The 70’s was a huge decade, movie-wise, in this decade a plethora of iconic movies emerged, movies like The Godfather, One flew over a cuckoo nest, Taxi Driver, Jaws and many other. The 70’s were also a big decade for new, talented, and fresh actors who had their big break during this era.
This list sums up Hollywood’s greatest still living actors that rose to fame in the 1970’s.
Duvall began appearing in theater during the late 1950’s, moving into television and film roles during the early 1960s, playing Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and appearing in Captain Newman, M.D. (1963). He landed many of his most famous roles during the early 1970’s, such as Major Frank Burns in the blockbuster comedy MASH (1970) and the lead role in THX 1138 (1971), as well as Horton Foote’s adaptation of William Faulkner’s Tomorrow (1972), which was developed at The Actors Studio and is Duvall’s personal favorite.This was followed by a series of critically lauded performances in commercially successful films.He has starred in some of the most acclaimed and popular films and television series of all time, including To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), The Twilight Zone (1963), The Outer Limits (1964),Bullitt (1968), True Grit (1969), MASH (1970), THX 1138 (1971), Joe Kidd (1972), The Godfather (1972), The Godfather Part II (1974), The Conversation (1974), Network (1976), Apocalypse Now (1979), The Handmaid’s Tale (1990), and Falling Down (1993).
9. Gene Hackman
He first came to fame in 1967 with his performance as Buck Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde. His major subsequent films includeThe French Connection (1971) and French Connection II (1975), in which he played Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle; The Poseidon Adventure (1972); The Conversation (1974); Superman (1978), in which he played arch-villain Lex Luthor; Hoosiers (1986)
8. Gene Wilder
Wilder began his career on stage and made his screen debut in the TV-series Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1962. Although his first film role was portraying a hostage in the 1967 motion picture Bonnie and Clyde, Wilder’s first major role was as Leopold Bloom in the 1968 film The Producers, then Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) and for the four films the Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991). Wilder has directed and written several of his films, including The Woman in Red (1984).
He gained worldwide fame for his starring roles as Han Solo in the original Star Wars epic space opera trilogy and the title character of the Indiana Jones film series.His career has spanned six decades and includes roles in several Hollywood blockbusters; including the epic war film Apocalypse Now (1979), the legal drama Presumed Innocent (1990), the action film The Fugitive (1993), the political action thriller Air Force One (1997) and the psychological thriller What Lies Beneath (2000). Seven of his films have been inducted into the National Film Registry: American Graffiti (1973), The Conversation (1974), Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Blade Runner.
His first TV breakthrough role came with a 1969 CBS-TV “Playhouse” special, “The Experiment”—and it was the only time he was billed as “M.K. Douglas.” Michael Douglas started his film career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, appearing in little-known films like Hail, Hero! and Summertree. His performance in the former earned him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Male Newcomer.His first significant role came in the TV series The Streets of San Francisco from 1972 to 1976, in which he starred alongside Karl Malden. Douglas later said that Malden became a “mentor” and someone he “admired and loved deeply”.After Douglas left the show, he had a long association with his mentor until Malden’s death on July 1, 2009. In 2004, Douglas presented Malden with the Monte Cristo Award of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut for the Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1975, Douglas received from his father, Kirk Douglas, the rights to the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Michael went on to produce the film of the same name with Saul Zaentz. Kirk Douglas hoped to portray McMurphy himself, having starred in an earlier stage version but was deemed too old for the part by his son Michael. Kirk relented, and the lead role went instead to Jack Nicholson, who won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Douglas won the Award for Best Picture for producing the film.
After leaving Streets of San Francisco in 1976, Douglas played a hospital doctor in the medical thriller Coma (1978), and in 1979, he played the role of a troubled marathon runner in Running. In 1979, he both produced and starred in The China Syndrome, a dramatic film co-starring Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon about a nuclear power plant accident (the Three Mile Island accident took place 12 days after the film’s release). The film was considered “one of the most intelligent Hollywood films of the 1970s.
Travolta’s first California-filmed television role was as a fall victim in Emergency! (S2E2), in September 1972, but his first significant movie role was as Billy Nolan, a bully who was goaded into playing a prank on Sissy Spacek’s character in the horror film Carrie (1976). Around the same time, he landed his star-making role as Vinnie Barbarino in the TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979).Travolta had a hit single entitled “Let Her In”, peaking at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in July 1976.In the next few years, he appeared in two of his most noted screen roles: Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and as Danny Zuko in Grease (1978). The films were among the most commercially successful pictures of the decade and catapulted Travolta to international stardom.Saturday Night Fever earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. At age 24, Travolta became one of the youngest performers ever nominated for the Best Actor Oscar. His mother and his sister Ann appeared in minor roles in Saturday Night Fever and his sister Ellen appeared as a waitress in Grease.
4.Robert De Niro
De Niro’s first film role came at the age of 20 when he appeared in Brian De Palma’s 1963 film The Wedding Party, but the film was not released until 1969. He then appeared in Roger Corman’s film Bloody Mama (1970). He gained popular attention with his role as a dying Major League Baseball player in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) and began his collaboration with Martin Scorsese when he played the small-time criminal Johnny Boy in Mean Streets (1973).De Niro had a pivotal role in the Francis Ford Coppola film The Godfather Part II (1974), playing the young Vito Corleone.In 1976, De Niro appeared in 1900, Bernardo Bertolucci’s biographical exploration of life in Italy before World War II, seen through the eyes of two Italian childhood friends at the opposite sides of society’s hierarchy. He also starred in The Last Tycoon (1976), directed by Elia Kazan.
He first drew critical praise for starring in the play Eh? For which he won a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk Award. This was soon followed by his breakthrough 1967 film role as Benjamin Braddock, the title character, in The Graduate. Since then, Hoffman’s career has largely been focused on cinema, with sporadic returns to television and the stage. His subsequent notable films include Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, Straw Dogs, Papillon, Lenny, Marathon Man, All the President’s Men, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Rain Man, Hook and Wag the Dog.
It was the 1971 film The Panic in Needle Park, in which he played a heroin addict,that brought Pacino to the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola, who cast him as Michael Corleone in the blockbuster Mafia film The Godfather(1972). Pacino was teased on the set because of his short stature. Pacino’s performance earned him an Academy Award nomination, and offered a prime example of his early acting style, described by Halliwell’s Film Guide as “intense” and “tightly clenched”.In 1973, he co-starred in Scarecrow, with Gene Hackman, and won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. That same year, Pacino was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor after starring in Serpico, based on the true story of New York City policeman Frank Serpico, who went undercover to expose the corruption of fellow officers. In 1974, Pacino reprised his role as Michael Corleone in the sequel The Godfather Part II, which was the first sequel to win the Best Picture Oscar; Pacino, meanwhile, was nominated for his third Oscar.
Nicholson starred in Five Easy Pieces alongside Karen Black in 1970 in what became his persona-defining role. Nicholson and Black were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances. within a month after the film’s release that September, the movie became a blockbuster, making Nicholson a leading man and the “new American antihero,”Critics began speculating whether he might become another Marlon Brando or James Dean. His career and income skyrocketed. He said, “I was much sought after. Your name becomes a brand image like a product. You become Campbell’s soup, with thirty-one different varieties of roles you can play.”In 1974, he starred in Roman Polanski’s noir thriller, Chinatown, and was again nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Jake Gittes, a private detective. The film co-starred Faye Dunaway and John Huston and included a cameo role with Polanski. Roger Ebert described Nicholson’s portrayal as sharp-edged, menacing, and aggressive, a character who knew “how to go over the top,” as he did in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It is that edge that kept Chinatown from becoming a typical genre crime film.One of Nicholson’s greatest successes came in 1975 with his role as Randle P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The movie was an adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel and was directed by Miloš Forman and co-produced by Michael Douglas. Nicholson plays an anti-authoritarian patient at a mental hospital where he becomes an inspiring leader for the other patients. (Playing one of the patients was Danny DeVito in his first significant role. Nicholson learned afterwards that DeVito grew up in the same area of New Jersey and they knew many of the same people.The film swept the Academy Awards with nine nominations and won the top five, including Nicholson’s first for Best Actor.