5 of the Best Movies That Take You Back to the 1970s

Of all the decades in which I was not alive, the ’70s stands out in my mind as the sweatiest. Not only is polyester a material that refuses to breathe, but everything — from the clothes to the couches — was covered in burnt sienna, brown, cream, and olive. I feel like that many earth tones everywhere make the air feel seven degrees warmer than it actually is. Add to that the complete absence of central air conditioning and the entire Nixon administration, and I just imagine ten straight years of sweltering, claustrophobic heat.

Is that nonsense? Probably. Regardless, even I have to admit that those clothes and couches were pretty rad looking, and there’s a reason that filmmakers keep revisiting the era. Throughout the years, lots of movies have captured the spirit and style of the ’70s, and some have carried it off with more panache than others.

Here are five movies that successfully whisked audiences away to yesteryear. Why did we ever get rid of shag carpeting? I don’t understand!

1. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy


Source: DreamWorks Pictures

Hey everybody! Come see how good I look when I write solely in Anchorman quotes! (I immediately regret this decision). Set in 1970s San Diego (which is German for “a whale’s vagina”), Anchorman perfectly captured the dulcet earth-toned suits, trucker mustaches, and pungent panther colognes that defined the decade. It was a darker time, an era when science dictated that women’s brains were a third the size of men’s, and that anchorladies could never become anchormen (besides, of course, the incomparable Tits McGee). It was also time when being a big deal meant your home smelled of rich mahogany and you had suits so fine to match. Ron Burgundy, we salute you.

2. The ’70s

Source: NBC/Universal

Source: NBC/Universal

There was a strange couple of years in the late-90s where NBC executives were obsessed with decades past. It started with the production of a two-part miniseries called The ’60s which told the story of a working class family navigating the trials and tribulations of the era. The ’60actually fared pretty well with critics and audiences; it sort of put Julia Stiles on the map, and even earned an Emmy nomination for best mini-series. Naturally, NBC followed it up with a rehashed version of the same concept, The ’70s, which put no one on the map and earned Emmy nominations for absolutely nothing, but it does deserve at least some accolades for its on-point costume design. Who knew the students at Kent State were so well-dressed?

3. Boogie Nights

Source: New Line Cinema

Source: New Line Cinema

Did people in the ’70s do anything besides fornicate publicly and proudly? If this movie is to be believed, the answer is, “No. They did not.” Paul Thomas Anderson’s classic film about one of pornography’s greatest stars did more than a fine job of recreating the sweaty suede that defined an entire subculture and left thousands of men everywhere feeling…

4. Dazed and Confused

Source: Gramercy Pictures

Source: Gramercy Pictures

A Led Zeppelin reference always makes for a good title choice, but Remember What High School Was Like in the ’70s? might have been a little more direct. The movie goes to incredibly detailed lengths to recreate the look of the era, and we learn a lot of ’70s teenagers in the process. For instance, did you know they wore bell bottoms? It’s true! They also inflicted sociopathic, horrifically violent town-wide hazing rituals on younger students while parents and authorities turned a blind eye. THE ’70S!

5. 54

Dollface, FilmColony, Miramax, Redeemable Features

Source: Miramax

If you asked most people which Mike Myers character they thought was the most disgusting , they’d probably say “Fat Bastard.” That’s not necessarily incorrect, but anyone who’s seen this mostly forgotten movie would probably have a different answer: Steve Rubell. Set in the 1970s during the heyday of Studio 54this movie goes to great lengths to capture the drug and sex-obsessed culture that dominated the infamous club, and apparently nobody was sleazier or more grotesque than the club’s co-owner Rubell. There’s a certain type of griminess in ’70s sex culture (maybe it’s the sideburns?), and this movie depicts that with gross accuracy.

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