By Beth McConnell – The 1970’s is quite possibly the greatest decade in cinema history. The summer of love was over, America was embroiled in an unwinnable war and the Manson murders had hit Western culture hard. Cinema reflected this, with the 1970’s came bleak and nihilistic movies. However, it’s arguable that no decade before, or since has pumped out quite so many timeless classics.
As Jump Scare is predominantly a genre site, some classics such as Grease may have been left off this list in order to make room for more niche titles. However, many of the films included on this, whilst not horror are simply too good to leave out.
Honourable mentions; Piranha, Phantasm, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Grease
25. Black Christmas
As winter break begins, a group of sorority sisters, including Jess (Olivia Hussey) and the often inebriated Barb (Margot Kidder), begin to receive anonymous, lascivious phone calls. Initially, Barb eggs the caller on, but stops when he responds threateningly. Soon, Barb’s friend Claire (Lynne Griffin) goes missing from the sorority house, and a local adolescent girl is murdered, leading the girls to suspect a serial killer is on the loose. But no one realises just how near the culprit is.
The movie was met with mixed reviews upon release, however over time it has become a cult-classic amongst slasher fans.
Four city-dwelling friends (Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox) decide to get away from their jobs, wives and kids for a week of canoeing in rural Georgia. When the men arrive, they are not welcomed by the backwoods locals, who stalk the vacationers and savagely attack them in the woods. Reeling from the ambush, the friends attempt to return home but are surrounded by dangerous rapids and pursued by a madman. Soon, their canoe trip turns into a fight for survival.
The movie was a critically praised, being called the best movie of 1972 by many.
23. The Wicker Man
Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) arrives on the small Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate the report of a missing child. A conservative Christian, the policeman observes the residents’ frivolous sexual displays and strange pagan rituals, particularly the temptations of Willow (Britt Ekland), daughter of the island magistrate, Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee). The more Sergeant Howie learns about the islanders’ strange practices, the closer he gets to tracking down the missing child.
The film garnered moderate success upon release, although today it continues to build upon it’s reputation as being a beautiful and thought provoking horror movie.
22. The Last House On The Left
Teenagers Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) head to the city for a concert, then afterward go looking for drugs. Instead, they find a gang of escaped convicts who subject them to a night of torture and rape. The gang then kills the girls in the woods, not realising they’re near Mari’s house. When they pose as salesmen and are taken in by Mari’s mother (Cynthia Carr) and father (Gaylord St. James), it doesn’t take the parents long to figure out their identities and plot revenge.
Upon release the movie received a lot of negative attention due to it’s controversial content. Although within horror circles it is noted as being a classic and the inception of many more hardcore horror movies to come.
21. American Graffiti
On the last day of summer vacation in 1962, friends Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), Steve (Ronny Howard), Terry (Charles Martin Smith) and John (Paul Le Mat) cruise the streets of small-town California while a mysterious disc jockey (Wolfman Jack) spins classic rock’n’roll tunes. It’s the last night before their grown-up lives begin, and Steve’s high-school sweetheart, a hot-to-trot blonde, a bratty adolescent and a disappearing angel in a Thunderbird provide all the excitement they can handle.
Although the movie is often overlooked, it must be noted for it’s sense of good spirit and youthful wonder that would soon become a staple for Lucas’ friend, Steven Spielberg.
Henry (John Nance) resides alone in a bleak apartment surrounded by industrial gloom. When he discovers that an earlier fling with Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) left her pregnant, he marries the expectant mother and has her move in with him. Things take a decidedly strange turn when the couple’s baby turns out to be a bizarre lizard-like creature that won’t stop wailing. Other characters, including a disfigured lady who lives inside a radiator, inhabit the building and add to Henry’s troubles.
Like many movies that are beyond their time, Eraserhead wasn’t fully appreciated until the 21st Century where it become popular for it’s blend of black comedy and body horror.
Just before the destruction of the planet Krypton, scientist Jor-El (Marlon Brando) sends his infant son Kal-El on a spaceship to Earth. Raised by kindly farmers Jonathan (Glenn Ford) and Martha Kent (Phyllis Thaxter), young Clark (Christopher Reeve) discovers the source of his superhuman powers and moves to Metropolis to fight evil. As Superman, he battles the villainous Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman), while, as novice reporter Clark Kent, he attempts to woo co-worker Lois Lane (Margot Kidder).
The movie thrusted Christopher Reeve into superstardom, the actor is still widely regarded as the definitive Superman by movie fans. Superman: The Movie is also noted as being the most loved Superman movie and one of the most critically well received comic book movies to date.
18. Dawn Of The Dead
As hordes of zombies swarm over the U.S., the terrified populace tries everything in their power to escape the attack of the undead, but neither cities nor the countryside prove safe. In Pennsylvania, radio-station employee Stephen (David Emge) and his girlfriend, Francine (Gaylen Ross), escape in the station helicopter, accompanied by two renegade SWAT members, Roger and Pete. The group retreats to the haven of an enclosed shopping centre to make what could be humanity’s last stand.
The second entry in Romero’s ‘Trilogy of the Dead’ the movie was hailed for it’s use of practical effects and is many peoples favourite zombie film to date.
17. Mean Streets
A slice of street life in Little Italy among lower echelon Mafiosos, unbalanced punks, and petty criminals. A small-time hood gets in over his head with a vicious loan shark. In an attempt to free himself from the dangers of his debt, he gets help from a friend who is also involved in criminal activities.
Upon it’s release, Mean Streets was praised for it’s originality and film making, it still remains an influence for crime movies today.
16. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Science fiction adventure about a group of people who attempt to contact alien intelligence. Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) witnesses an unidentified flying object, and even has a “sunburn” from its bright lights to prove it. Roy refuses to accept an explanation for what he saw and is prepared to give up his life to pursue the truth about UFOs.
Like many of Spielberg’s movies, Close Encounters was a huge box-office and critical success. It continues to be a measuring stick for so many family friendly box office-movies today.
15. The Omen
American diplomat Robert (Gregory Peck) adopts Damien (Harvey Stephens) when his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), delivers a stillborn child. After Damien’s first nanny hangs herself, Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) warns Robert that Damien will kill Katherine’s unborn child. Shortly thereafter, Brennan dies and Katherine miscarries when Damien pushes her off a balcony. As more people around Damien die, Robert investigates Damien’s background and realises his adopted son may be the Antichrist.
One of the few movies to be nominated for an Academy Award, The Omen continues to be one of the finest crafted horror movies to date. It’s themes and performances make it one to watch for many audiences every Halloween.
In this chilling adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel, withdrawn and sensitive teen Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) faces taunting from classmates at school and abuse from her fanatically pious mother (Piper Laurie) at home. When strange occurrences start happening around Carrie, she begins to suspect that she has supernatural powers. Invited to the prom by the empathetic Tommy Ross (William Katt), Carrie tries to let her guard down, but things eventually take a dark and violent turn.
One of the finest Stephen King adaptations to ever be committed to film, Carrie boasts excellent performances which boarder on being uncomfortable and a seminal jump scare to close the movie out which would populate horror for decades to come.
Suzy (Jessica Harper) travels to Germany to attend ballet school. When she arrives, late on a stormy night, no one lets her in, and she sees Pat (Eva Axén), another student, fleeing from the school. When Pat reaches her apartment, she is murdered. The next day, Suzy is admitted to her new school, but has a difficult time settling in. She hears noises, and often feels ill. As more people die, Suzy uncovers the terrifying secret history of the place.
Suspiria is regarded by many to be a work of art, Argento’s effort is truly terrifying, it’s mesmerising colour pallet has made it an enduring horror movie to this day.
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), a small-time boxer from working-class Philadelphia, is arbitrarily chosen to take on the reigning world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), when the undefeated fighter’s scheduled opponent is injured. While training with feisty former bantamweight contender Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), Rocky tentatively begins a relationship with Adrian (Talia Shire), the wallflower sister of his meat-packer pal Paulie (Burt Young).
One of the most popular movie characters of all time, Rocky was met with critical and box-office praise, launching Stallone’s career into the stratosphere, turning the whole world into montage loving gym goers at the same time.
On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.
A juggernaut of cinema, Carpenter/Myers often stand side by side with Hitchcock/Bates as a duo who moulded the world of horror as we know it today. The movie was a sleeper success which slowly took over the United States with it’s gradual release.
10. A Clockwork Orange
In an England of the future, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his “Droogs” spend their nights getting high at the Korova Milkbar before embarking on “a little of the old ultraviolence,” while jauntily warbling “Singin’ in the Rain.” After he’s jailed for bludgeoning the Cat Lady to death, Alex submits to behavior modification technique to earn his freedom; he’s conditioned to abhor violence. Returned to the world defenseless, Alex becomes the victim of his prior victims.
A controversial movie to this day, A Clockwork Orange is one of Kubrick’s finest efforts. Singing In The Rain would never be the same again.
9. The Godfather
Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, this mob drama, based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, focuses on the powerful Italian-American crime family of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). When the don’s youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly joins the Mafia, he becomes involved in the inevitable cycle of violence and betrayal. Although Michael tries to maintain a normal relationship with his wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), he is drawn deeper into the family business.
There’s not much to say about Godfather that hasn’t been said before, the movie was met with universal critical praise, breaking box-office records the world over, the movie was met with an unprecedented amount of awards.
8. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
When Sally (Marilyn Burns) hears that her grandfather’s grave may have been vandalised, she and her paraplegic brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain), set out with their friends to investigate. After a detour to their family’s old farmhouse, they discover a group of crazed, murderous outcasts living next door. As the group is attacked one by one by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen), who wears a mask of human skin, the survivors must do everything they can to escape.
One of the most infamous horror movies of all time, director Tobe Hooper created a terrifying masterpiece. A standout in guerrilla film making. Wrongfully labeled as a blood-fest, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre became an infamous video-nasty.
7. Apocalypse Now
In Vietnam in 1970, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) takes a perilous and increasingly hallucinatory journey upriver to find and terminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a once-promising officer who has reportedly gone completely mad. In the company of a Navy patrol boat filled with street-smart kids, a surfing-obsessed Air Cavalry officer (Robert Duvall), and a crazed freelance photographer (Dennis Hopper), Willard travels further and further into the heart of darkness.
Regarded as the sans pareil Vietnam war-movie, the production of the movie is now part of Hollywood fokelore. Simply a work of art.
6. Taxi Driver
Suffering from insomnia, disturbed loner Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) takes a job as a New York City cabbie, haunting the streets nightly, growing increasingly detached from reality as he dreams of cleaning up the filthy city. When Travis meets pretty campaign worker Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), he becomes obsessed with the idea of saving the world, first plotting to assassinate a presidential candidate, then directing his attentions toward rescuing 12-year-old prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster).
Nominated for four Academy Awards and praised by Rodger Ebert as one of the greatest movies of all time “Taxi Driver is a hell, from the opening shot of a cab emerging from stygian clouds of steam to the climactic killing scene in which the camera finally looks straight down. Scorsese wanted to look away from Travis’s rejection; we almost want to look away from his life. But he’s there, all right, and he’s suffering.”
5. Star Wars
The Imperial Forces — under orders from cruel Darth Vader (David Prowse) — hold Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hostage, in their efforts to quell the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), captain of the Millennium Falcon, work together with the companionable droid duo R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) to rescue the beautiful princess, help the Rebel Alliance, and restore freedom and justice to the Galaxy.
The driving franchise in cinema history, Star Wars went on to carve a path to be the biggest phenomena for decades to come. Star Wars is now a way of life for may movie fans.
In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and attaches itself to one of the crew, causing him to fall into a coma.
One of the most finely crafted movies of all time, Alien is a none stop terror train through space. From the design of the Xenomorph, to the direction of the movie, Alien is quite simply a near perfect horror movie.
3. The Exorcist
One of the most profitable horror movies ever made, this tale of an exorcism is based loosely on actual events. When young Regan (Linda Blair) starts acting odd — levitating, speaking in tongues — her worried mother (Ellen Burstyn) seeks medical help, only to hit a dead end. A local priest (Jason Miller), however, thinks the girl may be seized by the devil. The priest makes a request to perform an exorcism, and the church sends in an expert (Max von Sydow) to help with the difficult job.
The highest grossing horror movie of all time, the most infamous scary title in cinema, award nominated and sighted as “the scariest movie of all time”. The Exorcist will most likely never be topped in the world of horror.
2. The Godfather Part II
The compelling sequel to “The Godfather,” contrasting the life of Corleone father and son. Traces the problems of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in 1958 and that of a young immigrant Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) in 1917’s Hell’s Kitchen. Michael survives many misfortunes and Vito is introduced to a life of crime.
Often seen as one of the greatest works in cinema, The Godfather Part II builds upon it’s predecessor with two performances widely to be regarded as the best of all time from Robert De Nero and Al Pacino
When a young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island, police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches, but mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) overrules him, fearing that the loss of tourist revenue will cripple the town. Ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and grizzled ship captain Quint (Robert Shaw) offer to help Brody capture the killer beast, and the trio engage in an epic battle of man vs. nature.
A cinematic triumph and one of the most enduring and popular movies of all time, Jaws popularised the summer blockbuster and was for a time the highest grossing movie of all time. The movie won three Academy Awards and I personally merit it with being the most effective horror movie of all time. (But that’s for another article)
What do you think about our list? Let us know in the comments below!