What’s Your Favorite 1970s Mystery Film?

MovieFanfare Movie Poll of the Week

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  • Blair Kramer

    If it was directed by Hitchcock, it always gets my vote.  FRENZY is full of suspense.

  • Frankiedc

    All the listed films are outstanding, and it was difficult to choose one best movie. However, Don’t Look Now” is the only one that is truly frightening.  First of all, as much as I love Venice, it is truly a scary and somewhat creepy city with all its hidden passageways and winding cul de sacs.  Secondly, the eerie and haunting memory of the dead little girl is upsetting. The blind psychic tourist adds another dimension. Although Julie Christie provides a note of sanity, Donald Sutherland is definitely over the edge and that hideous malevolent little person in the red cape is terrifying. The moody photography of Venice in the winter and the background of the gruesome murders taking place are other factors in the overall impression.  I was horrified by this great film.

    • Brighttyger

      I love Don’t Look Now, but it’s not a mystery really, it’s a paranormal, as is Picnic at Hanging Rock.  I suppose they could be considered metaphysical mysteries, but they should really be in a separate catagory.  I voted for Chinatown, but had several others I liked as well, Frenzy, Condor, Marathon Man.  And I was very happy to see the film travesty of Chandler’s classic novel, The Long Goodbye, at the bottom.

  • Dilen2

    I really liked Logans Run.

    • Jb

      Very good Sci-Fi flick, but zero mystery

  • Hank Zangara

    The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Family Plot, All the President’s Men, They Might Be Giants, and Parallax View.

  • Guest

    Night Moves (1975). Murder on the Orient Express currently in the lead? Well, people must be kidding.

  • Ken_Begg

    Quite a few of these aren’t mysteries at all, but thrillers. Put me down for The Last of Sheila.

  • AustinDW

    The 1970s mystery movie that stands out for me was The Last Of Sheila. Acting and story were both top-notch.  

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/PODTFFPVEUXYHXVGNS5G5FWKGI DIRK

      Definitely THE LAST OF SHEILA is the most excellent and complicated film about the Movie Business ever.  And never pulls any tricks, all the facts are there — the picture of the cast taken in frontof the Ship is masterful !!  And it was perfectly Written by Stephen Sondheim (YES, that Stephen Sondheim) and Anthony Perkins (ya know, the guy in PSYCHO!). Excellent!  A Must See!! A+A+

  • http://www.facebook.com/MGMkid Michael Smith

    it was a hard call between noir classic “Chinatown” and the elegant “Murder on the Orient Express”.
    But, it has to be “Chinatown”.

  • SlyPig32

    Chinatown! Chinatown! Chinatown!!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=713983697 Gordon S. Jackson

    I was torn between the excellent neo-noir “Chinatown” and Hitch’s “Frenzy”, the latter having the suspense Blair Kramer mentions plus some great, dry humour supplied by the chief inspector’s somewhat eccentric wife and her culinary ‘delights.’  Even more, it has that  memorable shot of the camera remaining momentarily stillborn while a real piece of nastiness is taking place inside the villains flat, leaving us helplessly squirming before it slowly tracks down the stairs and out onto the busy street, people going about their usual routines as if nothing is happening.  Ah yes, it was close but “Chinatown” takes it on the strength of its supherb writing, directing and acting, especially John Huston’s malevolant turn.

  • Icar


  • Lew

    ‘The Last of Sheila’ definitely should have been on this list.  Best ‘whodunit’ of the decade, which is really a subset of the Mystery genre. 

  • TrippyTrellis

    The terribly underrated “Family Plot”, which is both thrilling and endearing.

    • nick

       I guess I would have to see it again. I saw it in the theaters when it first came out, and felt at the time that Hitchcock could have stopped at Frenzy. But as you say, Terribly underrated. Perhaps we need a poll of what is the most underated film of all time, and the most overrated film of all time. Just to let you know, my vote respectively for that would be a Charles Bronson film from that era, The White Buffalo, and overrated The Maltese Falcon, though from recent years, that ‘Borat’ film.

  • Con Tamvakis

    “One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest” by far………

  • Monescu4

    The two best by far were not included on the list: “The Last of Sheila” and “Death on the Nile”

    • jackjones

      I liked “Death on the Nile” not only because I’m a longtime Poirot fan but also for the gorgeous scenery and the great Cole Porter music.

  • Rob in L.A.

    I really enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper mystery thriller “Murder by Decree” (1979).

    • RogerZDodger

      I agree ! Christopher Plummer made an admirable Holmes and James Mason was a better Watson than most of those prior to Edward Hardwicke.  The other Nicholas Meyer novel made into a movie, The Seven Percent Solution, was also a good Holmes story, although again, definitely not canonical. 

    • hypatiab7

       “Murder By Decree” also gets my vote.

  • Kcalbertina59

    I’ve seen all of the films listed except one and could recommend them all. Chinatown is my favorite movie from the 70′s even over The Godfather, so that’s the one I voted on, but Sleuth and the Conversation are close behind. I agree with others about The Last of Sheila being a fine film. Another one that surprised me was The Offence with Sean Connery in the early 70′s. But any of the films listed provide quality entertainment.

  • Jim

    I had to vote for Chinatown, but it was nice to see that 3 Days of the Condor had lots of support. That’s a film whose stature (deservedly) seems to be growing.

    • nick

       I agree with your vote about Chinatown. Also 3 Days Of The Condor. I had seen it in the late70′s and a young person and wasn’t all that impressed, but when I saw it again, I was really amazed what a great film it was. Both Chinatown and 3 Days of course have Faye Dunaway.

  • Geneva P.

    I voted for Frenzy by Alfred Hitchcock.  However, I just love these polls because reading the comments introduces me to other movies that I haven’t seen or heard of, but will order because of the comments that I have read such as “The Last of Sheila” and “Don’t Look Now”.

  • tudnut

    The problem with polls like this (actually, one of the problems with any movie polls, or even online rating systems) is that probably very few of us have seen all of these films.  As an extreme example, someone who has only seen “The Long Goodbye” (but likes it) and feels compelled to vote will, of course, vote for it.

    Reading the comments on here, I’ve certainly become interested in seeing “The Last of Julia,” something that’s escaped me until now.  (And, as usual, there’s one overwhelming title that the poll-taker omitted.  Perhaps he’s never seen it, either!)

    But, without even having looked at the list yet, when I saw the theme I knew instantly my choice would have to be “Chinatown.”  (And I’d have been seriously amazed had it not been on the list!)

    By the way, I’m in complete agreement with those who’ve said that “Klute” should have been on the list.  And what about “Last Embrace,” a really nifty little overlooked homage to Hitchcock?  (That has shamefully never been on dvd yet.)

    I think the poll-makers should just dispense entirely with the “other” choice and the superlatives, and just be asking “which of THESE films would you choose?”.  (Then they could take the winner and have new polls against the ones the comments said they’d overlooked!  Hmmm…)

    • tudnut

      Sorry, I meant “Last of Sheila.”

  • Jb

    I would not classify most of these as Mystery instead they are Action/Adventure with a Mystery sub-theme. 

  • FalmouthBill

    My personal favorite 70′s mystery was “Executive Action”, then Parallax View, China Syndrome, Klute, and Coma !

  • Danofan59

    How do you have such a list and not include The Last of Sheila?  Never mind the fact that several of the ones on the list are not generally classified as mysteries.

    • Mike

      I think, like you, that the Last of Sheila is a great film. Its a shame that it’s not well know. The cast is just terrific and the film is exactly what I’m sure Steven Sondheim and Anthony Perkins had in mind when they penned it.

    • Anne

      Loved the last scene in that movie!

  • Johnfburton

    Boy, the 1970s really were heady times for American Cinema. As studio suits adjusted to a a business where they no longer held all the cards, like Jack Warner and Darryl Zanuck did a generation before, and continuing to try to figure out how to be relevant against the onslaught of TV, they really just turned over the store to the new, brash young generation, closed their eyes and kept their fingers crossed. That was the generation of Spielberg, Scorsese, Rafelson, Altman, Coppola, Robert Towne, Monte Hellman, as just some names. And look at the movies they gave us, in this case, the mystery genre noted here. Pretty Great, and standing the test of time. Probably my favorite (though I do love the quasi-retro, but with its own unique spin of such as “Chinatown” and “Farewell My Lovely”) is Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation.” Like Pakula’s “The Parallax View” and Pollack’s “Three Days of the Condor” these movies capture that zeitgeist of ’70s paranoia in the Watergate Era. Especially “The Conversation,” which explores the then-burgeoning art or science of surveillance and its impact on human behavior and the psyche. Gene Hackman, as the master of his trade, gives an amazing understated performance that really calls to be seen again, and the movie has a corker of a denouement, where nothing is what it seems.

  • The fatt furby

    COMA is a great movie…MY FAV for 70s

  • Don7036

    Klute is my favorite sleeper pick.  Not flashy but good.

    • pmars64

      Saw Klute for the first time just a couple of weeks ago and really liked it. Great photography, mood, and the scene with Fonda and the old man was special.

  • rgordon7

    I must be the only one on earth who not only didn’t like Chinatown, I really disliked it…  I disliked it “then” and I dislike it now… I’ve re–watched it any number of times trying to find what everyone else thought was so special about it. Just not there for me… And it’s not as though I don’t like (real) noir mysteries, as The Matlese Falcon has always been one of my all-time favorite films. For 70′s mysteries, my vote went for “Murder on The Orient Express”.

    • nick

      We are all different, I for one feel that the Maltese Falcon is the most over rated film of what I have seen. I much prefer Bogart in The Big Sleep, I also liked many of John Hustons later films, to me his work with Bogart in Key Largo, Treasure Of the Sierra Madre, and the fun Beat The Devil are more enjoyable. Even prefer List Of Adrian Messenger. As for Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, so unbelievable as villains in film, but they made a very underated film few years later, Mask Of Demetrius.

    • Czechules

      Thank you!! I saw it to see what the hype was about, and I didn’t like it. So I figured I must be missing something, and saw it again a few years later. I still don’t like it. I’m sorry, I just didn’t get the same thing out of it that so many others did. To each their own, I guess, but if someone out there could enlighten me as to why they liked it so much, I would love to hear it!

      • Anne

        I think that people who liked “Chinatown” each saw something different in the film that touched them.  It is one of my favorite movies, and I liked it for the art direction (the costumes and scenery were really well-crafted); the story (very noir, although set in a bright L.A.); the seldom-talked-about history of how L.A. became what it is today; the cinematography; and the (for me) unbearably sad ending.


       “Chinatown” cemented Jack Nicholson’s status as a mega Hollywood star. This great piece of filmmaking became one of the astounding mystery thrillers of the 1970′s. “Chinatown” was nominated for an impressive nine Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor,
      Best Actress,and Best Original Musical Score. It won three Oscars including Best Original Score(Jerry Goldsmith),and Best Original Screenplay. It was the fourth highest grossing film of 1974,behind “The Towering Inferno”, “The Godfather:Part II”, and “Blazing Saddles”.

  • pmars64

    The Conversation is a special movie. Coppola did it between the first two Godfather movies. Gene Hackman was never better. Watch him do this movie then watch French Connection and see what an actor he is. Great stuff.

  • Chester

    Didn’t see all of these, but most. Had to vote for Frenzy just because it was so much fun, as only Hitchcock could do. Klute should have been on this list. Also, a lot of these films aren’t really mystery films.

  • Gendiellee

    How could you have missed the great “Night Moves?”  Gene Hackman at the top of his game, the excellent performances by Susan Clark and Harris Yulin…terrific from start to finish.  And, for those into more esoteric films, how about 1979′s “The Long Good Friday?”  Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren and the nearly silent, but chillingly menacing first big screen appearance of Pierce Brosnan all help to make this one an incredibly good portion of the pantheon of mysteries during the 1970s…and then, there is “The Laughing Policeman…”  there are many more that should have been on the list…Gregg Gendiellee

    • nick

       I agree about Night Moves, a great film. Only think I care about with the Long Good Friday is to see Eddie Constantine, who had been a star in Europe for some of his Lemmy Caution films. Was a little disappointed in The Laughing Policeman, though I liked Walter Mathau in it.

  • Fred

    The abolute best mystery movie of the ’70′s is “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”  Getting rid of the U.N. was only a plus in  a movie that has it all.

    • nick

       The best of all Pink Panther Movies.

  • pocroc

    Right, Fred.  Any of Sellers’ “Pink Panthers” far better than the best of Steve Martin’s recent rip offs. 

    • Jamesmartin310738

      Yes Ur right Peter Sellers Pink Panther films were the best because Peter was a far better Comedian than Steve Martin will ever be

  • Scott Slaven

    Agatha Christie’s Death On The Nile

  • Pat27s

    I saw “Farewell, My Lovely” a few weeks ago with Mitchum in a role he was born tp play. He is by far the best Phillip Marlowe. Makes you wish he’d done Marlowe in the 40′s as well.  Too bad the version of “The Big Sleep”he later starred in was so terrible.

    • nick

       Even as a young person back in the 70′s saw Mitchum in Out Of the Past, and felt at that time he should have played Philip Marlowe. At least we got to see him play the role in the 1970′s. At least the opening scene and closing scene in the 70′s version are pretty good, and I think more closer to the book. It still comes out looking like one of those what I call Geriatric movies,  and the Richard Boone character comes out a little bit silly why he has the name he has. Certainly the 40′s version is far superior. Though the transfer to England is interesting.

  • Raysson

    “Day of the Jackal” was one of the great suspenseful political thrillers that ever came out of the 1970′s.
    The others? “Chinatown” was the all-time favorite,but I’m surprised that “Marathon Man” is not mentioned in any of the comments. “Marathon Man”,released in 1976 was as suspenseful as it gets. The most chilling scene with Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman remains one of the most terrifying in all of cinema.

    Alfred Hitchcock made two great suspenseful mystery thrillers that came out during the 1970′s. “Frenzy” (1972),was a mystery suspense thriller that have your glue and riveted from start to finish. “Frenzy” was Hitchcock’s first attempt and an “R” rated movie which gave audiences more intense violence and some rough language and several nude scenes. His last theatrical feature “Family Plot”(1976) was just as great and intense suspense thriller.

  • Raysson

    “The French Connection” (1971).  “The Parallex View” (1974).   “Marlowe” (1970)

    “The Laughing Policeman” (1973),  “The Taking of Pelham 123″ (1974)

  • Bill Ameen

    Anybody remember “Slither” with James Caan and Sally Kellerman? Funny, quirky, moody, and certainly noirish enough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/donald.blydenburgh.1 Donald Blydenburgh

    “Play Misty for Me”

    • Mgwhitfield1

      Donald, I did not see that you chose Play Misty for me. I was wondering why it wasn’t on the list. I love Day of the Jackal but would not classify that as a mystery, more of an international thriller.

  • Mike

    I voted for the Long Goodbye from the list..a terrific film that I haven’t seen in a long time…but I still remember many key parts very clearly. Great Cast with Elliot Gould a unique and surprisingly good Phillip Marlowe. Robert Altman at the top of his game I thought..and thats a high loft.  I can’t leave without saying the Parallex View was also a superb film. A very appealing  Paula Prentiss is done away with early on and from that point on it proved again that Warren Beatty had a wonderful sense of a story that he could excel in.

  • Mgwhitfield1

    How come Play Misty for Me is not on the list?

    • nick

       Good point, a very underated film at the time. Way ahead in its time about the Sexual Revolution.

  • Pauledorsey

    Wow!  Any one of those films on that list could have been my favorite. I voted for ‘Sleuth’ but I could have justas easily picked ‘Murder On The Orient Express’, ‘Chinatown’ or ‘The Conversation’. Sure wish they were making movies like those today.

  • Colf

    How could you forget The Odessa File with Jon Voight? My top three are Marathon Man, Three Days of the Condo and Odessa. Whenever I watch one I want to watch the other two. Another great film, very underrated (probablly because of the star) is Nighthawks …although that may have actually been very early 80s,,,

    • nick

       Read the book before the movie came out, all the way from Berlin to Reagansburg in 1974 as a 17 year old, could not put it down. Didn’t see the movie because of the poor reviews. Perhpas I should see it, as my girl friend’s son, a bright young man had seen the movie and asked my about it.

  • bryankr

    I voted for Marathon Man. I loved the suspense, right up to the very end! Poor Dustin never knew what was going on, even when it was explained to him, he still had a hard time wrapping his mind around it. Especially the part his brother played in it! That blew his mind.
    The Conversation? I had a hard time with that one. It seemed to me that it just continued to drag on, and on with no real end, it just kind of ……stopped.
    Murder On the Orient Express, THAT was a great mystery! Everybody but Poirot did it! How cool is that!?

  • Dsucharski

    This was a tough pick!  Chinatown, Marathon Man, 3 Days of the Condor, and Jackal are all great flicks.  As a Hitchcock fan, I love the movie Frenzy, but technically it is not a true mystery since Alfred shows you who the murderer is early on in the film.

    • nick

       Yes, I saw Jackal when it came out, and would almost have to say Chinatown and Jackal in that order, followed by Night Moves, Frenzy and finally Murder On the Orient Express.

  • Laurence dabek

     Chinatown hands down! I’m not surprised that it’s on top. Jack and Faye, very noir, Polanski’s best.
    3 Days of the Condor, just dripping with great suspense and the ‘Watergate paranoia’ factor. Should have been higher on this list. Redford & Dunaway, what’s not to love?Marathon Man, with the excruciating scene everyone painfully remembers, very scary! Not the Hoffman we knew from the Graduate! Frenzy. Some of Hitchcock’s better shots, and all the suspense one could handle. The Conversation, Hackman playing a questionable ‘hero’, creepy but good. John Cazale at his creepy best. Play Misty For Me, should be on this list. The directorial debut of Eastwood, who has become one of the most savvy and dependable directors working today.
     The Laughing Policeman should also be here. Matthau wise, world weary curmudgeon cop, and Bruce Dern learning from the old timer, while figuring out the whodunit.
    I never thought of Murder on the Orient Express as a ‘mystery’. It seemed like a big payday for a group of actors that needed a big payday.
     Loved Klute, Fonda & Sutherland, wholly mismatched ‘couple’ that makes the tension of the situation almost unbearable. Keeps you guessing.
     I’m not sure what people who voted for ‘other’, had in mind. There seemed to be enough viable options. Different strokes…
     But that’s what makes horse races!

    • jackjones

      It would be interesting to know the average age of those who voted for Chinatown vs. those who voted for Orient Express. As a long, long, long time movie goer as well as a long, long time mystery reader the latter was the hands down favorite. 

      • Arlenes40

         I totally agree – I’m sure the age of the viewers makes a difference.

      • nick

         I am 55 now, and saw both films in the theater. Enjoy Orient, and find it unfortunate that Albert Finny did not play Poirot again. My favorite scene in the film is actually in the beginning, when Poirot almost does not make it on the train.

  • Bruce

    The Last of Shelia deserves mention.

  • Eahatch

    “MURDER BY DEATH”  of course!!!!

  • William Grove

    I thought that The Last of Sheila was a bit superficial, but I liked it. It was a well-done movie, but not as great as The Conversation, among others on and off the list. Overall, a fine list with many good films to choose from.

    • StevenWells

       “Chinatown” tops my list, but “The Last Of Sheila” was certainly one of the most enjoyable. “Superficial” by comparison to either that or “The Conversation;” fair enough. I’d characterize it as the difference between reading a good novel and playing a fun board game. In the appropriate mood, either’s a worthwhile way to spend time.

  • jerry j.

    Picnic at Hanging Rock. I really got into whatever happened to  the schoolgirls and their teacher when they just vanished up on that mountain.  OK, spoiler alert; the whole story was fiction, but gripping mystery if you do’t know that before watching the flick.

  • Keith H.

    I don’t know that it would rank as the best when considering the other candidates but a good mystery from that era that is mostly forgotten is The Midnight Man starring Burt Lancaster.  It doesn’t seem to be available on DVD.

  • W.D.(Bill) Southworth

    My favorite movie is Yankee Doodle Dandy!

    • Raysson

      W.D.(Bill) Southworth:
      “Yankee Doodle Dandy” was NOT a 1970′s Mystery Movie. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” was a 1942 musical starring James Cagney.

  • Cbeledw

    SLEUTH because of the size of the cast.

  • Raysson

    Two mystery movies starring Sidney Poitier really do stand out as one of the great mystery/detective/crime thrillers of the early-1970′s….One “THEY CALLED ME MISTER TIBBS!” was the sequel to the Oscar winning 1967-masterpiece “In The Heat of the Night”…..This time around Sidney Poitier reprises his role as Virgil Tibbs and this time around the scenary is not in racist Mississippi…This time Poitier exposes a mystery between a senseless murder and dealing with the corrupt mob syndicate in San Francisco…and the showdown with the mob boss(Martin Landau) great movie with an impressive musical score by Quincy Jones that came out in 1970.

    The other Sidney Poitier vehicle..”THE ORGANIZATION” brings detective Virgil Tibbs once again to the gritty streets of San Francisco to solve a mystery of the senseless murder of his best friend while going after the drug cartel syndicate and a corrupt police department. This was the best of the series that was also a sequel to the Oscar winning “In The Heat of the Night”…..good mystery thriller with lots of hard hitting action as one of the grittest cop thrillers of the early-1970′s…..This was the third and final installment to the MR TIBBS series that was released in theatres back in 1971.

  • Raysson

    What was your favorite 1970′s Mystery Film?
    THE SEVEN-UPS…..one of the great mystery/detective/crime thrillers of the early-1970′s starring Roy Schneider of “The French Connection” and “Jaws” fame. This film contains one of the greatest car chase scenes through the streets of NYC as Schneider takes on the mob syndicate and the corrupt police department.

    Also recommended…..SERPICO….great mystery/detective thriller starring Al Pacino and directed by the great Sidney Lumet.