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The Best 1970s Movies on Netflix

The Best 1970s Movies on NetflixWhen I look at the selection of 1970s movies on Netflix, it can be a little disappointing. If you are a fan of schlock horror, or big-budget comedies that just aren’t very funny, you’d be in luck.

Not that there isn’t a time and place for an awesome Pam Grier binge watching session, but it’s easy to forget there were other good movies in the 1970s besides the first two Godfather films. (This post has been updated as of July 2021. Looks like Netflix is only streaming a few movies from the 1970s so I’ve added other streaming options where you can find these top 70s movies.)

I compared the American Film Institute’s “100 Years of…” lists with what’s available to stream currently on Netflix. Here are more than a dozen of the best 1970s movies on Netflix you can stream right now.

Click each title to go straight to your Netflix account.

Love Story 1970

I didn’t see Love Story until the late 1990s. Thanks to the Turner Classic Movie channel and American Movie Classics (back when AMC only played old movies) I was more familiar with Ray Milland than with Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw.

I’m not a fan of tear-jerkers, but Love Story is still worth watching for Ali MacGraw’s luminous performance of Jenny-the-dying-girl, and seeing a Ryan O’Neal movie from before when we knew what a jerk he is–allegedly.

Based on a hugely successful novel of questionable quality, the movie transcends the weaker source material because of the charming performances by the film’s actors, much like The Notebook or 50 Shades of Gray, or so I’ve heard.

I intend to have my teen daughters watch this with me, since I went with them to see The Fault in Our Stars, and they owe me.

Love Story is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available on Amazon Prime Video, to subscribers of fubo, Paramount+, and is free with ads on Crackle.

The French Connection 1971

I’m due for a rewatch of this one. Gene Hackman was already a big star when I started watching him in movies, but The French Connection role of Popeye Doyle was the part launching him into leading man territory.

Other leading men of the time like James Caan, Peter Boyle, and Steve McQueen turned to role down either to avoid being typecast, or because of the character’s racist dialogue. Even Gene Hackman had trouble with what he was required to say.

The famous scene of the car chasing an elevated train through the city is still thrilling. If it looks realistic, it’s because it was. Filmed without proper permits, at least one of the crashes and several of the near misses were real.

The French Connection is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.

Harold and Maude 1971

Maybe the most off-beat romantic comedy ever. Harold is a rich young man who stages fake suicide attempts over and over in order to get an emotional response from his cold mother. He meets almost-eighty Maude who teaches him how to love and how to live.

Highly controversial for the sixty-year age difference between the couple, it still feels edgy despite looking very dated.

Harold and Maude is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.

Chinatown 1974

I just re-watched this and noticed how timely the plots are involving corruption and the California water shortage. It’s more exciting than it sounds, I swear.

Jack Nicholson nails it as the classic film noir detective, with his wry delivery and slightly seedy look. Faye Dunaway is perfectly cast as the rich guy’s daughter with a flawed eye and a dark secret.

Despite its complex and sometimes dry (ha ha) plot about irrigation, Chinatown is regarded as one of the best films ever, launching two of the most memorable movie quotes.

Chinatown IS currently available on Netflix and also on Amazon Prime Video.

The Conversation 1974

Francis Ford Coppola and Gene Hackman have called this their favorite movie. Filmed between the first two (good) Godfather movies, Hackman is a surveillance expert in San Francisco hired for the tricky job of recording a young couple as they talk in Union Square.

Hackman becomes obsessed and guilty about the job, fearing a repeat of an earlier situation that went horribly wrong. The portrayal of mania, both religious and other, are clammy and real here.

Enjoy a young Harrison Ford as the Director’s assistant. Ford chose to portray his henchman as gay. It’s subtle, though out there enough to be a risky choice for the time.

I forget Cindy Williams was a dramatic actress before Laverne and Shirley. She’s good!

The Conversation is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available on Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Epix.

The Great Gatsby 1974

Why is it so hard to make a decent movie of one of the best novels of the twentieth century? Robert Redford and Mia Farrow are pretty and dressed to the nines in outfits that are the bee’s knees, but they miss the darkness of the era and only hit the shallowness of the Jazz Era.

Love seeing a young Scott Wilson, Hershel on The Walking Dead, as the lunk mechanic husband.

The Great Gatsby is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.

3 Days of the Condor 1975

Robert Redford is perfect as the CIA analyst who has to move from just reading books to unravelling a plot. Steeped in post-Watergate funk, it’s the movie made when we were all waiting to be disappointed again.

Half as good as the source novel, Six Days of the Condor, naturally. It’s like they made a movie out of a Shakespeare play and called it Sixth Night.

It’s hard to get your head around Faye Dunaway’s switch from kidnap victim to willing accomplice. Would she have believed him if he hadn’t had glorious corn-gold hair?

Despite a few flaws, this is a favorite political intrigue thriller. I enjoyed the recent movie Captain America:The Winter Soldier because it reminded me so much of Condor.

3 Days of the Condor is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available on Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max.

Taxi Driver 1976

Still hard to watch, Robert De Niro is a Vietnam war vet descending into a madness equal to the 70s squalor of New York City. The role of prostitot Iris made Jodie Foster a star.

Taxi Driver is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.

Marathon Man 1976

Dustin Hoffman is a grad student dragged into another plot, a la Condor, after his brother Roy Scheider is murdered.

The dental torture scene with Laurence Olivier as an old Nazi is still harrowing. “Is it safe?” No, you should floss more.

The end scene in the water treatment plant is reminiscent of the end of The Third Man in the sewers of Vienna. I thought this was a little over the top for a film that had felt so intimate until then.

Marathon Man is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.

Annie Hall 1977

That guy is dead to me. Watch what you like, I guess.

Saturday Night Fever 1977

Not as fun as you might think. You have to sit through a lot of family fights at the dinner table, a depressed priest, and a suicide attempt to get to the disco dancing. Keep an eye out for a young Fran Drescher.

The soundtrack will take you back to 1977 in all the good ways. Even my grandmother had it on an 8 track tape.

Saturday Night Fever is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available on Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max.

An Unmarried Woman 1978

Rich people in Manhattan were different in the 70s. Real faces, real boobs, bill problems. And the city was so nasty dog poop is a major plot point in two scenes.

Jill Clayburgh is a middle-aged (34!) woman who’s left by her husband and has to pick up the pieces. Ugh, rebound guy. Ugh, teenage daughter problems. Yay, handsome English bearded artist lover!

The saxophone soundtrack is so dated it will make you snort-laugh, but the movie is still a nice snapshot of the time. Filmed now, the ending would have to end with Happily Ever After with the love interest, but in the original it remains true to its first-wave feminist roots. Jill Clayburgh doesn’t need a man–or a bra!

An Unmarried Woman is not currently available on major streaming platforms.

Grease 1978

The oldest cast of teenagers ever, Rizzo uses her AARP discount cards at the malt shop. Still, you know all the words and will sing along the whole way through.

As a fan of classic movies, I really enjoyed seeing all the 30s movie stars and 50s tv stars in the supporting roles. It’s just a fun movie!

Grease is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available to subscribers of fubo, AMC+, Sling, and free with ads on Pluto TV.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978

Oh, so fun! One of the best sci-fi movies ever. Enjoy Donald Sutherland’s man perm, Leonard Nimoy in a non-Spock role, and the creepy man-dog thing. I mean, I get the man-dog was that bum from earlier who probably was pod-peopled after he fell asleep next to the dog, but that is a crazy special effect.

The final scene is still chilling after all these years, but it makes me giggle a little too. I like to do that open-mouth scream when my kids get on my nerves.

It’s funny to me that these movies are now “classics” when we saw them in the theaters. I’m glad to find them available to watch instantly on Netflix now, so I can see them again and share them with my kids.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is no longer available on Netflix, but is currently available to subscribers of Amazon Prime Video and Hoopla, and is free with ads on Pluto TV.

If you like this list, check out my recommendations for shows like Downton Abbey you can watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Anne Parris

Anne Parris is a managing partner Midlife Boulevard. Her personal blog, Not A Supermom, is your typical mommy blog that her kids say used to be funnier. Anne has a business degree and a dusty résumé from a top accounting firm and a Fortune 500 company, which she reminds herself of every time she is washing underpants. She lives with her family in Virginia and blogs mostly to support her coffee habit.

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Mithra Ballesteros

Friday 15th of May 2015

Great list and hilarious commentary which I wholeheartedly endorse. "That man" is dead to me too. Only film missing is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Remember the scene where all the inmates sneak onto a fishing boat and Jack Nicholson introduces each of them as Dr. Blah blah blah...and how much they actually do look like doctors... . Anyway, I'm rambling. Thanks for providing some viewing ideas when, dammit, Mad Men ends.

Anne Parris

Friday 15th of May 2015

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is not currently available via streaming on Netflix, but you can get the dvd.

I'm in advance mourning for Mad Men. Much weeping and wailing here!

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