The 20 Most Controversial Movies of The 1970s

14. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)

the texas chainsaw massacre

A film without which 70s cannot be imagined, and a key film to the development of tons of subsequent slasher films, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” soon became an astonishing surprise that not even its director could have expected.

Raw, unpretentious and loosely based upon Ed Gein’s murderous spree, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, as a product that exceeded its time, left critics and audiences equally divided.

Some said that the film can be seen as a statement about the inner and ultimately unfairly denied violence that infiltrates society; others argued that it was just the beginning of an unnecessarily large amount of mindless exploitation titles. Polarized positions like those have made “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” a cult classic whose influence can be traced far beyond the horror genre.


13. The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)

The Last Picture Show

Nominated for eight Academy Awards and winner of two, “The Last Picture Show” tells the coming-of-age story of the magnetic trio of Sonny (Timothy Bottons), Duane (Jeff Bridges) and Jacy (Cybill Shepherd) in a melancholy 50s Texas town.

The movie is an ambiguous but tasteful exploration of the crumbling of American values that ultimately left both critics and audiences confused.

Regarded as a transition point of American cinema today, its open recurrences to adultery, promiscuity and alcoholism got this film several accusations of obscenity.


12. Pretty Baby (Louis Malle, 1978)

Pretty Baby

Arguably based upon E.J. Bellocq’s Storyville Portraits, “Pretty Baby”, the image of an adult world through a child’s eyes, follows a Storyville brothel as Violet (Brooke Shields), the 12-year-old daughter of a prostitute (Susan Sarandon), romanticizes about her mother’s life.

Louis Malle’s American debut was this shocking and yet gentle imposition of his peculiar vision of the standards of political correctness. A memorable representation of the turn of prostitution in the 20th century, “Pretty Baby” owes most of the controversy it raised to Malle’s casting of a 12-year old Brooke Shields.

Malle himself later stated he had mixed feelings about the idea of casting a child. His decision ultimately led to a sensationalist campaign, arguably unsuitable with the film’s undisputed quality but that didn’t affect the overall critical acclaim it met.


11. A Real Young Girl (Catherine Breillat, 1975)

A Real Young Girl

Curious, over-analytic and lustful, Alice Bonnard (Charlotte Alexandra), a real young girl, explores her sexuality during a summer holiday in this film that contains most of the subjects Breillat’s career experiments with.

Due to the controversy surrounding its depictions of raw sex, Catherine Breillat’s staggering film debut was only featured after her rise to fame, 25 years later.

A film that soon overcame the expectations of Briellat’s production, something that also influenced the decision of not releasing it, “A Real Young Girl” is a raw but also dream-like depiction of a teenager’s sexual awakening.

The success of “Romance” (1999) and “Fat Girl” (2001) made possible a rediscovery of “A Real Young Girl”. It is often compared to Briellat’s later films, particularly “Romance”, but it is a crude but playful exercise that stands by itself.


10. Faces of Death (John Alan Schwartz, 1978)

Faces of Death (1978)

“Faces of Death” is a review of several sequences surrounding violence and death. Even today, angry detractors continue to outrage against the vulgarity of its means.

Sensationalist and arguably incomprehensible for current generations’ standards, “Faces of Death” was one of the early 80s most circulated and commented home videos. Its awkward mixture of real footage and fake sequences turned it an undisputed cult film nearly instantaneously.

From a failed open-heart surgery to the aftermath of an actual plane crash, “Faces of Death” follows Dr. Francis Gross, a cartoonish scientist, as he looks at man’s mortality and the mysteries and rites surrounding death.


9. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)


“Monty Python’s Life of Brian” follows the epic life of Brian, a naughty boy from Jerusalem whose life parallels the life of Jesus Christ.

The movie is an irreverent religious satire of major Biblical flicks. From its production, the film faced detractors faulting it for being sacrilegious and extremely blasphemous, something that didn’t change much as the film later faced massive protests and ban impositions.

Nevertheless, “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” overcame its detractors and became an immediate success. Today an undisputed cult film, some people have even regarded it as the best comedy film ever made.


8. Deep Throat (Gerard Damiano, 1972)

Deep Throat

The introduction of plot, character development and high production standards in pornography, “Deep Throat” follows a sexually frustrated woman (Linda Lovelace, who later stated the film was a cruel commercialization of her rapes) as she desperately tries to achieve an orgasm.

Perhaps the most influential pornographic film ever made and an involuntary settler of a debate about what should be regarded as obscenity, “Deep Throat” is an undeniable cultural phenomenon of the 70s.

“Deep Throat”, filmed in six days for $50,000, was originally intended to be featured as another porn flick; nevertheless, its impact soon got the attention of mainstream audiences.

Featured in major commercial movie theaters, the film became a financial success and set the beginning of Porno Chic, a golden period for heterosexual pornography.