10 amazing movies to watch from 1970

1970. The start of a decade. The Beatles disbanded, Apollo 13 was a real thing instead of a Tom Hanks film, and the Boeing 747 was invented. Brazil lifted their third World Cup after routing Italy in Mexico City, and, of course, Tune!FM graced UNE’s airwaves for the very first time.

However, 1970 was also a big year in film. There are numerous classics and some hidden gems that definitely won’t hurt to revisit while we’re spending a little more time in our lounge rooms.

Here are ten films from 1970 that you simply have to check out:


#10 – Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Ted Post. Starring James Franciscus, Kim Hunter & Maurice Evans.

Critically speaking, this film doesn’t deserve a second glance.

However, there’s something fascinating about watching the early Planet of the Apes films. There’s a charm of early science-fiction that is somewhat lost in the modern CGI adaptations.

In this sequel to the 1968 cult-classic film adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s novel, another spacecraft crashes on the planet ruled by apes, carrying astronaut Brent (James Franciscus), who searches for Taylor (Charlton Heston) and discovers an underground city inhabited by mutated humans with psychic powers.

It was a smash hit at the box office but received mixed reviews from critics. It fits perfectly into the category of science-fiction sequels that were dry and unoriginal, and never lived up to their predecessor. But for the practical effects and fascinating early science-fiction ideas, it’s worth revisiting. Maybe accompany it with some of the other Planet of the Apes films to reinforce it with a little bit of quality.


#9 – Colossus: The Forbin Project

Directed by Joseph Sargent. Starring Eric Braeden, Susan Clark & Gordon Pinsent.

The start of the 1970s was the height of the Cold War and paranoia about advancing technology. See Stanley Kubrick in the late 60s.

Colossus: The Forbin Project is an adaptation of a Dennis Feltham Jones novel about an advanced American defence system becoming sentient. After being handed full control, the system’s draconian logic expands on its original nuclear defence directives to assume total control of the world and end all warfare for the good of mankind, despite its owners’ instructions to stop.

Nowadays, it’s a tired plot that we’ve seen a million times, but Colossus is a surprisingly fun and intelligent take on the idea. It’s full of humour and a sizzling thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

If you’re into a bit of interesting trivia, the film was scheduled for a 2010 remake featuring Will Smith in the lead role and Ron Howard in the director’s chair, but it dropped off the radar after several empty years of rumours.


#8 – Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle)

Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring Alain Delon, Bourvil & Yves Montand.

I wouldn’t be a very good film student if I wasn’t recommending you check out a foreign film or two. But this one is quite special.

Le Cercle Rouge, or The Red Circle in English, is a Franco-Italian crime drama set mostly in Paris. And if anyone in the world knows how to turn a crime film into something special, it’s the French and the Italians. This film is renowned for its iconic climactic heist sequence that is almost half an hour long and features almost no dialogue.

It might sound a bit artsy, and I’d definitely expect that anyone coming across Melville or this style of film might be a little baffled by this one at first, but there’s so much to read into in this film. It’s a true masterpiece in every little detail. It’s one of those films that completely ducked under the radar as it was only the fifth-most popular film in France in 1970. Fifty years later, it’s considered a classic.

Le Cercle Rouge is part of the Criterion Collection so you may be lucky enough to find a copy at your local library. Generally, however, this one might be hard to find. If you stumble across this film, don’t pass up the opportunity.


#7 – The Aristocats

Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman. Starring Ken Anderson, Larry Clemmons & Eric Cleworth.

I doubt there’s a year we’ll cover in Tune!FM’s 50th celebration that won’t feature a Disney movie. It’s basically blasphemy to exclude them.

The Aristocats is often one of the dark horse mentions for Disney’s finest. Not many consider it their favourite, but there’s no denying that this film is a lot of fun and up there amongst the best from the super-mogul of the animation industry. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had the debate “What’s the best Disney film of all time?” and heard the words, hollered in realisation with a tinge of nostalgia: “Oh yeah! The Aristocats!”

The movie revolves around a family of aristocratic felines who need the help of an alley cat after a butler kidnaps them to gain their mistress’ fortune. It’s a wonderful allegory from Disney and one that teaches kids valuable lessons about acceptance, the deception of appearances and class.

If you’ve got young ones in isolation with you, this is the one for you. It’s perfect for all ages and undeniably a Disney classic.


#6 – Little Big Man

Directed by Arthur Penn. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway & Chief Dan George.

Little Big Man ticks a whole lot of genre boxes. It’s a comedy. It’s a revisionist Western. It’s an epic. And it’s a powerful adventure and drama.

Focused on contrasting the lives of Native Americans through the course of a lifetime, the film follows Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman): a white male child raised by the Cheyenne nation during the 19th century. The film uses satire and frames the Cheyenne sympathetically and the US Cavalry as the villains in what was considered a huge anti-establishment move at the time.

Rarely is a film simultaneously so thought-provoking, crushingly provocative, beautifully emotional and hilariously satirical. It’s been nominated amongst America’s Top 100 movies of all time, and it’s been preserved in the Library of Congress and the National Film Registry. Definitely not accolades to be sneezed at.

Another interesting fact: in order to obtain the hoarse voice of a 120-year-old man, Dustin Hoffman screamed at the top of his lungs for an hour on end. Now that’s commitment to the part.


#5 – The Conformist

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Starring Jean Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli & Gastone Moschin.

Another foreign film, this time of French, Italian and West German heritage, is the brainchild of Bernardo Bertolucci, one of Italy’s greatest directors.

The Conformist is a fascinating case study on the psychology of fascism, and who better to bring such interesting ideas to the screen than Italians and Germans. It’s based on the 1950 novel by Alberto Moravia and follows Marcello Clerici (Jean Louis Trintignant), a young man who plots to assassinate his former college professor.

The film takes place in a series of flashbacks, and aesthetically speaking, it is one of the most interesting and incredible films you will ever watch. It explores everything from class and status to childhood trauma, family dysfunction and violence in a psychological analysis of a fascist extremist.

It was Bertolucci’s first commercially successful film, and rightfully so. See if you can get your hands on the visual restoration on Blu-ray because this film is truly a visual masterpiece.


#4 – Five Easy Pieces

Directed by Bob Rafelson. Starring Jack Nicholson, Karen Black & Susan Anspach.

Who doesn’t love Jack Nicholson? The man is extraordinary every time he graces the screen, and Five Easy Pieces is no exception.

It follows Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson), a burly oil-rig worker who used to be a young piano prodigy. When he learns that his father is dying, he returns home to see him and takes along his waitress girlfriend. It’s a raw and heartbreaking story, and credit must go to screenwriter Carole Eastman, who was rightfully nominated for an Academy Award for her work (under pseudonym Adrien Joyce).

Take a look at the scene above, and that should be all you need to see to confirm that this is a golden Nicholson performance in a wonderfully cast and beautifully written film worthy of its four Oscar nominations. After watching this myself, I’d include it as a dark horse among some of my favourite Nicholson performances.

This is a fascinating film to watch from a 21st-century perspective, focused on a boy trapped in a grown man’s body and also putting forward the work of a lot of talented and powerful women in Hollywood.


#3 – Patton

Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. Starring George C. Scott, Karl Malden & Michael Bates.

Americans love a fight, and Americans love a winner. No biopic encapsulates those words better than Patton.

Following the career of US General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) during World War II, this is a war-film slash biography that is so obnoxiously patriotic it’s almost satirical. It’s a script full to the brim with iconic lines, and a fascinating insight into a man at the centre of a nation that seems to love war more than any other.

George C. Scott’s performance has been lauded as a masterful portrait of the real-life General, and a biopic performance of Lawrence of Arabia-like proportions. It definitely lives up to the billing; Scott is absolutely sensational and entertaining from start to finish.

It’s interesting to note that he famously declined to accept his Academy Award for Best Actor, despite becoming one of the most-quoted icons in cinematic history.


#2 – Claire’s Knee

Directed by Eric Rohmer. Starring Jean-Claude Brialy, Aurora Cornu & Beatrice Romand.

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta watch something weird, and this is one of my personal favourites when it comes to weird films.

Claire’s Knee is a beautiful French romance that follows diplomat Jerome Montcharvin (Jean-Claude Brialy) who accidentally meets up with Claire (Laurence de Monaghan) and falls in love… with her knee. Upon seeing her knee, Jerome is immediately overcome by a temptation to touch it, and the film unfolds through a series of lost opportunities to make the move and put a hand on her knee.

Now, I find romances cheesy sometimes, they’re often predictable and forgettable. However, I need to be honest with you. I cried. And I laughed. About a knee. I know, I feel stupid too.

Nonetheless, this film is truly touching (if you’ll excuse the pun) and was described by critic Vincent Canby as “something close to a perfect film.” I won’t argue with that. This is simultaneously one of the strangest and best films I have ever seen. Treat yourself if you can find it. It’s a masterpiece.


#1 – M*A*S*H

Directed by Robert Altman. Starring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould & Tom Skerritt.

To be honest, if you were alive in 1970, you saw this one coming.

The iconic film of the M*A*S*H franchise is a must-see movie that should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s a classic comedy set in the Korean War with the subtext of the ongoing Vietnam War, and rarely does comedy get this good.

Following a unit of medical personnel in Korea, this box-office hit features an awesome soundtrack, gut-busting humour and landmark moments in film history that I’m sure anyone around in the early 70s will remember fondly. Among the ranks of Monty Python, Blackadder and Fawlty Towers, this is a comedy that awakens the sadist in all of us.

It’s the perfect cacophony of American culture and a beautiful satire on the Vietnam War, and if you haven’t seen it, I have a good mind to baptise you… in dirty water!