Must See Movies from the 70’s and 80’s

If you were born after 1990, there’s a good chance you have missed two decades worth of spectacular movies. This […]

If you were born after 1990, there’s a good chance you have missed two decades worth of spectacular movies. This truly makes me sad. I have carefully selected movies that I loved from that era and made a giant list for you. These are classics. Think of it as broadening your horizons! Your well-being depends on it. I’m half-kidding, but I’m serious. These old time movies deserve at least a first time look. In no particular order, here they are:

From the 70’s

* All the descriptions are from Amazon

  • American Grafitti**, 1973, Coming of age classic, directed by George Lucas, following four teenagers in the early 60s on their last summer night before college. Stars Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, 1975, Randle Patrick McMurphy is a free-spirited, small-time convict who fakes being crazy so he can get transferred from the state penitentiary to a more comfortable state mental hospital.
  • Rocky**, 1976, Rocky Balboa is a struggling Philadelphia boxer who is scorned by his gym’s owner, patronized by a loan shark and rebuffed by a shy ‘plain-Jane’, whose butcher brother keeps engineering a romantic match. Rocky would have remained in this rut had not heavyweight champion Apollo Creed come up with the Bicentennial gimmick to give a chance for a ‘nobody’ to become a ‘somebody’.
  • Grease**, 1978, John Travolta solidified his position as the most versatile and magnetic screen presence of the decade in this film version of the smash hit play Grease. Recording star Olivia Newton-John made her American film debut as Sandy, Travolta’s naive love interest.
  • Carrie, 1976, Based on a Stephen King novel, Carrie is the story of a girl brought up, almost in isolation, by her psychotically religious mother Margaret.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975, Part campy musical, part horror film, the movie details the travails of a squeaky clean couple stranded at a creepy castle where the inhabitants sing and dance through a bacchanalian romp of murder, bisexuality and cannibalism.
  • Heaven Can Wait, 1978, A Los Angeles Rams quarterback, accidentally taken away from his body by an over-anxious angel before he was supposed to die, comes back to life in the body of a recently-murdered millionaire
  • The Sting**, 1973, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. That about sums it up.
  • The Exorcist, 1973, An innocent girl is evilly possessed — and a doubting priest becomes her last hope
  • Saturday Night Fever**, 1977, From John Travolta’s electrifying Oscar-nominated performance to the Bee Gees’ top 10 soundtrack to the unforgettable dancing, Saturday Night Fever is a movie sensation that captured the world’s attention like never before.
  • Marathon Man, 1976, Dustin Hoffman (Rainman) plays the likeable graduate student and marathon runner of the title, unwillingly trapped in a killing game of intrigue involving a Nazi fugitive, Christian Szell.
  • Taxi Driver, 1976, Paul Schrader’s gritty screenplay depicts the ever-deepening alienation of Vietnam Veteran Travis Bickle, a psychotic cab driver who obsessively cruises the mean streets of Manhattan.
  • Jaws**, 1975, Academy Award-winner Steven Spielberg directs one of the most influential and gripping adventures in film history about the hunt of a deadly great white shark.
  • The Godfather I 1972, and Part II, 1974, no explanation necessary

From the 80’s

* All the descriptions are from Amazon

  • Working Girl**, 1988, Street-smart Staten Island secretary Tess McGill is determined to use her brains and talent to pull herself out of the secretarial pool and into the upper echelons of New York’s brokerage industry.
  • Urban Cowboy, 1980, John Travolta is the Urban Cowboy, breakin’ hearts and bustin’ mechanical bulls in one of his most electrifying film roles.
  • Raging Bull, 1980, Robert De Niro won a Best Actor Oscar in this acclaimed masterpiece as Jake LaMotta, the controversial 1940s prize fighter whose brutality transcended beyond the ring.
  • Tootsie, 1982, Dustin Hoffman shines as a struggling actor who becomes a TV star and finds true love – by dressing as a woman!
  • E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, 1982, This beloved tale of a lost alien and the 10-year-old boy who helps him find a way home.
  • The Shining, 1980, All work and no play makes Academy Award® winner Jack Nicholson, the caretaker of an isolated resort, go way off the deep end, terrorizinghis young son and wife Shelley Duvall.
  • The Elephant Man, 1980, Based on a true story, the film examines the complex emotional experiences faced by John Merrick. “The Elephant Man” (Hurt), when he is discovered by a dedicated surgeon (Anthony Hopkins). Rescued from his degrading life as a circus freak, Merrick is given a chance to live his last years with comfort, respect, and dignity.
  • The Princess Bride**, 1987, Based on William Goldman’s novel of the same name, The Princess Bride is staged as a book read by grandfather (Peter Falk) to his ill grandson (Fred Savage). Falk’s character assures a romance-weary Savage that the book has much more to deliver than a simpering love story, including but not limited to fencing, fighting, torture, death, true love, giants, and pirates.
  • This is Spinal Tap, 1984, Mock rockumentary about a Heavy Metal band on the verge of spontaneous combustion
  • Scarface, In the spring of 1980, the port at Mariel Harbor was opened, and thousands set sail for the United States. They came in search of the American Dream. One of them found it on the sun-washed avenues of Miami wealth, power and passion beyond his wildest dreams. He was Tony Montana. The world will remember him by another name, Scarface.
  • When Harry Met Sally, 1989, Does sex make it impossible for men and women to be true friends? The film chronicles this dilemma through the eleven year relationship between Harry and Sally who meet in college, then pursue their own lives until they reconnect ten years later.
  • Rain Man, 1988, When Charlie Babbitt goes home to the Midwest for his estranged father’s funeral, he learns not only that he’s been cut out of his inheritance, but that he has a grown brother…Raymond…who has been sheltered almost all of his life in an East Coast institution for the developmentally disabled.
  • Blood Simple**, 1984 A jealous husband hires a sleazy detective to kill his wife and her bartender boyfriend.**
  • The Color Purple, 1985, Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple is a richly-textured, powerful film set in America’s rural south.
  • My Left Foot, 1989, The story of Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy. He learned to paint and write with his only controllable limb – his left foot.
  • Big, 1988, Josh Baskin (Tom Hanks) is a 12 year-old boy who has been transformed into a 35 year-old man by a carnival wishing machine and finds himself romantically involved with sophisticated executive Susan Lawrence (Elizabeth Perkins).
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986, High-schooler Ferris Bueller (Mathew Broderick), his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara), and his best bud Cameron (Alan Ruck) are off on the spontaneous romp through Chicago known as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
  • Fatal Attraction**, 1987, A married man’s one-night stand comes back to haunt him when that lover begins to stalk him and his family.
  • Stand by Me, 1986, Four young friends find the remains of a missing teenager in Stephen King’s adaption of The Body.

** personal favorites. Please tell me your favorite movies!

Remember, these are in no particular order and they are all great movies. Enjoy!


  1. Carrie,
    Heaven Can Wait is one of my top five favorites of all times.

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Leslie! I really appreciate your support 🙂

  3. Carrie,
    Love your blog. I love your list of 70’s and 80’s movies. I think I’ve seen them all. What a great blast from the past!

  4. amy

    Great lists!!!