Underrated gems (and WTF films) of the 1970sby Alberto-7 | created - 04 Feb 2017 | updated - 6 months ago | Public
Some lesser known films from the 1970s to discover. Most are terrific pieces of cinema and some are wonderfully bad but still need to be seen...or not.
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1. Saint Jack (1979)
R | 112 min | Drama
Jack Flowers, an American hustler in early 1970s Singapore, dreams of building a fortune by running a brothel and returning to the States to lead a life of luxury.
Tour de force performance by Ben Gazzarra and location shooting in Singapore are two of the reasons you should see this. The script is sharp and the direction by Peter Bogdanovich spot on. They do not make films like this anymore. Denholm Elliot is also great in this.
2. Husbands (1970)
PG-13 | 131 min | Comedy, Drama
After the death of a common friend, three married men leave their lives together, seeking pleasure and freedom and ultimately leaving for London.
There are some moments at the beginning that are too long but the film comes alive in the second half. Ben Gazzarra, John Cassavetes and Peter Falk are fantastic. A true actor's film that is uncomfortable to watch at times but worth the effort. Gritty and realistic to the extreme.
3. A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
R | 155 min | Drama, Romance
Mabel, a wife and mother, is loved by her husband Nick but her mental illness proves to be a problem in the marriage.
Votes: 18,064 | Gross: $13.34M
Another John Cassavetes gritty masterpiece. Gena Rowlands is spectacular in this very difficult role. Peter Falk is amazing as well.
4. Alice in the Cities (1974)
Not Rated | 110 min | Drama
A German journalist is saddled with a nine-year-old girl after encountering her mother at a New York airport.
Beautiful, haunting film with subtle direction by Wim Wenders. Great performances all around.
5. Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979)
R | 104 min | Drama
Seven former college friends, along with a few new friends, gather for a weekend reunion at a summer house in New Hampshire to reminisce about the good old days, when they got arrested on the way to a protest in Washington, DC.
Votes: 1,837 | Gross: $2.00M
Great ensemble piece with a sharp script and solid performances all around.
6. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
Not Rated | 95 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama
In the 16th century, the ruthless and insane Don Lope de Aguirre leads a Spanish expedition in search of El Dorado.
Werner Herzog's greatest film with a demented performance by Klaus Kinski. The South American locations are eerie and add a lot to the atmosphere of the film. The opening sequence is jaw-dropping. A film not to be missed.
7. Same Time, Next Year (1978)
PG | 119 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
A married man and a married woman end up sleeping with each other, and decide to meet at the same place every year on the anniversary of their one night stand. As the years go by, they observe changes in each other and their relationship.
Votes: 5,252 | Gross: $19.70M
Aland Alda gets a chance to flex his acting muscles in this tender, sad, beautiful film. Ellen Burstyn is perfect.
8. An Almost Perfect Affair (1979)
PG | 93 min | Comedy, Romance
A smalltime US filmmaker goes to Cannes to try to get his movie in the limelight. A wife of one of the producers there gets interested in his story and they begin an affair.
Very funny film that takes place during the chaos of the Cannes Film Festival. A biting satire of the nonsense that goes on during film festivals. Monica Vitti is great in this.
9. Breezy (1973)
R | 106 min | Drama, Romance
A young girl tries to find her way in life, suffering from her own naivety and sincerity.
I was really surprised how great this film is. I was expecting something really schmaltzy but was impressed especially with the two leads, who are very good. Clint Eastwood's direction is unobtrusive and the story unfolds organically.
10. Gumshoe (1971)
GP | 86 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
Nightclub comedian Eddie Ginley fulfills his Dashiell Hammett love by putting an ad in the paper as a private eye.
Great hommage to film-noir of the 1940s with a winning performance by Albert Finney.
11. Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)
R | 104 min | Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi
A man named Billy Pilgrim tells the story of how he became unstuck in time and was abducted by aliens.
Amazing adaptation of the Kurt Vonnegut novel. It is unlike anything you have ever seen before. Well worth your time.
12. The Heartbreak Kid (1972)
PG | 106 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Three days into his Miami honeymoon, New York Jewish Lenny meets tall, blonde Kelly. This confirms him in his opinion that he has made a serious mistake and he decides he wants Kelly ... See full summary »
Votes: 3,516 | Gross: $12.21M
Wow!!! Hilarious film with a terrific performance by Charles Grodin. Some moments will make you cringe but you will laugh out loud throughout. I can't forget to point out Jennie Berlin's great performance in a very difficult role. Avoid the remake with Ben Stiller and see this instead.
13. The Public Eye (1972)
G | 95 min | Comedy, Drama
When a straight-laced British accountant marries a free-spirited American, he starts trying to change her. His wife doesn't keep regular hours, so he suspects an affair and hires a ... See full summary »
Topol and Mia Farrow are great in this but the real star is the city of London. Reviews were mixed for this film but I found it charming.
14. The American Friend (1977)
Not Rated | 125 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery
Tom Ripley, who deals in forged art, suggests a picture framer he knows would make a good hit man.
Wim Wenders thriller that is nothing like any thriller you have ever seen. Great performances all around.
15. The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978 TV Movie)
Not Rated | 76 min | Comedy, Music
Charts the adventures of the prefab four, possibly the most famous band of all time.
Spot on satire of the Beatles with great cameos by Mick Jagger and Paul Simon. Eric Idle portrays many characters including one of the Rutles. Very, very funny.
16. J-Men Forever (1979)
PG | 73 min | Comedy
The Lightning Bug has a multi-prong scheme to enslave the earth. First, rock and roll, which the JMen counter with Muzac, then marijuana. Finally, the JMen build a bomb to blow up the moon ... See full summary »
Using clips from movie serials from the 1940s, the filmmakers cobbled together a funny film about a villain(The Lightning Bug, baby!!) trying to get the world to listen to rock music! Very odd film but it works.
17. Beautiful People (1974)
G | 92 min | Comedy, Documentary
Hilarious documentary on the wildlife of the Namib Desert.
Hilarious documentary on animals living in the Namib desert. Funny narration coupled with spectacular footage elevates this film to another level. From Jamie Uys who later brought us The Gods Must Be Crazy.
PG | 110 min | Comedy, Sport
Tired of the slave-like treatment of his team's owner, charismatic star Negro League pitcher Bingo Long takes to the road with his band of barnstormers through the small towns of the Midwest in the 1930's.
Great baseball film that has an incredible feel for the 1930s. Billy Dee Williams is great but James Earl Jones steals the show.
19. Robert et Robert (1978)
105 min | Comedy, Drama
Two misfits meet at a dating agency and breakthrough in the social world in ways they never imagined.
Funny, tender comedy from France about two unusual men trying to find love through a computer dating service who instead find friendship with each other. Charles Denner steals the show.
20. Stroszek (1977)
Not Rated | 115 min | Comedy, Drama
In Berlin, an alcoholic man, recently released from prison, joins his elderly friend and a prostitute in a determined dream to leave Germany and seek a better life in Wisconsin.
Another oddball Werner Herzog film that follows three misfits who leave Germany to settle in "Hicksville" Wisconsin to live the American dream. Instead, they implode. Very, very odd film with some jaw-dropping moments including a dancing chicken. Bruno S. is as odd a leading man as you have ever seen. Weird but worth seeing.
21. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1973)
Not Rated | 92 min | Drama, Romance
An almost accidental romance is kindled between a German woman in her mid-sixties and a Moroccan migrant worker around twenty-five years younger. They abruptly decide to marry, appalling everyone around them.
Another odd German film, this one from Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The story: A young Moroccan immigrant has a romance with an elderly German woman much to the disgust of most of their neighbours. A touching film with remarkable performances.
22. Seven Beauties (1975)
R | 116 min | Comedy, Drama, War
The defense of honor, a strong value in Neapolitan society, and his effects on the life of everyman Pasquale Frafuso.
Votes: 4,336 | Gross: $0.01M
At times hilarious, at times horrifying, this is a film like you have never seen before. Giancarlo Giannini is amazing in the lead role. There are some moments that are hard to watch(especially the concentration camp scenes) but these are balanced out by scenes of incredible comedy. The scene where Giannini tries to seduce the camp commandant in an effort to survive, is one of the most awkward you have ever seen but it is quite funny, in a twisted sort of way. This is not for everyone but I consider it a remarkable film.
23. Days of Heaven (1978)
PG | 94 min | Drama, Romance
A hot-tempered farm laborer convinces the woman he loves to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can have a claim to his fortune.
A beautiful film that has spectacular cinematography (by Nestor Almendros). The direction by Terence Mallick is nuanced and the acting mostly first rate(unfortunately, Richard Gere is a little weak). Sam Shepard is a standout in this as is Brooke Adams. The locust swarm sequence is unforgettable. See this film if you get a chance
24. The Brood (1979)
R | 92 min | Horror, Sci-Fi
A man tries to uncover an unconventional psychologist's therapy techniques on his institutionalized wife, amidst a series of brutal murders.
David Cronenberg's most underrated film. This is a raw, angry film that pulls no punches. I usually have a hard time with Oliver Reed but he is a standout in this. Samantha Eggar is also very good in this film. This is not for the squeamish but worth your time.
25. The Harder They Come (1972)
R | 120 min | Crime, Drama, Music
Wishing to become a successful Reggae singer, a young Jamaican man finds himself tied to corrupt record producers and drug pushers.
Jamaica's first feature film is an unflinching look at crime and punishment in that country. Jimmy Cliff is no actor but he pulls it off here. There are moments of intense violence in this but overall the story is very interesting. The ending is sad but it fits the story well. The soundtrack is simply out of this world and includes some of the best reggae music ever made.
26. The Long Goodbye (1973)
R | 112 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
Private investigator Philip Marlowe helps a friend out of a jam then gets implicated in his wife's murder.
Votes: 22,380 | Gross: $0.96M
Philip Marlowe story as seen by Robert Altman. Totally wacky film with some very odd casting choices that are simply inspired. The ending has been changed for the better and Elliot Gould is great. Props to Sterling Hayden and Mark Rydell who are amazing. Look out for Arnold Schwarzenegger in a small role. A detective film like no other but be forewarned, there is one violent sequence that will make your jaw drop.
27. Walkabout (1971)
GP | 100 min | Adventure, Drama
Two city-bred siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback, where they learn to survive with the aid of an Aboriginal boy on his "walkabout": a ritual separation from his tribe.
Wow, what a unique film. Not to be missed.
28. Gates of Heaven (1978)
Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama
A documentary about a pet cemetery in California, and the people who have pets buried there.
This starts off as a documentary about a pet cemetery but it quickly becomes a film about people's hopes and dreams. Some beautiful moments balanced with some very weird stuff. Worth checking out.
29. Fata Morgana (1971)
Not Rated | 79 min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama
Footage shot in and around the Sahara Desert, accompanied only by a spoken creation myth and the songs of Leonard Cohen.
Werner Herzog experimental/poetic documentary will either blow your mind or turn you right off. He shot for over a year in the Sahara and Sahel deserts(and all over Africa) and put it all together with hardly any spoken word and an occasional Leonard Cohen song. Some of the footage is spectacular but this is not for all tastes. I loved it.
30. Chariots of the Gods (1970)
G | 92 min | Documentary
Documentary based on the book by Erich Von Daniken concerning the ancient mysteries of the world, such as the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico, ancient cave drawings, the monuments of Easter ... See full summary »
Votes: 1,186 | Gross: $25.95M
This film marked my childhood. In it, we are shown several places on earth where Aliens might have possibly visited (Nazca lines, Pyramids, Candelabra of the Andes etc.) hence the Gods of the title. I saw it a few years ago and realize that a lot of it is flimsy pseudoscience with some ridiculous statements. Still, it shows some amazing places on earth to discover, just don't think too much about what is being said. Then again, aliens might have visited us in the ancient world...or not.
31. Gizmo! (1977)
G | 77 min | Comedy, Documentary
Compilation of man inventing strange contraptions in the 30's through 50's.
Absolutely fun compilation of newsreel clips from the 1930s,1940s and 1950s on Rube Goldberg style inventions including an alarm clock that whips off your blanket to wake you up.
32. Cocksucker Blues (1972)
93 min | Documentary, Music
This fly-on-the-wall documentary follows the Rolling Stones on their 1972 North American Tour, their first return to the States since the tragedy at Altamont. Because of the free-form ... See full summary »
Notorious documentary that follows the Rolling Stones during their 1972 North American tour. The filmmaker had unimpeded access to the band and their entourage. The result is a poorly made, rambling documentary that includes some very disturbing scenes including people shooting-up and what certainly looks like the rape of a groupie. There are long moments of the band members sitting in their hotel rooms bored not speaking to each other. The Rolling Stones were horrified when they saw the final film and suppressed its distribution. It could only be seen in the presence of its director a couple of times a year. I thought it was downright awful with very little to recommend in it unless you like watching tired musicians sitting around doing nothing.
33. Hospital (1970 TV Movie)
84 min | Documentary
Daily activities of the Metropolitan Hospital in New York City, with emphasis on the emergency ward and outpatient clinics. The cases depicted illustrate how medical expertise, availability... See full summary »
Brilliant Frederick Wiseman documentary that chronicles the daily activities of a hospital in New York City. Some sequences are quite uncomfortable to watch but the film is well worth your time.
34. The Man Who Skied Down Everest (1975)
G | 86 min | Documentary
A Japanese skier ultimately dreamed of literally skiing Mt. Everest. He planned to ski some 8,000 feet down an icy glacier at a 40 to 45 degree angle, from the 26,000 foot level near the ... See full summary »
Oscar winning documentary on the 1970 Japanese expedition trying to bring skier Yuichiro Miura to the top of Mount Everest so that he can ski down the slope!! The beautiful images are enhanced by Douglas Rain's poetic narration. A wild film that must be seen to be believed.
35. Hardcore (1979)
R | 108 min | Crime, Drama
A conservative Midwest businessman ventures into the sordid underworld of pornography in California to look for his runaway teenage daughter who is making porno films in California's porno pits.
Intense drama with a tortured performance by George C. Scott. A difficult film but worth seeing.
36. Silent Running (1972)
G | 89 min | Drama, Sci-Fi
In a future where all flora is extinct on Earth, an astronaut is given orders to destroy the last of Earth's botany, kept in a greenhouse aboard a spacecraft.
Cult sci-fi film with a spot-on performance by Bruce Dern. Worth your time.
37. Watermelon Man (1970)
R | 100 min | Comedy, Drama
An extremely bigoted white man finds out the hard (and somewhat humorous) way what it's like being a black man, firsthand!
Votes: 1,467 | Gross: $1.50M
What happens when a white bigot wakes up one day and finds out he is now black? A very well made film that tackles racism head on.
38. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
PG | 113 min | Adventure, Crime, Drama
To treat his friend's cocaine induced delusions, Watson lures Sherlock Holmes to Sigmund Freud.
Great Sherlock Holmes film has him meet Sigmund Freud in an effort to cure him of his cocaine addiction. Very well done.
39. Night Moves (1975)
R | 100 min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Los Angeles private investigator Harry Moseby is hired by a client to find her runaway teenage daughter. Moseby tracks the daughter down, only to stumble upon something much more intriguing and sinister.
Layered, complex Arthur Penn thriller with a good performance from Gene Hackman. James Woods and Melanie Griffith are also in the cast. Worth seeing more than once.
40. Who Can Kill a Child? (1976)
R | 112 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller
A couple of English tourists arrive on an island where all the children have gone crazy and are murdering the adults.
Terrifying Spanish horror film is like nothing you have ever seen before. Not for the faint of heart.
41. Don't Look Now (1973)
R | 110 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller
A married couple grieving the recent death of their young daughter are in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.
Great thriller that has many creepy moments but is so exquisitely put together. Haunting.
42. Harold and Maude (1971)
PG | 91 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Young, rich, and obsessed with death, Harold finds himself changed forever when he meets lively septuagenarian Maude at a funeral.
Lovely, sad, funny cult film that shows that love is all we really need.
43. Rabid (1977)
R | 91 min | Horror, Sci-Fi
A young woman develops a taste for human blood after undergoing experimental plastic surgery, and her victims turn into rabid, blood-thirsty zombies who proceed to infect others, which turns into a city-wide epidemic.
Early David Cronenberg horror film is quite gruesome but quite addictive. One of my guilty pleasures.
44. Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
PG | 107 min | Horror
Count Dracula moves from Transylvania to Wismar, spreading the Black Plague across the land. Only a woman pure of heart can bring an end to his reign of horror.
Werner Herzog makes a vampire film and it is nothing like any other vampire film. Dracula brings the plague to Western Europe. Slow but very engaging.
45. Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)
G | 120 min | Drama, Family
A skilled flyer but very rebellious young seagull is kicked out of his clan. However, instead of being sad or lonely, he decides to enjoy and explore his newfound freedom.
Votes: 1,693 | Gross: $1.60M
A lot of people found this pretentious but I was moved. Be forewarned that the film's main character is a seagull. If that doesn't bother you, the story will interest you greatly. Cinematography is spectacular.
46. Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979)
PG | 92 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
Charles is a Salt Lake City civil servant who loves (*LOVES*) Laura, a lovely housewife with a lovely step-daughter and an A-frame-selling, ex-quarterback husband named Ox. His roommate is ... See full summary »
Sad, nuanced film on unrequited love and obsession. The original release had a tacked on happy ending(not present in the original novel) and the film bombed. That scene was cut and the film was re-released and did better. Mary Beth Hurt is amazing in this as is Peter Reigert who is quite funny. John Heard is good as the lead and never veers into caricature. Although it is a sad film, it is never depressing.
47. Gimme Shelter (1970)
GP | 91 min | Documentary, Music, Thriller
A harrowing documentary of the Stones' 1969 tour, with much of the focus on the tragic concert at Altamont.
Votes: 9,765 | Gross: $0.25M
Absolutely stunning documentary that follows the Rolling Stones in concert in the USA including giving a free concert in San Francisco(Altamont raceway) where the Hell's Angels provided security! That concert takes up about half of the film's running time and it is incredible. You simply can't keep from watching even though it is a catastrophe of biblical proportions. People are beaten up by the bikers (including one of the members of Jefferson Airplane), countless people jump onstage and, tragically, a man is stabbed to death. The looks on the members of the Rolling Stones as things deteriorate is one of genuine concern. Still, it makes for great drama(you will be riveted to your seat throughout). A masterpiece of documentary cinema with a great soundtrack to boot but it isn't for the faint of heart.