All the President’s Men (1976). You probably remember lots of brightly lit newsroom scenes and someone meeting that Deep Throat guy in the garage. Worth a second look because of the damn near overwhelming amount of information, the details of the investigation, the absolutely riveting suspense that comes from almost nothing but conversation and because great investigative journalism like this is quite possibly on its way out. Look how much tension is created in this scene which plays out as a slow push-in on Robert Redford as he follows a lead on the telephone.
The Bad News Bears (1976). You probably remember Walter Matthau getting drunk a lot, also kids swearing and playing some epically awful baseball set to Bizet’s music from Carmen. Worth a second look because of the very realistic way it portrays the pressure that coaches and parents put upon the kids who play Little League (excellently personified by a rival coach played by Vic Morrow). Also, just like another movie on this list, the climactic game does not succumb to clichÃ©.
Deliverance (1972). You probably remember “Dueling Banjos” and Ned Beatty getting shtooped (if you start to google Ned Beatty, “Ned Beatty squeal like a pig” is one of the suggestions that comes up — enough said). Worth a second look because of the entire rest of the movie. Incredible performances by all propel the story about how things can so easily get out of hand when motivated by revenge and fear.
Death Wish (1974). You probably remember Charles Bronson going around New York City killing a bunch of muggers. Worth a second look because of the realistic way it shows Bronson’s character going from pacifist (in fact a conscientious objector) to being so fed up with crime he feels he needs to do something about it. A typical Hollywood screenplay would turn into a standard revenge plot, but here (ignoring the sequels) the criminals who commit the crime which pushes Bronson over the edge are never dealt with.
Dirty Harry (1971). You probably remember “feel lucky, punk?” — or “go ahead, make my day” which wasn’t even in this movie. Worth a second look because of the intense direction by Don Siegel and the terrifying performance by Andy Robinson as the Scorpio killer (as seen in the clip below). Too bad the poignant finale, in which Clint Eastwood throws his badge into the water, is marred by the fact that there are four sequels.
The Exorcist (1973). You probably remember getting the shit scared out of you. Worth a second look because it’ll scare the shit out of you a second time better than any other horror film out there right now. William Friedkin and all of the actors take the subject matter seriously, right down to using refrigeration to keep the set cold so you can see the actors’ breath when they enter the room. (Sure they can add the breath digitally now, but it’s nothing like making the actors cold for real.)
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). You probably remember Sean Penn’s performance as Spicoli being “totally awesome” and, if you’re a guy with a pulse, the poolside dream sequence with Phoebe Cates. Worth a second look because of how it deals with more serious issues such as teenage sex, unwanted pregnancy, abortion and a really cool older brother-younger sister relationship.
Rocky (1976). You probably remember being over saturated by the ridiculous bombardment of sequels (there’s so many that they stopped putting numbers on them). Worth a second look because it’s a terrific character study with an amazing screenplay and performance by Sylvester Stallone, and because whether or not Rocky wins the climactic fight isn’t really the point of it all.
RoboCop (1987). You probably remember a fun, over-the-top, violent action flick. Worth a second look because of the dark satire in all of the TV-news bits (such as an elementary school named after Lee Iacocca), the emotional character arc of Peter Weller’s character after he becomes RoboCop, and Kurtwood Smith’s unnerving performance as the main bad dude. An example of the film’s cynical humor is shown in the clip below, seen as a TV ad.