1975 Movies

1975 was a big year for movies, and not just because of the hits. Sure, we got classics like Jaws, but it was also a time when actors like Nicholson and directors like Altman were at their peak. Some films had us on the edge of our seats, while others made us think.
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The Best Movies of 1975

In 1975, cinema offered a diverse mix of films that have stood the test of time. From comedy to thriller, the year featured standout films like Monty Python's Holy Grail, Dog Day Afternoon, and Jaws. Directors like Stanley Kubrick and Robert Altman showcased unique storytelling techniques, while actors like Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson delivered iconic roles.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

This one-of-a-kind comedy film stands out as a magnum opus from the revolutionary British comedy group Monty Python. Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, this film takes a comedic approach to the Arthurian legend, following a set of whimsical adventures in pursuit of the Holy Grail—the same cup believed to have been used by Jesus Christ at The Last Supper.

Noteworthy for its inventive humor and clever dialogue, the movie introduces audiences to characters that are nothing short of memorable. The limbless Black Knight and the notorious "Knights Who Say 'Ni!'" are just a few of the zany characters that populate this creative narrative. The film was shot during a break between Seasons 3 and 4 of Monty Python's Flying Circus and stands as an enduring work from the group.

Dog Day Afternoon

Starring Al Pacino in an unforgettable role, this crime drama grips viewers with its tense atmosphere and intricate character development. Al Pacino plays Sonny Wortzik, a man with a complicated personal life who finds himself in a bank robbery gone awry. John Cazale portrays his accomplice, and together they find themselves entangled in a prolonged negotiation with law enforcement.

What makes the film compelling is not just the heist itself but the motivations and personal struggles behind the characters. As the narrative unfolds, more layers of Sonny Wortzik's life are revealed, including the reasons behind his desperate act. Chris Sarandon delivers an Oscar-nominated performance as Leon Shermer, adding further complexity to a film filled with nuanced characters.

Barry Lyndon

Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon represents a departure from the director's more renowned projects. It is often viewed as an overlooked gem in his filmography. Ryan O'Neil takes on the role of Barry Lyndon, guiding the audience through a unique journey from poverty to affluence. O'Neil's performance captures the essence of a man torn between the appeal of societal elevation and a disdain for the aristocracy. This divergence from the usual Kubrickian themes offers audiences a fresh perspective, providing a look into an era where societal norms were stringent, yet malleable.


Nashville, directed by Robert Altman, is a character-driven narrative that delves into the lives of several residents in Tennessee's capital city. With an ensemble cast featuring prominent actors like Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin, Karen Black, and Ronne Blakley, the film stands as a cornerstone of Altman's career. Noteworthy is Altman's unique approach to filmmaking, called "good disintegration." This technique invited actors to break down the rehearsal process and improvise, adding a touch of realism to the story. This innovative method influenced future filmmakers and stands as an enduring testament to Altman's directorial prowess.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Jack Nicholson's portrayal of R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest remains an iconic performance. Under the direction of Miloš Foreman, the film centers around McMurphy's conflict with Nurse Ratched, played by Louise Fletcher, in an Oregon mental health facility. Not merely content with blending into society, McMurphy opts for a form of rebellion within the confines of the institution. The movie's accolades, including Best Actor for Nicholson and Best Picture, underscore its enduring significance. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest continues to resonate as a standout piece in both the history of cinema and the oeuvre of its cast and crew.

Night Moves

Night Moves showcases Gene Hackman as Harry Moseby, an LA-based private investigator navigating a myriad of challenges both professionally and personally. The plot revolves around Moseby's quest to locate a missing girl, even as he grapples with his own faltering marriage. Visually marked by the unique aesthetic sensibilities of its era, the film advances at a quick pace, propelled by each new piece of information Moseby discovers. Hackman's acting adds a significant weight to the story, showcasing his versatility and suitability for the role of a private investigator. A notable feature of the film is a cameo by James Woods, further enriching the overall quality of the cast.


Jaws wasn't merely a hit; it redefined what a blockbuster could be. The film introduced audiences to a new kind of terror on June 20, 1975. Starring Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw as the unforgettable "Quint," the movie explores the dangers that lurk beneath the sea. Based off the coast of Cape Cod in New England, these three men are pitted against a fearsome great white shark that had been targeting swimmers. Directed by Steven Spielberg and adapted from Peter Benchley's novel, the film was a financial triumph and held the title of Universal Pictures' highest-earning film for two decades, until it was surpassed by Saving Private Ryan.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Chantal Akerman's work, clocking in at 201 minutes, is often referred to as a defining piece of slow cinema. Focused on the monotonous life of a widowed single mother, played by Delphine Seyrig, the film offers an immersive look into her daily routines in her small living space. Its status has evolved over time, leading it to be named by Sight and Sound in 2022 as the greatest film ever, overtaking previous record-holder Vertigo.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Still celebrated nearly five decades after its initial release, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a phenomenon unlike any other. This eccentric musical showcases Tim Curry's unforgettable performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a scientist and transvestite who opens the doors of his peculiar mansion to the unsuspecting couple Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon). The mansion's inhabitants are equally odd, setting the stage for a sequence of outlandish musical numbers that have carved their place in the annals of cinema. The movie continues to captivate audiences through midnight screenings, costume sing-alongs, and fervent fandom. It's not just Tim Curry's act that shines but also the performances from Richard O'Brien as Riff Raff and the late Meat Loaf as Eddie that make this film so captivating.

The Passenger

The Passenger might not be among the most recognized films of Jack Nicholson, but it's a hidden gem worth discovering. Here, Nicholson plays David Locke, a war correspondent stationed in North Africa who takes on the identity of a deceased individual, not knowing the man was an arms dealer. The film also features Maria Schneider, known for The Last Tango in Paris, who plays Locke's romantic interest. Nicholson excellently portrays a man trying to escape his past, only to find that his new identity creates a host of new issues. Although lesser-known, the film showcases the complexities of identity and moral ambiguity.

1975 Movies & Industry Highlights

In the 1970s, the film industry underwent significant changes that continue to influence our movie-watching habits. For example, Steven Spielberg's Jaws introduced the concept of a summer blockbuster. The year also featured notable artistic achievements, with films peering into human psychology, social problems, and the nature of fame. Let's explore what made this year in cinema so important.

Financial Feats: The Box Office Titans

The financial triumphs of 1975 were quite impressive, to say the least. Topping the list was "Jaws" from Universal Pictures, which raked in $133,400,000 in domestic rentals. United Artists' "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" was a distant second with $59,200,000, while "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" by 20th Century Fox secured the third position at $50,420,000. Other significant earners included "Shampoo," "Dog Day Afternoon," and "The Return of the Pink Panther," among others.

Worldwide Success

Internationally, the trend was similar but had some intriguing additions. While Jaws dominated globally with revenue around $470,653,000, an Indian film named "Sholay" also made waves with estimated admissions of 250,000,000 and revenue totaling $70,000,000. The Rocky Horror Picture Show garnered $140,846,387 in global revenue, underlining its significant influence beyond American soil.

Key Events That Shaped The Film Industry

There were several events in 1975 that left a lasting impact on the cinema sector:

  • March 26: The Who's musical "Tommy" had its cinematic premiere in London, opening new vistas for rock operas on the big screen.
  • May: Special effects took a giant leap forward when George Lucas formed Industrial Light and Magic to develop visuals for Star Wars. This technological innovation would later revolutionize film production methods.
  • June 20: The release of Jaws not only broke records but also set new standards for what a successful film could achieve.
  • August 14: The Rocky Horror Picture Show had its London premiere, later gaining a strong following and establishing itself as a significant cultural phenomenon.
  • November 2: The tragic murder of Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini shocked the international film community.
  • November 23: The premiere of Sneak Previews, an American film review show, marked the start of a partnership between critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert that would last for 24 years.
  • December: Warner Bros. underwent a significant organizational shift, with Frank Wells resuming the role of president and sharing CEO responsibilities with Ted Ashley.

A Variety of Film Types

The year saw an impressive range of film genres and styles. Dramas like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" explored the intricacies of human emotions and institutions, while thrillers such as "Three Days of the Condor" kept audiences on their toes. Then there were genre-defining musicals, like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," and crime dramas like "Dog Day Afternoon" that offered something for everyone.

Lasting Influence

The artistic achievements and financial triumphs of 1975 had far-reaching consequences for the cinema industry. Films like "Jaws" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" not only dominated the box office but also made lasting contributions to film as an art form. "Jaws" established what a summer blockbuster could be, while "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" offered a new form of storytelling, focusing on character studies and social commentary.

Moreover, the advancement of special effects through Industrial Light and Magic transformed film production, setting a new standard for what could be achieved in visual storytelling. The tragic loss of Pier Paolo Pasolini served as a grim reminder of the societal pressures filmmakers can face, emphasizing the importance of artistic freedom in the industry.