The Canon - 1970s Edition

In my post last week about the death of Harold Ramis, I mentioned that a film he wrote,  Animal House, would definitely be on my list of essential films of the 1970s whenever I got around to writing up said list.  Since then, I started thinking about what else should be on that list.  But before I get to that, what do I mean by essential films?

(Cribbed shamelessly from THIS post about the film canon for the 1980s)

I don’t know if it’s as big of a deal now, but when I was in high school, there seemed to be a big push for cultural literacy.  I remember the lists of books we should read and historical events we should know about in order to be considered culturally literate.  In today’s world, though, I do not believe that our shared culture really comes from books and historical events.

It comes from our films.

Let me just say right now and very firmly that I offer no opinion on this state of affairs.  I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English.  I love books.  But when was the last time you heard someone casually quote “The Canterbury Tales” in conversation?  Meanwhile, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve heard someone give some variation on “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto” or slip into a bad Schwarzenegger impression to say “I’ll be back.”

There are movies that have shaped our pop culture and are still referenced today.  Just before I wrote the 1980s Canon post, I showed my teenager Speed, and he came to me a few days later to tell me that he’d overheard someone using “Pop quiz, hotshot” in a conversation.  Does knowing where that phrase came from really matter?  Maybe not, but I feel that I am doing my children a disservice by not showing them the origins of references they may encounter.  I suppose you could call it pop cultural literacy.

I’ve already taken a shot the 1980s. Now here, in no particular order, is my list of the pop culture film canon for the 1970s (Your mileage may vary. Keep your kid’s age and maturity level in mind when selecting films to show them. Don’t put Animal House on for a ten-year-old. Angry tirades about objections or omissions may be left in the comments.): 

The Godfather

The Godfather Part II

Apocalypse Now

National Lampoon’s Animal House



A Clockwork Orange


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Dirty Harry


The Exorcist

American Graffiti

Soylent Green

Blazing Saddles

Young Frankenstein



The Rocky Horror Picture Show

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Monty Python and the Holy Grail


Taxi Driver

Star Wars

Annie Hall

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Saturday Night Fever




Monty Python’s Life of Brian


And then there are a few films that, while I wouldn’t consider them to be essential, I’d also include because I like them.  It’s my list, so I can do that! -

Smokey and the Bandit

The Black Hole

The Muppet Movie



There's my list.  Did I miss anything?

- Alan Decker

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