With the baby boomer generation came cinematic gems from the mid-1960s to the 1980s and a new wave of directors, coinciding with the New Hollywood. Themes reflected the darker parts of humanity and society more openly and grittier and touched on rebellious youth. They tackled topics like race, sex, gender, and LGBTQ in different ways than they had done before. These movies are all streaming these days, and whether you’re nostalgic or seeing them for the first time, you can watch them now.
1. The Sound of Music (1965)
This American musical drama, produced and directed by Robert Wise, captivated audiences in the US and globally with a beautiful and sentimental story, despite its Nazi theme. It was based on The Story of the Trapp Family by Maria Trapp, set in Salzburg, Austria. Maria (Julie Andrews) shares her experiences as a governess to seven children, her eventual marriage to Captain Georg Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer), and their escape during the Anschluss in 1938. It was one of the most commercially successful films ever and propped up Andrews, who had played Mary Poppins the year before.
2. The Graduate 1967
This romantic comedy-drama, directed by Mike Nichols, is about young boomers rejecting their parents’ world. The story centers on 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who returns home to a graduation party. Despite appearing without future goals, he is urged to enter the plastics business. An older married woman and wife of his father’s law partner, Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft), seduces him, but he then falls for her daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross). Mother is jealous of Benjamin’s affection for Elaine and tells false stories about Braddock. Braddock leaves the older woman from the previous regime and chooses Elaine.
3. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 1967
Produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, this romantic comedy-drama broke new ground as one of few films to positively depict an interracial marriage as the Supreme Court was about to strike down anti-miscegenation laws in Loving v. Virginia, allowing mixed-race marriages in 1967. Joanna (Katherine Houghton) returns home to her parents, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, the Draytons, to tell them she is engaged to marry a black man, Dr. John Wade Prentice (Sidney Poitier), as John tells his parents. Both parents are shocked and agree they need time to absorb the situation. The movie became a box-office success.
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
This epic sci-fi film, produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, was inspired by author Arthur C. Clarke’s short stories. The film stars Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood and follows a voyage by astronauts, scientists, and sentient supercomputer HAL to Jupiter to investigate an alien monolith. The film parallels significant interest in space exploration and features groundbreaking special effects, classical music, and spare dialogue. The themes explored were human evolution, technology, AI, and possible extraterrestrial life. Reviews ranged from calling it ‘a masterpiece’ to the ‘most boring piece of film work.’
5. Rosemary’s Baby 1968
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
Rosemary’s Baby is an American psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski based on Ira Levin’s novel. Married couple Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) move into a large building in NYC despite knowing the previous one, who recently died, had displayed bizarre behaviors like moving heavy furniture around. The Castanets (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) butt in on Rosemary and Guy, who plan to have a baby and become pregnant. A conspiracy of sorts affects Rosemary and her baby. It is a disturbing movie with religious fundamental overtones.
6. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Midnight Cowboy, set in NYC, is a drama film directed by John Schlesinger and a powerful cast headed by Dustin Hoffman as an ailing con man Rico Rizzo (“Ratso”) and Jon Voight as Joe Buck, a young Texan. Joe heads to NYC in cowboy attire to become a male prostitute. He meets Ratso, who limps, taking $20 from Joe for introducing him to a pimp who’s a fraud. After separating, Ratso and Joe team up to beat poverty, but Ratso’s cough worsens, and Joe decides to take Ratso to Florida, where he always wanted to go. Violent, gritty, rough, disturbing, and emotionally tender for the drifters who became friends.
7. Easy Rider (1969)
This film exhibits the free-spirit counterculture emerging in the 1960s for hippies and communal living in the US and worldwide, and its success sparked the New Hollywood era of filmmaking that defined the early 1970s. Written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern, produced by Fonda, and directed by Hopper, it features two bikers (Fonda as Wyatt and Hopper as Billy)who travel through the American Southwest, carrying the proceeds from a cocaine deal. They encounter George (Jack Nicholson) as an alcoholic and “square” person but try drugs with him. The movie was a reflection of social tensions and nonconformism in the 1960s.
8. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969
This film, a top-grossing movie in 1969, is the ultimate Western buddy film directed by George Roy Hill and written by William Goldman. It’s loosely based on fact and centers on the Wild West outlaws known as Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford), who are on the run from train robberies and followed by a posse. They and Sundance’s lover, Etta Place (Katherine Ross) flee to Bolivia to escape the posse. Lots of chases take place, all in the name of fine entertainment.
9. Love Story (1970)
Love Story is considered one of the most romantic of all time, according to the American Film Institute at number 9. It was directed by Arthur Hiller and based on the screenplay and book by Erich Segal. Themes of love and class between wealthy Oliver Barrett IV(Ryan O’Neal), heir of an American upper-class East Coast family, who attends Harvard, meets Jennifer “Jenny” Cavilleri, a smart, working-class Radcliffe College of classical music. Oliver proposes to Jenny, who accepts, but his parents are against the marriage and cut him financially. Jenny becomes terminally ill and dies. The line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” is from Love Story.
10. M*A*S*H 1970
This black comedy film depicts a unit of medical personnel stationed at Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, or MASH, during the Korean War, headed by Donald Sutherland (as “Hawkeye” Pierce Jr), Tom Skerritt (as Duke), and Elliott Gould (Trapper John), and inspired the successful television series. Hawkeye and Duke are new surgeons who arrive as insubordinate, womanizing, trouble-making rule-breakers but become excellent combat surgeons. It was the third highest-grossing movie after Love Story and Airplane in 1970.
11. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Image Credit: Warner Bros.
The dystopian crime film A Clockwork Orange was adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on an Anthony Burgess novel. The film used disturbing, violent images to address psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, and youth gangs and dealt with and made comments on social, political, and economic subjects in a near-future Britain. Alex (Malcolm McDowell) leads a small gang and is a charismatic, antisocial delinquent whose interests include classical music and committing crimes, for which Alex gets arrested. Over the years, it has become a cult classic.
12. Dirty Harry (1971)
Dirty Harry is a neo-noir action thriller film that expanded into a series of films featuring San Francisco Police Department Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood). Harry is known to use ruthless and unorthodox ways to apprehend criminals. In this intense and gritty film, he is tracking down a psychopathic rooftop killer before a kidnapped girl dies. This is the film where Harry gruffly says, “Go ahead, make my day.”
13. The Godfather (1972)
Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful crime drama, “The Godfather,” transcends generations with its powerful storytelling and exceptional performances. The film’s exploration of family, loyalty, and the corrupting influence of power strikes a chord with viewers as they grow older and gain a deeper understanding of life’s complexities. Marlon Brando’s iconic portrayal of Vito Corleone and the film’s richly layered narrative have secured its place as a universally acclaimed cinematic masterpiece.
14. American Graffiti (1973)
This coming-of-age comedy-drama, directed by George Lucas and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, studied the cruising and early rock ‘n’ roll cultures popular set in 1962, reflecting a simpler time than some of the films above. American Graffiti highlights the stories of a group of teenagers and their adventures over the course of a night and a tremendous cast, notably Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, and Harrison Ford.
15. The Exorcist (1973)
Directed by William Friedkin, The Exorcist is a supernatural horror film loosely based on a real-life case from 1949. It follows the demonic possession of a young girl (Linda Blair) and her mother’s (Ellen Burstyn) attempt to rescue her through an exorcism by two Catholic priests. Throughout filming, the cast and crew were injured, some died, and unusual accidents took place. The film became the first horror film nominated for Academy Awards, the highest-grossing R-rated horror film, and significantly influenced pop culture.
16. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Image Credit: Warner Bros.
Under Sidney Lumet’s direction in Dog Day Afternoon, based on the 1972 robbery and hostage situation, Sonny (Al Pacino) is very sympathetic toward the victims of the heist and does not want to hurt anyone. He even escorts a diabetic hostage out of the building. So, the characters are easily sympathetic, and the action poses an exciting element that keeps you watching through the movie. This film became culturally significant because it was one of the first motion pictures to portray a bisexual male character as the protagonist.
17. Jaws (1975)
This thriller is set in a New England beach town. It is based on Peter Benchley’s book, directed by Steven Spielberg. A woman goes out for a late-night ocean swim during a beach party and is pulled underwater by an unseen force, which the medical examiner confirms is a shark. The police chief (Roy Scheider) closes the beach, and a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter (Robert Shaw) hunt the man-eating great white shark. Only Moby Dick and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea dealt with sea creatures realistically. Jaws became a watershed moment in the motion picture industry as a summer blockbuster; it won several music awards and was the highest-grossing film until Star Wars two years later.
18. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
This psychological drama film based on Ken Kesey’s novel and directed by Milos Forman centers on a new patient, Randle RP McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), at a mental institution and the power play with Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), a cold tyrant who intimidates her patients. McMurphy was on a working farm for the statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl and is not insane, but he posed as such so that he didn’t have to deal with hard labor. McMurphy’s rebellious nature threatens her authority and calls for her to suspend their privileges. The movie has a tragic ending for McMurphy, but not before the showing of loyalty, friendship, and other themes emerge successfully from this powerful movie that was well received.
19. Rocky (1976)
Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) became a pop-cultural phenomenon essential to classic 1970s American culture. Rocky Balboa, an Italian-American southpaw boxer, was selected by heavyweight boxing world champion Apollo Creed for the title bout in Philadelphia during the upcoming bicentennial in 1976 when his scheduled opponent was unavailable. Rocky is the ultimate underdog who primarily fights in small gyms but eventually agrees to the fight, which will pay him $150,000. Stallone wrote the screenplay but refused to allow the film to be made without him in the lead, directed by John G. Avildsen and Irwin Winkler.
20. All The President’s Men (1976)
All The President’s Men is a biological political thriller about the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon’s Presidency based on the investigative journalism of Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) at the Washington Post. A senior government official helped Woodward called “Deep Throat,” who gave clues about corrupt activities connecting burglars and the CIA.
21. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Two stories are told in the film. One is a group of research scientists investigating strange items that appear in remote desert locations. The second focuses on Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), an everyday blue-collar who experiences paranormal activities, including bright lights in the sky, which may be an unidentified flying object (UFO). Roy pursues his belief that he saw a UFO to the end. Written and directed by Steven Spielberg, this became Columbia Pictures’ largest success then.
22. Annie Hall (1977)
Annie Hall is a romantic comedy film among Woody Allen’s timeless masterpieces that deal with failed relationships. Written, directed, and starring Woody Allen as Alvy Singer, who tries to figure out what went wrong with Annie (Diane Keaton) a year earlier. They had met playing tennis and doubles, had fun cooking, and walked around the Upper West Side of Manhattan. After they break up, Alvy asks strangers about the nature of love, a recurring subject for most of Allen’s movies.
23. National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)
Directed by John Landis, this movie launched the “gross-out movie genre that has manic energy. The film is based on Harold Ramis’s experience in his college fraternity, Animal House reflects the rejection of Faber College students visiting the house next door, Delta Tau Chi Fraternity, which becomes the trouble-making fraternity whose members challenge the Dean’s authority of the college. John Belushi (Bluto) leads the terrific cast, including Tom Hulce, Donald Sutherland, and Tim Matheson. It is said that having only been known on TV, Belushi was paid only $35,000 for his part in the movie.
24. The Deer Hunter (1978)
The Deer Hunter portrays war realistically. The film is about three friends, Mike (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken), who work in a steel mill and hunt for deer in a tight-knit working-class community in Pennsylvania. They are preparing to leave for military service in Vietnam following Steven’s elaborate wedding and one final deer hunting trip. The film depicts the upending of the main characters’ lives after fighting the Vietnam War. Meryl Streep’s role as Linda was negligible, but she took it to take care of terminally ill John Cazale’s (Stan) cancer treatment, and he died after filming.
25. The Big Chill (1983)
The Big Chill is a comedy-drama directed by Lawrence Kasdan and featuring an ensemble cast that represents a group of baby boomers who attended the University of Michigan and reunited after 15 years when their friend, Alex, dies by suicide. The friends spend the confronting personal truths, sacrifices, and betrayals they have had with Alex and each other. The notable cast includes Glenn Close, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, Meg Tilly, and Tom Berenger. Kevin Costner portrayed Alex, but his scenes were cut out of the movie.
10 Hilarious Lightweight Comedies About Rich People
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Get ready to dive into a world of luxury, laughter, and extravagant antics. We’re taking you on a whirlwind tour of ten sidesplitting lightweight comedies that revolve around the lives of the exceptionally wealthy. Having a lot of money can lead to plenty of absurd situations, and where there’s absurdity, there’s hilarity. From Crazy Rich Asians to Ruthless People, these ten films about rich people are perfect for a hilarious light viewing that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
10 Popular Movies With Perfect Endings Ruined by Lame Sequels
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When a movie becomes fans’ favorite, it’s not unusual to see filmmakers wanting to further explore its captivating storylines through sequels that may sometimes be below par. Lackluster follow-ups have been the death of perfect cinematic delivery in recent times, and a group of cineasts considers these popular movies ruined by successors that should never have been produced.
10 TV Shows People Wish They Could Watch for the First Time Again
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It feels like the first time. It feels like the very first time (I watched The Sopranos). As you endlessly scroll through the streaming verse of mediocre shows you know will leave you disappointed, why not fantasize about those shows that made you feel things you didn’t see a TV show could make you feel?
10 Actors and Actresses People Watch No Matter What They Star In
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Great actors progress through stages. Early in their careers, fans catch a glimpse of the talent and, each time they see the actor in a new role, realize that the talent is no fluke. Once the actor has built a long enough resume, the great ones enter must-see-at-all-costs territory. These actors and actresses have achieved near cult-leader status, and boy, have they earned it.
10 Movies Everyone Should See at Least Once in Their Lifetime
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If you haven’t seen these movies, what are you waiting for? You won’t find any hidden gems on this list; you may have already seen most of them. If there are any on this list that you still need to see, bump them up your watchlist. These are bucket-list movies you can’t possibly justify leaving unwatched.
With a passion for investing and personal finance, I began The Cents of Money to help and teach others. My experience as an equity analyst, professor, and mom provide me with unique insights about money and wealth creation and a desire to share with you.