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50 classic movies turning 50 in 2020

  • 50 classic movies turning 50 in 2020

    The New Hollywood film era was just getting rolling in 1970.

    It was a period when films shifted from studio-controlled genre projects to much more experimental, innovative, cynical, and revisionist works that allowed directors creative control. New Hollywood films—or the American New Wave—started in the late 1960s and lasted through the 1970s. The movies were still commercial, but they were also heavily influenced by European cinema, especially Italian neorealism and the French New Wave, as well as by auteur stylists such as Akira Kurosawa. New Hollywood directors had a sensibility influenced by world cinemas that allowed revisions of staid American film conventions into new artistic forms.

    In honor of movies of 1970 turning 50 this year—and because millions of cinephiles are practicing safe social distancing amidst the growing COVID-19 pandemic—Stacker has compiled a list of classic movies released in 1970 using data from IMDb. The gallery features the 50 most significant films released that year.

    In 1970, movies were obsessed with subtext, subversion, and critiques of authority. Films often commented on the Vietnam War through stories set during World War II or the Korean War. You’ll find a strong anti-establishment bent with male heroes who are disaffected, vigilante, and anti-heroic. Films on our list cover multiple genres from art films to musicals to broad comedies to documentaries. We’ve included the most popular films of the year: “Patton” won the Best Picture Oscar and “Love Story” was the highest-grossing domestic film. Our list also features films of note released across the world.

    These films reflect the culture of their time. In the United States, it was the age of counterculture, the Vietnam War, and the civil rights movement. Films explored these issues, predominantly through the experiences of white men. There are two films on our list by women directors; one is a co-director. Several actors appeared in more than one film on our list including Charlton Heston, Alan Arkin, John Wayne, Richard Harris, and Mick Jagger—who has a dramatic film role and appears in a documentary.

    Get ready for a list filled with surrealist art cinema, avant-garde films, and historical epics, as well as commercial hits. You’ll also find dark themes and a radical edge. The most popular genres are the revisionist Western and the war movie. What films do you remember from 1970? How do they compare with the movies of today?

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  • A Man Called Horse

    - Director: Elliot Silverstein
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Metascore: 46
    - Runtime: 114 min

    Like “Dances With Wolves” two decades later, many American Westerns with non-villainous portrayals of Native Americans do so with a plot in which a white man infiltrates the tribe or was raised in it—as with Paul Newman in “Hombre” in 1967, Dustin Hoffman in “Little Big Man” in 1970, and Robert Redford in “Jeremiah Johnson” in 1972. In “A Man Called Horse,” Richard Harris plays a British aristocrat captured by the Sioux nation. He survives when tribe members see worth in him. He takes part in their traditional and brutal initiations and eventually becomes their leader. This popular film generated two sequels.

  • Airport

    - Directors: George Seaton, Henry Hathaway
    - IMDb user rating: 6.6
    - Metascore: 42
    - Runtime: 137 min

    “Airport” marked the inauguration of the 1970s disaster film cycle which eventually inspired the spoof “Airplane!” in 1980. The “Airport” formula included an ensemble cast led by Burt Lancaster and gripping situations in which one harrowing event gets compounded by another—in this case, a bomb on a plane and a blizzard. “Airport” was a giant box office success and nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

  • Beneath the Planet of the Apes

    - Director: Ted Post
    - IMDb user rating: 6.1
    - Metascore: 46
    - Runtime: 95 min

    The shock ending of 1968’s “Planet of the Apes” called out for a sequel (or four), yielding five films in the original franchise before the more recent reboots. This second film picks up after astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) cries out “God damn you all to hell!” when he discovers the ape planet is actually Earth. The sequel takes place in a “forbidden” underworld where mutants worship a bomb in what used to be New York’s subway system.

  • Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

    - Director: Russ Meyer
    - IMDb user rating: 6.2
    - Metascore: 60
    - Runtime: 109 min

    Film critic Roger Ebert was tasked with writing the screenplay for the sequel to 1967’s “Valley of the Dolls,” the soapy hit about popping pills. Rather than a straight follow-up, “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” was a biting parody of the first film filled with exploitative sex and over-the-top violence intended as a scathing, but simultaneously shallow, undirected send-up of Hollywood conventions.

  • Brewster McCloud

    - Director: Robert Altman
    - IMDb user rating: 7
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 105 min

    Robert Altman’s “Brewster McCloud” was released after his acclaimed “MASH” during the same year. The films have drastically different subjects—field doctors in a war zone in the first film, and a young man determined to build wings and fly like a bird in the second. But both films possess early signatures in Altman’s cinematic style. “Brewster McCloud” depicts a starkly original, fantastical tale that takes place in contemporary Houston where a series of murders have occurred and the victims are covered in bird droppings.

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  • Catch-22

    - Director: Mike Nichols
    - IMDb user rating: 7.2
    - Metascore: 70
    - Runtime: 122 min

    Mike Nichols’ third film after the acclaimed “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and the era-defining “The Graduate,” adapts Joseph Heller’s novel about the irrationality of war and continues the theme in black comedy style. Alan Arkin plays Yossarian alongside an ensemble cast that includes Art Garfunkel, Anthony Perkins, Charles Grodin, Martin Sheen, and John Voight.

  • Chisum

    - Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
    - IMDb user rating: 6.9
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 111 min

    This Western features Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, but the main event involves Chisum (another real-life figure) in a movie that veers from historical record. The gritty titular cowboy played by John Wayne gets pulled into the crossfire when the nefarious villain tries to steal his cattle, land, and horses. “Chisum” is a sprawling Western that returns to familiar themes of Wayne Westerns where he plays a hardy man, good to the core, forced to deal with corrupt men because someone has to set things right.

  • Claire's Knee

    - Director: Éric Rohmer
    - IMDb user rating: 7.7
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 105 min

    A fixture of the French film journal “Cahiers du Cinéma,” and a noted director of the French New Wave, Éric Rohmer’s often-acclaimed films were known for their intimate, observant portraits of modern relationships. In “Claire’s Knee,” Rohmer captures the wit and romance of gazing with desire in the story about a man obsessed with a woman’s knee. Critics found it delightful and charming.

  • Cold Sweat

    - Director: Terence Young
    - IMDb user rating: 5.8
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 94 min

    “Cold Sweat” is similar to “Death Wish,” the Charles Bronson mainstay on vigilante justice that came out in 1974. “Cold Sweat” takes place on the French Riviera where Bronson stars as a family man trying to leave his dark past behind with Liv Ullmann as his wife. Soon, his former, bitter prison mates turn up and kidnap his wife and daughter for revenge and criminal mayhem which he must avenge.

  • Colossus: The Forbin Project

    - Director: Joseph Sargent
    - IMDb user rating: 7.1
    - Metascore: data not available
    - Runtime: 100 min

    Firmly in the genre of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and later “Westworld” and “War Games,” “Colossus: The Forbin Project” explores the dangers of advanced technology. A god-like American supercomputer interacts with a similar Soviet supercomputer, and the two join forces to rule the world. The resulting “Colossus” far outwits humans, reconfigures protocol, and becomes an all-knowing panopticon with disastrous results for all.

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