The Best 50 films of the 70's.

by John Jacoby | created - 10 Sep 2011 | updated - 09 Mar 2013 | Public

My favorite decade for film, the 70's was, far and away, the most important, influential period for many classic and enduring film releases of any age. The 70's introduced the writers, the directors and the actors that elevated the craft in a significant way, and made excellence standard in film making. Here are 50 of the very best of the sensational 70's.

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1. The Godfather: Part II (1974)

R | 202 min | Crime, Drama

85 Metascore

The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York City is portrayed, while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton

Votes: 919,910 | Gross: $57.30M

2. Chinatown (1974)

R | 130 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

86 Metascore

A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption, and murder.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston, Perry Lopez

Votes: 249,394 | Gross: $29.20M

3. The Godfather (1972)

R | 175 min | Crime, Drama

100 Metascore

The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton

Votes: 1,330,216 | Gross: $134.97M

4. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

R | 133 min | Drama

80 Metascore

A criminal pleads insanity after getting into trouble again and once in the mental institution rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.

Director: Milos Forman | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Michael Berryman, Peter Brocco

Votes: 775,767 | Gross: $112.00M

5. The Deer Hunter (1978)

R | 183 min | Drama, War

81 Metascore

An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.

Director: Michael Cimino | Stars: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Cazale, John Savage

Votes: 267,755 | Gross: $48.98M

6. Patton (1970)

GP | 172 min | Biography, Drama, War

91 Metascore

The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner | Stars: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, Michael Strong

Votes: 84,092 | Gross: $61.70M

7. Network (1976)

R | 121 min | Drama

88 Metascore

A television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor's ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit.

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall

Votes: 122,440

8. Jaws (1975)

PG | 124 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

87 Metascore

A local sheriff, a marine biologist and an old seafarer team up to hunt down a great white shark wrecking havoc in a beach resort.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary

Votes: 477,115 | Gross: $260.00M

9. All the President's Men (1976)

PG | 138 min | Biography, Drama, History

80 Metascore

"The Washington Post" reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

Director: Alan J. Pakula | Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam

Votes: 85,265 | Gross: $70.60M

10. The Sting (1973)

PG | 129 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

80 Metascore

Two grifters team up to pull off the ultimate con.

Director: George Roy Hill | Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning

Votes: 204,589 | Gross: $159.60M

11. Rocky (1976)

PG | 120 min | Drama, Sport

69 Metascore

A small-time boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight a heavy-weight champion in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

Director: John G. Avildsen | Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers

Votes: 439,701 | Gross: $117.24M

12. Coming Home (1978)

R | 127 min | Drama, Romance, War

A woman whose husband is fighting in Vietnam falls in love with another man who suffered a paralyzing combat injury there.

Director: Hal Ashby | Stars: Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Bruce Dern, Penelope Milford

Votes: 10,511 | Gross: $32.65M

13. The Last Picture Show (1971)

R | 118 min | Drama

In 1951, a group of high schoolers come of age in a bleak, isolated, atrophied West Texas town that is slowly dying, both culturally and economically.

Director: Peter Bogdanovich | Stars: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson

Votes: 35,340 | Gross: $29.13M

14. The French Connection (1971)

R | 104 min | Action, Crime, Drama

96 Metascore

A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.

Director: William Friedkin | Stars: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey, Tony Lo Bianco

Votes: 93,354

15. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

PG | 105 min | Drama

77 Metascore

Ted Kramer's wife leaves her husband, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between Ted and his son, Billy. But a heated custody battle ensues over the divorced couple's son, deepening the wounds left by the separation.

Director: Robert Benton | Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander, Justin Henry

Votes: 110,596 | Gross: $106.26M

16. All That Jazz (1979)

R | 123 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

Director/choreographer Bob Fosse tells his own life story as he details the sordid life of Joe Gideon, a womanizing, drug-using dancer.

Director: Bob Fosse | Stars: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer, Ann Reinking

Votes: 22,241 | Gross: $37.82M

17. Airport (1970)

G | 137 min | Action, Drama, Thriller

42 Metascore

A bomber on board an airplane, an airport almost closed by snow, and various personal problems of the people involved.

Directors: George Seaton, Henry Hathaway | Stars: Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy, Jean Seberg

Votes: 14,793 | Gross: $100.49M

18. MASH (1970)

R | 116 min | Comedy, Drama, War

80 Metascore

The staff of a Korean War field hospital use humor and high jinks to keep their sanity in the face of the horror of war.

Director: Robert Altman | Stars: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, Sally Kellerman

Votes: 60,600 | Gross: $81.60M

19. Save the Tiger (1973)

R | 100 min | Drama

A disillusioned aging decent man and once proud WWII veteran is dealing with midlife crisis as well as a tough moral dilemma. If he wants his small near-bankrupt clothing company to survive, he has two days to let go of his shaken morals.

Director: John G. Avildsen | Stars: Jack Lemmon, Jack Gilford, Laurie Heineman, Norman Burton

Votes: 3,949

20. Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

PG | 128 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

63 Metascore

In December 1935, when his train is stopped by deep snow, detective Hercule Poirot is called on to solve a murder that occurred in his car the night before.

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery

Votes: 45,760

21. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

PG | 121 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

90 Metascore

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle-station while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness

Votes: 1,050,001 | Gross: $322.74M

22. The Conversation (1974)

PG | 113 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

86 Metascore

A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple, on whom he is spying, will be murdered.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Frederic Forrest

Votes: 82,767 | Gross: $4.42M

23. Taxi Driver (1976)

R | 114 min | Crime, Drama

93 Metascore

A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action, while attempting to liberate a twelve-year-old prostitute.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks

Votes: 590,518 | Gross: $28.26M

24. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

R | 125 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

86 Metascore

A man robs a bank to pay for his lover's operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus.

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Penelope Allen, Sully Boyar

Votes: 208,163 | Gross: $50.00M

25. Nashville (1975)

R | 160 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

Over the course of a few hectic days, numerous interrelated people prepare for a political convention as secrets and lies are surfaced and revealed.

Director: Robert Altman | Stars: Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Shelley Duvall

Votes: 19,820 | Gross: $9.98M

26. ...and justice for all. (1979)

R | 119 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

58 Metascore

A lawyer is forced to defend a guilty judge, while defending other innocent clients, and trying to find punishment for the guilty and provide justice for the innocent.

Director: Norman Jewison | Stars: Al Pacino, Jack Warden, John Forsythe, Lee Strasberg

Votes: 26,042

27. Serpico (1973)

R | 130 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

87 Metascore

An honest New York cop named Frank Serpico blows the whistle on rampant corruption in the force only to have his comrades turn against him.

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire

Votes: 90,875 | Gross: $29.80M

28. Midnight Express (1978)

R | 121 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

59 Metascore

Billy Hayes, an American college student, is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison.

Director: Alan Parker | Stars: Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins, Paolo Bonacelli

Votes: 61,387 | Gross: $35.00M

29. The Exorcist (1973)

R | 122 min | Horror

82 Metascore

When a teenage girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.

Director: William Friedkin | Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair, Lee J. Cobb

Votes: 312,868 | Gross: $232.91M

30. Apocalypse Now (1979)

R | 147 min | Drama, War

94 Metascore

During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Stars: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest

Votes: 512,856 | Gross: $83.47M

31. Breaking Away (1979)

PG | 101 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

91 Metascore

A small-town boy obsessed with the Italian cycling team vies for the affections of a college girl.

Director: Peter Yates | Stars: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, Jackie Earle Haley

Votes: 19,059 | Gross: $16.42M

32. Fat City (1972)

PG | 96 min | Drama, Sport

Two men, working as professional boxers, come to blows when their careers each begin to take opposite momentum.

Director: John Huston | Stars: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark

Votes: 6,239

33. Cabaret (1972)

PG | 124 min | Drama, Musical

80 Metascore

A female girlie club entertainer in Weimar Republic era Berlin romances two men while the Nazi Party rises to power around them.

Director: Bob Fosse | Stars: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Joel Grey

Votes: 40,866 | Gross: $42.77M

34. Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)

R | 136 min | Drama, Romance

A dedicated schoolteacher spends her nights cruising bars, looking for abusive men with whom she can engage in progressively violent sexual encounters.

Director: Richard Brooks | Stars: Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, Tuesday Weld, William Atherton

Votes: 5,818 | Gross: $16.90M

35. The Goodbye Girl (1977)

PG | 111 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

After being dumped by her live-in boyfriend, an unemployed dancer and her 10-year-old daughter are reluctantly forced to live with a struggling off-Broadway actor.

Director: Herbert Ross | Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason, Quinn Cummings, Paul Benedict

Votes: 10,463 | Gross: $102.00M

36. American Graffiti (1973)

PG | 110 min | Comedy, Drama

97 Metascore

A couple of high school grads spend one final night cruising the strip with their buddies before they go off to college.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith

Votes: 70,551 | Gross: $115.00M

37. Julia (1977)

PG | 117 min | Drama

58 Metascore

At the behest of an old and dear friend, playwright Lillian Hellman undertakes a dangerous mission to smuggle funds into Nazi Germany.

Director: Fred Zinnemann | Stars: Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Maximilian Schell

Votes: 7,573

38. Frenzy (1972)

R | 116 min | Thriller

A serial murderer is strangling women with a necktie. The London police have a suspect, but he is the wrong man.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock | Stars: Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Anna Massey

Votes: 34,900

39. The Sunshine Boys (I) (1975)

PG | 111 min | Comedy

A vaudeville duo agree to reunite for a television special, but it turns out that they can't stand each other.

Director: Herbert Ross | Stars: Walter Matthau, George Burns, Richard Benjamin, Lee Meredith

Votes: 4,682

40. The Rose (1979)

R | 125 min | Drama, Music, Romance

67 Metascore

The tragic life of a self-destructive female rock star who struggles to deal with the constant pressures of her career and the demands of her ruthless business manager.

Director: Mark Rydell | Stars: Bette Midler, Alan Bates, Frederic Forrest, Harry Dean Stanton

Votes: 6,850 | Gross: $29.20M

41. The Day of the Jackal (1973)

PG | 143 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

80 Metascore

A professional assassin codenamed "Jackal" plots to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France.

Director: Fred Zinnemann | Stars: Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair, Alan Badel

Votes: 32,537 | Gross: $16.06M

42. The Boys from Brazil (1978)

R | 125 min | Drama, Thriller

40 Metascore

A Nazi hunter in Paraguay discovers a sinister and bizarre plot to rekindle the Third Reich.

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner | Stars: Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Lilli Palmer

Votes: 22,479 | Gross: $19.00M

43. Manhattan (1979)

R | 96 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

83 Metascore

The life of a divorced television writer dating a teenage girl is further complicated when he falls in love with his best friend's mistress.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Michael Murphy

Votes: 116,387 | Gross: $45.70M

44. The China Syndrome (1979)

PG | 122 min | Drama, Thriller

81 Metascore

A reporter finds what appears to be a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant.

Director: James Bridges | Stars: Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas, Scott Brady

Votes: 22,783 | Gross: $51.72M

45. Five Easy Pieces (1970)

R | 98 min | Drama

A dropout from upper-class America picks up work along the way on oil rigs when his life isn't spent in a squalid succession of bars, motels, and other points of interest.

Director: Bob Rafelson | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Billy Green Bush, Fannie Flagg

Votes: 28,505

46. Ryan's Daughter (1970)

GP | 206 min | Drama, Romance

Set in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising, a married woman in a small Irish village has an affair with a troubled British officer.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Robert Mitchum, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Christopher Jones

Votes: 7,318 | Gross: $30.85M

47. The Last Detail (1973)

R | 104 min | Comedy, Drama

89 Metascore

Two Navy men are ordered to bring a young offender to prison, but decide to show him one last good time along the way.

Director: Hal Ashby | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, Otis Young, Clifton James

Votes: 18,587

48. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

R | 136 min | Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi

78 Metascore

In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

Votes: 642,978

49. The Paper Chase (1973)

PG | 113 min | Comedy, Drama

65 Metascore

A first-year law student at Harvard Law School struggles with balancing his coursework and his relationship with the daughter of his sternest professor.

Director: James Bridges | Stars: Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, John Houseman, Graham Beckel

Votes: 6,312