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Best Movies about the 1970s

Updated on June 20, 2015
From "Roll Bounce" - not one of the best movies about the 1970s *g*
From "Roll Bounce" - not one of the best movies about the 1970s *g*

It's the 70's all over again, baby!

70's nostalgia in the movies has been a booming business off and on ever since we left the seventies, but we're experiencing something of a renaissance lately with several good movies featuring a 70's setting -- from American Gangster to Zodiac, the 1970s are here again!

All of the movies featured here were released since 2000, but the 70's setting has really never gone out of style as the decade itself was something of a golden era of Hollywood film-making. So be sure to check out the list of other movies I mention at the bottom of the hub, if you really want to dig into the best movies about the Seventies!

American Gangster

American Gangster opens in the year 1968, but the bulk of the action takes place during the early 1970s while Frank Lucas was growing his Harlem drug empire by importing heroin directly from Vietnam in the caskets of dead US soldiers.

Directed by my favorite director, Ridley Scott, and starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in excellent performances as Frank Lucas and Richie Robbins, the film is awash in 70s style and music. While Denzel spends most of the movie in suits, and therefore presents a rather timeless look, Russell Crowe is outfitted in some of the most unfortunate 70's attire the costuming team could get their hands on. *g* Despite the satorial mishaps however, Rusty looks amazing.

American Gangster was one of my favorite films released in 2007 and I strongly recommend grabbing the DVD for your collection.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Zodiac

Like American Gangster, Zodiac actually starts in the late 60s (1969 to be precise) with the first murders attributed to the Zodiac Killer, but most of the pivotal elements of the story, which spans four decades, occurs during the 1970s. And you can tell it's the Seventies because everyone's smoking... in the office!

Based upon the books written by Robert Graysmith, the movie is directed by David Fincher and stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith, who was a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle at the time of the Zodiac murders. Robert Downey Jr. plays Paul Avery who works the crime beat for the Chronicle and Gyllenhaal's character basically follows him around like a puppy dog.

The movie isn't so much about the Zodiac Killer as it is about how the frustrating hunt for him changed the lives of the journalists and cops on the case. The main cops working the Zodiac care are played by Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards. All of the performances in the movie are great, and Downey Jr. of course tends to stand-out no matter what he is doing, but I think the real winning performance here is Ruffalo. He's not a scenery-chewer though. It's just a nice downbeat performance of a character who is enormously frustrated and consumed by a case he can never solve.

Munich

This controversial film about the shooting of Israeli Olympic athletes by terrorists, and Israel's ensuing retalation, was directed by Stephen Spielberg. The movie starts with the Munich Massacre in 1972 and Eric Bana stars as a low level Mossad agent assigned to lead the assissination squad that will track down and kill the the lists of terrorists thought to be responsible. The entirety of the movie takes place in the 70s. Also starring is Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig and Ciarin Hinds.

I skipped this movie in the movie theatre, but I eventually got around to watching it on DVD and it isn't a terrible movie,but I don't think it is nearly as interesting as some of the others on this list. It is certainly awash in the 70s due to its setting, but you'll find less attention paid to the setting. Costume and design take a big back seat to other elements of the story, which will make it less interesting to someone who enjoys the 70's nostalgia. You'll get a better dose of that in American Gangster or Zodiac -- which are both far more stylish films.

Almost Famous Trailer

Almost Famous

Almost Famous, released in 2000, was written and directed by Cameron Crowe, and it is slightly semi-autobiographical. Set in 1973, Almost Famous is about teen journalist William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit) who goes on tour with an up and coming rock band ,named Stillwater, after being hired to write on assignment by Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone, of course, having no idea that their new journalist is 15 years old.

It's your basic coming of age story, but with a very smart script, a great 70's soundtrack, and an excellent cast. In addition to Patrick Fugit, the film features Frances McDormand as William's mother; Billy Crudup as Russell, the charismatic star of the band; Kate Hudson as a groupie and sometime girlfriend; and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs.

I love this movie a lot and like most of Cameron Crowe's movies it is very personal, touching and also extremely witty with great dialogue. If you've never seen it, you should definitely make time for a viewing, especially if you love the 70s.

Do it, Do it!

Starsky & Hutch

I'm not generally a huge fan of comedy, especially parody and spoofs, because they are almost never quite as funny as the actors and writers think they are. But there's a couple of movie comedians I love and Owen Wilson happens to be one of them.

Ben Stiller has his moments, but he is never as funny as he thinks he is. Neither is Vince Vaughn, who is also in this movie, and honestly I think they are both better dramatic actors than they are comedians.. Sometimes though Stiller comes close to being funny and having Wilson around definitely helps.

All of this just to get around to say that the Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller 2004 movie, Starsky & Hutch, is pretty funny. And if you're looking for 1970s nostalgia, this is the place. You've got wide lapels, ugly colors and horrible turtlenecks galore. But best of all, you have the awesome car -- the 1974 Ford Gran Turino.

More Great Movies about the 70s

What's Your Favorite Movie Set in the 70s?

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    • profile image

      Ryan 

      6 years ago

      great list! dazed & confused should be on there too.

      two things tho:

      -in the Almost Famous review, you reference Kate Hudson as a groupie. i think anybody that' seen almost famous should know to call her a band aid, not a groupie. just saying!

      -ben stiller knows he's not as funny as it appears he thinks he is. he's publicly stated it. :D

    • desert blondie profile image

      desert blondie 

      10 years ago from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen

      Fun hub...Almost Famous my fav from this list. I agree with your assessment of Ben Stiller.

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 

      10 years ago from London UK

      Groovy reviews baby!!:)

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 

      10 years ago from Georgia

      Definitely great movies of that era.

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