Hit Movies of the 1970s
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Here are 11 hit 70s movies you may or may not remember. Remember how many you get right — the scores are at the bottom.


This was the No. 2 top-grossing movie of 1970, with an all-star cast that included Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, George Kennedy, Helen Hayes, Jean Seberg and Jacqueline Bisset. It earned more than $106 million at the box office.

1970 Answer: Airport

Coming in No. 2 to the top-grossing film of 1970s, Love Story, Airport followed a formula that The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and other 70s movies would follow: Take a bunch of A-list stars, put them in peril, and watch the sparks fly.

Burt Lancaster once dismissed it as “the biggest piece of junk ever made,” but it inspired three sequels and was later satirized, of course, by 1980’s Airplane.


This story of a Vietnam veteran part Navajo hapkido master was one of the biggest hits of the year, even beating Dirty Harry, the first of Clint Eastwood’s five films about San Francisco cop Harry Callahan.

Okay, one more huge hint: It starred Tom Laughlin in the title role, and was known for the song “One Tin Soldier.”

1971 Answer: Billy Jack

Yes, we know it’s crazy, but Billy Jack really did beat Dirty Harry. Of course, Billy Jack had the advantage of being based on a character audiences already knew: Billy Jack had made his debut in the 1967 outlaw biker hit The Born Losers (above).


Marlon Brando starred in two of the Top 10 movies at the box office in 1972. The first, as you probably guessed, was The Godfather. Can you guess the second one, in which he starred with Maria Schneider (above)?

1972: Last Tango in Paris

Yep, it’s Last Tango in Paris, a film that has been castigated in recent years because of Schneider’s allegations that she was mistreated by Brando and director Bernardo Bertolucci during a crucial scene involving butter. You can read all about that here, if you like.


If you’ve seen this absolute charmer, featuring the star of the biggest hit of 1970 and his real-life daughter, you certainly remember it. It’s sad, but also an absolute charmer.

1973: Paper Moon

Paper Moon starred Ryan O’Neal, who also topped the box office opposite Ali MacGraw in 1970’s Love Story. For Paper Moon, a Depression-era story of a con man on a road trip with a cantankerous child who just might be his daughter.

Director Peter Bogdanovich wisely paired O’Neal with his real-life daughter, Tatum, who deservedly won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. He created one of the most timeless 70s movies in the process.


20th Century Fox

1974 was a very good year for Mel Brooks: He released not only the Western satire Blazing Saddles, the top film of the year, but also another comedy, satirizing another genre.

We know, for comedy fans, this is an easy one.

1974 Answer: Young Frankenstein

The comedy classic Young Frankenstein was still playing in theaters through 1975, when members of Aerosmith saw it and borrowed one of the best jokes in the film for the title of their hit “Walk This Way,” as guitarist Joe Perry told The Wall Street Journal in 2014.

So it isn’t just a one of the biggest hit 70s movies — it also helped inspire one of the biggest hit ’70s songs.


This 70s movie is such a cult hit that it still plays in theaters all over the country today.

1975: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Yep, it’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starring Susan Sarandon, Tim Curry, and many more.

Rocky Horror isn’t just a cult hit, but also a legit hit: It was solidly in the Top 10 movies of 1975, behind hits like Jaws, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Shampoo. All of those movies are terrific, but they don’t inspire midnight singalongs across America.


We can’t stress enough what a red-hot star Gene Wilder was in 70s movies. This was the first of his four pairings with one of the greatest comics of all time, Richard Pryor.

1976 Answer: Silver Streak

Silver Streak casts Gene Wilder as harried book editor George, who teams up with car thief Grover (Richard Pryor) after George is falsely accused of murder.

Wilder and Pryor would pair up again in 1980’s Stir Crazy, 1989’s See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and 1991’s Another You.


Hit Movies of the 1970s

We’ll be honest. We had missed out on the existence of this movie until we put together this list of the top-grossing movies of 1977.

1977 is of course a crucial year because it was the year of the original Star Wars, a movie that changed forever what type of movies get the green light in Hollywood and was perhaps had the greatest cultural impact of all the hit movies of the 1970s.

The movie above, while less popular, got a lot of attention in 1977, thanks in large part to its female lead. We’ll give you another hint: It was co-written by Peter Benchley, the writer of the novel Jaws and co-writer of the film.

1977 Answer: The Deep

The Deep, starring Jaqueline Bissett and Nick Nolte, is about a pair of divers who uncover treasure and then have to defend it. The marketing focused heavily on underwater shots of Bissett.

It earned $47.3 million, making it No. 6 on the list of the 10 top movies of 1977, by domestic box office, not adjusted for inflation. It’s a ’70s movie we’re surprised people don’t mention more.


This is a very easy one if you were around in 1978. It’s one of the biggest hit movies of the 1970s.

1978 Answer: Animal House

This John Landis-directed National Lampoon film was a breakout hit for John Belushi, the Saturday Night Live star who became an instant movie star for his portrayal of the hard-partying Bluto.

In the same year he appeared in Animal House, Belushi also appeared in Goin’ South, which Jack Nicholson starred in and directed. Belushi felt like he didn’t have enough to do in Goin’ South, which Animal House trounced at the box office.


Margot Kidder starred in both the No. 1 and No. 2 movies at the 1979 box office. The No. 1 movie was Superman. Can you guess the No. 2 movie, above?

1979 Answer: The Amityville Horror

Margot Kidder starred with James Brolin in the Stuart Rosenberg-directed Amityville Horror, based on Jay Anson’s 1979 book of the same name about the Lutz family, who said they endured paranormal activity while living in a home where Ronald DeFeo murdered his family in 1974.


We’re counting this one for those of you who contend that a decade ends in its 10th year. And because we’re having fun and don’t want this list of hit movies of the 1970s to end.

Though Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was easily the No. 1 movie, the film above, directed by Robert Redford, won Best Picture at the Oscars. Can you remember its title?

1980 Answer: Ordinary People

Ordinary People earned a very respectable $55 million in domestic box office in 1980, and cleaned up at the Oscars: Besides winning Best Picture, it earned Best Director for Robert Redford, a Best Supporting Actor for Timothy Hutton (above), and Best Screenplay for Allen Sargent.

How’d You Score?

Hit Movies of the 1970s
Fozzie Bear in The Muppet Movie

How many of these hit 70s movies did you recognize? Here’s how you score:

9 or more correct… The Godfather

7 or more correct… Cleopatra Jones

5 or more correct… Dirty Harry

3 or more correct… Fozzie Bear

Fewer than 3 correct… The Jerk

Liked Guessing These Hit 70s Movies?

If you liked these hit movies of the 1970s, you might also enjoy this list of Stars of the 1980s Who Are Still Going Strong.

Main image: Young Frankenstein.