The New Hollywood era was a period of significant revolution in the film industry. Spanning from the late 1960’s up as far as the early 1980’s, the New Hollywood era presented movies of new styles and content that had never been seen on film before. Following the rise of television, the commercial success of films declined. The New Hollywood was seen by many as a period of revival for the film industry. Directors began to take control of film production, as opposed to production studios, and so, ledgends such as Stanley Kubrick were able to bring an innovative twist to the dynamics of the movie industry. Thus, the floodgates opened up to new avenues featuring sex, violence, comedy and perspectives that shocked and influenced moviegoers and film apprentices. The greats of the Golden Age had started to fade and new stars such as Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel blossomed on the screen. The New Hollywood era is regarded by many film fans to be the most influential and inspiring period in the history of film production. So, without further ado, here is a list of 20 New Hollywood movies that are definitely worth a watch.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Perhaps the most famous of all Stanley Kubrick movies, this epic voyage through space and time is still considered to be one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made. Split into four separate chapters, the movie opens on a bleak location occupied by primitive apes. Throughout it’s encapsulating 2 hours and 40 minutes the audience is brought on a journey of exponential evolution; evolution from ape to man and from young to old. Perhaps the most significant aspect of evolution in this movie is in the fact that it also represents the evolution of cinema! A Space Odyssey is a bit of an enigma that may leave some viewers itching their heads and feeling lost in the (plotless?) plot.
The Panic in Needle Park (1971)
Al Pacino gives a smashing performance for his role as Bobby in his second ever film. Young Bobby is a hapless heroin addict who spends his time hanging out with other layabouts on the streets of New York. A hustler by nature, he scores himself a nice upstate broad named Helen. Romance blossoms between the pair but so too does their desire to score some smack. The Panic in Needle Park is gritty and realistic and it offers a glimpse into the underbelly of drug addiction and dirty cops on the streets of 1970’s New York.
The French Connection (1971)
Loosely based on a true story, The French Connection is a thrilling film where most of the excitement centres on a high-speed yet meticulous game of cat and mouse. Gene Hackman plays the role of Popeye Doyle, a steadfast New York City cop that’s hell-bent on catching the source of the city’s endemic heroin. His target is the cunning kingpin from France that is Alain Charnier. The level of intelligence and high-intensity combines with one of the greatest car chase scenes in cinema history to mark The French Connection as one of the best ‘cops and robbers’ movies of all time.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The second Stanley Kubrick film to appear on this list is a highly explicit dystopian movie that features a blend of timeless classical music and a gang of violent delinquents. Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his three “droogs” spend their evenings participating in “a bit of the old in-out, in-out (rape)” as well as frequent indulgences in “the old ultra-violence (violent thuggery).” Alex is eventually apprehended by the law and becomes the subject of a new method for rehabilitating criminal offenders. A Clockwork Orange is a bizzare and stark classic filled with sophisticated debauchery and creative expertise. Few pints of milk anyone?
Deliverance is one of those movies that sets an eerie tone right from the get-go. As soon as the ‘banjo-boy’ plays his tune an unsettling and disquieting feeling begins to pervade over the screen. The four friends find themselves encumbered by an undesirable set of circumstances that will leave them marked for life. A classic from the early 70’s that was famously parodied in an episode of The Simpson’s, Deliverance is a gripping film that’ll steer anyone clear of unfamiliar hillbilly mountain territory.
The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973)
Boston boy Eddie Coyle has kept some unsavory friends throughout his life of crime. A seasoned crook is old Eddie and as he finds himself in unfavorable circumstances he must choose between snitching on someone or serving a prison sentence. This is a gem of a film that many young film fans aren’t aware of. Well deserving of it’s “4/4” rating courtesy of Roger Ebert!
The Wicker Man (1973)Christopher Lee considered the screenplay for The Wicker Man to be one of the most captivating screenplays that he’d ever read. Lee was so interested in The Wicker Man that he volunteered to star in the film almost free of charge. Filmed on an extremely low budget, this 1973 horror movie is gripping, unorthodox and unsettling. The plot follows a steely police officer investigating a murder mystery on a small Scottish island. Things thicken as the policeman is exposed to aberrant traditions and peculiar rituals amongst the inhabitants on the island.
The Parallax View (1974)
The 22nd of November 1963 was a day that shook the world to it’s core. That was the day that president JFK was assasinated in broad daylight. Since then, many conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists have propagated to suggest that we are living in a world of lies and malevolent mind control. The Parallax View is a tense political thriller that’ll make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. It follows a political reporter as he unravels a web of frightening conspiracies surrounding the assasination of a presidential candidate. The film harks back to George Orwell’s 1984 and it projects disturbing possibilities available to the powers that be.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Could this be Jack Nicholson’s greatest film of all time? Arguably, yes! Nicholson plays the role of public nuisance McMurphy, who, after a few mishaps too many finds himself serving time in a psychiatric ward. The psychiatric ward is run by the wicked witch Nurse Ratched. McMurphy proves to be a bit of a handful for Nurse Ratched and when she finally gets fed up with his disobedient antics she decides to discipline him with severe punishment. McMurphy and Nurse Ratched are amongst the most memorable movie characters ever.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
The second film starring Al Pacino on this list is a memorable bank robbery movie set on a sizzling hot summer’s day in Brooklyn, New York. Sonny (Al Pacino) and his lover Sal wind up in the most unfavorable predicament when their bank robbery goes belly-up. Staff members at the bank are held hostage when the media and police do their best to barter a deal with the botched criminals. Dog Day Afternoon grows more tense as the minutes pass and it becomes an enthralling ride right to the very end
Before he directed E.T. or Jurassic Park, one of Hollywood’s finest directors made Hollywood’s finest “shark in the water” movie. Some of the most gripping moments in Jaws are intensified by it’s most unforgettable theme tune. Jaws is a horror/thriller film about man vs underwater-beast and although it spawned several sequels none of them were ever as special as the original.
At almost 3 hours in length Nashville is a long haul, but, it’s certainly worth the time. Being a political-satirical-musical-comedy-drama makes Nashville one of a kind. The plot follows an ensemble cast of 20+ eccentric characters who’s lives intersect in the days leading up to a political rally. Many of the characters are big names in the (fictional) country-western music industry and the entire film is peppered with a score of brilliantly executed country-western songs. Nashville is a hearty American film with some hearty American characters – some of which you’ll love and others that you’ll hate!
“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Howard Beale is a man that gets pushed over the edge in this classic New Hollywood flick. As if Beale isn’t facing enough turmoil when he finds out he’ll be getting the sack from his job, Diane (Faye Dunaway) decides she’ll push him that little bit further in the hopes that it will improve her network tv ratings. A classic New Hollywood film that is now about to spawn a new live-performance play with the same title!
Taxi Driver (1976)
What do you get when you combine New Hollywood, Robert De Niro & Martin Scorsese? You get something along the lines of Taxi Driver, that’s what you get! Arguably the finest masterpiece created by Scorsese, Taxi Driver is a cruise through the underbelly of New York in the 70’s. Pimps, prostitutes and a badass mohawk are some of the spectacles to behold as De Niro takes you on a ride to the dark side.
Days Of Heaven (1978)
A very young Richard Gere stars in the film that has been described as poetry on screen. Superb cinematography that was way ahead of it’s time is one of the secrets to the splendidness of this movie. Days Of Heaven is a story of times yonder back before the days of technology arrived. The powers of love and murder are two of the driving forces in this beautiful piece of New Wave cinema.
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)
One of the few horror movies on this list is the outstanding remake of a classic 1950’s hit. At first it seems like people are acting a little strange on the streets of San Francisco, but, what could it be that’s making everybody seem so weird? Panic sets in when dark supernatural forces become apparent to the startled characters. Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams lead the way along a spooktacular sci-fi scarefest.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Apocalypse Now is loosely based on a short book called Heart Of Darkness. It follows Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) on his tortuous mission journey upriver to find and assasinate Colonol Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Kurtz is a consummate colonol who has reportedly gone insane and taken control of a tribe of Vietnam mountain people. A top quality soundtrack is one of the sublime features of a truly sublime film. Marlboro Red seems to be the smoke of choice for the American war machine.
The only Woody Allen movie to appear on this random list despite the fact that he produced some of his most notable works during the New Hollywood period. Just like he does in many of his movies, Allen paints a picture of an upmarket avant-garde New York, resplendent with eccentric people, astonishing architecture and love in the air. Filmed entirely in black and white adds romantic style to the picture. Another striking difference between Manhattan and other Woody Allen movies is the age of his lover in this one; she’s only 17 – barely legal!
The Elephant Man (1980)
One of the first feature films from the wonderful mind of David Lynch is the heart-wrenching story of Joseph [John] Merrick. Merrick was born with a rare congenital disease which caused him to grow up terribly disfigured. However, beneath the abnormal exterior is a most lovable human being with a beautiful soul. The Elephant Man shows us hope for mankind through it’s good-natured people (Anthony Hopkins & Anne Bancroft), but, it also shows us the evils of man and the terror it can cause. As for the late John Hurt – he deserves all the credit he can get for this masterpiece!
The Shining (1980)
Another Kubrick film on the list is one of the most famous horror movies of all time. The Shining presents us with Jack Nicholson as he takes his wife and son along with him to look after the Overlook Hotel for an icy-cold winter season. The hotel has an eerie feel to it and things start to get very creepy when the family feel the chill of past events lingering in the atmosphere. The Shining is chilling and iconic and is still considered one of the best horrors ever made.