Few genres have managed to capture a zeitgeist quite like the conspiracy thriller. Although a persistent presence in the medium for decades prior, the genre only emerged as a real force during the 1970s, an American decade mired in distrust, crime, and Watergate.
And while 'paranoia' would denote a sense of the irrational - a fear to be dismissed as an intangible reality - the works of Alan Pakula, Francis Ford Coppola and others during that decade were as much reflective of that zeitgeist as they were adept at tapping into those timeless, almost imperceptible fears every person has. Their films resonate not just because they were masterful in conveying dread, but because they encapsulated the anxieties of an era that, for better or for worse, still manages to shape the world to this day.
That does not mean, however, that conspiracy thrillers are the unique preserve of Nixon's America. While that milieu certainly inspired some of the prevailing themes of the genre, or at least amplified them, filmmakers find themselves returning to it time and again, whether to pay homage, like in the Russos' Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or to tap into a resurgent malaise, like 1998's Enemy of the State.
At the very least, however, you can guarantee they'll have you looking over your shoulder more times than usual...