Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Best Movies of the 1970s

The 1970s is generally acknowledged as the greatest decade for cinema, especially for Hollywood, as the shackles of the old censorship were thrown off and a brilliant new generation of filmmakers arrived, steeped in European filmmaking and committed to showing the seamier side of American life in its unvarnished glory. It was also the decade that essentially invented the industrial model for blockbuster production.

So many great ones: Jaws. Star Wars. The Conversation. The Godfathers. McCabe and Mrs. Miller. The Sting. Carrie. Nashville. Scenes from a Marriage. Apocalypse Now. The Exorcist. Badlands. Days of Heaven. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Spy Who Loved Me. Shaft. Deep Throat. A Clockwork Orange. Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Annie Hall. Manhattan. Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein. Animal House. Chinatown. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Alien. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Barry Lyndon. The Exorcist. Rocky. Etc.

Precisely because this new generation had such an unprecedented commitment to confronting the more louche and sordid aspects of American life (one reason why Steven Spielberg, though of that generation by age, has never really fit in with it), the movies of that era are also an incredible window into the social anxieties of the era, or at any rate the social anxieties of the white men who were making these movies. In no particular order, here are the dozen+ indispensable movies for capturing this "structure of feeling" of the 1970s.

For the feeling of postindustrial social ruin:

  • Dirty Harry
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Death Wish
  • Serpico
  • Taxi Driver
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • The Warriors
  • Mad Max

For the sense of lost innocence:

  • American Graffiti
  • The French Connection
  • Network 
  • Deliverance
  • Kramer v Kramer
  • The Last Picture Show
  • Three Days of the Condor