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50 best movies from the 1970s

  • 50 best movies from the 1970s

    The 1970s were a magical time for movies with a whole new crop of stars and directors becoming household names from Robert Redford and Al Pacino, to Steven Spielberg and Woody Allen. After the tumultuous Sixties that included the Civil Rights Movement, the sexual revolution, and the Vietnam War, America was a different place and Hollywood reflected the changing culture like a cinematic mirror. Films started exploring new ground with changing gender roles, political mistrust, and more subversive forms of comedy. The result was a new era both in American cinema and around the world.

    To celebrate the cinematic heyday of the 1970s, this list was compiled to rank the best movies of the decade. Using data from IMDb, films with more than 5,000 user votes were ranked according to the highest user rating. In the case of ties, the higher slot went to the film with the most votes.

    Click through to discover the Italian-American series that cleaned up at the Oscars and find out which controversial director appeared on the list three separate times.

    RELATED: Click here to see the best comedy movies of all time

  • #50. Love and Death (1975)

    IMDb rating: 7.8
    Director: Woody Allen
    Runtime: 85 min.

    Woody Allen and Diane Keaton were one of the most popular on-screen couples of the 1970s and this period satire transported them to Napoleonic-era Russia where they essentially became characters in a movie version of a classic Russian novel. At the Berlin Film Festival in 1975, the film won a Silver Bear and Roger Ebert bestowed 3.5 stars upon the movie.

  • #49. Cabaret (1972)

    IMDb rating: 7.8
    Director: Bob Fosse
    Runtime: 124 min.

    The film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical “Cabaret” starred Liza Minnelli as a performer in Berlin while the Nazi party ascends to power. The movie earned eight Oscars, including statues for Minnelli, co-star Joel Grey, and director and dance genius Bob Fosse.

  • #48. Serpico (1973)

    IMDb rating: 7.8
    Director: Sidney Lumet
    Runtime: 130 min.

    The cop movie got gritty in the ‘70s with “Serpico.” Al Pacino stars as the title character, a good cop who breaks the unwritten rules of the New York Police Department to call out the corruption of his colleagues. The film grossed nearly $30 million, a huge success for the time.

  • #47. The French Connection (1971)

    IMDb rating: 7.8
    Director: William Friedkin
    Runtime: 104 min.

    Another crime story, this time with Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider as New York narcotics cops who discover a massive cocaine smuggling ring by way of France. “The French Connection” was awarded the Academy Award for “Best Picture” in 1972 and the film picked up four more Oscar victories and a total of eight nominations.

  • #46. Blazing Saddles (1974)

    IMDb rating: 7.8
    Director: Mel Brooks
    Runtime: 93 min.

    Mel Brooks cut his teeth writing TV comedy for Sid Caesar and Don Adams, but he moved into film directing with “Blazing Saddles” and earned a legion of fans. The Western satire tells the story of a town with a new black sheriff who tries to root out corruption. Brooks and his co-writers, including Richard Pryor, won the Writers’ Guild Award in 1975 for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.

  • #45. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

    IMDb rating: 7.8
    Director: Robert Benton
    Runtime: 105 min.

    Dustin Hoffman was a mega-star in the ‘70s; this divorce drama paired him with another legendary actor in Meryl Streep. “Kramer vs. Kramer” took the divorce epidemic of the ‘70s and put it front and center as a formerly married couple fights against each other for custody of their son. Hoffman and Streep both won Oscars for their roles and the film won for “Best Picture."

  • #44. Dirty Harry (1971)

    IMDb rating: 7.8
    Director: Don Siegel
    Runtime: 102 min.

    While Westerns were his main genre, Clint Eastwood found new life as a tough San Francisco cop searching for a madman bomber in “Dirty Harry.” The film was so successful that it spawned four sequels and changed police films forever.

  • #43. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

    IMDb rating: 7.8
    Director: Mel Stuart
    Runtime: 100 min.

    Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book got the big-screen treatment in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” a candy-coated story about a poor boy who wins a contest to visit the most secretive chocolate factory in the world. Gene Wilder played the titular eccentric chocolatier; the film was remade in 2005 with Johnny Depp as the lead.

  • #42. Halloween (1978)

    IMDb rating: 7.8
    Director: John Carpenter
    Runtime: 91 min.

    Just the mention of this horror film can trigger the menacing theme music in someone’s head. Jamie Lee Curtis was the breakout star of “Halloween," which has since become a horror movie classic about an escaped killer who returns home to continue his murderous ways. There have now been 10 “Halloween” movies made including sequels, reboots, and sequels of reboots, with another film slated for release this fall.

  • #41. Punishment Park (1971)

    IMDb rating: 7.9
    Director: Peter Watkins
    Runtime: 91 min.

    This low-budget film uses the language of documentaries to tell an alternate reality story about a government program that rounds up counter-culture types and sends them to prison. “Punishment Park” refers to a survival game where prisoners can win their freedom by making it to the end of a three-day trial in the desert. The film has a distant cousin in the modern “Purge” franchise.