History of Film: 1970s Results


Over the past two weeks hardworking Movie Mezzanine authors have penned impassioned and thoughtful examinations of the ten best movies of the 1970s (as voted here). Now that the ten movies you folks chose to define a decade in cinema have been revealed, it’s time to unleash the order in which the aforementioned movies were ranked. We hope you enjoyed and continue to enjoy the pieces that accompany the ten movies below.

10.) Alien (Ridley Scott)

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 “Alien brought with it a style of lighting and production design that gave walls, ceilings and floors the tactile quality of flesh. Director Ridley Scott and cinematographer Derek Vanlint achieved this look by pointing their cameras in the direction of hard light sources rather than keeping them hidden or tamped down.” – Steven Boone

9.) Network (Sidney Lumet)

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“It’s easy to take for granted how prescient Sidney Lumet’s Network actually was for its 1976 release: the onslaught of vapid reality shows was still a few decades away, evangelical television and Fox News had yet to surface, and though the country was shaken up by corrupt politics, at least people still recognized the important of the fifth estate due to events like Watergate.” – Tina Hassannia

8.) Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick)

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Barry Lyndon is a downbeat picture, but it was dreaming for a future of American cinema: one that crossed the world instead of the country, called to the great art of centuries past instead of to the great crowd-pleasers of decades past, and expanded the form instead of corrupting it for commercial ends.” – Jake Mulligan

7.) Jaws (Steven Spielberg)

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“Steven Spielberg’s Jaws – like many seminal films – is remembered in moments and legacies. We remember moments that range from the horrifying sound of a woman’s gurgled scream as she disappears into an ocean, to the poignancy of a son making faces with his father. We remember legacies like Jaws scaring people out of the water, the filmmakers it inspired, the decades worth of “scariest movies of all time” placements, and (for better or worse) the movie’s responsibility for birthing the modern blockbuster.” – Alexander Huls

6.) Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick)

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“Since the 1970s, filmmakers have been looking for more ways to redefine the romanticized worldview that cinema dreamed up during ‘30s and ‘40s. How can we capture an idealized love while still remaining true to human experience? In Days of Heaven, Malick walks the line between the romantic and the realistic, showing us that it’s possible to have the best of both worlds.” – Andrew Robinson

5.) Annie Hall (Woody Allen)

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“It’s a testament to the timelessness of Annie Hall that most of its references to pop culture or current events are unsuccessful in dating the film. Almost 40 years later, it’s unlikely that today’s audiences would recognize famed media theorist Marshall McLuhan when Alvy pulls him out from behind a poster at a movie theatre to lambast a loudmouthed moviegoer for his misguided and pointless pontificating on Federico Fellini, Samuel Beckett and McLuhan, but the gag has never lost its punch. It’s still the most victorious, cheer-worthy scene in the entire film.” – Jesse Knight

4.) Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)

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“The word “apocalypse” derives from the Greek for “revelation,” so in effect the title of Coppola’s masterpiece is a call for us to wake up and stop lying to ourselves about who we are and what we did and what we still have the power to do. Kurtz’s epiphany leads him to embrace his capacity for evil by creating a world without morality.” – Andrew Johnson

3.) Chinatown (Roman Polanski)

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“Everyone remembers that “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown” is the last line of Chinatown. What most people don’t notice is Jake Gittes’ last line in the film, “as little as possible.” Nicholson says it in the calm manner of Noah Cross, and at that moment, Jake Gittes finally evolves into the hardened, emotionless, jaded shell of noir’s private detectives. Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe come pre-packaged this way; Jake Gittes’ tale is an origin story for their type.” – Odie Henderson

2.) The Godfather & The Godfather Part: II (Francis Ford Coppola) 

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“Coppola doesn’t waste a single frame of celluloid in telling the story of the Corleone family. Every scene illuminates the motivations behind each character and dilemma within the family and all the people that surround it. Audiences don’t identify with the Corleones because they are good people – they clearly aren’t.” – Colin Biggs

1.) Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese)

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Taxi Driver is a rare example of a perfect artistic specimen. It’s the product of cinema’s holiest (or un-holiest) trinity: Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader and Robert De Niro. This deliciously dark-minded American troika created a dense, hellish window into the mind of an everyday murderer, a character study laced with bitterness, paranoia and brutal black comedy. None of the three aforementioned artists would ever be part of a better film, even though they went on to helm Goodfellas, write Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters and star in Raging Bull, respectively.” – Brogan Morris

  • Bill Thompson

    Hmmm, all in all seems like too safe of a list, or at the very least far too North American. At the end of the day it’s just a list, and as such it’s no better or worse than any other list, but this list does feel like it’s suffering from ignoring foreign cinema. Of course, the argument could be made that all these films are better than any foreign releases in the 1970s, and I accept that argument. But, when my own top 10 would have at least 4 non-North American titles, with a bunch more just on the outside, I do think the Americanization of this list does deserve some questioning.

    • gubblerchechenova

      The problem is not ‘safe’. Better safe than stupid. I mean who wants to see Deep Throat on the list?
      But some of the choices are stupid. Everyone with any sense knows that Annie Hall has dated very badly. If you’re gonna go with an Allen movie from the 70s, how about Love and Death or Sleeper?

      Movie Mezzanine is connected with lots of critics with passion for film, but they are generally very young and lack depth of film history and knowledge.

      • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

        I’ll attempt to address both of your comments as concisely as possible.

        Bill: I appreciate your criticisms of the list, and your subsequent acknowledgement that it is indeed just a list. That said, I urge you to please submit your own ballot via the comment section when the 1960s roll around (something you failed to do for the 1970s). Calling it safe because there are no foreign films is not really a strong argument. This is what a majority of people voted for. I didn’t tamper the results.

        Gubbler: First off, by claiming “everyone with any sense knows that Annie Hall has dated very badly”, you’re positing that our staff and our readers exist without “any sense.” That’s a rather bold claim, not to mention offensive. People voted for what they believed was the best/their favorite.

        Secondly, your comment about “very young and lack depth of film history and knowledge” is not an awful comment — just a wildly inaccurate one. If you look at who submits lists (the critics who we personally ask to submit a ballot), you’ll see that 99% are established film writers who have a rich understanding of film history. If you analyze the numbers (like I have), you’d also see the list start to shift towards American films as we let readers submit their own ballot.

        At the end of the day — and this applies to everyone reading — a list is just a list. There are many more of them around the web. Ours is not definitive, nor does it pretend to be. These ten films merely provide a small snapshot of what our staff and readers believe to be the best movies of the 1970s.

        • Bill Thompson

          To be clear Sam, I’m not accusing you of tampering the results. I realize this list is a representation of what people voted for, so my safe comment was in regards to the votes cast, not the tabulation.

          I’ll try to keep an eye out for when the 60s article comes around, but with my work schedule I tend to miss a lot of posts these days.

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