Cinema in the 1970s marked a dramatic shift in how films were made. A level of independence was granted to writers and directors that was unheard of during the studio system. The thrillers during this decade dealt with themes such as alienation and isolation, with characters forced into moral quandaries without knowing whom around them they could trust.
The 1970s gave us many memorable, gritty crime thrillers, shot on location as opposed to soundstages, giving them a realism that audiences had not seen before.
While Alfred Hitchcock reined with stylish thrillers during the 1950s and 1960s, the 1970s ushered in an element of realism to the thriller that a crop of brash and creative young filmmakers pushed to the limits. The result? Audiences were treated to films that in many cases could not be made in the Hollywood of today.
We’ve taken seven thrillers from the 1970s that were remarkable for their time and hold up pretty good today. From creepy to disturbing to thought-provoking, these are films that should be on every movie buff’s watch list.
7. Play Misty for Me (1971)
Before Kathy Bates was James Caan’s number one fan in Misery, Jessica Walter (yes, the same actress who plays Lucille Bluth) is disk jockey Clint Eastwood’s number one fan in 1971’s Play Misty for Me.
This is early Eastwood, and is markedly different than the spaghetti westerns and cop movies for which Eastwood is best known. And it’s important for a number of reasons.
Play Misty for Me marked Eastwood’s debut as a director, ushering in one of America’s most popular and prolific filmmakers. Eastwood would go on to carve a reputation as a director who delivered successful movies on time and under budget.
Like many thrillers of the 1970s, Misty has something of a raw, unstylized feel to it. Scenes are shot on location and not in an obvious sound stage. The tone of the film is dark, and a sense of realism pervades the film. Films like Misty, Taxi Driver, and Don’t Look Now marked a period of neo-noir in American film, launching the careers of many gifted filmmakers.
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