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30 Far-Out '70s Films Everyone Should See at Least Once

The Godfather (1972)

This iconic series began its journey in the 70s. Actors like Al Pacino and Marlon Brando wowed audiences with their amazing acting skills, and the image of a grown man stroking a cat will forever be emblazoned in our minds. It is still consistently ranked as one of the greatest movies of all time.

As the highest grossing film of 1972, it was, if only for a brief time, the highest grossing film ever made. The entire series is so good, in fact, that The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are the only original/sequel combo to have both won Best Picture at the Oscars. It broke the rule that the sequel is never better than the original.

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Grease (1978)

Who doesn’t know at least some of the songs from this musical movie? It’s fun, features a love story between the shy girl and the bad boy, and there’s a lot of leather. What's not to like?

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Taxi Driver (1976)

Other than the controversial 12-year-old prostitute, this film helped capture the aftermath of the Vietnam war. The cultural prevalence alone will help this movie live on for decades to come. 

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

This cult classic shocked audiences when Tim Curry, playing a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania, hit the big screen. From Broadway to the big screen, this gem didn't get much love at first—but today, it's a cult classic!

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The Exorcist (1973)

The first installment in what would become a large, horror movie franchise first appeared on screens in the 70s. Thanks to Linda Blair's superb performance as a demon-possessed child, this film had audiences literally fainting in theaters. 

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Carrie (1976)

The high school girl who gets her chance at popularity before it is ruined by the mean girls is a pretty popular plot line, but no movie did it better than Carrie. From telekenetic powers to religious fanatacism, this film didn't mess around. 

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Jaws (1975)

Jaws was such a significant movie that the iconic music and odd camera zoom in/out will forever be connected to it. That’s quite an achievement! Oh yeah, and there's a giant, terrifying shark too. Did we mention that? 

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A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Psychological thrillers dominate lists of the most popular movies of the 70s, but this film is the reigning champion. This one is definitely not for the faint of heart. 

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

This classic film is one of only three movies to win all of the coveted "Big Five" Academy awards—best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, and best screenplay. Starring Jack Nicholson as criminal and psychiatric patient Randle McMurphy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest paints a poignant but bleak picture of mental health institutions in the 1970s. 

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Animal House (1978)

This film is full of the angst of a generation ready to rebel against what they saw as the perfectionist, humdrum society of their parents. Plus, who doesn’t love pitting crazy, lovable frat boys against cliche ones?

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Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

This film captured the childhood dream of being swept away from your troubles to a different world…. filled with tons of chocolate! It also instilled in 70s kids the fear of turning into a blueberry. Yikes! 

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Rocky (1976)

This epic film series got its start in the 70s, and it has been the forefront of cultural references ever since. Everyone loves an underdog story, and there's none better than Rocky. 

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Blazing Saddles (1974)

Western parodies are a dime a dozen, but Blazing Saddles was in a category all its own. Plus, it features one of the themes key to success of a movie in the 70s: political corruption. 

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Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Disco, Disco, Disco! What more do I have to say? An attractive and talented dancer is about all you needed to make girls flock to the movies in the 1970s. This film perfected that technique! 

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

From the knights who say, "Ni!" to "She's a witch, burn her!" there are so many lines from this classic that have been nearly quoted to death. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is hilarious, timeless, and is teeming with cultural significance. 

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Superman (1978)

Children of the 40s on grew up with the Superman comics. It’s no wonder then, that the moment the live-action version hit the big screens, it was a huge success! 

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Dawn of the Dead (1978)

We may have The Walking Dead to fulfill our zombie apocalypse needs now, but Dawn of the Dead was the go-to movie for that need in the 70s. 

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All the President's Men (1976)

Moviegoers of the 70s loved political scandals, and the king of all scandals at the time was Watergate. A slightly fictional take on its uncovering, this movie helped define a generation of political discomfort. 

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The Way We Were (1973)

In today’s political mess, it might not hurt to take a look back on this film. It helped viewers of the 70s reflect on what and who they were willing to sacrifice for their political affiliation, and it may be able to help some people today. 

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The Conversation (1974)

Gene Hackman stars as a mild-mannered and high-tech private eye in this 1974 thriller that was written, produced, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. In addition to a riveting mystery plotline involving a potential murder, the film was beautifully shot with plenty of unforgettable scenes--including one that will scare you from ever using a hotel bathroom again! 

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The Holy Mountain (1973)

Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky is no stranger to creating bizarre and beautiful movies, but none is probably more memorable than his 1973 psychedelic film, The Holy Mountain. The movie uses visually dazzling (and sometimes confusing) references to alchemy, tarot, and religion to tell the story of a band of seekers looking for immortality on the Holy Mountain--only for them to find something much more surprising. 

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Fantastic Planet (1973)

If you've ever worried that your dog hates being your pet, Fantastic Planet is not the movie for you. This surreal animated French film tells the story of the gargantuan Draags, an alien race who bring human beings back to their planet--some of whom are kept as pets. And while the humans may be much smaller than their captors, the Draags soon learn that we aren't afraid to fight back. 

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Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

This 1972 "historical" drama might be short on actual history, but it's full of two things that filmmaker Werner Herzog does best--unforgiving natural environments and completely demented megalomaniacs. Aguirre, the Wrath of God follows a group of conquistadors in Peru in search of El Dorado. Things really go south for the group when the increasingly crazy Aguirre takes the helm, and, spoiler alert, no one makes it to El Dorado. 

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Annie Hall (1977)

There are no shortage of Wood Allen movies to choose from in the 1970s, but Annie Hall easily rises to the top, both for this decade and his films as a whole. Starring Diane Keaton (whom the title role was specifically written for), the romantic comedy follows comedian Alvy Singer as he navigates middle age and falls in love with Hall. Like all the best Woody Allen movies, Annie Hall will have you laughing one minute and depressed the next. 

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Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Belladonna of Sadness is an anime in the sense that it's animated and from Japan, but this movie is unlike anything you'll see anywhere else in the world. Set in medieval France, the movie follows the tragic and violent life of Jeanne who eventually becomes a witch and teams up with the Devil to take revenge on those who wronged her. The plot itself is incredibly disturbing, but you won't be able to look away because of the highly artistic and unusual animation styles employed throughout the film. 

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Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse Now released in 1979, so it just barely made the list--but really, no 70s movie list would be complete without this iconic war film. Starring Marlon Brando as Martin Sheen, the movie is set during the Vietnam War and follows one soldier's quest to assassinate an American colonel who's gone insane and is worshiped like a god. The movie is loosely based on the novella Heart of Darkness. 

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Caligula (1979)

The Roman Empire was a depraved and decadent place if we're to believe the events of Caligula. While the movie is about and named after the real Roman Emperor Caligula, his proclivities for sex and violence were amped up for the big screen. And amped up they were! The movie is infamous for its graphic scenes and scandalous content. 

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

E.T. can eat his heart out, because Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the best alien movie ever made by Stephen Spielberg. This 1977 film follows the lives of several people as mankind makes contact with alien life for the first time. While the special effects for the film are clearly a product of the 70s, Spielberg managed to give his aliens a special twist--they communicate via music, including a now-iconic five-note motif featured prominently throughout the movie. 

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Grey Gardens (1975)

Jackie Kennedy may forever be associated with glitz, glamour, and wealth, but you don't have to move very far out onto the branches of her family tree to find some folks who do things a little differently. The 1975 documentary Grey Gardens features "Big" Edie and "Little" Edie Bouvier--a mother-daughter duo who were aunt and cousin to Jackie O, respectively. Although the two women clearly have an upper-class pedigree, they live as recluses in dilapidated Hamptons mansion. But despite their surroundings, they've managed to make do and stay fabulous in a very strange and endearing way. 

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Suspiria (1977)

What Suspiria lacks in plot, it more than makes up for in stunning visuals. This Italian horror movie follows an American ballet dancer as she enrolls in a German dance school that's secretly run by a coven of witches. As was the style of the time for Italian horror, the movie features a dreamlike plot, beautiful (and highly unnatural) lighting, and absurd amounts of cherry-red blood. Suspiria has become such a cult classic over the years that it even inspired a successful remake in 2018.  

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