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The Best Mystery & Thriller Movies of the 1970s

These 1970s crime movies will have you feeling lucky, punk.

A still from the movie Dirty Harry, featuring Inspector Harry Callahan—portrayed by Clint Eastwood—brandishing a gun.
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  • Photo Credit: The Malpaso Company

In all the excitement of new movies coming to theaters and streaming, we can forget that some of the best mystery gems are in the past.

There's just nothing quite like a 1970s crime movie.

And not that we don't love grunge or neon blazers, but we at Murder & Mayhem think that the 70s had the best intrigue cinema could offer. They may be oldies, but they're definitely goodies.

In the mood for something gritty? Looking for a good laugh? From New York City to Chinatown, we've got the best cases around.

Here are eight of the best mystery and thriller movies of the 1970s.

The Long Goodbye (1973)

This film from 1973 is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Raymond Chandler. When iconic private investigator Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) agrees to help his friend, Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton), with a simple favor, he soon finds himself tangled up in his wife's murder investigation.

When Terry allegedly commits suicide, Marlow must figure out who's responsible for both deaths—all while helping Eileen Wade (Nina van Pallandt) find her missing husband.

All the President's Men (1975)

This biographical political thriller from 1976 unravels the story of Nixon's career-ending Watergate scandal. After a break-in at the Watergate complex, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) are assigned to report on the case, which is considered to be small-time.

Though the men are reluctant partners, they soon find a story far bigger than their differences.

Dirty Harry (1971)

San Francisco is being terrorized by a criminal called the Scorpio Killer. As Scorpio threatens death upon the city's citizen unless he's paid a hefty sum, tough-guy SFPD Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) sets out to track the crazed killer down.

Delivering one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, this is one 1970s crime thriller you won't want to miss.

Murder by Death (1976)

Looking for a dash of comedy with your mystery? This hilarious spoof of the classic whodunit features a group of detectives based on the most notable detectives in fiction: Milo Perrier (James Coco) reinvents Hercule Poirot, Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) parodies Miss Marple, Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) pays homage to Charlie Chan, Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) is a caricature of Sam Spade, and Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith) are a nod to Nick and Nora Charles.

Together these oddball detectives must solve an even stranger case.

Taxi Driver (1976)

This 1976 Martin Scorsese film is a neo-noir psychological thriller that'll keep you on the edge of your seat. The movie takes place in New York City in the wake of the Vietnam War, painting the locale as morally lacking.

Travis Bickle (Rober De Niro) is a mentally unstable veteran whose disgust with the sleaziness of the city drives him to acts of violence.

The French Connection (1971)

Although this movie weaves a tale of fiction, it is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Robin Moore. NYPD detectives Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy "Cloudy" Russo (Roy Scheider)—inspired by real-life narcotics detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso—discover a heroin smuggling syndicate based in Marseilles.

But taking down an international drug ring is no easy task.

Chinatown (1974)

In this 1970s crime movie, private investigator J. J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is hired by Evelyn Mulwray to expose her husband Hollis's infidelity. But the woman isn't who she claimed to be, and the real Evelyn (Faye Dunaway) is furious.

As Gittes realizes there are far more incriminating things about Hollis than his romantic entanglements, he finds himself caught in a web of lies and corruption.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

Adapted from the novel of the same name by John Godey, the film follows a high-stakes hostage situation on a New York City subway car. As four armed men (Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, and Earl Hindman) take control of a train, the lives of 18 hostages—including an undercover cop—are on the line.

The criminals are demanding $1 million, and if they don't receive it by the hour mark, they're going to kill one hostage every minute it's late.