’70s Films That Changed Movie History

‘70s Films That Changed Movie History
‘70s Films That Changed Movie History

While it’s the decade that gets the most flak, mainly because of a few ridiculous fashion trends and a particular genre of music, the 1970s had an enormous impact on cinema. Try to imagine a world without The Godfather—we may never have gotten Goodfellas, or The Sopranos, or a hundred other mafia stories. If we hadn’t had that first big Superman movie, would we care enough to spend billions of dollars to watch comic book superheroes on the big screen?

Some films of the ‘70s came to define their genres, while others paved the way for bigger and better ideas, but the decade deserves our admiration, bellbottoms be damned. Here are some of the films from the 1970s that made an impact on cinema for decades to come:

The Godfather

Citizen Kane is great and all, but let’s be honest, The Godfather is the best movie of all time. It’s at once a character study, an intimate family portrait, a suspenseful crime drama, and a morality play. It allowed us to see that sometimes the guys in the black hats are family men just trying to get by the only way they know how.

Superman

Once upon a time, comic book movies were just for kids—cheesy, campy, over-the-top, and certainly not deserving of any serious person’s attention. That first big Superman movie showed that superheroes could be taken seriously, too, that their stories could be deep and their characters relatable.

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee’s final film was also the first martial arts movie to have the backing of a Hollywood studio. If Enter the Dragon hadn’t brought martial arts into mainstream North American cinema, we likely wouldn’t know who Jean-Claude Van Damme is, UFC wouldn’t rake in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and Wu-Tang Clan would have a lot less to rap about.

Animal House

Stupid fun in movies wasn’t quite as stupid or as fun before Animal House hit the big screen. We all knew it was funny to watch people act ridiculously, but this is the film that paved the way for sophomoric, gross-out bro-entertainment from Revenge of the Nerds to American Pie to The Hangover.

Dirty Harry

Where The Godfather tried to humanize gansters, Dirty Harry further blurred the line between criminals and the cops who pursue them. We’d seen corrupt cops in movies before, but they were usually motivated by greed and self-interest—Harry Callahan broke the rules, but he did it to catch the bad guys.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Like many of the cult classic comedies it inspired, Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s popularity and influence has grown steadily since its release. Americans thought they had the comedy market cornered—the Monty Python blokes showed those Yanks they could still learn a thing or two.

Star Wars

Some say Star Wars was the first big summer blockbuster: a simple story that anyone could follow, overlaid with eye-popping special effects, built into an elaborate and ever-expanding mythology. But more importantly, it convinced sci-fi moviemakers to stop trying to out-science each other and start speaking to the average movie audience.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Kids deserve good movies too, right? Sure, there are plenty of films directed at young folks that parents don’t hate, but there was something a little… off… about Mr. Wonka, something that made you wonder if his story really was for kids. Even now that we’ve seen all the Toy Stories and Kung Fu Pandas, Gene Wilder’s manic performance remains seared in our collective memories.

Apocalypse Now

After the Vietnam War started going sideways, North American movie watchers were tired of the flag waving, guts ‘n’ glory, popcorn propaganda films. Apocalypse Now was the perfect antidote, demonstrating the effects of war on the psyche and showing just how vast the moral grey area of armed conflict can be.

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Drew Berner

Drew Berner is a freelance writer born and raised in Toronto and specializing in entertainment, sports and politics. He occasionally collects vinyl records, enjoys hate-watching the Blue Jays, appreciates good beer and great scotch, and goes to sleep each night with 120 lbs. of Great Dane draped over him (it’s a lot more comfortable than it sounds). Follow him on Twitter @DrewBerner for photos of huge dogs, observational humour and assorted sports rage.

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