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DISCLAIMER: All film criticism is extremely subjective and there is no such thing as the definitive list of the Greatest (English-language) Films. Great Films can't be measured scientifically because greatness is extremely subjective. Just because we like a film doesn't mean that you will like it as well. Please feel free to leave us a comment with the films that you think are the greatest which we have not included on our list.

Not only was 1974 a big year for movies but it was also a big year for actors making their film debuts and the deaths of some truly great talent. Here is a snap shot of the American film industry.

Making Their Film Debuts:


  • Armand Assante – The Lords of Flatbush
  • Chevy Chase – The Groove Tube
  • Jeff Goldblum – Death Wish
  • Edward James Olmos – Black Fist
  • John Rhys-Davies – The Black Windmill
  • Fred Ward – Ginger in the Morning
  • Denzel Washington – Death Wish
  • Henry Winkler – Crazy Joe


Top-grossing Films

 TitleStudioDomestic gross
1.Blazing SaddlesWarner Bros.$119,500,000
2.The Towering Inferno20th Century Fox / Warner Bros.$116,000,000
3.The Trial of Billy JackWarner Bros.$89,000,000
4.Young Frankenstein20th Century Fox$86,273,333
5.EarthquakeUniversal Pictures$79,666,653
6.The Taking of Pelham One Two ThreeUnited Artists$61,984,039
7.The Godfather Part IIParamount Pictures$47,542,841
8.Airport 1975Universal Pictures$47,285,152
9.The Life and Times of Grizzly AdamsSunn Classic Pictures$45,411,063
10.The Longest YardParamount Pictures$43,008,075


Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: The Godfather Part II

Best Director: Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather: Part II

Best Actor: Art Carney, Harry and Tonto

Best Actress: Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro, The Godfather: Part II

Best Supporting Actress: Ingrid Bergman, Murder on the Orient Express


Among Those Who Died In 1974:

MonDateNameAgeProfessionNotable films
Jan2Tex Ritter68Actor, SingerTrouble in Texas
     Where the Buffalo Roam
 3Gino Cervi72ActorBecket
     Black Eagle
 14Paul Whitsun-Jones50ActorThe Moonraker
     The Masque of the Red Death
 31Samuel Goldwyn94Producer,  Studio ExecutiveThe Best Years of Our Lives
     Guys and Dolls
 31Roger Pryor72ActorGlamour for Sale
     The Return of Jimmy Valentine
Feb7Arline Judge61ActressThe Sin of Harold Diddlebock
     Pigskin Parade
 11Anna Q. Nilsson85ActressSunset Boulevard
     Sorrell and Son
 23Florence Rice67ActressAt the Circus
     Double Wedding
 23Harry Ruby79Screenwriter, ComposerHorse Feathers
     Duck Soup
 27Orry-Kelly66Costume DesignerAn American in Paris
     Some Like It Hot
 28Carole Lesley38ActressWoman in a Dressing Gown
     Three on a Spree
Mar3Barbara Ruick43Actress, SingerCarousel
     The Affairs of Dobie Gillis
 5Billy De Wolfe67ActorDixie
     Tea for Two
 7Alberto Rabagliati67Actor, SingerThe Barefoot Contessa
     Street Angel
 8Martha Wentworth84Actress, Voice ActressSanta Fe Uprising
     One Hundred and One Dalmatians
 13Howard St. John68ActorBorn Yesterday
     Li’l Abner
 19Edward Platt58ActorNorth by Northwest
     Rebel Without a Cause
 28Dorothy Fields68SongwriterSwing Time
     Annie Get Your Gun
 28Francoise Rosay82ActressSeptember Affair
     The Seventh Sin
 29Seton I. Miller71ScreenwriterScarface
     Here Comes Mr. Jordan
April2Douglass Dumbrille84ActorMr. Deeds Goes to Town
     The Ten Commandments
 10Patricia Collinge81ActressShadow of a Doubt
     The Nun’s Story
 18Betty Compson77ActressThe Docks of New York
     The Miracle Man
 20Peter Lee Lawrence30ActorFor a Few Dollars More
     Black Beauty
 24Bud Abbott78ActorAbbott and Costello in Hollywood
     Little Giant
 24Agnes Moorehead73ActressCitizen Kane
     The Magnificent Ambersons
May18Mary Maguire55ActressThe Outsider
     Sergeant Murphy
 24Duke Ellington75ComposerParis Blues
     Anatomy of a Murder
 25Donald Crisp91ActorHow Green Was My Valley
     National Velvet
June6Blanche Yurka86ActressA Tale of Two Cities
     Queen of the Mob
 10Lewis R. Foster75Director, ScreenwriterManhandled
     Hong Kong
 17Pamela Britton51ActressAnchors Aweigh
 28Frank Sutton50ActorMarty
     Town Without Pity
July13Joe Flynn48ActorMcHale’s Navy
     The Barefoot Executive
 13Marthe Vinot79ActressLe Mort vivant
     Le Calvaire
 27Julián de Meriche65ActorThe Incredible Invasion
 28Truman Bradley69Actor, NarratorMillionaires in Prison
     Murder Among Friends
Aug13Ilona Massey64ActressInvisible Agent
     Love Happy
 16Maxwell Reed55ActorBlackout
     The Notorious Landlady
Sept6Olga Baclanova78ActressFreaks
     The Wolf of Wall Street
 6Otto Kruger89ActorHigh Noon
     Magnificent Obsession
 14Barbara Jo Allen68ActressGirl Rush
     Lake Placid Serenade
 14Warren Hull71ActorStar Reporter
     Mandrake the Magician
 18Edna Best74ActressThe Man Who Knew Too Much
     The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
 21Jacqueline Susann56Author, ActressValley of the Dolls
     Once Is Not Enough
 21Walter Brennan80ActorThe Westerner
     Rio Bravo
 22Stephanie Bidmead45ActressInvasion
     Running Scared
 27James R. Webb64ScreenwriterHow the West Was Won
     Cape Fear
Oct13Ed Sullivan73ActorBye Bye Birdie
     The Singing Nun
Nov7Rodolfo Acosta54ActorThe Sons of Katie Elder
     One-Eyed Jacks
 13Vittorio De Sica73Actor, Director, ScreenwriterBicycle Thieves
     Miracle in Milan
 14Johnny Mack Brown70ActorCoquette
     Our Dancing Daughters
 17Clive Brook87ActorShanghai Express
     Sherlock Holmes
 25Rosemary Lane61Actress, SingerFour Wives
     The Return of Doctor X
Dec4Lee Kinsolving36ActorThe Dark at the Top of the Stairs
     The Explosive Generation
 5Pietro Germi60Actor, Director, ScreenwriterDivorce, Italian Style
     Seduced and Abandoned
 10Paul Richards50ActorThe Houston Story
     Beneath the Planet of the Apes
 11Reed Hadley63ActorThe Baron of Arizona
     Big House, U.S.A.
 15Anatole Litvak72Director, ProducerThe Snake Pit
 21Richard Long47ActorHouse on Haunted Hill
     The Stranger
 26Jack Benny80ActorTo Be or Not to Be
     Broadway Melody of 1936


The Greatest Films of 1974




Poster for the movie "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"

© − All right reserved.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

D: Martin Scorsese

Ellen Burstyn (“The Exorcist,” “Same Time, Next Year”) won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in this memorable comedy-drama about a widowed mother suddenly forced to take charge of her own life. Director Martin Scorcese (“Cape Fear,” “GoodFellas”) guides a wonderful cast including the very young future Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster (“Maverick,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), singer-actor Kris Kristofferson (“Lone Star,” “A Star Is Born”) and Oscar-nominees Diane Ladd (“Ramblin’ Rose”) and Harvey Keitel (“Pulp Fiction”). This classic film served as the basis for the long-running TV comedy hit “Alice.”

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "Blazing Saddles"

© − All right reserved.

Blazing Saddles

D: Mel Brooks

The iconoclastic, not-politically-correct western was one of director Mel Brooks’ funniest, most successful and most popular films. It was an unsubtle spoof or parody of all the cliches from the time-honored genre of westerns. Brooks’ third feature film tagline blurb advertised: “Blazing Saddles…or never give a saga an even break!” The crude, racist and sexist film with toilet humor (the infamous bean-eating campfire scene) and foul language included the main elements of any western – a dance-hall girl, a gunslinger, a sheriff, a town full of pure folk, and more, but it twisted them around. In the small frontier town of Rock Ridge (with all the racist townspeople named Johnson) in the 1870s, pardoned black railroad worker Bart (Cleavon Little) was appointed by dim-witted and sex-obsessed Governor William J. Le Petomane (Mel Brooks) as the new Sheriff. In cahoots was evil and corrupt State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) whose plot was to scare off the townsfolk, replace them with his own thugs, led by villainous Taggart (Slim Pickens), and complete a cheap land grab for a railroad route. Naive Bart joined with drunken “Waco Kid” gunslinger Jim (Gene Wilder) to save the town. There was also German seductress-for-hire Lili von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn), a spoof of Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again (1939). In the absurdist finale, the action broke through the “fourth wall” into the WB studios, onto a film set with Buddy Bizarre (Dom DeLuise) directing a musical, then into the studio commissary for a pie fight, and onto the streets of Burbank and the landmark Grauman Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "Chinatown"

© 1974 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.


D: Roman Polanski

Atmospheric, subtly-paced, superbly-made neo-noir mystery about a hard-nosed detective uncovering urban corruption in late 1930’s Los Angeles. World-weary gumshoe Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), who specialized in adultery cases, took on Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) as a client. He was hired by the recently-widowed woman to investigate the infidelities of her alleged husband, the water commissioner for the drought-stricken city. As the film-noir plot unfolded, the detective got in way over his head in a case involving murder, the illegal diversion of water to artificially deflate land prices, fraudulent and corrupt politicians including sinister millionaire Noah Cross (John Huston) grabbing up land, and a prominent family’s scandalous, long-hidden dark secret. He uncovered scandal under many layers, facades and networks of corruption, conspiracy and deception. Nicholson’s multi-faceted performance struck a responsive chord after the scandalous Watergate era of the early 1970s. He was masterful as he flippantly and self-confidently offered pat explanations for the deeply-flowing corruption he unearthed, and then found that he had to continually revise his inaccurate pronouncements and backtrack, after uncovering further evidence. His transgressive snooping was symbolized throughout the film by a large bandage on his sliced nose, after it was slashed by a punk (director Roman Polanski in a cameo role). After original, complex plot twists, the film ended in an unsettling finale in the ‘Chinatown’ section of the city – a state of mind where the law was ineffectual. Gittes found himself impotent and powerless to prevent the inevitable tragedy that he had exposed.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "The Conversation"

© 1974 Paramount − All right reserved.

The Conversation

D: Francis Ford Coppola

A brilliant thriller and murder mystery that was made during the Watergate Era, and coming at the height of Coppola’s fame for his two Godfather films. One of the best films of the 70s. A professional, reclusive, alienated, and paranoid surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), assisted by Stan (John Cazale) is hired by the ‘director’ (Robert Duvall in a cameo) of an anonymous business, in a seemingly-routine job, to secretly wiretap the conversations of two employees – an unfaithful wife and her lover (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest). After repeatedly playing back the tape, he realizes that he has captured a terrifying conversation with clues about an impending tragedy – a death sentence. He feels compelled to intercede and circumvent fate with disastrous consequences.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "The Godfather: Part II"

© 1974 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

The Godfather (Part II)

D: Francis Ford Coppola

The continuing saga of a Mafia family and dynasty, one of the few sequels in film history that is considered superior to the original. This outstanding, Best Picture-winning film continues the first film and retraces the Corleone Family’s founding by the young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro), who immigrates to America from his native Sicily at the turn of the century and maneuvers his family to power in the ghetto of Little Italy. It also shows the maintenance of the family by young Michael (Al Pacino), Vito’s son, as he ages and confronts a second generation of criminal and family affairs in Vegas, Cuba, and in a Senate hearing on organized crime. After eliminating all rivals and enemies, he is a brooding character, alienated from his wife (Diane Keaton), and the murderer of own brother Fredo (John Cazale).

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "Harry and Tonto"

© 1974 20th Century Fox − All right reserved.

Harry and Tonto

D: Paul Mazursky

A road film starring Best Actor-winning Art Carney as elderly widower and retired teacher Harry, a New Yorker facing the loss of his apartment building. He struck out from his Upper West Side home to travel cross country to find a new home, with his beloved feline pet Tonto.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "Lenny"

© 1974 Marvin Worth Productions − All right reserved.


D: Bob Fosse

Controversial comedian Lenny Bruce (Dustin Hoffman) begins his career telling bad jokes to bored audiences in the 1950s, but can’t repress his desire to unleash edgier material. When he does, he begins a one-man campaign to break down social hypocrisy, and his groundbreaking stage act propels him to cult-hero status. When authorities ban Lenny’s act for obscenity, he begins a downward spiral of drugs, sex and debt, aided by his bombshell wife, a stripper named Honey (Valerie Perrine).

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "The Parallax View"

© − All right reserved.

The Parallax View

D: Alan J. Pakula

After a presidential candidate is assassinated, political reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) begins to suspect that the mysterious Parallax Corporation may be involved. As he investigates, others who share his suspicions start turning up dead, including his editor, Bill Rintels (Hume Cronyn). Eventually, Frady uncovers a conspiracy bigger than anyone expected and must race to prevent the corporation’s next big hit as this political thriller plays out in an explosive game of cat and mouse.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "That's Entertainment!"

© 1974 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer − All right reserved.

That’s Entertainment!

D: Jack Haley, Jr.

Join star hosts Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, Liza Minnelli, Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Donald O’Connor, Peter Lawford, and Debbie Reynolds in a joyous celebration of MGM musicals, the Hollywood studio that practically invented the musical. Starting from 1929’s “The Broadway Melody” up to 1958’s Academy Award-winning “Gigi“, this collection of song, dance, out takes, and interviews will entertain the whole family. Featuring scenes from such American musical classics as “Singin’ In the Rain“, “Showboat” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and a parade of stars, including Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Esther Williams, and Clark Gable. A huge commercial and critical success, it was followed by two sequels.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "Towering Inferno"

© − All right reserved.

The Towering Inferno

D: Irwin Allen, John Guillermin

A dedication ceremony at the world’s tallest skyscraper turns into a high-rise catastrophe when a defective wire in its systems-control panel causes an electrical flare-up. Within minutes the gala event turns into a hellish inferno, as a raging fire traps society’s most prominent citizens on the top floor. Winner of three Academy Awards, this spectacular suspense thriller features dazzling special effects and a star studded cast including Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden and Faye Dunaway.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "A Woman Under the Influence"

© 1974 Faces International Films − All right reserved.

A Woman Under the Influence

D: John Cassavetes

Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands), desperate and lonely, is married to a Los Angeles municipal construction worker, Nick (Peter Falk). Increasingly unstable, especially in the company of others, she craves happiness, but her extremely volatile behavior convinces Nick that she poses a danger to their family and decides to commit her to an institution for six months. Alone with a trio of kids to raise on his own, he awaits her return, which holds more than a few surprises.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "Young Frankenstein"

© 1974 Crossbow Productions − All right reserved.

Young Frankenstein

D: Mel Brooks

One of writer/producer/director Mel Brooks’ best films – a nostalgic, hilarious spoof-tribute to classic horror films (with its authentic black and white cinematography and production design/set decoration), and in particular, of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. This was his follow-up film to his westerns-spoof (Blazing Saddles (1974)). The main character, young brain surgeon and med-school professor, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is in denial about his heritage, and must continually and defiantly correct people about the pronunciation of his name: “That’s Frahnk-en-steen.” The reluctant scientist returns to Transylvania when he inherits his infamous grandfather Victor’s castle, and is inspired to finish his ancestor’s mad work to create life after he finds the journal book/diary “How I Did It” in his private library. In the castle and town, he finds a bug-eyed Igor (“That’s Eye-gor”) (Marty Feldman) with a shifting hunchback, an old housekeeper Frau Bleucher (Cloris Leachman) who inspires horses to whinny, and a pretty, dim-witted, voluptuous assistant from the village named Inga (Teri Garr). His sexually-repressed, spoiled fiancee Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) later joins him as he repeats his grandfather’s famous experiments and recreates the Monster (Boyle). The film ranges from slapstick and farce to dirty, bawdy humor to irreverent satire (e.g., a parody of the little girl drowning scene that was taken from Frankenstein (1931), and the blind hermit scene from Bride of Frankenstein (1935) with Gene Hackman in a cameo role.) Some of the more memorable images are Elizabeth’s encounter with the Monster and his “enormous schwanstucker” (singing “O Sweet Mystery of Life”), and the soft-shoe dancing duet of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by the Monster and creator Frederick, complete with tuxedos, canes, and top hats.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Did your favorite make our list of the greatest films of 1974?

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