Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Favorite Movies of the 1970s

"You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance."
-Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls)

Yes it's been a long time since I wrote anything here. I've got tons of other personal writing stuff going on too. Mostly, my writing partner Roger and I have been charging ahead full force with our screenplay (the first draft is finally done = fuck yeah!). We've also started seriously outlining and developing characters for the first season of the TV show I thunk up a few years back but left dormant. I like to keep many things going at the same time. Unfortunately, this usually means that some other things will suffer as a result. I say this not as an excuse, but just to let you know why I've neglected this blog for a while.

I'll try not to go so long again without a new post but I can't promise anything. Since it's been quite some time, I thought I'd reward you guys with a really fucking long-ass post (because I can't think of any better gift to get from me than to have to read tons of my shit). And so, to continue my favorite movies of the decades lists, here are my favorite movies of the seventies.

Those who have read this blog on any kind of regular basis (or friends who have heard me drunkenly rant) know by now that the seventies is my favorite movie decade. The first half of this decade, in particular, has provided the highest quantity of my favorite movies of all time. As long as this list is (and it is by far the longest list I've made), you should see how much I had to take out.


Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
dir. Russ Meyer

Russ Meyer's first collaboration with Roger Ebert (yes, that Roger Ebert) is one of his funnest pictures.

Gimme Shelter (1970)
dir. Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin

The best rock doc ever made.

M*A*S*H (1970)
dir. Robert Altman

Although ostensibly a Korean War picture, it was readily apparent to anyone with half a brain when M*A*S*H was released that this was clearly a movie about the conflict in Vietnam. More than anything, of course, this was a Robert Altman picture. Although Altman had directed a few pictures (and tons of TV before this) it was this movie, like an atomic bomb that announced his artistic presence. So many facets of Altman's distinct style were announced with this anti-war picture—pitch black humor, offbeat characters, anti-establishment attitude, and the kind of naturalistic over-lapping dialogue that would make Howard Hawks and Orson Welles cum. Releasing movies throughout the seventies at a nearly unrivaled (Hal Ashby and Woody Allen would come close), breakneck studio era pace, Altman would also have the best hit to miss ratio of any of the seventies auteurs. Get ready because there's gonna be a lot more Altman to come.


Bananas (1971)
dir. Woody Allen

By far, Woody's funniest movie. This smart comedy unleashes jokes at a mile a minute. Although this certainly wasn't Allen's last comedy, it had the biggest laugh per minute ratio.

The Beguiled (1971)
dir. Don Siegel

If ever there was a movie in desperate need of rediscovery it is this weird gem from action director Don Siegel. Eastwood stars as a wounded Union soldier who finds refuge at a Confederate all-girl school. Knowing of their plans to turn him in after he is recovered, Eastwood emotionally manipulates/bangs all of the women here. And after an unfortunate "accident" befalls Eastwood, this charming man lets loose his psychopathic ways. A movie that begins as an off-kilter, sometimes humorous sexual drama, quickly turns into a tense horror film.

Dirty Harry (1971)
dir. Don Siegel

Two psychopaths battle each other.

Duel (1971)
dir. Steven Spielberg

Two vehicles battle each other.

The French Connection (1971)
dir. William Friedkin

William Friedkin's unobtrusive documentary style found its best match with this police picture.

Harold and Maude (1971)
dir. Hal Ashby

Although countless modern quirky indie imitations have slightly robbed Ashby's breakthrough film of its charm, Harold and Maude is still a funny movie with plenty of heart.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
dir. Robert Altman

I recently spoke with a friend who bemoaned the fact that Altman didn't make many genre films, and specifically never made a Western. I then reminded him about McCabe & Mrs. Miller and he said, "Oh yeah, I forgot. I always thought of that more as an Altman movie than a Western." "Exactly." "Damn, he was good."

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
dir. Monte Hellman

Yes, James Taylor and Dennis Wilson can't act. Still, Monte Hellman's minimalistic, downer road picture has a hypnotic effect. Although I couldn't explain why, I can pop this movie in any time (and jump to any point in the movie) and always be entranced. Plus, Harry Dean Stanton plays a gay hitchhiker.

Vanishing Point (1971)
dir. Richard C. Sarafian

Leave it to early seventies film-making to take an ostensible genre exercise about a man racing across the country to win a bet, and turn it into the story of a disillusioned loner type extricating himself from a system that's just as eager to free itself of him. Plus, a naked chick rides a motorcycle.


The Getaway (1972)
dir. Sam Peckinpah

What Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway lacks in Alec Baldwin sexing Kim Basinger, it more than makes up for in being a good movie.

The Godfather (1972)
dir. Francis Ford Coppola

Look at me bein' all Captain Obvious.

Junior Bonner (1972)
dir. Sam Peckinpah

Although few people may realize it, ol' Sam "I like's to film women getting beat" Peckinpah was perfectly capable of making a gentle movie. In Junior Bonner, Steve McQueen stars as an aging rodeo cowboy coming to grips with a quickly changing world and reconnecting with his family. Whereas many Westerns (such as John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Peckinpah's own The Wild Bunch) have depicted the death of the Old West, Junior Bonner details what happens after. The West that Peckinpah examined fully in other films has here become a sideshow. Junior Bonner is the kind of well drawn character piece that makes me long for seventies films.


Badlands (1973)
dir. Terrence Malick

With this debut film (and his three subsequent movies) Terrence Malick more than earned his title as the poet of the New Hollywood.

Coffy (1973)
dir. Jack Hill

Beautiful trash poetry.

Electra Glide in Blue

dir. James William Guercio

Read my review here.

Emperor of the North (1973)
dir. Robert Aldrich

Read my review here.

The Exorcist (1973)
dir. William Friedkin

Another obvious, but good'un.

High Plains Drifter (1973)
dir. Clint Eastwood

Coming on the heels of the deliciously trashy Play Misty for Me, High Plains Drifter was Eastwood's second time in the director's seat. Not that you would know it. After collaborations with such pros as Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, the veteran actor Eastwood found a smooth transition to film-making (he started directing in his early forties! I find this inspiring as hell.) Although many have tried to wear both acting and directing hats, few have pulled them off as well as "The Man With No Name."

The Long Goodbye (1973)
dir. Robert Altman

Another winning genre exercise from one of the most artistically successful directors of the seventies.

Mean Streets (1973)
dir. Martin Scorsese

Scorsese's first great film is also one of his most personal.

Sisters (1973)
dir. Brian De Palma

With Sisters, De Palma began a strong succession of wonderfully entertaining Hitchcock knock-offs (I mean "Hitchcock knock-offs" in the most complimentary way possible).

Sleeper (1973)
dir. Woody Allen

Allen's winning streak of brainy comedies continued with this retro future movie.


Black Christmas (1974)
dir. Bob Clark

Although his career later dragged a toaster into a bathtub with itself, Bob Clark began with about as much promise as any young director could hope to have. Immediately after his unead-soldier-returning-home-from-'Nam flick Deathdream, Clark made Black Christmas, an early masterful slasher film. Although many would imitate some of Black Christmas' stylistic touches (killer POV shots for one), few would match Black Christmas' creepy as fuck vibe.

Blazing Saddles (1974)
dir. Mel Brooks

Funniest Mel Brooks movie.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
dir. Sam Peckinpah

Peckinpah's last great movie.

Cockfighter (1974)
dir. Monte Hellman

In addition to being a great movie, Cockfighter has the best movie poster ever.

The Conversation (1974)
dir. Francis Ford Coppola

Coppola immediately followed the success of The Godfather with this small film. Basically an update of Antonioni's Blow-Up, The Conversation is perhaps Coppola's most personal film.

Deathdream (1974)
dir. Bob Clark

Read my review here.

Female Trouble (1974)
dir. John Waters

Although he is know today mostly for cannibalizing his later mainstream fare for use in family friendly Broadway Musicals, some people may remember that John Waters began his career making cinematic, fuck the system, pipe-bombs. The only early Waters movie that most folks will remember is the experiment in bad taste Pink Flamingos. Where that movie was purposefully off-putting (I've never been able to it through it more than once), Waters' next film, Female Trouble, in addition to espousing the same anarchic spirit, is a legitimately entertaining, funny movie. Female Trouble will always appeal to my inner punk.

The Godfather: Part II (1974)
dir. Francis Ford Coppola

Captain Obvious again.

Lenny (1974)
dir. Bob Fosse

It's no secret to friends of mine how much I hate bio-pics. One of these films has to be really unique for me to sit through it. Bob Fosse succeeds wonderfully with his take on Lenny Bruce. Of course, it also helps that Bruce is played here by Dustin Hoffman, who, after Robert De Niro, was the best actor of the seventies.

Macon County Line (1974)
dir. Richard Compton

Read my review here.

The Phantom of Liberty (1974)
dir. Luis Bunuel

Bunuel has long been one of my favorite directors because, like Clint Eastwood, not only did he continue to make quality movies into his old age, but he also made some of his best work in these advanced years. With The Phantom of Liberty, the aged Bunuel showed that he lost none of his youthful anarchic spirit.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
dir. Brian De Palma

Read my review here.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
dir. Tobe Hooper

It is mind-boggling how fucking good this movie is. Tobe Hooper never made another movie that even approached it.

Thieves Like Us (1974)
dir. Robert Altman

This adaptation of Edward Anderson's novel (previously made by Nicholas Ray as They Live by Night) is one of Altman's smaller, sweeter films.


Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
dir. Sidney Lumet

Modern movie-goers unaware that Al "screamin'" Pacino was once able to act, would do best to watch this film.

Hustle (1975)
dir. Robert Aldrich

Robert Aldrich's low-key crime picture Hustle boasts a subtle performance by Burt Reynolds (a greatly underrated actor as far as I'm concerned). It is amazing to me that Aldrich isn't more well-known.

Jaws (1975)
dir. Steven Spielberg

For as much as I like to shit on Spielberg, I certainly do like a lot of his movies.

The Mirror (1975)
dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

A personal, beautifully shot, cryptic picture from Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
dir. Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam

Although I haven't seen this movie in years (after so many viewings, I probably have the whole fucking thing committed to memory), Holy Grail is the comedy that annihilated me most after watching it for the first time. If ever there was a movie I wish I could see again for the first time it is this one.

Nashville (1975)
dir. Robert Altman

Although not necessarily my favorite Altman movie, Nashville is undoubtedly his masterpiece.

Night Moves (1975)
dir. Arthur Penn

I love Gene Hackman. [Side note: I hope he makes another movie so that Welcome to Mooseport doesn't end up being his final film.]

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
dir. Milos Forman

I've got nothing more to say that hasn't already been said better by other people about this film.

Switchblade Sisters (1975)
dir. Jack Hill

Chicks with guns = awesomeness


Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
dir. John Carpenter

Although John Carpenter has become known as one of the most influential horror directors of the seventies and eighties, his tastes and influences are far more traditional. Take Assault on Precinct 13, a wonderfully effective, tense, gritty action picture, which is basically a reworking of Howard Hawks' great Western Rio Bravo.

Carrie (1976)
dir. Brian De Palma

Brian De Palma has certainly gotten a lot of shit for unashamedly ripping off his heroes (most notably Hitchcock) in films that are all style and no substance. While I don't necessarily disagree with this critique, I also don't care about his supposed short-comings. De Palma's pictures are so full of clever, beautiful style that I really don't care that I don't get as emotionally involved in his pictures as I would the work of a more heart-felt director. I'm too busy being awed by his mastery of the film form.

Rocky (1976)
dir. John G. Avildsen

Ain't a goddamned thing wrong with this movie.

Taxi Driver (1976)
dir. Martin Scorsese

My favorite movie of the decade.


Annie Hall (1977)
dir. Woody Allen

This is the first Woody Allen movie I ever saw. It has also remained my favorite.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
dir. Wes Craven

Although Wes Craven earlier made a name for himself with The Last House on the Left (a re-working of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, which itself was based on an old Swedish ballad), it wasn't until The Hill's Have Eyes that he truly developed as a talent. Although I appreciate The Last House on the Left for its influence on the genre, I am not much of a fan. It is far too amateurish a film, and its poor attempts at humor leave an unintended sour taste. With The Hills Have Eyes, however, Craven learned from all of his mistakes. This is one of the tensest, grittiest horror/revenge pictures that the seventies gave birth to.

Martin (1977)
dir. George A. Romero

By far, the most accomplished picture Romero has made. I can not describe how blown away by this picture I was when I first saw it.

Rolling Thunder (1977)
dir. John Flynn

Paul Schrader was on fire in the seventies. Rolling Thunder is essentially the exploitation version of Taxi Driver. For the love of God, why has this movie not been released on DVD yet?

Saturday Night Fever (1977)
dir. John Badham

I avoided this movie for far too many years because I had always assumed it was just a mindless disco-craze cash-in picture (not that a movie of that sort isn't entertaining). Because all the John-Travolta-in-awesome-seventies-polyester-suit-disco-dancing had become so iconic, I had little idea just what a great character drama Saturday Night Fever is. Indeed, although few people mention it, Travolta's character is kind of a piece of shit. This movie is so much better than it has any right to be.

Sorcerer (1977)
dir. William Friedkin

One of the best remakes of all time (It is an adaptation of Henri-Georges Clouzot's The Wages of Fear). How this movie didn't set the box-office on fire is a complete fucking mystery to me.

Suspiria (1977)
dir. Dario Argento

As with many other people, my love of Dario Argento began with this film.

3 Women (1977)
dir. Robert Altman

My favorite Altman movie.


Blue Collar (1978)
dir. Paul Schrader

Richard Pryor's best work.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
dir. George A. Romero

I likes me some Romero zombies.

Days of Heaven (1978)
dir. Terrence Malick

Whatever happened to Linda Manz?

The Driver (1978)
dir. Walter Hill

I love Walter Hill.

Halloween (1978)
dir. John Carpenter

The one and only. (If you can't tell by now, I'm working under a time limit, hence these increasingly short/lazily written movie descriptions. [Side note: why did I give myself a time limit to finish this?])

Long Weekend (1978)
dir. Colin Eggleston

This was one of Australia's best exploitation pictures. Two vile, destructive, petty main characters get attacked by nature. Rarely is it so fun to watch a film's protagonists get fucked with.

Straight Time (1978)
dir. Ulu Grosbard

Dustin Hoffman stars in this adaptation of Eddie Bunker's criminal-trying-to-go-straight novel. This was one of the last really great seventies character dramas.

Superman (1978)
dir. Richard Donner

A cherished child-hood movie that I still really fucking love.


Alien (1979)
dir. Ridley Scott

An Alien runs amok and Sigourney Weaver cavorts in her panties. Double winner!

Being There (1979)
dir. Hal Ashby

If only this had been Ashby's last picture.

The Brood (1979)
dir. David Cronenberg

Killer, hate-bred dwarves? Sign me up.

The Kids Are Alright (1979)
dir. Jeff Stein

I really fucking love the Who. Nothing more needs to be said.

Mad Max (1979)
dir. George Miller

Bottom-bill, exploitation, revenge, car-chase, trash with A-movie aspirations.

Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
dir. Terry Jones

Sweet, sweet sacrilege.