The 70s were another time of change, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and not everybody was happy about it. The civil rights movement was over, but so was the fervor of the space race, and many looked fondly back on the innocence of the 60s. Many crises of energy and oil foreboded grim times to come, and Richard Nixon was finally unseated. The films I chose I feel best represent the more serious elements of the decade, while still encompassing the lighter parts of life.
The Godfather Part 1 & Part 2(1972 & 1974): Ah the Godfather, truly a masterpiece of cinema, greatly outshining the book it was based on, and actually changing the way the mafia thought of themselves. Few items of media can claim that they actually changed their subject matter, though this is one of them. I have decided to lump in both the original and part 2 in this one section, because they are really two parts of one film, and they retain similar levels of acclaim, one of the few sequels to do so. The art of cinema may have not been revolutionized by these films, but the countless imitators show just how much of an impact it has had.
Young Frankenstein (1974): Mel Brooks produced two films in 1974, this and Blazing Saddles, but I believe that this film was really his Magnus Opus, nothing in it is slapdash, or incidental, it is all ordained. As a film shot in black and white it is an oddity, especially in this period, but Brooks was adamant about it, and a better film is developed because of his adherence to the 30s tropes and style of filmmaking. More subdued than many comedies, using more of a British style of humor than an American, resulting in a very unique film compared to what was on at the time. This film was not a major influence, nor a milestone, but it was a nod to the past, something many films in the decade sought to emulate, descending back to what was archaic for exaggerated effect.
Jaws (1975): Jaws was the movie that created the summer blockbuster, a phenomenon that has exploded in the recent years, and like the Godfather, had a huge impact in real life. This was the film that made people terrified of the ocean, of lakes, of even their own baths; such was the brilliance of one of Spielberg’s first films. Much of this was actually due to technical limitations, in that the shark they had was not up to his standards, and so was hidden for much of the film, creating the tense situation which put audiences on the edge of their seats. If Jaws was made today it would use CGI for the shark; creating what would inevitably be a weaker film. This is a movie that could be made at no other time, and one which helped to define the further decades.
Star Wars (1977): Everyone knows Star Wars, what has become a household name was originally a one off that had little hopes of succeeding, much like the original Final Fantasy. The film that created a billion dollar franchise, brought sci-fi into the mainstream paving the way for numerous other films and one that brought the classic hero’s journey archetype to a mainstream audiences is truly something to be remembered. Even though its immediate sequel would embrace the most critical acclaim, the original is the one that is remembered by all and one film that managed to define a decade.
Out of all the films I have described only the Godfather duology have won the best picture academy award, which shows just how little the academy awards really mean. The movies that define a decade are a mix of genres, styles, and messages, because that is what life really is, a mix of drama and tragedy and horror and adventure. It all comes together to form one cohesive muck. So the quintessential movie of the decade, that would be Star Wars, a space epic that showed how science fiction could be a popular genre, or at the very least fantasy set in space, and led to a great renaissance in special effects, and the advent of merchandising on an entirely new level.
PS: Sorry for the links to TV Tropes