1974 Movies

In search of a 1974 film? Plex provides an array of choices from a year that was rich in storytelling. This was a time when New Hollywood was in full swing, offering a mix of blockbuster spectacles and gritty, character-driven narratives. Films like "Chinatown" broke new ground in neo-noir, while "Blazing Saddles" used satire to make cultural commentary.
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The Best Movies of 1974

Notable for a range of films that have since become classics, the year saw the industry reach new heights. Let's explore some of the movies that set 1974 apart.

The Godfather Part II

Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather Part II" is an extraordinary example of a sequel outshining its predecessor. This film seamlessly weaves two timelines: Michael Corleone's ascendancy in the mob during the 1950s and the early life of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York. Al Pacino delivers a compelling performance as Michael Corleone, who takes over the family business and navigates the intricacies of mob life. In a parallel narrative, Robert De Niro portrays a young Vito Corleone, offering insights into the making of a mafia lord. The film navigates complex relationships and ethical dilemmas, creating not just a gangster story, but a commentary on the American dream and its consequences.

Blazing Saddles

Directed by Mel Brooks, "Blazing Saddles" is an audacious comedy that tackles racial issues with unapologetic humor. The story revolves around the Western town of Rock Ridge, targeted for a scheme led by a dishonest politician named Lamarr. To sabotage the town, Lamarr appoints a Black railroad worker as the new sheriff, thinking the town will disintegrate in chaos. However, the scheme backfires as the new sheriff turns out to be far more competent than anyone expected. With humor that pulls no punches, the film lambasts systemic racism while eliciting laughs from mature audiences.

The Conversation

Gene Hackman stars in "The Conversation," a suspenseful drama that delves deep into ethical dilemmas and questions of privacy. Hackman's character, Harry Caul, is a surveillance expert contracted to spy on a young couple. As Caul follows his subjects, he records a mysterious exchange between them that haunts him. The story becomes a quest for truth as Caul grapples with the ramifications of his actions. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the film remains a contemplative exploration of ethical boundaries and the implications of surveillance technology.

Alice in the Cities

Directed by Wim Wenders, "Alice in the Cities" is a German road movie that stands as the initial part of the director's "Road Movie Trilogy." The film details the journey of German journalist Philip Winter, portrayed by Rüdiger Vogler, who faces writer's block while attempting to write an essay about America. During a flight booking, he encounters a German mother and her daughter Alice, played by Yella Rottländer. As they embark on their journey back to Germany, the film unravels a compelling narrative that not only made an impact on Wenders' career but also resonated with audiences. Presented in black and white, the film has a magnetic quality that extends beyond language barriers.

Phantom of the Paradise

A movie that encapsulates the essence of cult classics, "Phantom of the Paradise" introduces us to Winslow Leach, played by William Finley. Leach is a young songwriter who falls victim to a nefarious plot by music producer Swan, portrayed by Paul Williams. In a quest for justice, Leach assumes a menacing persona to haunt Swan's new concert venue. The movie amalgamates an eccentric narrative with striking visuals and engaging music. Directed by Brian De Palma, it is a notable film that captures the garish flair of the music industry during its era.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

A true horror masterpiece, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," directed by Tobe Hooper, focuses on the unsettling journey of Sally and her brother Franklin. The siblings discover that their grandfather's grave has been vandalized, leading them to visit their family farmhouse. Little do they know that their next-door neighbor is a malevolent cannibal. From start to finish, the film grips the viewer in its terrifying narrative. The synergy between various filmmaking elements elevates this horror film to the status of a genre-defining classic.


Private investigator Jake Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, takes on what seems like a straightforward assignment in 1930s Los Angeles. However, he soon finds himself pulled into an intricate web of corruption and betrayal. The screenplay by Robert Towne won multiple awards, cementing the film's status as a cinematic milestone. Jack Nicholson's performance showcases a distinct old-school charisma that sets him apart from his contemporaries.

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Alice, portrayed by Ellen Burstyn, has to make life-changing choices following a traumatic incident. She decides to travel with her son, seeking to restart her career as a singer. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the movie captures the internal and external struggles of women who have often had to forgo their professional dreams for domestic responsibilities. The narrative resonates with a wide audience, making it one of Scorsese's most touching works.

The Phantom of Liberty

Directed by Luis Buñuel, this French film is a collection of loosely related vignettes with no central character. These episodes span multiple periods, from the 19th century to the 1970s, each presented as a chance encounter. While it may not be considered Buñuel's best, it contains numerous unforgettable moments. The humor within the film is both insightful and easy to digest.

Young Frankenstein

This film, directed by Mel Brooks, brings humor to the Frankenstein story. Gene Wilder plays a reputable physician who inherits his infamous grandfather Victor Frankenstein's castle. Upon discovering his grandfather's diary, he begins replicating the experiments. The film is lauded for its wit, absurdity, and clever one-liners. Mel Brooks showcases a more refined control of the material, moving beyond mere laughs to offer a layered narrative.

1974 Movies & Industry Highlights

The film industry saw various changes throughout history, with 1974 being an especially interesting year. The following sections aim to provide an informative overview of that year in cinema, with a focus on the highest-grossing movies, significant happenings, and noteworthy debuts.

Top Films of 1974

The year 1974 saw various films make a mark at the North American box office. At the pinnacle was "The Towering Inferno," distributed by 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. Pictures, with a box office gross of $50M. Trailing closely was "Blazing Saddles" from Warner Bros. Pictures, which raked in $45.2M.

In third place, "Young Frankenstein," distributed by 20th Century Fox, earned $38.8M. Universal Pictures' "Earthquake" came in fourth, grossing $36.3M, while "The Trial of Billy Jack," distributed again by Warner Bros. Pictures, earned fifth place with $31.1M. "The Godfather Part II," distributed by Paramount Pictures, came in sixth, grossing $30.7M. Universal Pictures had another entry, "Airport 1975," which earned $25.8M.

Paramount's "The Longest Yard" followed with $23M. Finally, the last two films to make the top ten were "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams," with $21.9M, and "Murder on the Orient Express," which pulled in $19.1M.

Significant Events in the Film Industry

In addition to the top-grossing films, the cinema industry of 1974 was punctuated by numerous impactful occurrences. For instance, "Blazing Saddles" had its release in the United States on February 7, attracting massive attention. Furthermore, May 28 marked the day Joseph E. Levine resigned from his role as the president of Embassy Pictures. June brought the release of "Chinatown," a film that received worldwide critical acclaim. Technological advancements also saw a setback when Technicolor decided to discontinue its dye-transfer printing technique on November 1.

That same month, Frank Yablans also made headlines when he resigned from his post as the president of Paramount Pictures. Meanwhile, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer commemorated its 50-year milestone with a special documentary. The last quarter of the year was characterized by the release of high-grossing disaster films, significantly shaping public interest in this genre.

A Glimpse at Film Debuts

One name you may now recognize made his first appearance in cinema in 1974—Kevin Costner. Although his film "Sizzle Beach, U.S.A." did not see a release until 1986, his journey in cinema began here.