The 1970s was one hell of a time for cinema. Arguably the most iconic decade of the 20th Century, everything was in full bloom in the ’70s: fashion, music, sexuality and film.
Despite America being in a somewhat financial slump, Hollywood was still very much swinging leading to major developments in cinema both as an art form and a business. With young filmmakers daring to take greater risks due to lifting restrictions regarding language and sexuality, the 1970s produced some of the most critically acclaimed and financially successful films since the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’.
Reflective of this creative boom was the accompanying music. 1970s film scores are some of the most enduring and instantly recognisable pieces of music ever written.
Thus we honour the ’70s with the 10 best movie soundtracks of the decade.
We reflect on the turbulent and iconic decade that was the 1970s. Plundering the depths we have collected the 10 best movie soundtracks of the era.
10. A Clockwork Orange – Wendy Carlos
This seminal Stanley Kubrick film was a landmark piece of cinema for it’s interpretation of the Anthony Burgess classic, A Clockwork Orange, as well as it’s confluence of electro-synth and classical music. The famous score from Wendy Carlos is a leading example of a soundtrack reflecting the movements of a film.
The building symphonic measures are an extension of Alex’s deteriorating psyche. Using the violent Ludovico technique Alex is psychologically conditioned against Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, making for one the most quintessential moments in cinema history.
9. Diamonds Are Forever – John Barry
John Barry returns in Diamonds Are Forever for the most epochal James Bond theme of all time. As the final film starring Sean Connery, this iconic tune is still a live favourite at Shirley Bassey concerts.
Funnily enough, producer Harry Saltzman reportedly hated the song though it was kept on due to the firm insistence of co-producer Cubby Brocolli.
8. Halloween – John Carpenter
John Carpenter directed the highly influential, low budget horror film Halloween and also composed it’s creepy minimalist score. What is one of the most instantly recognisable horror scores of all time was also done extremely cheap. The film only had a $300,000 budget so with no orchestra on his hands, John – who learned music as a kid – booked a synth studio in LA and plunked down some simple tunes.
He scored it in three days without recording to picture. No cues, just five or six themes and that was that. The result is a progenitor for future horror music and one of the best movie soundtracks to date.
7. Apocalypse Now – Various
A quintessential reflection of the colourful tapestry of 1970s music, Apocalypse Now mirrors many concerns of the counterculture movement with some of their favourite music too.
6. Taxi Driver – Bernard Hermann
Matin Scorsese’s most significant film Taxi Driver was special for many reasons. It was the final score from Bernard Hermann before his death in 1975. It was nominated for an Academy Award and Grammy for Best Original Score, and is an indicative period film on the crime and squalor of 1970s New York.
A fantastic film that blurs the line between right and wrong, it was a fitting sign off to one of cinemas greatest composers, Bernard Hermann.
5. Jaws – John Williams
John Williams just repeated two notes. It’s that simple. However, rarely does a score so perfectly portray the atmosphere of a film. The score for Jaws is widely considered one of the most iconic pieces of music in cinemA history.
When Williams first played the theme to Steven Spielberg he initially laughed, thinking it was a joke. However Williams later described the theme as “grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable.”
4. Superfly – Curtis Mayfield
The 1972 album from Curtis Mayfield is an iconic moment in the socio-political climate of 1970s America as well as history. For an album so drenched in funk, ghetto, politics, soul and outwardly raw, Superfly defies logic to have sold 5 million copies. In fact it is the only soundtrack of all time to outsell it’s accompanying movie.
Freddie’s Dead and the title track both sold in the millions and it is widely considered a touchstone for American funk and soul. Mayfield deftly traverses the loaded landscapes of drug abuse, racism and entrenched economical structures inflicting upon socio-economic status. Touching on many issues that are still prevalent in the States today.
3. Saturday Night Fever – Various
Saturday Night Fever is the best selling movie soundtrack of all time. My mother still regularly spins her copy. It was added to the Library of Congress for its cultural significance and won six Grammys overall.
It perfectly encapsulates disco culture in 20 songs and indeed the art of making a hit. Every song is a certified, chart smashing success with tunes from KC and the Sunshine Band, Kool and the Gang, The Trammps, Yvonne Elliman and of course, The Bee Gees.
2. The Godfather Part II – Nina Rota
With a love theme so sad that it makes real mobsters cry, The Godfather II won an Oscar in 1974 for Best Original Music Score due to the masterful compositions from Nina Rota.
Godfather 1 + 2 are the only original sequels to both with Oscars for Best Motion Picture. Just listen to the touching love theme and try not to tear up.
1. Star Wars IV: A New Hope – John Williams
Nothing in the history of cinema is more iconic than John Williams sweeping symphonic score for Star Wars. From the moment the opening title rolls up the screen and the brass fanfare kicks in George Lucas’ epic space opera was written into the annals of history.
Often cited as a key player in the return to grand symphonic scores towards the late ’70s, John Williams’ iconic soundtrack won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award and a Grammy Award.
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