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Hollywood’s second Golden Age of Film–the 1970s

Bell bottoms, disco, and President Gerry Ford. What else are the 1970s good for? Well, perhaps the darkest, meanest, and potentially best decade of films, ever!?

After the dissolution of the Haye’s code and its debilitating censorship, filmmakers were left free to tell any stories, any way they wanted. It wasn’t the lack of sex, violence and nasty language that censored cinema between 1936 and 1968, it was the obsolete morality–the idea that good always trumped evil, always. Well, not anymore, now the world would see truth through film, evil sometimes wins the day while good withers and dies. Film and the rest of pop-culture would never be the same again.

The revolution started in the late 60s, with films like ‘Once Upon the Time in the West’, ‘Midnite Cowboy’, and ‘the Wild Bunch’ paving the way. Nihilism had found it’s roots.

I’ve divided my list of 70s Film Legends into two groups: The Cast, a list of the most influential actors of the day; and The Crew, a list of the most influential film-makers.

Chad R Schulz, March 2014

Francis Ford Coppola


Hard to argue with the man who made ‘The Godfather’–Oscar win for Writing, ‘The Godfather: Part II’–Oscar wins for Writing, Directing and Picture, the wire-taping masterpiece ‘The Conversation’, and iconic Vietnam film ‘Apocalypse Now’. He also produced George Lucas’ ‘THX 1138′ and ‘American Graffiti’. Not to mention that he started the decade by writing the Oscar-winning screenplay for ‘Patton’. Pretty decent list of Oscar nominated flicks.

Sidney Lumet


The director of the powerful ’12 Angry Men’ continued his great work into the 70s. The Sean Connery fronted dramas ‘The Anderson Tapes’ and ‘The Offence’. The great cop thriller ‘Serpico’ and the extraordinary hostage drama ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ (Oscar nod for Best Director) both with Al Pacino. The ensemble mystery of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Murder on the Orient Express’. Another Oscar nod for the media satire ‘Network’. And ‘Equus’ with Richard Burton. Brilliant introspective and important films.

Woody Allen


Hit the ground running with ‘Bananas’ in 1971. Woody Allen’s dry sarcasm and neurosis would blend perfectly with the more cynical 70s cinema. ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex’, ‘Sleeper’, ‘Love and Death’, the brilliant rom-com ‘Annie Hall’–Oscar wins as Director and Writer!, and follow-up Oscar nominations for ‘Interiors’ and ‘Manhattan’. A perfect blend of styles and genres from a talented writer/director just getting his start.

Steven Spielberg


Started the decade directing a relentless made-for-TV film the predatory ‘Duel’. His dramatic first feature ‘The Sugarland Express’ is awesome. Then he took over the world with ‘Jaws‘ and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’–which got him his first Oscar nomination for Best Director. Even squeaked in the WWII comedy ‘1941’ before the 70s ended, which BTW is not that bad.

Alan J. Pakula


The goto director for twisted conspiracy/crime films. ‘Klute’, ‘The Parallax View’, and the Oscar nominated for Best Director Watergate thriller ‘All the President’s Men’. Even got to make a decent rom-com with ‘Starting Over’. Worked with Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Burt Reynolds, Jane Fonda, Warren Beatty, Jason Robards, James Caan, and Donald Sutherland…not too bad.

Robert Altman


Where do you go after the immortal war comedy ‘MASH’? Well, ‘Brewster McCloud’, ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’, ‘Images’, the great retooling of Philip Marlowe in ‘The Long Goodbye’, ‘Thieves Like Us’, ‘California Split’, the classic ‘Nashville’, ‘Buffalo Bill and the Indians’, ‘3 Women’, and ‘A Wedding’. Busy, busy, busy. All genres, all great! ‘MASH’ and ‘Nashville’ both received Oscar nods.

John Milius


John Milius wrote some grand films in the 70s. Uncredited work for ‘Dirty Harry’, the screenplay for its sequel ‘Magnum Force’, Redford/Pollack’s ‘Jeremiah Johnson’, the Paul Newman/John Huston western fable ‘The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean’, Sean Connery in the sprawling adventure ‘The Wind and the Lion’ which Milius also directed, the surfer dramedy ‘Big Wednesday’, and co-writing the Oscar nominated screenplay for the Vietnam epic ‘Apocalypse Now’ with Francis Ford Coppola.

François Truffaut


Can’t think of any foreign film director except François Truffaut who so completely excelled throughout the entire decade of the 1970s. The film insider classic ‘Day For Night’, feral child drama ‘The Wild Child’, dramedy ‘Bed & Board’, ‘Small Change’, the crazy sexy ‘The Man Who Loved Women’, the romantic biopic ‘The Story of Adele H’, ‘Love on the Run’, ‘The Green Room’, and ‘Anne and Muriel’. Can’t forget his memorable performance in Spielberg’s ‘Close Encounters’, either.

George Roy Hill


Coming off the great ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ in 1969, Roy Hill screamed into the 70s with ‘Slaughterhouse Five’, the greatest con-film ever ‘The Sting’ which won him a Best Director Oscar, ‘The Great Waldo Pepper’, Paul Newman in ‘Slap Shot’, and ‘A Little Romance’. A classic decade for a classy director.

Sam Peckinpah


After directing ‘The Wild Bunch’ in 1969 Peckinpah only got stronger. ‘The Ballad of Cable Hogue’, the exceptionally twisted ‘Straw Dogs’, ‘Junior Bonner’, crime classic ‘The Getaway’, ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid’, ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’, and the completely underrated WWII gem ‘Cross of Iron’ told from the German soldier’s point-of-view. Dark visions from someone unafraid to present humanity’s brutal truths.

John Williams


Can’t imagine anyone more influential than John Williams and his momentous musical scores of the 70s. Scoring ‘The Cowboys’, ‘The Poseidon Adventure’, ‘The Towering Inferno’, ‘The Sugarland Express’, ‘The Paper Chase’, Hitchcock’s last film ‘Family Plot’, ‘The Eiger Sanction’, ‘Midway’, ‘Black Sunday’, ‘The Missouri Breaks’, ‘Dracula’, and ‘1941’. Let’s not forget those that appear on the greatest of all-time film score lists: ‘Jaws‘, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘Superman'(!) and, of course, ‘Star Wars‘. 11(!) Oscar nominations with three wins. Holy sh*t!

Martin Scorsese


Directed the gritty crime dramas ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ both with Robet DeNiro. The classic 70s drama ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’. And the pioneering concert documentary of THE BAND, ‘The Last Waltz’. Did I mention ‘Taxi Driver’? And he was just getting started.

William Goldman


Can’t forget the writers. Goldman penned some seriously good stuff in the 70s. ‘The Hot Rock’, ‘The Stepford Wives’, ‘The Great Waldo Pepper’, the awesome ‘All the President’s Men’–for which he won an Oscar, the Nazi-hunting ‘Marathon Man’, ‘A Bridge Too Far’, and cult-horror classic ‘Magic’ with Anthony Hopkins.

Don Siegel


You need more than ‘Dirty Harry’? Well Don Siegel also directed the great Clint Eastwood/Shirley MacLaine western comedy ‘Two Mules for Sister Sara’, ‘The Beguiled’, the great Walter Matthau thriller ‘Charley Varrick’, Wayne’s last film ‘The Shootist’, and ‘Escape from Alcatraz’–more Eastwood! A culturally defining 70s film-maker.

Honorable Mentions

William Friedkin, Mel Brooks, those wacky Brits “Monty Python”, Sydney Pollack, indie-film pioneer John Carpenter, and George Lucas. Lots of talent in this monumental decade of film and I couldn’t possibly include them ALL. Did my best, probably missed a few;)