The 101 Most Influential Coming-of-Age Movies

By Ryan Uytdewilligen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7. THE 1970S: HIGH SCHOOL

Absorbing and digesting the repercussions of a period of change, film found its way in a decade full of talent, innovation, and mistakes. Like youth in high school, it hit its stride and opened many windows for the future.

While the youth movement launched freedom and expression to new unimaginable heights, with it came drug addiction, murder, and despair. The chilling Charlie Manson trial and a rise in drug overdoses kicked off the decade. Music legends like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimmy Hendrix were dropping like flies at the age of 27. The simple life known a decade ago was gone; and while freedom was apparent, so were a lot of social problems. Urban decay and poverty were skyrocketing. Consequences for both war and counterculture ignorance seemed to set the tone of the seventies. After the Watergate scandal and fall of the Nixon administration, people questioned the reliability and the role of their government. It was a tumultuous period that broke trust and widened the prosperity gap. That being said, there had never been a more glorious time in film, as most of the filmmakers were under thirty and determined to tell their coming-of-age stories — commonly set in a different decade but still showcasing this darker period.

During the youthful spike in the early decade, audiences were treated to record-breaking masterpieces like The Godfather (1972), which when stripped down is nothing more than a coming-of-age story about a man and his family. Martin Scorsese made waves with his gritty look at Little Italy life with Mean Streets (1973), a coming-of-age drama that introduced a whole new generation of stars to the world. Actors like Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Jack Nicholson, and Al Pacino were powerhouse forces able to pull off some of the era’s best performances while attracting a young audience. Political thrillers like All the Presidents Men (1976) and conspiracy plots proved to be all the rage when they hit a little close to home. But after this explosion of realism and edgy subject matter,

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