Best Thrillers of the 1970's

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  • 1970: Patton. I’ll be the first to admit, this is not really a thriller. But I think that certain genres (War films, Westerns) often cover up the fact that the essence of the film is in another genre completely. I think this one (with a great performance by George C. Scott) has some real tension that is evoked by great thrillers. Your mileage may vary.
  • Best Foreign: Le Circle Rouge (The Red Circle). Nice little thriller with 70’s French superstars Alain Delon and Yves Montand as thief and cop, respectively. Fast pacing, good heist sequence, and an appropriately European ending.
  • 1971: Klute. An underappreciated thriller done straight up. Donald Sutherland is the PI, Jane Fonda (in an Oscar award winning role) is the high-end call girl who hires him, and Alan J. Pakula seamlessly runs the surprisingly taut story from start to satisfying conclusion. Also recommended: The French Connection.
  • Best Foreign: Get Carter. Director Mike Hodges produces a very solid, if not quite great, vengeance story starring Michael Caine looking to get even for the death of his younger brother.
  • Also worth mentioning: A Clockwork Orange. It’s directed by Kubrick, an American, but it has the feel of a UK production. It’s neither fish nor fowl (domestic or foreign), but it would be sinful not to include this one.
  • 1972: Sleuth. One of the better adaptations of a stage play into film, Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier shine in this very funny and very interesting thriller. I hear last year's remake is only tangentially related.
  • Best Foreign: Un Flic. Another Jean-Pierre Melville film (he also directed Le Circle Rouge), this has Alain Delon starring as the cop this time in a solid, though not spectacular, heist film.
  • 1973: Papillon. Amazing tandem in Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen about very different French criminals sent to an island prison and trying to escape. Great stuff.
  • Best Foreign: Day of the Jackal. Truly suspenseful thriller from Fred Zinneman, Edward Fox gives a Oscar-worthy performance as a hit man with a very big target.
  • 1974: Chinatown. Where to even begin? Nicholson shines in one of the all-time great films, John Houston shines in his supporting role, and Polanski is at his best.
  • Best Foreign: The Man with the Golden Gun.A little over the top, and maybe not even the best Bond movie of the decade, but how can you deny the fun that Christopher Lee and Hervé Villechaize are having?
  • 1975: Jaws. Scary, scary, scary. I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.
  • Best Foreign: Graveyard of Honor. Not Fukasaku’s best, but it’s a good example of the yakuza genre that was a Japanese equivalent of the B-level film noir.
  • 1976: All of the President’s Men. Probably the best political thriller ever made (not that it's a gigantic sub-genre). Sad that it’s based on fact. Also recommended: Three Days of the Condor.
  • Best Foreign: The Man on the Roof. This Swedish production is a little flawed, especially in its pacing, but it’s fascinating in its own way.
  • 1977: Sorcerer. I’ve talked about it here.
  • Best Foreign: The American Friend An early take on the Patricia Highsmith's character of Tom Ripley (here played by Dennis Hopper), this is an interesting work from Wim Wenders.
  • 1978: Force 10 from Navarone. Hard to know whether this is a sequel, remake, or homage to the stellar 1961 film The Guns of Navarone. And because of that this one is usually beaten up because it’s not as good as the earlier film. Which is too bad, really, because this is a highly underrated action thriller.
  • Best Foreign: None yet. 1978 seems like a thin year for good film.
  • 1979: Alien. As one of the characters puts it: “I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies”. Agreed.
  • Best Foreign: The 4th Man. Before Paul Verhoeven made weird, sexually charged films in the US, he made… weird, sexually charged films in his native Netherlands.
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This is in the same series as this one about the 80’s.