Travel back to the funky 70s with these amazing biopic movies
There’s more to movies set in the 70s than wild hairdos & funky music. Granted, those are the first things that come to mind when you think of that decade, but the 70s were also populated by figures whose lives make for interesting stories. Real people who are as compelling to follow as John Travolta’s fictional character in Saturday Night Fever. And most of them don’t even have to dance to capture our attention.
Need some examples? We got you covered. Here’s a list of biopics set in the 70s that are as good, if not better, than most traditional movies set in the same timeframe.
Let’s get the geeky aspect out of the way: yes, this is an unofficial Thor v. Baron Zemo battle. They’re not in the MCU, and they’re racing cars instead of swinging magical hammers or plotting the demise of superhumans everywhere . . . but those are most definitely Chris Hemsworth & Daniel Brühl leading this two-hander. We never even got to see them interact in Avengers: Civil War, so this is cool.
In Rush, Hemsworth plays James Hunt – a cocky, brash racing car driver with a larger-than-life personality. Hmm. As his racing nemesis, Brühl plays Niki Lauda, a different kind of racer: a methodical, technical genius. Hmm again. Are these guys typecast?
Anyway. Rush follows Hunt & Landa’s rivalry throughout the 70s in a way few racing movies do. Both racers clearly get on each other’s nerves (to put it mildly), but they also can’t help but respect each other’s skills. Odds are you can’t say the same about Thor & Zemo.
Al Pacino has sort of become a parody of himself in most of his latter day movies. The big movements, the sudden screaming, the “hoo-ah!” of it all . . . You know what we mean. But Pacino is still a great actor, and he can tone it down if you ask him nicely. Case in point: his team-up with a pre-cancellation Johnny Depp in the mobster drama Donnie Brasco.
Depp plays the titular character, an undercover FBI agent slowly losing himself in his work. Pacino steals the movie, however, as the loser gangster Depp befriends as a way to infiltrate a deadly New York outfit in the 70s. While there’s still plenty of recognizable Pacino energy in the performance, the beaten-down nature of the character is a breath of fresh air in the actor’s filmography.
As for Johnny Depp, the guy does really well too, truth be told. Forget about the scandals, this is the actor before most of his roles felt like a variation on Jack Sparrow. Donnie Brasco isn’t the only time Depp starred in a biopic, but it easily features his most naturalistic work in one.
Boy, Michael Sheen’s hair in Frost/Nixon really captures the 70s, doesn’t it? We said we weren’t going to focus on hairdos & music in these 70s movies, but come on. And it’s not just Sheen: look at Sam Rockwell & Matthew Macfadyen too. Utter 70s-ness plastered all over their ‘dos and wardrobe.
Okay, okay, back to the business at hand. You must have at least heard of Richard Nixon: disgraced U.S. President, peaced-out after the Watergate scandal without ever acknowledging guilt over anything. But then David Frost, an entertainment journalist nobody took seriously, managed to score a series of interviews with Nixon and . . . things got interesting.
Does Ron Howard love the 70s or what? We just realized he has two movies in this list!
You know that music video for the Lenny Kravitz song “American Woman”? Well, this is like that, only instead of Lenny Kravitz singing to Heather Graham, it’s Russell Crowe trying to arrest Denzel Washington for being a drug lord. So almost nothing alike, but the 70s vibes are there on both.
American Gangster is based on the real-life cat & mouse game played between gangster Frank Lucas (Washington) and detective Richie Roberts (Crowe) – a pursuit that took up most of the 70s. Lucas became infamous as the man behind “Blue Magic”, a particular brand of heroin that took him to the top of the criminal chain. We won’t spoil what happens when Roberts concludes his investigation, but it’s a bit of a twist.
By the way, many people wrongly believe this is the first & only Washington/Crowe collaboration. Those people haven’t seen 1995’s Virtuosity. Don’t be like those people and check out Virtuosity at some point, even if it’s not part of this 70s movies collection.
These four movies only scratch the surface when it comes to biopics set in the 70s. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!