Memory Lane: Iconic movies of the 1970s

As part of our memory lane series, we are taking each decade from 1960 onward and showcasing some of the most memorable aspects of sport, film and music. In this blog, we will look at some of the most iconic movies of the 1970s, some of which have shaped cinema as we know it today.

The 70s was also a decade of film that introduced new character tropes, genres and cinematic styles which are now staples of the industry. This decade saw the rise of New Hollywood, a movement that challenged traditional filmmaking conventions and brought about a wave of innovative storytelling and bold narratives, while also exploring themes of social change, political unrest, and artistic experimentation which left a lasting impact on the industry.

Rocky (Avildsen, 1976)

While the 1970s cinema certainly embraced a commendably sombre tone, no decade is truly fulfilled without its fair share of uplifting films. Sylvester Stallone’s breakthrough performance as a debt collector-turned-boxer facing adversity struck a chord with audiences, transforming the drama into an unexpected sleeper hit and finding acclaim at the Oscars. This heartening tale captivated the masses, ultimately becoming a crowd-pleaser of monumental proportions, winning Best Picture and Best Director in the process and launching the Rocky franchise that is still alive in cinema today.

The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)

“The Godfather” (1972) is an iconic crime drama film that delves into the powerful world of the Italian-American Mafia. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on Mario Puzo’s novel, it tells the captivating story of the Corleone family, led by the patriarch Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). The film explores themes of loyalty, honour, family, and the consequences of a life entrenched in organised crime.

The Godfather is one of the most cited movies in all-time-great lists, signified by its Best Picture and Best Actor wins. With its brilliant performances, intricate storytelling, and memorable dialogue, “The Godfather” has solidified its place as a cinematic masterpiece, renowned for its rich character development and the exploration of the dark underbelly of power and violence.

Grease (Kleiser, 1978)

“Grease” is a beloved 1978 musical film that became a cultural phenomenon. Directed by Randal Kleiser, it tells the story of high school students in the 1950s, focusing on the romance between Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John). With catchy songs and energetic dance numbers, “Grease” captured the spirit of the era and played a significant role in the resurgence of movie musicals, inspiring future films in the genre. The enduring popularity of “Grease” lies in its nostalgic appeal and cultural impact, making it a cherished classic.

Star Wars (Lucas, 1977)

Following the enormous success of Jaws, which demonstrated the pulse of mainstream audience preferences in the 1970s, George Lucas took the concept of a blockbuster to a whole new level by embarking on the creation of a franchise. In the original instalment, widely regarded as the finest of his groundbreaking series, Lucas masterfully constructs a thrilling and unparalleled universe that redefined the cinematic experience. It introduced moviegoers to a realm unlike anything they had witnessed before, and in doing so, Lucas revitalised the appeal and commercial viability of science fiction.

Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)

While Star Wars is frequently credited with pioneering the concept of the summer blockbuster, it was actually Steven Spielberg’s bone-chilling narrative of the battle between man and shark that truly revolutionized Hollywood’s perception of the genre. Although the term “blockbuster” has been diluted by numerous mindless action films, Jaws successfully blended gripping suspense with unforgettable performances, even earning itself an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Despite inspiring numerous imitations in the thriller genre, it remains an unrivalled original that proudly holds its ground.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Jones, 1979)

“Monty Python’s Life of Brian” is a satirical comedy film that humorously explores the life of a man named Brian Cohen, who coincidentally finds himself mistaken for Jesus Christ during biblical times. Directed by Terry Jones and featuring the comedic genius of the Monty Python troupe, the film cleverly parodies religious themes, social conventions, and political institutions through a series of absurd and irreverent situations.

With its sharp wit, clever wordplay, and memorable musical numbers, “Life of Brian” offers a thought-provoking and hilarious commentary on faith, fanaticism, and the human condition. It has become a cult classic in the United Kingdom and worldwide, known for its subversive humour and fearless approach to satire. However, not everyone back in 1979 saw the funny side, with the movie being banned in Ireland and given an X rating in the UK, with some local councils banning the film from their cinemas.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Stuart, 1971)

“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is a whimsical 1971 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book. Directed by Mel Stuart, it follows the adventures of Charlie Bucket as he wins a golden ticket to explore the eccentric Willy Wonka’s magical chocolate factory. The film’s vibrant visuals, memorable songs, and Gene Wilder’s iconic portrayal of Wonka have made it a cherished classic.

Its cultural significance lies in its timeless appeal, promoting imagination, wonder, and the importance of kindness. With its enduring popularity, the film has become a cultural touchstone, enchanting generations and remaining a beloved cinematic gem.

The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)

Following his success with “The French Connection,” director William Friedkin demonstrated his remarkable range by venturing into the realm of horror with this timeless masterpiece. Even today, “The Exorcist” is hailed as one of the most terrifying films ever created, garnering the distinction of being the first horror movie to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

Despite the existence of lesser sequels and a prequel, the film’s ability to shock and haunt audiences endures, leaving an indelible impact. Furthermore, it served as a catalyst for the horror genre to be regarded with greater reverence and legitimacy, paving the way for its recognition as a genre capable of profound storytelling.

This was another movie that courted controversy when it was released, with pressure groups calling for it to be banned, and home sales of the film remaining illegal in the UK until 1999.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman, 1975)

This exceptional drama, which rightfully swept the Oscars, showcased Jack Nicholson’s unparalleled talent in portraying a reckless criminal’s ill-fated attempt to evade his sentence by seeking refuge in a mental institution, leading to profoundly haunting consequences. Additionally, it introduced us to one of the most formidable antagonists of the decade: the passive-aggressive Nurse Ratched, impeccably portrayed by the Oscar-winning Louise Fletcher, whose chilling conviction left an indelible mark.

As an intriguing fact, it’s worth noting that this film had an astonishing run in Swedish cinemas, captivating audiences for an uninterrupted span of 11 years.

Taxi Driver (Scorcese, 1976)

After delivering an Oscar-winning performance in “The Godfather Part II,” Robert De Niro faced the daunting task of following up with another remarkable role. At the age of 33, he embarked on a golden streak, teaming up with Martin Scorsese for a searing and intense thriller that revolved around a former marine turned taxi driver on the brink of psychological unraveling. This riveting portrayal earned De Niro yet another Academy Award nomination, while the character of Travis Bickle, immortalised by the unforgettable line “You talkin’ to me?” etched its place in the annals of pop culture history.

Kramer vs Kramer (Benton, 1979)

1979 multiple Oscar wins – Best Picture, Best Actor Dustin Hoffman and Best Supporting Actor Meryl Streep, Best Director Robert Benton Almost had a clean sweep of Oscars.

Kramer Vs. Kramer boldly challenged conventional views on divorce, emerging as an early pioneer in addressing this sensitive subject matter. It fearlessly defied societal norms and redefined the essence of parenthood for many. As the era witnessed a transformation in the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood, this film presented a profound narrative, illustrating that a father can assume the role of a single parent, while a mother may lack any inclination towards child-rearing.

The exceptional performances by Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, both recipients of prestigious Academy Awards, further elevated this movie, making it one of the most emotionally powerful dramas of its time. It received a whole host of major Oscar awards, winning Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Director.

Enter the Dragon (Clouse, 1973)

One of the standout martial arts films of the 1970s, Bruce Lee delivered his most remarkable performance in a movie that stands among the finest of its era. This iconic film introduced the world of kung fu to Hollywood, propelling Lee to international stardom beyond his homeland of Hong Kong. Tragically, it premiered merely a month after the untimely passing of its lead actor.

However, despite this sorrowful timing, the enduring impact of the film remains a testament to the extraordinary legacy Bruce Lee left behind. His profound influence forever altered the landscape of action cinema, solidifying his place as an irreplaceable figure in the history of film.

The Outlaw Josey Wales (Eastwood 1976)

This iconic Western was directed by and starred Clint Eastwood as the film’s titular anti-hero. Set during the American Civil War, the film follows Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer whose family is brutally murdered by Union soldiers. Driven by a desire for revenge, he becomes an outlaw and embarks on a journey across the lawless frontier. Along the way, he encounters a diverse group of companions and finds himself caught between the violence of the war and his own moral code.

Eastwood’s exceptional talent as both director and actor shines through in the film, portraying the complex character with depth. The film’s gritty realism, exploration of themes like vengeance and redemption, and its unflinching portrayal of violence make it an iconic Western that leaves a lasting impact.

The 1970s was a decade that left an indelible mark on cinema, birthing a plethora of iconic films that continue to captivate audiences to this day. These films not only entertained but also reflected the social and cultural changes of the era. With their enduring legacy, these iconic 70s movies remain a testament to the power of storytelling and the lasting impact that great films can have on our lives.

The 1960s was an exciting decade of significant change and upheaval throughout the UK, the US and around the world. It was a period marked by sweeping social, cultural, and political changes, as well as technological advances and scientific breakthroughs.

It is also often cited as an extremely exciting and enjoyable decade to have lived through, and is sometimes said to have begun in black and white and ended in splendid technicolour.

The 60s are synonymous with the emergence of youth culture, the counterculture, new forms of music, fashion, and expression that challenged the established norms of British society. In this article, we will look at the key events, cultural phenomena, and social movements that shaped the 1960s.

Cultural changes

The 1960s saw a significant shift in British culture, particularly for young people. The emergence of the large teenage demographic (now the generation known as the boomers) as a distinct cultural group brought with it new music, fashion, and attitudes that challenged the establishment.

One of the most significant cultural phenomena of the 1960s in Great Britain was the emergence of the ‘Swinging London’ scene. This was centred around the fashionable area of Carnaby Street in London, which became a hub of mod culture, fashion, and music. The mod look was characterised by sharp suits, skinny ties, and trendy haircuts among young men, while women’s fashion was characterised by mini-skirts, bold prints, and bright colours. Brands, boutiques and designers like Biba, Mary Quant and John Stephen pioneered this look.

Music

Music played a significant role in the cultural changes of the 1960s, with the emergence of ‘beat groups’ dominating the pop music scene. The Beatles were undoubtedly the most influential band of the decade, and their music had a profound impact on popular culture, capturing the imagination of the public and making them a worldwide sensation. The Beatles helped to put their home city of Liverpool on the cultural map, leading to an explosion of ‘Merseybeat’ groups, and the ‘British Invasion’ of the US by British rock and roll bands. The Rolling Stones were another hugely successful British band of the era, with their blues-infused rock music and bad-boy image appealing to a slightly more rebellious demographic.

During this period, Great Britain once again led the world in aspects of culture, music, fashion, and design, making it in many ways the coolest country on earth for a while. The decade saw the UK and the US trade musical and cultural ideas back and forth across the Atlantic – the UK gave the US the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, The Who, and Cream, while the US gave the UK Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Joni Mitchell, and The Doors.

The emergence of folk rock and progressive rock also characterised the musical landscape of the later 60s. British bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and Jethro Tull pioneered the early progressive rock genre, with their complex, ambitious music and intricate live performances. Folk rock, on the other hand, blended traditional British folk music with contemporary rock and pop sensibilities. British bands like Fairport Convention and Pentangle were at the forefront of this movement, and their music has influenced countless other artists in the decades since.

For many, this era is still widely regarded as a golden age of popular music, with sophisticated variety and thoughtful, poetic lyrics elevating pop music to an art form.

Pirate radio stations, often broadcast from boats floating out at sea around the British coast, played an essential role in broadcasting this new and experimental music to young audiences eager to hear something fresh and exciting.

Broadcasting, radio and TV

The Goon Show, a radio comedy program featuring Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, and Peter Sellers, was hugely popular during the early 1960s. The show was known for its surreal humour and helped to launch the careers of its stars, who would go on to achieve great success in film and television.

Juke Box Jury was a popular television show of the era – one of many pop music focussed TV programmes that aired at the time. The show featured a panel of celebrities who would rate and review new pop songs, providing an important platform for emerging musicians.

That Was The Week That Was (TW3) was an innovative satirical television programme that also aired in the 1960s. It was a ground-breaking show that pushed the boundaries of television broadcasting, with its irreverent take on current affairs, political satire, and social commentary. The program was notable for its sharp wit and fearless criticism of politicians, institutions, and authority figures. TW3 helped to redefine the role of television in society, and its influence can be seen in the many satirical and political programs that followed in its wake. The show was instrumental in shaping the cultural and political landscape of the 1960s, and its legacy continues to resonate in popular culture today.

Fine art

The birth of pop art is another significant cultural development of the 1960s. Pop art was characterised by its use of bright colours, bold designs, and references to popular culture. British artists such as Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake (designer of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover) were at the forefront of the movement, which challenged traditional notions of high art and elevated popular culture to the status of fine art.

The Counterculture

The 1960s was also a period of significant social and political change. The counter-culture movement emerged in response to the perceived injustices of the status quo. The movement was characterised by a rejection of traditional values and institutions and a search for alternative forms of expression and meaning.

Hippies

The hippie movement was a significant aspect of the counterculture in the late 60s, with young people seeking to reject the values of mainstream society and embrace alternative lifestyles. This period crystallised in the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’, which witnessed the release of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. The album’s innovative use of studio technology and experimentation with musical genres, instrumentation, and lyrics represented a new era of artistic creativity in the field.

The hippie lifestyle was generally characterised by a rejection of materialism, a focus on communal living, and experimentation with mind and consciousness expanding drugs and practices – like meditation and yoga. Hippie style was a celebration of self-expression, with a rejection of traditional beauty standards and an embracing of individuality and non-conformity.

Generally, hippie ethos sought to create a more peaceful and inclusive world, with a love and respect for nature, and their lifestyle reflected these values. The clothes they wore were often loose and comfortable, with natural fibres like cotton, linen, and wool being preferred over synthetic materials. Bright, bold (psychedelic) colours and intricate patterns were also popular, as were unconventional shapes and styles. Bell-bottom flared trousers, tie-dye shirts, long flowing skirts, vests, and kaftans were common hippie fashion staples. Accessories such as headbands, beads, and fringes were also popular, as were natural materials like leather and feathers. Many hippies also embraced a more natural – some might say primitive – personal look, with long hair and beards for men, minimal makeup, and a focus on a healthy, natural lifestyle.

Protest and civil rights

The Vietnam War was a significant catalyst for the counter-culture movement – particularly in the USA. However, the war was also deeply unpopular among young people in Britain, who – like their American counterparts – saw it as an unjust and unnecessary conflict. The anti-war movement gained momentum throughout the decade, with large-scale protests and demonstrations taking place in cities across both countries.

The Civil Rights movement in the United States also had a significant impact on British society. The struggle for racial equality and justice resonated with young people in Britain, many of whom saw it as part of a broader struggle against oppression and injustice.

Led by figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, the movement fought for equal rights and an end to racial segregation. The passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 were major victories for the movement in the US, but racial inequality and discrimination still persisted in many areas of society.

The 1960s also saw the rise of the feminist movement, which fought for gender equality and challenged traditional gender roles. Women began to demand access to education and job opportunities, and the birth control pill allowed for greater control over their reproductive rights.

Major events and developments

Despite the many positive developments that occurred during the decade, the 1960s was also marked by several darker moments. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, and the assassinations of President John F Kennedy (JFK), his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King Jr. caused deep distress around the world, ending a period of hope and optimism in American politics. The Vietnam War also dragged on throughout the decade, with ongoing protests and opposition.

Technologically, however, the 1960s was a decade of incredible innovation and progress. The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union was in full swing, with the Russian, Yuri Gagarin, becoming the first man in space in April 1961, and the US Apollo 11 mission in July 1969 landing astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Also, let’s not leave out Michael Collins, who stayed in the control module during the Apollo 11 mission.

The moon landing happened just weeks before the famous Woodstock rock concert, a three-day music festival that took place in August 1969 on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York. The festival is widely considered to be one of the defining moments of the 1960s counterculture movement. It was attended by over 400,000 people, who gathered to celebrate music, peace, and love. The festival featured performances from many legendary names in rock music, including Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Despite the huge number of people in attendance, the festival was remarkably peaceful, with only a handful of incidents reported. The success of the Woodstock festival has made it an enduring symbol of the hippie counterculture and an important moment in the history of music and social movements.

1966 saw England famously win the Football World Cup for the first and (to date) only time, defeating West Germany 4-2 in the final. The victory was a significant moment of national pride and brought joy to millions of people across the country.

Also in 1969, Prince Charles (now King Charles III) was invested as the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle, Wales, in a ceremony that marked his coming of age. The investiture was a significant moment in the history of the British monarchy, and it symbolised the continuity and stability of the British institution in the face of the major social and cultural changes that had taken place during the decade.

The development of computer technology also took off in the 1960s, with the creation of the first computer mouse and the founding of companies like Intel.

Around the world

As well as in the UK and US, the 1960s was a time of change and upheaval around the world, with many significant events taking place.

Just before the start of the decade, Fidel Castro and his revolutionary forces overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, leading to the establishment of a communist government in Cuba. This event had significant implications for the Cold War throughout the 60s, as the US saw Cuba as a threat to its national security and attempted to overthrow the Castro government through the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

In 1966, Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution in China, a political campaign aimed at purging capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society and promoting Maoist ideology. The campaign led to widespread violence, political purges, and the persecution of intellectuals and other perceived enemies of the state.

In 1968, Czechoslovakia experienced a period of political liberalisation known as the Prague Spring, in which the government sought to implement reforms and democratise the country’s political system. However, the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries saw this as a threat to their control over Eastern Europe, and they invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the movement.

In May 1968, a series of protests and strikes broke out in France, involving millions of students, workers, and other citizens. The protests were fuelled by a variety of grievances, including dissatisfaction with the government, the education system, and capitalism. The protests ultimately failed to bring about significant change, but they had a lasting impact on French society and politics.

The 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City were marked by controversy and tragedy, as several athletes protested against racial discrimination and political oppression. One of the most iconic moments of the Olympics came when two black American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists in a Black Power salute during the medal ceremony for the 200-meter race. The Olympics also saw the extraordinary long jump world record set by Bob Beamon of the USA. His new world record of 8.90 metres beat the old one by more than two feet and remained unbeaten for 23 years.

Legacy

Overall, the 1960s were a time of tremendous change and growth, both culturally and politically. The decade saw the emergence of new ideas and movements that transformed society with unusual speed and frequency (almost, it seemed, on a weekly basis), and the legacy of these changes continues to be felt today.

While there were certainly some darker moments during this period, the overall spirit of the era was one of fun, hope and optimism, and it remains an exciting and enticing period to look back nostalgically on today.

The decade’s importance only seems to grow with each passing year; however, the 60s, almost more than any other decade, is often viewed through rose-tinted ‘granny-takes-a-trip’ glasses. It should be noted then, that the era wasn’t all peace, love, incense and peppermints, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. And anyway, as the saying goes: if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t really there!

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