10 Best Movies of 1975, Ranked

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10 Best Movies of 1975, Ranked

1975 was a very good year for films. While the movie-going audiences worldwide weren’t catching up on the bungled Watergate robbery fallout or paying an insane amount for gas, the movie theater was a nice, cool, and dark respite in the mid-seventies and the industry delivered some hits. If you’re old enough to have seen any of these films upon their release, then you’re over 50 and still taking in the latest entertainment news – kudos to you!

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For most, seeing these films on the big screen probably wasn’t possible, but the acting is top-notch. We saw Al Pacino make his first post-Godfather Michael Corleone appearance. Big names like Nicholson, Redford (whose Three Days of the Condor narrowly missed this list), Hackman, and master filmmaker Altman all had noteworthy projects. In fact, Nicholson made this list twice. But perhaps most importantly, 1975 was the birth year of the summer blockbuster when three men ventured out into the Atlantic to battle a really big fish before realizing that they were probably going to need a bigger boat to reel it in. Here are the top 10 movies from 1975.

10 ‘Night Moves’

Gene Hackman is the quintessential LA private dick, Harry Moseby, with a short fuse working in a world heavy with shag carpets, sideburns, vinyl, and very wide neckties. Moseby is a former football player and has a badass pea green 68 Mustang that looks a lot like the car Steve McQueen made famous in Bullitt. When he’s asked to find the missing daughter of a wealthy former actress, things come at him fast and the tempo of the film clicks along at a brisk pace with every clue that the gumshoe uncovers. At the same time, he finds out his wife is having an affair, so he hasn’t got the patience to beat around the bush.

Always the versatile actor, Hackman shoots from the hip fitting right into the role, and it’s actually a little surprising he didn’t play a private detective more often during his long and prolific career. It’s no Chinatown, but Night Moves is a good neo-noir film with solid acting. A young James Woods makes a cameo as a plane mechanic.

9 ‘The Passenger’

Jack Nicholson sitting down behind a parked vehicle in The Passenger
United Artists

The first of Jack Nicholson‘s 1975 double-bill hits the list at number eight. The Passenger isn’t one of Jack’s biggest or most well-known entries of his considerable filmography, but it is one that probably flew under your radar. Nicholson is David Locke, a cynical and frustrated reporter who, while on war assignment in North Africa, assumes the identity of a dead man on a whim not knowing that the man was a dangerous arms dealer.

Maria Schneider (The Last Tango in Paris, A Woman Like Eve) delivers an even performance as Locke’s romantic interest upon arriving in Barcelona, Spain. It’s a perfectly whimsical and cavalier character that the great actor does so well including in the other Jack film later on in this list. But the ending is far from ideal as his assumed identity causes far more problems than he could have anticipated.

8 ‘Barry Lyndon’

Partygoers lounging around in Barry Lyndon
Image via Warner Bros.

Stanley Kubrick‘s most atypical and underrated project comes in at seven, and all the Kubrickians out there are saying, “This is outrageous! Way too low!” Maybe so, but the quixotic tale of a man who goes from rags to riches through a series of most unlikely events is nestled comfortably inside the top ten.

Ryan O’Neil is also an unlikely casting choice to play the titular Lyndon but does an admirable job of portraying a man who seeks the privilege of high society while simultaneously rejecting an aristocratic class. It is a terrific outlier movie that if you want to see something completely different from 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, or A Clockwork Orange, has some of the great hallmarks of a Kubrick film and delivers them in a most surreal way. Barry Lyndon may be his most unappreciated movie.

7 ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’

Three drag queens in 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'

The midnight shows of the macabre glam musical are still going strong around the world some 48 years after The Rocky Horror Picture Show debuted in theaters. Tim Curry steals the show in this cult classic about a young couple Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) who stumble upon a collection of eclectic residents inside a mansion owned by the one and only Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Curry) a transvestite who also happens to be a scientist. What ensues is a bananas series of musical numbers that are so iconic, that they will live on forever vis-à-vis thousands of die-hard fanatics all over the globe.

RELATED: ’Rocky Horror’s Spiritual Sequel Failed to Live Up to the Cult ClassicWe can’t say for sure that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was the first breakout cult hit, but there is no doubt that it is the most replicated not only for the enormous sing-along appeal but for the marvelous performances of Curry, Richard O’Brien asRiff Raff and the late Meat Loaf in the part of Eddie.

6 ‘Nashville’

nashville-movie-social
Image via Paramount

Many would argue that Nashville is legendary director Robert Altman‘s finest film. After having found success as a television director, the late blooming Altman’s move to the big screen was seamless in this story of residents of the capital city of Tennessee who are all trying to make their way in various walks of life.

The outstanding ensemble cast includes Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin, Karen Black, and Ronne Blakley using what Altman referred to as “good disintegration” which was his method of letting the actors breakdown the rehearsal process and improvise to an extent with a single camera filming technique (a technique that Paul Thomas Anderson admired and has adopted in films like Boogie Nights and Magnolia). A truly remarkable movie and an example of Altman’s revolutionary filmmaking style.

5 ‘Dog Day Afternoon’

Al Pacino as Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon
Image via Warner Bros.

Al Pacino was riding high coming off the success of the Godfather films when he played a troubled Brooklynite who teams up with his slow friend John Cazale (his brother Fredo in the Godfather movies) to rob a local bank only to get bogged down in a long hostage negotiation with Charles Durning and a boatload of New York City’s finest.

You absolutely cannot take your eyes off of Pacino, who sheds the calm and cool demeanor of Michael Corleone to become Sonny Wortzik, an unhappily married and chaotic outcast who decides to rob a bank, for reasons that are more than what they seem at first. Chris Sarandon is also stellar as Sonny’s lover Leon Shermer in a memorable, Oscar-nominated supporting role.

4 ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’

Graham Chapman in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'
Image via EMI Films

The legendary comedy troop consisting of John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin have never been better than they were in this stellar comedy that had audiences in stitches with their take on the pursuit of the grail from which Jesus Christ is believed to have used at The Last Supper.

RELATED: From ‘Holy Grail’ to ‘Don Quixote’: The 9 Best Terry Gilliam Movies, According to Rotten Tomatoes With an Arthurian twist directors Gilliam and Jones take us on a surreal journey that includes hilarious skirmishes with a limbless Black Knight, flying cows, a Trojan Rabbit, and of course the malevolent “Knights Who Say “Ni!”. Shot during the hiatus between Seasons 3 and 4 of their variety hit Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Holy Grail is arguably the best big-screen offering from the revolutionary British comedy team.

3 ‘Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Belgian writer/director Chantal Akerman‘s 201-minute masterpiece of slow cinema follows the mundane day-to-day existence and survival of a widowed single mother (Delphine Seyrig) in her tiny apartment.

RELATED: 10 Movies That Were Praised for Being Intentionally Boring This epic-length, glacially paced drama’s journey in status from cult classic to something else entirely is remarkable. In 2022,Sight and Sound named Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles the greatest movie of all time, beating out previous title-holder Vertigo.

2 ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

One-Flew-Over-the-Cuckoos-Nest-1

Jack Nicholson absolutely owns the screen in picking up the 1975 Best Actor Oscar for his performance as R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (which also won Best Picture). The charismatic leader of a group of misfits goes toe-to-toe with the stern Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) in a battle for control of the psych ward at Oregon State Mental Hospital.

Nicholson is at the peak of his powers in this Miloš Foreman-directed classic as a malingering person in a mental health facility who would rather rule a the populace of the insitution than be just another average Joe on the streets. This is not only one of the best films of 1975 but of the entire 20th century, as is the top entry on this list.

1 ‘Jaws’

Jaws openng scene Chrissie Watkins death
Image Via Universal

Jaws was the movie that coined the term “summer blockbuster” leaving moviegoers around the world terrified to venture into the water after its release on June 20, 1975. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw as the salty sea dog “Quint” had no idea they were, “gonna need a bigger boat” when they headed out off the coast of Cape Cod in New England to hunt down an unusually hungry killer great white shark that was picking off swimmers one by one.

Steven Spielberg‘s breakout thriller based on Peter Benchley‘s novel set the bar for summertime box office bonanzas and held the record for Universal Pictures’ highest-grossing film for twenty years until it was beaten out by Saving Private Ryan.

RELATED: The 25 Best Thrillers of All Time, Ranked

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