Skip to content

The 20 Best Movie Soundtracks of The 1970s

25 December 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Luis Bevilacqua

best 70s movie soundtracksjpg

In his great book Easy Riders and Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind explains how the 70s were a revolutionary period that somehow “saved” the Hollywood industry. The decade introduced a new vision of cinema headed by directors like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. As for Soundtracks, it wasn’t different. The decade presented new forms of music in cinema.

The 60s were the beginning of this revolution. The social and cultural changes had a tremendous impact on movies and Soundtracks. By the end of the 50s, Soundtracks were almost exclusively formed by Classical and Jazz arrangements, written by composers such as Max Steiner and Miklos Rosza.

The 60s saw new artists like Ennio Morricone, Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin mix their Jazz and Classical formations with any possible genre and experimentations. These changes started during the 60s, but they only reached their peak in the 70s.

 

20. Summer of 42 – Michel Legrand

This poignant theme is perhaps only comparable to the Thomas Crown Theme in therms of melodic beauty.

Legrand was a master at creating unforgettable melodies based on a gentle mixture of Cool Jazz and Orchestration. Here is another case of a soundtrack more remarkable than the movie itself. Legrand even won an Oscar for Best Original Music in 1971.

 

19. Mary, Queen of Scots – John Barry

John Barry once said that he couldn’t imagine a soundtrack composer that doens’t about melody while creating the score. It’s hard to imagine a Barry composition primarily not in terms of melody. His works range through several genres like jazz, popular and classical, but all have the same trademark.

In this Historical Drama, Barry’s Soundtrack delivers the grandiloquent tone for the story of a nation. It is one of his best works in the 70s and quite different from the scores he became famous for: 007 and The Midnight Cowboy.

 

18. The Midnight Express – Giorgio Moroder

Giorgio Moroder can be defined as a Discoteque Quincy Jones: an enormous talented producer that always stayed behind the curtains creating challenging and unique music. His soundtracks are masterpieces of seminal electronic music.

Taking from Kraftwerk’s electronic fixations and adding robotic grooves, Moroder produced tons of music with diversified layers for movies like Scarface and The Midnight Express. On this Alan Parker prison break thriller, Moroder created a very eclectic sound, although always embodied with his specific elements.

 

17. The Harder They Come – Various

Reggae nowadays is considered a mainstream music genre. Many bubblegum pop artists like Rihanna, Lily Allen and Magic! have strong reggae influence. But things were a little bit different in the 70s.

Along with Bob Marley’s Catch A Fire, The Harder They Come opened many doors for reggae artists outside Jamaica. Jimmy Cliff turned into a popular artist after the movie, scoring his songs in other soundtracks.

The movie was heavily influenced by the atmosphere and violence of Blaxpoitation genre. The Soundtrack presented to the general public works of artists like Jimmy Cliff, Toots and The Maytals and Desmond Dekker. Even in the reggae field, it was an eclectic attempt: it contained elements of others genres as Ska and Rocksteady.

 

16. Suspiria – Goblin

Italian band Goblin mixed Pink Floyd progressive grandiloquence and Ennio Morricone’s grotesque sounds to create masterpieces for Horror Movie Scores. In this Dario Argento cult classic, they deliver a scary and mystic soundtrack, suggesting a witch ritual landscape.

The Suspiria Theme is divided in two parts: the first one is a frenzy crescendo of mandolin chords, primal percussions and demons voices; the second is a Prog Rock apotheosis of guitars and synthesizers.

 

15. Rocky – Bill Conti

Rocky’s soundtrack combined Michel Legrand’s typical sad piano ballads, John Barry’s orchestral arrangements and funky-disco elements of Lalo Schifrin and Quincy Jones.

Bill Conti later revealed himself not to be as original as his influences, but in Rocky his music helped the Movie achieve its blockbuster status. Gettin Strong Now is a timeless piece, a track that can be heard in gyms and martial arts academies all over the world.

 

14. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion – Ennio Morricone

It’s hard to decide between the two collaborations between Ennio Morricone and Elio Petri in the beginning of the 70s: Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and The Working Class Goes To Heaven.

Morricone composed two of his most climatic scores for Petri’s political masterpieces. The Italian composer says that he felt the need to create a grotesque sound mixed with popular elements for this score. He used “peasant” instruments like Mandolin and the Jew’s Harp. The result was a mix of bizarre synthesizer sounds, a whistling melody and tension all over the place.

Although complex and diverse, the Soundtrack has a simplistic element that reached its peak in Morricone’s work for John Carpenter in The Thing, in which only two cords (E and F) build an eerie atmosphere.

 

13. Saturday Night Fever – Bee Gees and David Shire

Saturday night Fever starts with the Bee Gees Staying Alive along with images of Tony Manero walking on the streets of Brooklyn. He chases girls unsuccessfully. He is not a big shot on commercial time.

Finally, he gets home and posters on his walls show his heroes: Bruce Lee, the figure that represents the outsider (chinese) fullfilling the American Dream and Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion, just like Tony, an Italian-American trying to prove he is a winner. Flashes of the dance floor and the Discotheque environment starts to appear on screen. On the dancefloor, Tony is a winner, a popular guy praised for his abilities.

Saturday Night Fever, just like American Graffiti, is the perfect portrait of a generation and the style of a certain time. The bedroom scene is so epic that was later imitated by PT Anderson in Boogie Nights. There are amazing disco songs by Bee Gees and KC & The Sunshine Band, mixing up tempo funky beats with mellow ballads like How Deep is Your Love.

 

12. Jaws – John Williams

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg created in the 70s their blockbuster style of filmmaking with the help from mesmerizing compositions by John Williams.

Taking from Bernard Herrmann’s scary and simplistic style in Psycho, John Williams created a score that is until nowadays associated to tension and danger. He mimics the shark’s heartbeat with two-note crescendos that are also related to breathless anxiety.

 

11. Dirty Harry – Lalo Schifrin

This Soundtrack is the perfect sample of Lalo Schifrin’s work: a Jazzy atmosphere combined with whatever the Argentinean composer wants to put in it.

Lalo did a great job in Steve McQueen’s Bullitt in the 60s, but in the 70s he went to a new level of originality with his works in Dirty Harry and Enter The Dragon. Lalo’s music was thrilling and exciting, the perfect match for heroes like Clint Eastwood and Bruce Lee.

 

 

Pages: 1 2


   

Other Brilliant Movie Posts On The Web
   

Like Our Facebook Page and Get Daily Updates
   
  • Pingback: The 20 Best Movie Soundtracks of The 1970s | GoGoAnimes.com()

  • Pingback: The 20 Best Movie Soundtracks of The 1970s | roberto cimatti()

  • Klaus Dannick

    Stat Wars? The Omen?

  • What about Days of Heaven and Assault on Precinct 13?

    • Marcel

      What about “Fuck you steven flores” ?

      • Fuck me? How about you fuck off and choke on your daddy’s dick you cunt.

      • V.C. Privitera

        Hahahaha, that’s hilarious!

  • Johann S.

    Manhattan, Hair, Grease, Superman, Blazing Saddles, Days of Heaven, The Deer Hunter

  • luke

    Last Tango in Paris ….. it HAS to be there …. great article still… although it would have been better to split it into 2 : OST and Compilation soundtracks 😉

  • Paul Andrew MacLean

    Kudos for noticing Mary, Queen of Scots (an undervalued masterpiece) but I would rate Patton, Diamonds Are Forever, Star Wars, A Little Romance, Superman: The Movie, Day For Night, Obsession, Dracula (the Langella version), Moonraker and The Omen as worthier choices than Midnight Express or Suspiria.

  • V.C. Privitera

    Great list….seeing GOBLIN being mentioned gave me goosebumps, cause that is definitely one of the most overlooked & under-appreciated soundtracks in cinema history. So thanks for picking that one.

    Mean Streets is also nice to see on here, I love the music that is presented in the film, I would say my favorite portion though is the Live Recordings of the San Gennaro Feast near the end of the film, specifically the scene of DeNiro’s character “Johnny Boy” running through the streets, the music is quite haunting and yet beautiful.

    I know this is kind of pretentious to name this film, since it’s usually always on any list on this site, but the Soundtrack to ERASERHEAD is definitely worthy of this list. Perfect obscure Industrial sound, yet at times the music can be quite reminiscent that of Carnival Music….kind of like “Carnival of Souls.”

    Apocalypse Now has a very memorable soundtrack, even a ton of Music made for the film that wasn’t even used is actually pretty great. Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead has a “hard-to-find” Complete Recordings Album from his sessions working with the Film’s score/soundtrack.

    Holy Mountain, the very same Alejandro Jodorowsky surrealistic film has a really great Soundtrack by Jodorowsky himself. Buying the Jodorowsky Box-Set, it’s great to have accompanying Soundtracks to both El Topo & Holy Mountain, with Holy Mountain being the better score (in my opinion).

    Barry Lyndon would’ve been my choice for a pick of Kubrick’s soundtrack from the 70s….while A Clockwork Orange is an honorable mention, I think the music for Barry Lyndon is by far one of the greatest uses of Music in all of Cinema.

    I’m surprised “Tommy” isn’t even mentioned here….unless I missed it, but to be one of the best Musical Rock projects of all time, and to be by The Who with Ken Russell directing is just a perfect combination.

    I’m sure there’s a ton more I’m missing, but still…Great List from the author of this article is really great.

  • Pingback: The 20 Best Movie Soundtracks of The 1970s – Fashion Magazine , Style, News, Entertainment, and TV.()

  • Jose Manuel Contreras

    I believe you should be more careful about what we understand as “Soundtrack” or “Original score”. I say this because I have read several articles like this one in this web, and you mix song compilation with original music composed for the film. A score like Jaws has nothing to do in a list which includes Bee Gees’ Saturday Night Fever.