1972 Movies

Interested in films from 1972? Plex provides a user-friendly way to explore movies from a year that left its mark on cinematic history. For example, "The Godfather" isn't just another title in our collection; it's a masterclass in storytelling that has been deeply influential. The films of 1972 reflect a period of artistic evolution, building on the experimental spirit of the late '60s.
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The Best Movies of 1972

From The Godfather to Cabaret, 1972 had an impressive list of films that are still iconic today. Together, let's look at some of the best movies from that year.

The Godfather

Released in 1972, The Godfather gained three Oscars, including Best Picture. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, this movie profoundly impacted the crime movie category. Marlon Brando delivers an iconic portrayal as Vito Corleone, the aging leader of the Corleone crime family. Furthermore, this movie served as a launchpad for actors such as Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, and James Caan, who would later become Hollywood legends. What sets this movie apart is its intricate storytelling combined with outstanding performances, elevating cinema to a new level.


Despite not securing the Best Picture win at the 1972 Oscars, Cabaret garnered the most Oscars that year, a total of eight. The narrative centers around individuals involved in a Berlin nightclub during the 1930s, oblivious to the rise of Nazism. Directed by Bob Fosse, Cabaret revolutionized the musical film genre. Its storytelling approach, combined with compelling performances and a unique visual style, creates a movie that is both engaging and strikingly serious. Its significance cannot be overstated, and it remains a vital part of cinema history.

The New Land

A sequel to 1971's The Emigrants, The New Land narrates the story of a Swedish family attempting to make a life for themselves in mid-19th-century America. Far from glamorizing the American Dream, the movie offers a stark look at the hurdles that the family faces. Its length exceeds three hours, adding to the movie's detailed storytelling. What makes The New Land distinct is its realistic representation of life's hardships during that period. The film maintains its integrity through exceptional performances and committed storytelling. While not for everyone due to its unflinching look at the past, The New Land stands as a film that warrants discussion and reflection.

The Heartbreak Kid

Elaine May, the filmmaker behind The Heartbreak Kid, deserves more credit than she often receives. Though her directorial career was punctuated by the less-than-successful 1987 film Ishtar, she had several other remarkable contributions to 1970s cinema. The Heartbreak Kid is a case in point. The movie deviates from the standard romantic comedy trope by offering a main character who is not exactly a paragon of virtue. Days into his honeymoon, he questions his recent marital vows when he encounters another woman he finds more appealing. This film manages to entertain while simultaneously dissecting its lead character, making it stand out in a genre typically filled with clichés.


Sleuth manages to juggle both comedy and suspense in a fascinating manner. The story revolves around two men trying to execute an insurance scam but quickly dissolves into a series of unforeseen twists. The reason this movie still holds its place among cinematic greats is largely due to the compelling performances by Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. Alec Cawthorne and John Matthews, who portray Inspector Doppler and Detective Sergeant Tarrant, make their only film appearances here, yet leave a lasting impression. While time may have rendered some of its twists less surprising, the film remains a masterpiece of writing and acting.


Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy holds the distinction of being his most graphic film. The narrative follows a man wrongfully accused of being a serial killer in London. What sets this film apart from other Hitchcock works is its unflinching readiness to venture into darker, more disturbing territory. The film manages to balance this darkness with its own brand of humor, making it an uncomfortable but intriguing watch. Although it wasn't Hitchcock's final movie, many consider it to be his last significant work. While definitely not for the faint-hearted, Frenzy remains an essential movie for Hitchcock enthusiasts.


Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris is not your typical science-fiction flick. This slow-paced film follows a psychologist who embarks on a journey to a space station, aiming to diagnose and treat its residents who suffer from a puzzling condition. The narrative might be unhurried, but its impact is lasting, offering a profound exploration of the complexities of human nature. It presents a version of science fiction that goes beyond futuristic settings and advanced technologies to explore deeply into the human psyche.


Deliverance stands as a stark thriller that transforms an adventurous river-rafting trip into a desperate struggle for survival. Initially appearing as an adventure film, it takes a darker turn, becoming increasingly grim as the protagonists must fight for their lives against a menacing external threat. The film has not lost any of its shock factor over the years, retaining its reputation as a compelling yet unsettling piece of cinema that challenges the traditional genre boundaries.

What's Up, Doc?

In What's Up, Doc?, director Peter Bogdanovich revives the screwball comedy genre, which had been in decline for several decades. The film thrives on a series of confounding mishaps involving a mix-up of bags, which sets the stage for hilariously chaotic scenarios. Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal excel in their roles, making the movie a joy to watch from start to finish. Despite its 94-minute runtime, the film never loses momentum and serves as both a homage to 1930s cinema and a hallmark of 1970s humor.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God is a cinematic odyssey that leaves an indelible imprint on viewers. The film documents a perilous quest into the Amazon, as explorers search for the mythical El Dorado. This harrowing narrative goes beyond the physical challenges of the expedition to reveal the psychological turmoil experienced by its participants. Similar to Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, the movie plunges viewers into the abyss of the human soul, confronting them with a tale that is simultaneously beautiful and horrifying.

1972 Movies & Industry Highlights

In 1972, the film industry was in the midst of a transformative period. With new approaches to storytelling and a focus on varied subject matter, filmmakers were pushing the boundaries of traditional genres and styles.

Financial Giants of the Year

  • The Godfather: Paramount Pictures, $86,300,000 Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather dominated the box office, earning $86,300,000 in domestic rentals. This movie is often cited as one of the best ever made. Its strong narrative and unforgettable characters have left a lasting impact on cinema, and it has been analyzed and cited in numerous academic studies and articles.

  • The Poseidon Adventure: 20th Century Fox, $42,000,000 Another massive hit was The Poseidon Adventure, which generated $42,000,000 at the box office. This disaster film captivated audiences with its harrowing story of survival aboard a sinking ship. A compelling narrative, backed by impressive performances, made this movie one of the must-see films of the year.

  • What's Up, Doc?: Warner Bros. Pictures, $28,000,000 Coming in third was What's Up, Doc? from Warner Bros., which managed to secure $28,000,000 in domestic rentals. This film successfully revived the screwball comedy genre, attracting a large number of viewers who appreciated its light-hearted humor and charismatic leads.

  • Deliverance: $22,500,000 The suspenseful thriller Deliverance also performed well, earning $22,500,000. This film drew audiences with its unsettling storyline and has since gained recognition for pushing the boundaries of traditional thriller narratives.

  • Jeremiah Johnson: $21,900,000 In fifth place was Jeremiah Johnson, with $21,900,000 in domestic rentals. This wilderness drama captured the hearts of audiences with its portrayal of a man's struggle against nature and isolation.

Notable Mentions

  • Cabaret: Allied Artists, $20,250,000 With $20,250,000 in earnings, Cabaret stood out not just for its financial success but also for its inventive approach to musical film. This movie received numerous awards, further cementing its place in cinema history.

  • Deep Throat: Bryanston Distributing Company, $20,000,000 Though controversial, Deep Throat earned $20,000,000, making it an undeniable box-office sensation. The adult film broke taboos and drew attention for its boldness.

  • The Getaway: National General Pictures, $18,000,000 Another strong performer was The Getaway, garnering $18,000,000. This crime-action film captivated viewers with its intense pacing and complex characters.

  • Lady Sings the Blues: Paramount Pictures, $9,666,000 A musical biographical drama, Lady Sings the Blues, also found its place in the top-earning films with $9,666,000 in domestic rentals. Its unique storytelling method and strong performances were particularly noteworthy.

  • Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex: United Artists, $8,828,000 United Artists' Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex was another film that took a unique approach, offering a comedic look at human sexuality. It earned $8,828,000 at the box office.

Trends and Takeaways

The key takeaway from 1972 was the diversity of films that captivated audiences. From crime dramas like The Godfather to disaster films like The Poseidon Adventure and bold films such as Deep Throat, this year showcased a mix of genres and storytelling methods. The box-office results indicated a hunger for narratives that were willing to explore new ideas and approaches.