Yes, it was a tacky decade, filled with leisure suits, toe socks, and shag carpets. But as far as movies were concerned, the ’70s were a golden age of good taste. With the studio system apparently gasping its last gasp, a new breed of maverick directors — with names like Scorsese, Coppola, Mazursky, and Polanski — found themselves enjoying unprecedented creative freedom. For the first time, truly adult material was making its way on screen, with movies about grown-ups being made for grown-ups. Of course, it was also the decade that invented the Event Movie (ground zero being Steven Spielberg’s Jaws), but then, that’s a story for the next decade….
Midnight Cowboy and True Grit duke it out: April 7, 1970
A new breed of cowboy was taking over, and John Wayne was none too happy. These were the hippie desperadoes like Easy Rider ‘s Dennis Hopper, who, on Oscar night, sat in front of Wayne in an irreverent, oversize Stetson. The counterculture was revitalizing Hollywood, and although Wayne beat Cowboy‘s Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight for Best Actor, that night Best Picture went to Cowboy, John Schlesinger’s X-rated male-hustler opus. For Schlesinger, who’d encountered resistance within his own production crew (”They were very disparaging of the film,” he says), the victory was especially vindicating. Rank 31
Shaft breaks the color barrier: July 2, 1971
Racial strife was news, MGM was in trouble — only a cat like John Shaft could save the day. With a cool lead in Richard Roundtree and an Oscar-winning song by Isaac Hayes, Shaft ushered in blaxploitation and the image of the African-American superman. ”It was the first time a black man was in charge — that appealed to a large audience,” says Roundtree, who thinks the subsequent hand-wringing (”Black Movie Boom — Good or Bad?” The New York Times asked) was silly. ”Fred Williamson [Black Caesar] once said, ‘I make films that are to the point: I hit someone and knock them down. Everybody understands that.”’ But to Roundtree, Shaft’s big score was that suddenly ”on TV, white guys were wearing leather and mustaches.” Rank 73
”Singin”’ turns ecstasy into evil in A Clockwork Orange: DEC. 19 1971
Is there any movie moment that perverts joy into revulsion like the ”Singin’ in the Rain” rape scene in A Clockwork Orange? ”Our script said nothing more than ‘He kicks her and generally causes mayhem,”’ recalls Malcolm McDowell, who starred as ”droog” Alex. ”I had to do so much kicking because Stanley [Kubrick] wanted the people to fall backwards perfectly. After a week, when we were about to give up, he said, ‘Gee, Malc, can you dance?’ So I wound up improvising exactly what you see. Stanley phoned New York and bought the rights [to the song]. That was his real strength — he was willing to wait.” But why did McDowell have Gene Kelly on his mind? ”When Alex is raping,” he says, ”he’s at his most euphoric. ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is Hollywood’s most euphoric moment.” Rank 40
Clint Eastwood gets down and Dirty: Dec. 22, 1971
When it was released, critics carped that Dirty Harry was a fascist, neoconservative manifesto. They weren’t too far off, but the movie’s signature scene, in which Eastwood’s .44 Magnum-wielding Det. Harry Callahan toys with a hapless African-American robber—”You’ve gotta ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”—stands as one of the great moments in cop films, though rife with racial and political overtones. Actually, Harry‘s director, the late Don Siegel, was a liberal—with a perverse sense of humor. “He was a rascal, having Callahan going after a bank robber who happens to be black,” chuckles Lalo Schifrin, who scored the film. “Today, they wouldn’t do that, but [Siegel] loved to be provocative.” Rank 78
# 1 Moment Francis Ford Coppola’s family jewel, The Godfather: March 15, 1972
The wedding. The horse’s head. The “I believe in America” speech. Don Corleone’s wheezing collapse in the garden. Sonny’s tollbooth dance of death. Coppola’s The Godfather is such a compendium of magnificent scenes, such an encyclopedia of killer dialogue, sumptuous settings, and mighty acting, that it’s impossible to whittle the magnum opus down to one moment. The moment is the movie—its existence a triumph of art and commerce. Calling it a Mob movie is like calling The Odyssey a guide to the Greek islands. “It’s all about honor and loyalty and family,” explains James Caan, best known as ramrod Sonny Corleone. The Godfather cast felt like a family; on the set, everybody eased into a Cosa Nostra hierarchy. Caan, Al Pacino, and Robert Duvall bonded like brothers. And nobody doubted who was the Don. “Every now and then, Marlon Brando walked by,” says Diane Keaton, “and it was like you were looking at a god.” Forever after, Ozzie and Harriet would sleep with the fishes: The Corleones became America’s first family. “I have friends who still have Godfather nights twice a year,” Caan marvels. “They make pasta and the whole family watches The Godfather. It’s nice to be a part of that.”
The Poseidon Adventure makes catastrophe trendy: Dec. 12, 1972
Long before Titanic and Speed 2 set sail, there was this cruise from hell. Grossing a then-staggering $93 million, The Poseidon Adventure was the original supertanker of disaster films, and the thrilling/campy apex of the trend that ran from 1970’s Airport through 1974’s The Towering Inferno. “It was a rather scary shoot, always being covered in oil and going through rooms on fire,” says Oscar-nominated Shelley Winters, whose zaftig Jewish grandma, Belle Rosen, saved the day (but not herself) with an underwater rescue. “I was supposed to swim to where Gene [Hackman] was trapped, release him, and push him to the escape hatch. But I took my time and when he came up, he screamed, ‘You tried to drown me!’ ” Rank 90
American Graffiti launches nostalgia—and careers: Aug. 1, 1973
The tag line read, “Where were you in ’62?” But ’73 marked ground zero for the ensemble cast of Graffiti, since that was the year Candy Clark, Cindy Williams, Richard Dreyfuss, Mackenzie Phillips, Paul Le Mat, and Harrison Ford—all unknowns—went over very, very big in George Lucas’ paean to teen hot-rodding, the movie that began a nostalgia craze that lives on. “The only person with any kind of name was Ronny Howard,” says casting director Fred Roos of the ex-child star then known to the world only as Opie. “And The Andy Griffith Show had been off the air two, three years. He was nowhere.” From here on, the whole group racked up career mileage at top speed. Rank 28
The devil goes into heavy rotation in The Exorcist: Dec. 26, 1973
It’s one thing to stretch as an actress; it’s quite another to perfect a 360-degree head swivel. But 14-year-old Linda Blair’s self-possession as the bedeviled Regan MacNeil earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination from the Academy and gasps from audience members who watched her turn (and turn) in a movie that’s still unparalleled in its ability to terrify. As for the ever-present green vomit, “they went through a variety of different formulas and brews looking for the right color and texture before they came up with using pea soup,” says Blair. “I would look in the mirror and just whine, ‘Why are they making me look like a monster? I want to be a princess.'” How about a scream queen? Rank 37
Blazing Saddles lets it rip: Feb. 7, 1974
When Mel Brooks decided that what Hollywood really needed was a dose of baked beans, the result was the fragrant campfire scene in Blazing Saddles, a prototype for the kind of movie that continues to stink its way to box office success. Brooks could be elegant, too—this issue wouldn’t be complete without a mention of his spectacular ’74 horror spoof Young Frankenstein—but it was Saddles‘ bodily blasts that ignited, no pun intended, a generation of gross-out movies. “The amazing thing is that the scene was less than a page of script,” says Andrew Bergman, who cowrote Saddles. “All it said was ‘Cowboys eating beans around a campfire. Loud farting ensues.’ Mel did the rest.” Rank 55
Faye Dunaway finds darkness on the edge of Chinatown: June 20, 1974
It may have looked like a simple neo-noir detective story, but Chinatown was one of the most subversively perverse films ever lensed. When Dunaway delivered screenwriter Robert Towne’s most wrenching line—”She’s my sister…she’s my daughter”—audiences were left as stunned as Jack Nicholson after his involuntary nose job. What audiences didn’t see, though, became almost as famous: the behind-the-scenes brawl between Dunaway and director Roman Polanski. Recalls Nicholson of the hair-trigger feud: “Faye had a flying hair, and Roman reached out and plucked it. Why this incident set everybody off, I don’t know. But it was nothing deeper than that.” Rank 34
Al Pacino delivers the kiss of death in Godfather II: Nov. 11, 1974
From the re-creation of a turn-of-the-century Lower East Side that gave mainstream America its first look at Robert De Niro to the immaculately plotted split narrative, the amazing thing was, they did it again. And above it all was Pacino’s tumble into fratricidal evil—pounded home by a flashback coda. “When they wanted [Brando] to come back to do that scene, he said under one condition: Fire the head of the studio!” says James Caan, who was paid the same amount for the final sequence ($35,000) as for the entire first film. “That’s why we used his shadow. Swear to God.” Even without Brando or the first film’s grosses, The Godfather Part II—the only sequel to win Best Picture—stands alongside its predecessor as a masterwork. Rank 16
#5 Moment Steven Spielberg accidentally brings great white hope: June 20, 1975
If it weren’t for a little filmmaking phenomenon known as “the happy accident,” Spielberg might still be directing episodes of Columbo. In fact, the making of Jaws remains a primer on how not to make a movie: The film’s $4 million budget soared to $9 million; the shooting schedule on Martha’s Vineyard ballooned from 55 to 159 days; crew members were even calling the movie Flaws. Worst of all, Bruce—Spielberg’s mechanical great white shark—just wasn’t working. “The first time we tested the shark,” says coproducer David Brown, “it sank to the bottom of Nantucket Sound, and we figured all of our careers went down with it.” In hindsight, Spielberg says that being forced to show as little of his malfunctioning man-eater as possible made the movie more Hitchcockian. Of course, no one knew that at the time. Says Brown, “When we held a test screening in Dallas, we honestly didn’t know if people were going to be scared or laugh.” It was the former reaction—and plenty of it—that turned Jaws into the highest-grossing film in history (until Star Wars).
Robert Altman’s Nashville introduces the company of many: June 11, 1975
When someone uses Altmanesque, it’s usually Nashville they have in mind. With 24 characters, interweaving story lines, and aspirations toward tragedy and satire, Altman’s Nashville wrote the book on sprawling ensemble pieces. It was about movieland as much as Music City, and its dovetailing of proto-Clintonian politics and entertainment was spookily prescient. “Contrary to popular belief, there was a script,” says writer Joan Tewkesbury. “But everybody was invited to bring something, like potluck.” Ronee Blakley’s breakdown and Lily Tomlin’s sign-language emoting were main course enough to earn them Oscar noms, but Tewkesbury’s favorite improv was Gwen Welles’ ill-prepared striptease: “When she pulled the socks out of her bra, I thought I’d die—it was so poignant, so dumb, so absolutely believable.” Rank 46
Moment #8 Robert De Niro is hailed in Taxi: Feb. 8, 1976
The mean streets of 1970s New York hardly seem recognizable in today’s G-rated Giuliani era. But when Taxi Driver debuted at Manhattan’s Coronet Theater, Gotham audiences took one look at Martin Scorsese’s neon Sodom and Gomorrah and recognized it as their own. And coasting into this apocalypse was De Niro’s self-appointed vigilante loner Travis Bickle, a Vietnam vet vowing that “some day a real rain’ll come and wash all this scum off the streets.” Of course, the movie’s—and perhaps the decade’s—most famous line was Travis’ paranoid “You talkin’ to me?” mantra in front of the mirror. But according to Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader, the infamous come-on was ad-libbed by De Niro: “There was a comic who worked the delis in New York at the time, and he would walk up to tables and say, ‘You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?’ And Bobby had seen this guy and lifted the riff and used it in front of the mirror.” Our thanks to the unknown comic, wherever he is.
Jack Nicholson feathers his Nest: Nov. 19, 1975
Who could blame the cast of Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for going a little stir-crazy? “We spent days in the Oregon State Mental Institution,” says Nicholson. As McMurphy, the charming rabble-rouser who winds up in the loony bin, Nicholson cooked up a psychological duel with one of movie history’s creepiest monsters: Louise Fletcher’s icy, repressive Nurse Ratched. The unforgettable climax? Pushed to the brink, Nicholson throttles his evil caregiver till she turns blue. For both actors—Fletcher, a first-time nominee; Nicholson, a four-time loser—Oscar was in the bag. Says Nicholson: “I pretty much knew I was going to win.” Rank 59
Network‘s newscaster sees the light: Nov. 14, 1976
By the mid-’70s, plenty of films had taken potshots at Hollywood. But vivisecting the TV jungle was fresh. And in those pre-cable, pre-Fox, pre-Jerry Springer days, so was screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s nightmarish vision of a pandering news program scored with variety-show music and hosted by profanity-spewing anchor Howard Beale (brilliantly acted by Peter Finch, who died of a heart attack before he could accept his Academy Award). Though a surprise hit and quadruple Oscar winner, Network didn’t much impress veteran 60 Minutes exec producer Don Hewitt. “I don’t know of any great impact it had,” he sniffs. “Aside from my saying on occasion ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore.'” Rank 68
Rocky loses: Nov. 21, 1976
His face bleeding, his eyes swollen shut, Rocky Balboa will forever be the emblem of pained defeat. It defied all logic to permit a film’s hero to lose so brutally. But all that mattered to audiences was that Rocky went the distance, got the girl (“Yo, Adrian!”), and turned Sylvester Stallone, an unknown actor and first-time screenwriter, into a real-life champ. Of course, Stallone’s self-choreographed bouts weren’t the toughest battles. With a starless cast, the indie film’s budget was so tight, Stallone’s then wife, Sasha, sewed his costumes. “I bought my own glasses and the fuzzy hat,” recalls Rocky’s true love, Talia Shire. “That’s what made it special. We were willing to do anything to make the film work.” Rank 61
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton deck the Hall: April 10, 1977
With Annie Hall, Woody Allen sabotaged the romantic comedy—and came up with something a lot funnier and more romantic. “I knew it was a fantastic part,” recalls star Diane Keaton, whose elegant tomboy style made her the Me Decade’s Katharine Hepburn. “But I don’t think I visualized how inventive it was—till I saw it, of course.” The creative coup de grace: Allen and Keaton swap neurotic chitchat while a series of subtitles reveals what they’re really thinking about each other (Woody: “I wonder what she looks like naked”). For a brief moment, brains and whimsy prevailed: Annie beat out Star Wars for Best Picture. Rank 29
Moment #4 Star Wars‘ F/X blasts other movies to smithereens: May 25, 1977
The music he liked. But everything else in Star Wars was “completely cheated,” says George Lucas ruefully. “The only way I was able to make it in any sense epic was editorially. I cut together a lot of little pieces so fast, you thought there were a whole lot of people. There weren’t.” Poor master magician George: He saw crummy smoke and mirrors where the rest of the world saw bona fide magic.
Audiences didn’t give a gundark that the hopped-up torque of the blaster-spattered space-battle scenes was a desperation move. They just got off on the speed. So did Hollywood when the early grosses rolled in: $100 million in three months (quaint now, hyperspatial then). The dark side? A stampede toward feel-good, dumbed-down action flicks that wiped out grittier fare, at least until indies rematerialized a decade later. Lucas bristles at that rap: “It’s a myth,” he insists. But he shouldn’t underestimate the power of the Force.
Close Encounters and Alien define the look of extraterrestrials: Nov. 16, 1977 and May 25, 1979
Something is out there—but is it friend or foe? The late ’70s brought us two unforgettable possibilities. Species Spielberg—bulbous heads on Audrey Hepburn necks—were actually little girls in body-warping suits. Species Scott—spawned from some unholy shark-cockroach copulation—was designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger. Alien director Ridley Scott was also inspired by a documentary about beetles that bury their eggs in live woodgrubs. “Hideous,” he says, “but a great idea.” Since then, descendants of both have populated Men in Black, Independence Day, and The X-Files. “When you’re hooking into the bigger alien mythology,” says Files creator Chris Carter, “you have to bow to what others have imagined.” Rank 79
Magnetic Video releases the first movies on tape: Oct. 20, 1977
It all started in Farmington Hills, Mich. Mesmerized by an oversize doohickey called the VCR, Andre Blay persuaded Twentieth Century Fox to license 50 films to his company, Magnetic Video Corp., for the paltry sum of $300,000. The rest is history. Video demand soared (M*A*S*H was Magnetic’s most popular title), the words rewind and pause seeped into the vernacular, and a $17 billion industry was born—incalculably altering the way people watched movies in the process. “I kept telling my employees that when Mummy and Daddy start stopping to pick up a movie after work, they could start planning their retirement,” says Blay, who eventually sold his company to Fox and is now retired. “And it happened.” Rank 22
John Travolta gives us the Fever: Dec. 16 1977
Disco was never louder or prouder, polyester pants never whiter or tighter. When Tony Manero took the stage to “You Should Be Dancing,” a young Brooklyn man transcended his limitations, dance music turned into a national craze—and a 23-year-old Englewood, N.J., actor named John Travolta became a star. To prepare for Saturday Night Fever, Travolta hit New York clubs with instructor Deney Terrio (who would go on to host the series Dance Fever). Though he would spend 300 hours rehearsing, Travolta was initially spooked. “He called me and said, ‘You guys better find someone else for the movie, because there’s no way I’m going to be able to do those steps,'” director John Badham remembers. “I just tried to calm him down.” Travolta, as it turns out, just heated us up. Rank 33
The Weinsteins form Miramax and unleash the indie era: June 1979
It’s such a fairy tale, it would almost make a perfect Hollywood movie…or rather, a perfect low-budget indie. Once upon a time, a pair of unfashionable rock-promoter brothers from Queens, N.Y., got the idea to distribute movies. Armed with business cards for a company named after parents Miriam and Max, Harvey and Bob Weinstein hopped a plane to Cannes because, says Harvey, “that’s where we heard people bought movies!” They bought the Brit comedy The Secret Policeman’s Ball and its sequel for $50,000, spliced the two films, released it six months later—and grossed $6 million. The happy ending? Says Harvey, “I haven’t needed a business card in 10 years.” Rank 36
John Belushi shares his food in Animal House: July 28, 1978
It took just five seconds. Belushi yelled “Fooood fight!” and everyone on the set of National Lampoon’s Animal House tossed their cookies…and pudding, fries, etc. The scene wrapped in two takes, but, as set decorator Hal Gausman recalls, “it took hours to clean up.” It was worth it. “The movie had a huge impact,” says coproducer Ivan Reitman. “We’d come through a decade of protests and campus activism. That scene was a signal to have fun again.” Belushi’s charisma certainly helped. As director John Landis puts it, Bluto Blutarsky “was a cross between Harpo Marx and the Cookie Monster.” Rank 77
Robert Duvall loves the smell of napalm in the morning: Aug. 15, 1979
It may be as close as a movie production has come to the heart of darkness. Apocalypse Now was over budget and behind schedule, and director Francis Ford Coppola couldn’t afford screwups. Still, he needed the famous scene in which Lieut. Colonel Kilgore (masterfully played by Duvall) clears a beach with napalm so he can watch a GI surf its waves—a moment that epitomizes the brutality, beauty, and terror of Vietnam. “If we messed up,” Coppola says, “we’d have to spend three or four hours for a second chance and we could only do two takes. We started, rolling about five cameras. The jets appeared, the canisters dropped, the napalm went off. After that I felt we’d reached a turning point, and things would go better.” Rank 74
Kramer vs. Kramer does divorce American-style: Dec. 19, 1979
No other movie more encapsulated the romantic reality of a decade in which the divorce rate was higher than ever before. Still, Kramer, which won Oscars for stars Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep—a second choice after Charlie’s Angels’ Kate Jackson—was less about the heartache of a breakup than about the joy and pain of single fatherhood. Not to mention the embarrassing moments. It took three takes to do the scene in which Hoffman’s son (Justin Henry) encounters Dad’s overnight guest (JoBeth Williams) nude in the hallway. “First the lighting was wrong. Then I misdirected,” recalls director Robert Benton. “It was tough telling her ‘You have to take your clothes off again.’ ” Rank 96
Best of the rest
Best on-screen nervous breakdown (male): Peter Finch in Network; (Female) Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence
Best off-screen nervous breakdown: Francis Ford Coppola on the set of Apocalypse Now
Best aristocrat: Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal
Best twist ending: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Best debacle: New York, New York
Best date movie: Love Story
Best movie if you can’t get a date: Carrie
Best wild-party scene: National Lampoon’s Animal House
Best unsung performance: James Caan in The Gambler
Best couple (off screen): Warren Beatty and Julie Christie; (On Screen) Woody Allen and Diane Keaton
Best closing credits: M*A*S*H
Best western: High Plains Drifter
Best place we wish we lived: The Lake Tahoe compound in Godfather Part II
Best dad: Robert Duvall in The Great Santini
Best mom: Cicely Tyson in Sounder
Best backstabbing bitch: Faye Dunaway in Network
Best nazi: Sir Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man
Best incentive to exercise: Marathon Man
Best incentive not to go camping: Deliverance
Best astronaut flick: Capricorn One
Best prison flick: Midnight Express
Best death: Roy Scheider bites the dust—at length—in All That Jazz.
1. “I like to watch.”
2. “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.”
3. “Attica! Attica!”
4. “Want me to do your hair?”
5. “You know what happens to nosy fellas, huh? Huh? Okay. They lose their noses.”
6. “Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”
7. “Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
8. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
9. “Say it! He…vas…my…boyfriend!!”
10. “The suspense is terrible. I hope it’ll last.”
11. “Is it safe?”
12. “Your mother’s in here, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I’ll see that she gets it!”
13. “Oh, Frank…kiss my hot lips!”
14. “Because when you’re a call girl, you control it, that’s why. Because someone wants you…. And for an hour, I’m the best actress in the world.”
15. “Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.”
1. Peter Sellers (Being There) 2. Al Pacino (The Godfather Part II) 3. Al Pacino (Dog Day Afternoon) 4. Warren Beatty (Shampoo) 5. Roman Polanski (Chinatown) 6. Woody Allen (Annie Hall) 7. George C. Scott (Patton) 8. Roy Scheider (Jaws) 9. Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein) 10. Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) 11. Laurence Olivier (Marathon Man) 12. Linda Blair (The Exorcist) 13. Sally Kellerman (M*A*S*H) 14. Jane Fonda (Klute) 15. John Cleese (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
Best Picture Oscar winners
1971 The French Connection
1972 The Godfather
1973 The Sting
1974 The Godfather Part II
1975 One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
1977 Annie Hall
1978 The Deer Hunter
1979 Kramer vs. Kramer
Beyond the top 10: A selective guide to some other ’70s treasures
1. Women in Love (1970) Ken Russell’s daring adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s daring novel captures the charged sexuality of two eras, with Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed both stellar.
2. The Last Picture Show (1971) Shot in stark black and white, Peter Bogdanovich’s jaw-droppingly assured look at small lives in a small Texas town remains a raw heartbreaker.
3. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) Klaus Kinski and director Werner Herzog team for a trip into the darkest Amazon and the mind of a crazy conquistador hell-bent on gold.
4. Sounder (1972), Conrack (1974), and Norma Rae (1979) In a cynical decade, director Martin Ritt gave us three gentle but never sentimental tales of union—in all senses.
5. Badlands (1973) Terrence Malick showcases Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek as inarticulate lover-outlaws and makes spare, lean prose and beautiful poetry out of the bleak Midwest.
6. The Conversation (1974) Gene Hackman is exquisite as a surveillance-whiz tape master-turned-target. Pure genius from Francis Coppola—the same year as Godfather 2!
7. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Just another bank-heist flick? Not with the combo of Sidney Lumet, the sweaty streets of New York City, and a young Al Pacino at his blazing best.
8. All The President’s Men (1976) Remember when reporters were good guys? Just watch Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) take down Tricky Dick.
9. Carrie (1976) Shrewd sadist Brian De Palma’s fiery tale of telekinetic teen revenge boasts torrid turns from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.
10. Small Change (1976) Francois Truffaut at his most tenderly humane, watching a group of little kids stumble bruised but unbroken through childhood. —Mark Harris
Reunions … Cabaret … Michael York, Liza Minnelli, and Joel Grey: Sept. 9, 1999
“Music is in everybody’s life,” says Liza Minnelli. “There’s got to be a way to put that on screen.” Could the goddess of the movie musical please tell us, then, how to resuscitate this now-deceased genre? “I’ll tell you in a minute,” she shrugs. “Kidding!”
As it happens, even 1972’s Cabaret, the story of tough-talking Berlin showgirl Sally Bowles that’s widely considered the last great Hollywood movie musical, faced studio resistance because of its ambisexual Weimar atmosphere and pervasive Nazi references. “We were under siege like the people in the film were,” recalls “Master of Ceremonies” Joel Grey, 67.
“It was a time when Hollywood didn’t believe in musicals. I always felt there was a telephone call coming any day saying ‘Shut down.’
“Seconds Michael York, 57, who played tutor Brian Roberts, “There were men in suits looking at watches, which gave it this tremendous urgency.” Says Minnelli, 53, “We fought for Michael’s character to be homosexual because it wasn’t the accepted thing at that point in film.”
The film was certainly accepted by the Academy, winning eight Oscars (including statuettes for Minnelli, Grey, and director Bob Fosse) while The Godfather took home three. And 27 years later, Minnelli can still use Sally as an icebreaker. “I have a new friend because I work with a lot of kids,” she says. “She’s 16. And she worries about swearing in front of me, that she might shock me. One day I said to her, ‘Sit down, I want to show you something.’ And I showed her Cabaret. She said, ‘I can’t shock you, can I?’ I said, ‘Uh-uh.'”
January 1970: M*A*S*H, Robert Altman’s comedy about the horrors of war, opens. Later, it spawns one of TV’s most successful sitcoms.
March 1970: Jimi Hendrix and others get the split-screen treatment in Woodstock, coedited by Martin Scorsese.
March 1970: Hollywood comes out of the celluloid closet with The Boys in the Band, about a group of gay men at a party.
June 1970: Thumb-raising critic Roger Ebert goes to camp with his first screenplay, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
December 1970: Love means never…you know. Erich Segal’s best-selling Love Story hits the screen, turning preppy lovers Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw into superstars.
March 1971: John Johnson, Hollywood’s first African-American exec, is elected to the board of directors at Twentieth Century Fox.
October 1971: Forget Bullitt. William Friedkin’s The French Connection ups the ante on car-chase scenes with its harrowing drive through New York City.
October 1971: The Last Picture Show, directed by 31-year-old Peter Bogdanovich and starring 20-year-old Jeff Bridges, kicks off a Hollywood youthquake.
Nov. 13, 1971: We should’ve seen it coming: Steven Spielberg’s TV movie Duel does for menacing trucks what he later does for sharks.
March 1972: Cross-dresser Divine dines on doggy-do in John Waters’ trashy opus Pink Flamingos.
April 1972: Burt Reynolds is unwrapped in a Cosmopolitan centerfold.
April 1972: Felix he ain’t. Ralph Bakshi’s randy Fritz the Cat strolls into theaters with an X rating—the first for an animated film.
June 1972: Porn goes legit—temporarily—with the Manhattan opening of Deep Throat, which draws a non-raincoat crowd.
Feb. 1, 1973: Last Tango in Paris opens. Some call it smut, but most rave.
March 27, 1973: Memorable Oscar moment: Marlon Brando dispatches Apache Sacheen Littlefeather to decline his Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather.
July 20, 1973: Martial artist Bruce Lee dies one month before Enter the Dragon brings him his biggest American success.
October 1973: Dynamic duo, part I: Scorsese and De Niro team up for the first time to make Mean Streets.
May 8, 1974: Dynamic duo, part II: Rival studios Fox and Warner Bros. split the tab and produce the blazing disaster film The Towering Inferno.
June 24, 1974: The Supreme Court overturns a Georgia ruling that found Mike Nichols’ 1971 film Carnal Knowledge “obscene.”
November 1974: Earthquake’s Sensurround system moves audiences.
January 1975: Michael Ovitz, Ron Meyer, and three others depart the William Morris Agency and form CAA.
April 8, 1975: Ingrid Bergman enjoys a career comeback—and reaps an Oscar—with Murder on the Orient Express.
April 1975: Monty Python and the Holy Grail makes the Brit comedy troupe a big-screen hit.
June 23, 1975: Hollywood hype reaches the mainstream when TIME slaps a great white on its cover and heralds Jaws as “Super Shark.”
Dec. 24, 1975: Composer Bernard Herrmann dies right after finishing the score for Taxi Driver.
April 1976: The horror, the horror: Martin Sheen replaces Harvey Keitel in Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic, Apocalypse Now.
April 1, 1976: The first midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in New York. Kitsch-loving fans do the time warp again. And again. And again.
September 1976: Columbia prez David Begelman forges a $10,000 check using Cliff Robertson’s name. But “Hollywoodgate” doesn’t keep him from getting a top job at MGM in 1979.
January 1977: Unknown Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger kicks off a lucrative, uh, body of work with Pumping Iron.
March 1977: The horror, the horror II: Sheen suffers a heart attack on the set of Apocalypse Now. Filming is delayed.
May 1977: Star Wars’ Dolby Stere