21 Groundbreaking Movies That Boomers Love

Movies Boomers Love

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The Sound of Music

Boomer Fave Films

From “Pulp Fiction” and “Citizen Kane” to “Meet Me in St. Louis” and “Parasite," there will always be stand-out movies that resonate with audiences across the world and become part of the zeitgeist. Boomers were able to watch some of the most ground-breaking cinema of the 20th century, including the 1970s anti-hero trend and the birth of the summer blockbuster. Here is a list of iconic movies that defined the Boomer generation, including critic scores from Rotten Tomatoes. 

Related: 26 Best Hollywood Movies About Getting Older

The Graduate

'The Graduate' (1967)

Critic Rating: 87% positive 

Critic Quote: "Its pleasures and wit stand the test of time. Plus the cinematography is flat-out fantastic, like David Hockney's pool paintings made live." — Times (UK)  

One of the highest grossing films of the time, "The Graduate'' earned more than $35 million (roughly $294,616,000 today) in its first few months alone. Dustin Hoffman plays a college student having to choose between an older lover, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). Nominated for seven Oscars, this movie resonates with Boomers for the way it captured the anxieties of two separate generations. 

Related: 33 Cult Movies We Can't Stop Watching


'Jaws' (1975)

Critic Rating98% positive 

Critic Quote“‘Jaws’ is a grisly film, often ugly as sin, which achieves precisely what it set out to accomplish — scare the hell out of you.” — Newsweek

Nabbing three of the four Oscars it was nominated for, Steven Spielberg’s thriller about a killer shark set the standard for summer blockbusters and instilled a fear of the ocean for an entire generation. 

Related: The Top Summer Movies of the Past 25 Years

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest' (1975)

Critic Rating94% positive 

Critic Quote: “‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest’ is a powerful, smashingly effective movie …” The New Yorker

Based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, Jack Nicholson’s character dreams about escaping north to Canada, a feeling many Boomers could relate to at the end of the Vietnam War. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” took home five of the nine Oscars for which it was nominated.

Dirty Harry

'Dirty Harry' (1971)

Critic Rating: 88% positive 

Critic Quote“A crisp, beautifully paced film, full of [director Don] Siegel's wonderful coups of cutting and framing.” — Chicago Reader

This famous cop movie came at a time when America was shifting away from the free love and hippie movement to a more conservative focus on law and order. Clint Eastwood’s role as Dirty Harry made such an impact on audiences at the time that Clintwood reprised the role four more times.

Related: The Worst Clint Eastwood Movies of All Time, According to Critics

Star Wars: A New Hop

'Star Wars: A New Hope' (1977)

Critic Rating: 92% positive 

Critic Quote: "’Star Wars’ is good enough to convince the most skeptical 8-year-old sci-fi buff, who is the toughest critic.” — The New York Times

A mix of sci-fi, woman warriors, and good versus evil, this space western had a budget of just $11 million. During its domestic run, the movie made $307.3 million (over $1 billion today). It made such an impact on Boomers and those that followed that it is now one of the largest film franchises in history, with production budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Related: The Highest-Grossing Movie the Year You Were Born

'The Godfather'
Best Buy

'The Godfather' (1972)

Critic Rating: 97% positive 

Critic Quote: “The Godfather shows that there is still life in the massive production engineering which made Hollywood studios the wonder of the entertainment world in their great days.” — London Evening Standard

This American classic was nominated for a whopping 11 Oscars and changed the way Italian Americans were depicted on screen. Yes, they were still mobsters, but they were also much more fully realized human beings.

Related: 30 Best Restaurant Scenes in Classic Movies and TV Shows

Saturday Night Fever

'Saturday Night Fever' (1977)

Critic Rating82% positive 

Critic Quote: “‘Saturday Night Fever’ makes good movie making seem easy.” — Chicago Tribune

This movie put John Travolta on the map and showcased the golden age of disco. Categorized as a dance drama and based on a 1976 New York magazine article, this movie left Boomers dancing in the aisles during screening and launched the Bee Gees to the top of the charts.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' (1969)

Critic Rating: 89% positive 

Critic Quote“It is a great film and will be an exceptionally popular and profitable one.” — The Hollywood Reporter

Starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman, Butch Cassidy flips the standard western on its head by making these bank robbers the heroes of the movie. This hit resonates because it depicts the real life story of the two outlaws trying to make it in the everchanging West. 

Related: 24 Things You May Not Know About Robert Redford

A Clockwork Orange

'A Clockwork Orange' (1971)

Critic Rating: 87% positive 

Critic Quote“There are no passages where we can sit back, listen and admire. The film just hits, and hits hard. It works, as only a master could make it.” — Times (UK)

Remembered for its shocking and oftentimes over-the-top graphic violence, Kubrick's “A Clockwork Orange” firmly made the director one of the most Freudian and nihilistic directors in American cinema. This movie resonates with audiences at the time sucibecause of the way Kubrick diagnoses society. 

Easy Rider

'Easy Rider' (1969)

Critic Rating: 83% positive 

Critic Quote: “One of the rallying-points of the late ‘60s, a buddy picture that celebrated sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and the freedom of the open road.” — RogerEbert.com

“Easy Rider” takes actors Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper cross country motorcycle drive and showed Boomers the trip of a lifetime filled with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. The movie was nominated for 14 awards and took home eight. 

2001: A Space Odyssey

'2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968)

Critic Rating: 92% positive 

Critic Quote: “Stanley Kubrick's ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is the picture which science-fiction enthusiasts of every age and in every corner of the world have prayed (sometimes forlornly) that the industry might one day give them.” — Los Angeles Times

This movie tells the story of a space voyage turned chaotic, and it stunned Boomer audiences with visuals unlike any other movie. It left audiences asking big questions about humanity as a whole and made way for an entire sci-fi space genre to explode onto the scene over the next decade.


'M*A*S*H' (1970)

Critic Rating: 84% positive 

Critic Quote“...The film that has been expected from director Robert Altman for some short time.” — The Hollywood Reporter

Based on Richard Hooker’s autobiographical novel about military surgeons during the Korean war, this dark comedy resonated with American Vietnam-era audiences. It had such a big impact, that it became a television series just two years later and ran for 11 seasons.

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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’

‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ (1964)

Critic Rating: 98% positive 

Critic Quote: “Nothing would seen to be farther apart than nuclear war and comedy, yet Kubrick's caper eloquently tackles a Fail-Safe subject with a light touch.” — Variety

Nominated for four Academy Awards, this Stanley Kubrick-directed satire resonates with Boomer audiences because they grew up in and experienced the fear of the Cold War, nuclear bombs, and the possible end of the world. 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977)

Critic Rating: 94% positive 

Critic Quote: "’Close Encounters’ proves to be a magic act with dramatic interludes.” — Los Angeles Times

Just two years after the release of “Jaws,” Spielberg took audiences from the ocean to deep space, showcasing aliens and fantastical sights. “Close Encounters” became an instant blockbuster and inspired space exploration, asking Boomers to wonder what else is out there. 

Annie Hall

'Annie Hall' (1977)

Critic Rating: 96% positive 

Critic Quote: “‘Annie Hall’ is as good as it is because its comedy is always on the brink of the minor tragedies of real life and love.” — Times (UK)

“Annie Hall” won four of the five Oscars for which it was nominated, redefining the rom-com genre and even breaking the fourth wall. Boomers couldn’t get enough of this movie because it echoed the problems they were having in their romantic situations in a real way, and Diane Keaton’s menswear-inspired fashion became a must-have trend.

Related: Movies That Make Boomers Cry


‘Spartacus’ (1960)

Critic Rating93% positive 

Critic Quote: “The great-granddaddy of Ridley Scott's ‘Gladiator’ hasn't lost any muscle tone after nearly half a century.” — The Guardian

“Spartacus” put Stanley Kubrick on the map, opening the door for all of his future hits. The movie hit home because it came on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement and the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings. Howard Fast wrote the original novel from prison, after refusing to name names, and had to self-publish the book. Dalton Trumbo, blacklisted as one of the Hollywood Ten, was the screenwriter — and star Kirk Douglas broke the blacklist by announcing it.

Blazing Saddles

'Blazing Saddles' (1974)

Critic Rating: 88% positive 

Critic Quote: “Although Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder head a uniformly competent cast, pic is handily stolen by Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn. Kahn is simply terrific doing a Marlene Dietrich lampoon.” — Variety

Co-written by Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor, “Blazing Saddles” was nominated for three Oscars. Boomers love this flick because of its over-the-top comedy and ridiculous situations, from campfire farting to an entire town filled with people named Johnson.

Related: Beloved Movies Unfairly Panned by Critics


'Grease' (1978)

Critic Rating: 76% positive 

Critic Quote“‘Grease’ has energy and a total commitment to pleasing its audience.” — Dallas Morning News

Just one year after the disco flick "Saturday Night Fever," John Travolta hit the screen as Danny Zucko in the hit musical "Grease." This coming-of-age story hit home with Boomers because it’s set in the 1950s, an idyllic time to reminisce about for many folks (though not all) in the 1970s. 

The Sound of Music

'The Sound of Music' (1965)

Critic Rating83% positive 

Critic Quote“The last of the Rodgers-Hammer-Stein collaborations, The Sound of Music is the best screen version of their works.” — Associated Press

Based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway show, “The Sound of Music” was the number one movie at the box office for more than six months when it was released. It provided respite for viewers at the time as one of the least violent movies set during a war through its simplicity and sentimentality. 

Related: The Best Movie Musicals of the Past 70 Years

American Graffiti

'American Graffiti' (1973)

Critic Rating96% positive 

Critic Quote“This superb and singular film catches not only the charm and tribal energy of the teen-age 1950s but also the listlessness and the resignation that underscored it all like an incessant bass line in one of the rock-'n'-roll songs of the period.” — Time

Written and directed by “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, this movie follows a group of high schoolers enjoying one final night together after their high school graduation before they head out to follow their respective paths, striking a nostalgic chord with Boomers everywhere. 

Dog Day Afternoon

‘Dog Day Afternoon’ (1975)

Critic Rating: 96%

Critic Quote: “‘Dog Day Afternoon’ is, in the whole as well as the parts, filmmaking at its best.” — Variety

With Al Pacino playing a bisexual bank robber based on real-life criminal John Wojtowicz, this movie put a surprising spin on the antihero trope (It became one of the first motion pictures to portray a gay character as the protagonist.). It was nominated for six Oscars and won for Best Original Screenplay. It was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry after the film was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress in 2009.