Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The 100 Project: The Top 50 Movies of the 1970s, Vol. 2


With my last entry in this series I gave you the bottom half of my top 50 movies of the 1970s. Click here to check that out. Now, it's time to reveal my top 25. And piss some of you off, or at least make you question my sanity. That's okay. I like what I like and that's all I like. And away we go.

My Top 50 Movies of the 1970s
Vol. 2


  • Movie buffdom and childhood memories clash once more. 11 of these are movies I watched for the first time within the last ten years. The others are movies I grew up with.
  • I saw 8 of these 25 movies in theaters.
  • Two foreign language movies make this half of the list. Both are Chinese, but I've only seen the English dubbed version of each.
  • Five of the decades Best Picture Winners make this half of the list. 


25. Let's Do It Again
(1975)
Yes, every piece of art associated with the name Bill Cosby has been tainted by the things we've found out over the last handful of years. However, this is a movie I've seen more times than I care to count and it's the class of the films he did with Sidney Poitier. It's also heavily influential in hip hop culture. I can still put it on and pretend I live in more innocent times.


24. Blazing Saddles
(1974)
Ah, another spoof makes the cut. It's clearly the best parody of westerns ever filmed. More than that, thanks to a heavy helping hand from the legendary Richard Pryor in the writing department, it also deals with race in a way atypical of the genre it's poking fun of. And of course, there's that final scene.


23. The Wiz
(1978)
I grew up at a time when the airing of The Wizard of Oz was a huge annual event on CBS. I love that movie. When this movie came out, I immediately fell in love. It was The Wizard of Oz FOR US. I've had a blast with both movies. I've shown both to my kids, but this is the one we've watched over and over again.

22. The Godfather
(1972)
I feel weird having this movie this low. I feel I have to explain myself. Don't get me wrong, it's a great film. Before now, I put it very near the top of any such lists I made. In the spirit of the honesty I'm trying to maintain for this project, I have to admit that I did that out of misplaced obligation. It's a bit too slow and convoluted in some spots and really feels it's runtime. I do love it, though, just not as much as I let on before.

21. The Five Deadly Venom
(1978)
Like most New York kids in the 70s and 80s, Saturdays from 3 to 5 PM was reserved for the martial arts films that aired on Channel 5. This film was in heavy rotation, and accordingly, one of the most popular. However, seeing it wasn't enough. Simply put, you could not be considered cool in my neighborhood if you haven't tried to master one of the five styles showcased in the movie. I usually tried my hand at snake style. Ssss-sssss-ssst!


20. Rocky
(1976)
It's the ultimate underdog story. I've watched so many clones, including all of its sequels, but none of them quite reach the heights of Sylvester Stallone's magnum opus. The characters and their relationships are so rich we can't help but root for them.


19. Superman: The Movie
(1978)
By the time this movie was released, I had already seen 1966's Batman: The Movie multiple times on TV. However, Watching Christopher Reeve embody Clark Kent as he leaves Smallville for Metropolis, meets-cute with Lois Lane, and saves the world from Lex Luthor was the first time I got to see a superhero flick unfold on the big screen. And it was magical. Still is. (My full review)

18. The Deer Hunter
(1978)
I'd seen bits and pieces over the years, but didn't really know what was going on. When I finally sat down and watched it a few years back, I was blown away. The performances are uniformly magnificent and the story-telling sizzles...even the extended wedding scene at the beginning that many people hate. And Christopher Walken...wow.


17. All the President's Men
(1976)
The plot of the film is about reporters breaking the biggest story of the decade - Watergate. Not surprisingly, this film talks about the possible ramifications of this event. In real life, we're still living in its aftermath even though we're over 40 years beyond its occurrence. Just this makes this a compelling watch. What elevates it true greatness is the fact that it's conveyed through the simplest of methods - Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman maximizing the strengths of their personas until the script very purposely and effectively undermines them. (My full review)


16. Apocalypse Now
(1979)
Within a sizable number of reviews written on this site you can find me deriding a film for telling instead of showing and extolling the virtues of doing the opposite. This is a film that bears out my philosophy to tremendous results. It's an anti-war film that doesn't spend its time bludgeoning you over the head with 'war is bad' dialogue. Instead, it shows us why it feels this way in ways that are impossible to forget. 


15. Dog Day Afternoon
(1975)
I have no qualms with saying director Sidney Lumet and actor Al Pacino are masters of their respective crafts. Therefore, it stands to reason that having them together was going to create a masterpiece. And it does. (My Top 22 LGBT Movies)


14. The French Connection
(1971)
When it comes to gritty crime dramas, this one sets the gold standard. It could also be considered a buddy-cop flick, where it would also lap the field. Everything about it works, and it's arguably Gene Hackman's greatest performance. Then there's that car chase - possibly the best one ever committed to film. (My full review)


13. The Mack
(1973)
Remember my whole spiel about subjectivity vs. objectivity? Is this a "better" movie than any movie on this half of the list? Probably not. However, it's highly rewatchable, quotable, and within the circles I grew up in, contains as many iconic moments as any other movie here. If you disagree, "we can handle this like gentlemen or we can get into some gangsta shit."

12. Jaws
(1975)
Believe it or not, I saw this in theaters when I was five or six years old. I watched it a few more times, but not since I was a teenager, until I just recently. It still stands up. The tension, the performances, the dialogue, and THAT SCORE. No wonder we were all afraid to go in the ocean.


11. Grease
(1978)
When Mama Dell wasn't terrorizing me by taking me to see Jaws, she took me to see more family friendly stuff. One of those was Grease. And I've been hooked on it ever since. This is despite the fact that on the surface there's absolutely zero about this film that I should like. Let me put it this way - you know that song on the radio that goes against all your musical tastes yet you secretly love it and can't stop singing along to it because it's so damn catchy? Grease, for me, is the movie version of that.


10. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(1974)
As a kid, I was actually afraid to watch this, so I didn't. When I finally saw it as an adult, I fell in love. The reason I was scared to watch it when I was younger was because of the film's reputation. I was led to believe it was an unrelenting gore-fest that would somehow destroy my soul. While there are some uncomfortable visuals and really tense moments, most of the horror actually comes from what we don't see. And that's what makes it brilliant. (My Full Review)


9. Carrie
(1976)
Even if you haven't seen it, you know the prom scene. It's a remarkable and iconic piece of film-making. What gets it here, though, is that it's so much more than that. It's social satire and commentary on the radically puritannical segment of society, wrapped in an obvious metaphor for puberty, wrapped again in the darkest of comedy. (My Full Review)


8. Taxi Driver
(1976)
The anti-hero was not a 70s invention. However, it could be argued that the 70s is the decade in which the anti-hero was perfected. It might also be argued that this is the specific movie where the trope was perfected. What director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro accomplish here is disquieting perfection.


7. The 36th Chamber of Shaolin
AKA Master Killer
(1978)
After seeing his parents murdered, a young man goes on a journey that finds him in a secluded location desperately trying to learn the skills that will allow him to exact his revenge. Along the way, does he acquire the tools he needed, but he also picks up a moral code along the way. Sound familiar? Yes, this is Batman Begins as a kung-fu flick. And it has some of the best training sequences of all-time.


6. Young Frankenstein
(1974)
The first time I saw this many years ago, on the big screen no less (but probably in '79 or '80, not '74), I had no idea what a spoof was. Still, I laughed at every joke that didn't fly completely over my head. I watched a few times later in my teens and got a few more of the jokes, so I laughed even more. When I saw it again as an adult I got all the jokes, I think. And the laughter multiplied once more. (My Full Review)


5. Cooley High
(1975)
When it comes to coming of age tales, this one speaks to me as much as any other. The main character is not terribly unlike my teenage self and has to navigate similar, if heightened, pitfalls in a familiar environment. That alone wouldn't be enough to get it this high. It's also a funny and poignant tale that I just can't shake.


4. The Godfather Part II
(1974)
For over three hours I can sit entranced by this film detailing the rise of two separate gangsters. Each works on its own, and yet, each informs the other. And it all culminates in the last few seconds of the movie which purposely and very forcefully goes against everything we've come to know of these two men, especially the younger one. This is the movie that gets here because it haunts me. Ever since seeing this movie, I can hear what happens in its last second.


3. The Warriors
(1979)
I saw this on TV within a year or two of its release back when ABC ran "The Late Movie." It instantly became a fave of mine. I can promise you I've seen it at least once every year since, and most years twice. I simply adore this movie, flaws and all. CAN YOU DIIIIGGGG IIIIIIIIITTTTT????!!!!! (Movies I Grew Up With: The Warriors)


2. Star Wars
(1977)
Sure, I'd seen plenty of movies before this that depicted heroes performing amazing feats. This is the first one to open my eyes to the possibility of a galaxy far, far away. The reason is because it was the first one I saw that really felt like it took place on distant planets, yet somehow, as fantastic and breathtaking as the events on the screen were, it all felt very human.


1. Enter the Dragon
(1973)
Believe it or not, I've seen this movie more times than I have The Warriors. I first saw it in a theater when I was young enough for that to be pretty much my only memory from that time-frame. This was probably in '74 or '75. And yes, I'm pretty certain I've seen it every year since. Two or three times in some years. It's the iconic Bruce Lee in his most famous role and owning every bit of it. When you add in a cool villain and none other than Jim Kelly and make it a Bond flick, more or less, there's no describing the amount of joy I get from this film. (Movies I Grew Up With: Enter the Dragon)



Honorable Mentions: Serpico (1973), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Ganja & Hess (1973), Foxy Brown (1974), The Bad News Bears (1976), Annie Hall (1977), Car Wash (1976), Dillinger (1973), The Longest Yard (1974), Animal House (1978), The Jerk (1979), The Sting (1973), M*A*S*H (1970)


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19 comments:

  1. okay, I said on the previous list that you'd better have some amazing stuff on the top-25 to justify movies like Network being in the lower reaches.

    You've got Five Deadly Venoms in your top-25, and that, sir, forgives a lot of sins. It even partially forgives The French Connection being that high. I've never understood the love for that movie.

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    1. Yay, a fan of Five Deadly Venoms!!! I knew there was something about you I liked.

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  2. BRAVO on completing this list! I don't think I could do it - outside of Star Wars in the top spot, I have no idea how to rank the rest of the films of this decade. There's so much that I love here, so I'll just say this: I LOVE that you have Young Frankenstein so high. I love Blazing Saddles, too, but I don't understand people who rank it higher than Young Frankenstein in Brooks's filmography.

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    1. Thanks. It was tough. And it's only going to get tougher because I'm heading into the 80s next. And I'm with you, obviously, on Young Frankenstein vs. Blazing Saddles.

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  3. Great lists Dell! If a bit blood soaked for me. While I think Enter the Dragon is probably the best film of its type it wouldn't place for me but then it's not really my kettle of fish.

    For me All the President's Men would be number one but glad to see it placed in your top 25.

    I agree totally about Dog Day Afternoon. Magnificent film.

    I admired the filmmaking of The Deer Hunter without being able to like the film.

    I never got what everyone else seemed to love about Blazing Saddles though Madeline Kahn is brilliant.

    Sorry I hate Taxi Driver.

    I've never been able to bring myself to see Apocalypse Now after my sister told me she had to walk out of it because it was just too intense for her.

    LOVE your description of Grease! It's more up my alley I think but with its silly story line and cast of 30 year old high school students it shouldn't work but does so well. Especially in Stockard Channing's case.

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    1. Fair enough.

      I wouldn't argue with anyone's placement of All the President's Men or Dog Day Afternoon.

      I can understand that viewpoint on The Deer Hunter

      Kahn is brilliant, but the whole of Blazing Saddles made me laugh quite a bit.

      I do hope you get to see Apocalypse Now at some point.

      Thanks! Grease always manages to worm its way into the spots that make me feel warm and fuzzy.

      "Sorry I hate Taxi Driver." You cut me, Joel. You cut me deep.

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  4. I still want to see the films with Poitier, one of my favourite actors, with Cosby before Cosby went all holier than though with his TV show never mind what is going on now (I am not surprised at all). Oh I want to see The Warriors and The Mack sounds good. I was never much into The Godfather series even though it has such high accolades. I love Blazing Saddles and I think Harvey Korman was brilliant especially in that one speech where he must rhyme off all the bad people..hilarious! I love Young Frankenstein which is a perfect homage to the 1931 Frankenstein and the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein. Grease is ok but I saw it too many times when i was young because my friends kept wanting to see it and didn't want to go alone. I just never liked that she decides to give up who she is to become a slut for the sake of john Travolta. Apocalypse Now is brilliant and Jaws still freaks me out. Dog Day Afternoon is brilliant and I must see it again. I love Stir Crazy, Mother, Jugs and Speed and Fuzz.

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    1. The Cosby/Poitier films are a fun time. Let's Do It Again is my fave of the lot. Great point about Grease. That's the one part that always gives me pause, has for years. Sadly, I always succumb to the power of the rest of the movie. Mother, Jugs, and Speed is good stuff. So is Stir Crazy, but that's one missed this decade, released in 1980. Not familiar with Fuzz.

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  5. This is a fucking great list. I've seen most of these films on that list. I went YES! over Superman as I fucking love that film. I mark out over the theme music. Christopher Reeve is and always will be Superman though I would've love to see what Nic Cage would've done with the character.

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    1. The theme music for Superman is goose-bump inspiring. Such magnificent music. And yes, Reeve will always be Superman in my eyes. To be honest, I'm very relieved Cage didn't actually get to play the role. That just sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

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  6. Finally! Someone else who appreciates the brilliance of The Warriors, one of my all-time favourites! I really enjoyed your list, thanks.

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    1. Calling it brilliant is an understatement. It's something beyond that. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. What a great decade for film! I haven’t done a 1970s top 50 of my own, many of these films would be in the running. I couldn’t get into Cooley High, maybe it just wasn’t for me, but we all have our personal favorites from way back. Pleased to see The Mack in the top 15, agree it’s arguably the best blaxploitation and very quotable.
    I’m really behind on martial arts classics though I did enjoy Enter the Dragon(your #1) and The Way of the Dragon (your #28) . Added Five Deadly Venoms and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin to my list which both you and SJHoneywell sing the praises of! Can’t believe I still haven’t watched Smokey and the Bandit. Those three are now on my list:
    https://letterboxd.com/mas365/list/films-recommended-to-me-by-bloggers-or-letterboxd/

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    1. Obviously, I highly recommend both of those martial arts classics and Smokey & the Bandit is great fun, as well. Too bad Cooley High didn't work for you, but to each his own. And yes to The Mack.

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  8. Not reading the other comments right now so I don't know if I'm repeating anyone else, but I love both the list and the personal remembrances you've added here. Movies should be personal, and these clearly are for you. Now I want to do my own 70s list.

    Oh, and I agree that I think The Godfather is a bit overrated. I need to see The Godfather II again, as the only time I saw it, I saw it out of sequence. That's right, it was on two discs and my wife and I accidentally put the second disc in first on our mutual first viewing. How we could have watched it from there, without realizing, now seems like a total mystery, but I can assure you, we were of sound mind and body at the time.

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    1. Thanks! It means a lot to me that you appreciate how personal some of these films are for me. I'd love to see a 70s list from you.

      Great and funny story about The Godfather II. That two disc thing is a pain. Better picture aside, that's the main reason I'll soon be upgrading from the DVD set I have to a BluRay one. I haven't had the same mixup, but it is an unnecessary pain to have to stop in the middle of the movie to change discs.

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  9. More great work! It's incredible how many of my favorite films of all time are on this list. The '70s, gotta love 'em. Also, huge props for including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre so high. I love that damn movie.

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    1. Thanks! And TCM is a masterpiece of horror.

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