The Best Movies Turning 50 In 2020

It has already been 50 years since 1970 and movies have changed drastically since then. This was a time before streaming services or DVDs, so those who wanted to see a new film went straight to the movie theater. Films such as Patton, MASH, and Catch-22 lit up the screens as some of the most-watched of the year. Here are some of the best movies from 1970 that are worth revisiting half a century later. Each of them made a difference in both cinema and 1970’s culture.

Love Story Set The Standard For Romantic Movies

ali macgraw and ryan o'neal in a still from love story
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

The top-grossing movie of 1970 was Love Story starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, which made $106,397,186 in just the United States and Canada. It’s one of those classic boy meets girl stories where the wealthy guy falls in love with an artsy and down-to-earth girl, but many things get in their way of being together.

Erich Segal wrote both the novel the film was based on and the screenplay and its success even led to a sequel called Oliver’s Story. According to the American Film Institute, Love Story is one of the top romantic movies of all time.

Airport Wasn’t Loved By Everyone

dean martin and a woman in a still from airport
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

Airport was the first movie in the 1970’s disaster film genre and starred Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin. The film centers on an airport manager trying to keep his airport open during a huge snowstorm after the news of someone trying to blow up a Boeing 707.

The finished product does a good job of mastering the intertwining of each character’s personal stories while paying close attention to every detail that is required to run an airport. Even though it was one of the highest-grossing movies of 1970 it still didn’t receive glowing reviews because critics thought a lot of the plot was cliché and predictable.

MASH Was A Commentary On The Vietnam War

donald sutherland and elliott gould in a still from mash
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Before it became one of the most popular TV shows in history MASH was a comedic war movie that starred Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, and more. Similar to the plot of the TV show it also takes place during the Korean War with the hospital staff using humor to cheer each other up during dark times.

Since the movie was released in 1970 a lot of the themes were aligned with the Vietnam War and this caused it to be deemed one of the most culturally significant movies by the Library of Congress.

The Powerful Performance In Patton

george c. scott saluting in front of the american flag
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Patton was an Academy Award favorite and won a total of seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. It starred George C. Scott as George S. Patton in the retelling of General Patton’s World War II journey.

Scott received immense praise for his portrayal of Patton, but when it came time to accept his Academy Award he simply refused because he didn’t think acting should be a competition. Viewers believed that Scott had been so consumed in his role that he and Patton almost became one person.

Why Fans Love Disney’s The Aristocats

orange, white, and brown kittens in a still from the aristocats
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Walt Disney Animation Studios

While The Aristocats isn’t necessarily one of the most popular Disney films of all time it still remains a classic favorite among fans. The story follows a mother cat and her kittens who belong to a wealthy older woman. When her butler learns that her fortune will be left to the cats he decides to steal them.

Once the butler abandons them, they meet an alley cat and his band who help them return home safely. The movie is filled with many toe-tapping musical numbers, brilliant voice acting, and vivid Disney animation. This was also the last film Walt Disney approved before his passing.

Relive Music’s Biggest Weekend In Woodstock

joe cocker performing at woodstock
STILLS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
STILLS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

One of the biggest cultural events of the 20th century was 1969’s Woodstock Music Festival. It’s estimated that 500,000 people were in attendance with artists such as Crosby, Stills, and Nash, The Who, Joe Cocker, Santana, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. The following year a documentary called Woodstock was released, which showed the extreme pandemonium that ensued that weekend.

Entertainment Weekly called Woodstock one of the greatest concert films and documentaries in history and it was given the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Famous writer/director Martin Scorsese worked as an assistant director and film editor on the project as well.

How Little Big Man Reflected Current Events

dustin hoffman walking near nature in a still from little big man
Cinema Center Films
Cinema Center Films

It’s difficult to sum up Little Big Man into one genre because it combines comedy, western themes, satire, tragedy, and more into a compelling story about a white male (Dustin Hoffman) raised by Native Americans during the 19th century.

The movie reflected the current events of when it was released because it used the negative portrayal of the U.S. Armed Forces and sympathy toward Native Americans to protest America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Little Big Man was one of the most-watched movies of 1970, yet only received one Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Chief Dan George).

Ryan’s Daughter Proved Critics Wrong At The Box Office

christopher jones and sarah miles in front of a beach in a still from ryan's daughter
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Ryan’s Daughter is loosely based on Gustave Falubert’s novel Madame Bovery and focuses on a married Irish woman who starts an affair with a British officer during the events of World War I. The film became a box office success even though it garnered harsh reviews by critics who thought it was nothing more than a two-dimensional love story.

It proved critics wrong after earning four Oscar nominations, including two wins for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (John Mills) and Best Cinematography. Those who wish to watch Ryan’s Daughter should prepare ahead of time because its run time comes to just under three and a half hours.

What To Notice About The Cast In Tora! Tora! Tora!

three men inside a plane in a still from tora! tora! tora!
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

There was a lot of thought that went behind the casting for Tora! Tora! Tora!. Most of the actors, especially the Japanese side of the cast, were not box office stars. This was done to put more emphasis on the story, rather than the actors themselves.

The movie centers around the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during the start of World War II. The title comes from the word “tora,” which was used as a Japanese code word to indicate that “complete surprise had been achieved.” At the time famed film critic Roger Ebert called it “one of the dullest blockbusters ever made.”

The Tragedy That Struck The Catch-22 Set

alan arkin, jack gilford, and paula prentiss in catch-22
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

As the Vietnam War continued American audiences were losing interest in war films, with the exception of MASH and Patton. Catch-22 was adapted from a novel by Joseph Heller and tells the story of a man in the U.S. Air Force during World War II who is looking for a way out of his missions.

Audiences may recognize the faces of Alan Arkin, Art Garfunkel, Bob Newhart, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, and Orson Welles. Unfortunately, during filming one of the members of the crew refused to wear a harness during a flying scene and plummeted 4,000 feet to his demise.

Audiences Saw A New Side To Barbra Streisand In The Owl and the Pussycat

george segal and barbra streisand in a still from the owl and the pussycat
Rastar Pictures
Rastar Pictures

Barbra Streisand proved that she could do more than just sing. She had quite a lengthy film career and shined in 1970’s The Owl and the Pussycat. Streisand played an uneducated actress and model who enters into an explosive relationship with a bookish aspiring writer (George Segal).

Her performance earned Streisand a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture and the film became a quick box office smash. The Owl and the Pussycat was actually based on a Broadway play of the same name that starred Alan Alda and Diana Sands and ran for 427 performances.

Joe Gave Insight On How Some Viewed America At The Time

susan sarandon in a still from joe
Cannon Group
Cannon Group

Currently, Susan Sarandon has a total of 161 acting credits under her belt and her very first was for her role of Melissa Compton in Joe. The film has some pretty graphic themes but gave insight on how a large percentage of Americans were feeling about the country during that time period.

The character of Joe Curran (Peter Boyle) served as the inspiration for All in the Family’s Archie Bunker because he was a tough, working-class white male stuck in his ways. Joe also was used as a reference in a huge trial in 1970 for a railroad worker who ended the lives of his daughter, her boyfriend, and other university students.

The Boatniks Showed Off The Southern California Coast

don ameche and robert morse in a still from the boatniks
Walt Disney Productions
Walt Disney Productions

The Boatniks was one of the most popular comedy movies of 1970. It starred Robert Morse as an inexperienced U.S. Coast Guard who falls in love with a girl-next-door type boating instructor Kate Fairchild (Stefanie Powers). As the story progresses they do their best to catch a trio of jewel thieves on the loose.

Most of the movie was filmed at Balboa Island in Newport Beach, California and includes many of the scenic landmarks. Although critics claimed that the majority of the plot was predictable they noted that the gags throughout the movie made them laugh.

Jack Nicholson Shines In Five Easy Pieces

jack nicholson sitting in a restaurant in five easy pieces
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

The New Hollywood era began around 1970 and continued into the early 1980s. This movement brought new filmmakers to the forefront in movies such as Five Easy Pieces. The film features one of Jack Nicholson’s best performances as a former child prodigy from an upper-class family who decides to leave it all behind to become a blue-collar American working on an oil rig.

Five Easy Pieces earned four Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Nicholson). The diner scene where the waitress argues with Nicholson was voted number 98 in Premiere’s list of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines.”

What Most Fans Didn’t Notice In Beneath the Planet of the Apes

two human actors with one of the apes in beneath the planet of the apes
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

The Planet of the Apes franchise is still one of the highest-grossing of all-time with successful films, books, TV shows, comics, and more. Although the second installment, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, didn’t live up to its predecessor it’s still filled with suspense, intelligence, and excitement.

In the sequel, another spacecraft travels to a planet completely ruled by apes. There, the astronauts discover an underground city run by mutant humans with psychic abilities. During production the cast and crew had to work with a limited budget, so most of the ape costumes are just masks instead of heavy makeup.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Had Plenty Of Satire

two women in a still from beyond the valley of the dolls
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was originally intended to be the sequel to 1967’s Valley of the Dolls, but became more of a parody. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote the screenplay that focused on a group of young women who move to Hollywood to become famous but end up falling prey to money, power, and desire.

Ebert based many of the characters and plot points on people and events in pop culture such as Phil Spector, Muhammad Ali, and the Manson family catastrophes. Director Russ Meyer also made it a point to cast unknown actors as to not distract from the story.

Chisum Was Not Historically Accurate

john wayne in chisum
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The majority of John Wayne’s acting career was based in the western film genre. In 1970 he stepped into his 200th starring role as the titular character in Chisum where he joined forces with Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett during the Lincoln County War of 1878.

Most of the movie is historically inaccurate even though the actors portrayed real historical figures. While filming Wayne was introduced to patriotic poetry by John Mitchum causing them to collaborate on a Grammy-nominated spoken-word album called America: Why I Love Her.

Kelly’s Heroes Is Based On A Famous Robbery

donald sutherland and don rickles in kelly's heroes
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin was inspired by a true story for the basis of Kelly’s Heroes. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “The Greatest Robbery on Record” from 1956 to 2000 was when a group of US military soldiers and German civilians robbed the German National Gold Reserves during World War II.

Martin put the events from that robbery on the big screen with a cast including Clint Eastwood, Don Rickles, Donald Sutherland, and Telly Savalas. Similar to other war films of this era it overlooked the setting to comment on the Vietnam War.

The On-Set Conflicts While Filming Two Mules for Sister Sara

shirley maclaine and clint eastwood in two mules for sister sara
The Malpaso Company
The Malpaso Company

Two of Hollywood’s biggest stars teamed up to make Two Mules for Sister Sara. Shirley MacLaine starred opposite Clint Eastwood in this American-Mexican western film that follows an American mercenary who teams up with a nun on the run during the French intervention in Mexico.

Elizabeth Taylor originally showed the script to Eastwood as she was set to play Sara, but after a conflict of interest MacLaine won the part. Apparently, director Don Siegel and Eastwood were intimidated by MacLaine claiming she was “unfeminine” and was too stern on set.

Julie Andrews Does Something Different In Darling Lili

julie andrews and a red rose in a still from darling lili
Geoffrey Productions
Geoffrey Productions

After Julie Andrews played roles such as Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp she was ready to take on more mature parts. In Darling Lili Andrews played a famous musical star named Lili Smith who was actually posing as a German spy during World War I. When she is instructed to get intel from an American pilot (Rock Hudson) she ends up falling in love with him and jeopardizing her safety.

The movie received three Oscar nominations for Best Costume Design, Best Original Song, and Best Score and was written and directed by Andrews’ late husband Blake Edwards.