must-see.

11. The Godfather (1 and 2)

Sure, it might seem well-tread, but that doesn’t mean these movies don’t personify everything that was amazing about films in the 1970s. From the script to the performances, they’ve inspired countless future filmmakers to greatness.

10. Rocky

The original film in this series was more about character than boxing, and was improved by the script and performance (both by Stallone), as well as the level-headed direction of John G. Avildsen.

9. Serpico

Al Pacino was nominated for an Oscar for his role as a NYC cop who exposed corruption on the force.

8. All the President’s Men

Americans needed a film to help them sort out their feelings about Watergate, and this one was the ticket. With Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman front and center, this movie is an important political statement.

7. The Exorcist

William Friedkin directed this after finding major success with The French Connection, and honestly, he’s scarred children now for generations. It’s the first horror film ever nominated for Best Picture.

6. Network

This satire of the television industry turned out to be more fact that fiction, and the performances turned in go above and beyond.

5. Chinatown

Okay, so this was directed by Roman Polanski, but if you separate the art from the artist, this movie is darn near perfect. Jack Nicholson shines again, and Faye Dunaway is unforgettable.

4. Star Wars

No one knew in 1977 what would follow, but this movie that took the “good guys vs. bad guys” trope to whole new heights won legions of fans from the start.

3. Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein

Mel Brooks is a classic, and it’s impossible to choose between these two movies (released in the same year). These are hilarious, and elevate mocking to a whole new level. And all of that is without even discussing the unparalleled casts.

2. Apocalypse Now

This remains the be-all, end-all of warn films, but getting it to the cutting room was anything but simple. It vividly depicts the Vietnam War in a way that allows people to grapple with their complicated feelings about the entire matter.

1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

The quintessential low-budget horror flick, but unlike more recent forays into the slasher genre, director Tobe Hooper was able to suggest blood and gore without actually showing it. You won’t be any less scared during the final 30 minutes than you would with more shock and awe, though, I promise.

I’ve seen most of these, but a few definitely just went on my to-watch list.

Have you seen them all? Which were your favorites? Have fun watching or re-watching!