8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos

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Spanning roughly thirteen years from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, the New Hollywood movement redefined cinema forever. Inspired by the successes of the French New Wave, young directors in the United States stepped into the spotlight, taking over the creative control previously reserved for studio executives. As fresh voices dared to defy the conventional rules of filmmaking, Hollywood entered a period of reinvention.

Audiences no longer craved feel-good movie experiences; instead, they longed for thoughtful films that spoke to the anxieties of the day. For that reason, filmmakers in the New Hollywood movement (also called “the American New Wave”) eschewed easy resolutions and opted for unflinching realism. In the process, they created some of the most unforgettable movies of all time. Let’s take a look back at just eight of the masterpieces that shaped the era. Explore more classic behind the scenes photos from popular films in our curated collection.


1. Bonnie and Clyde, August 13, 1967

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Bonnie and ClydeWarren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Arthur Penn – 1967. Photo by Warner Bros/Seven Arts/Tatira-Hiller.

In the midst of the Great Depression, a Texas waitress named Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) meets an outlaw drifter by the name of Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty). Based on a true story, this film follows the Barrow Gang through their increasingly dangerous and high-stakes crimes.

Why It’s Historic
1967’s Bonnie and Clyde is widely credited as the movie that launched the American New Wave. The violence depicted in the film sparked controversy, especially within the context of what many moviegoers expected to be a traditional “comedy.” But the complexity of Arthur Penn’s direction, which oscillated between moments of pain and humor, spoke to young people coming of age in an uncertain decade.

Iconic Line
“We rob banks.”

Why See It Today?
In an October 1967 review, Pauline Kael of The New Yorker praised Bonnie and Clyde for its realism. While most films of the era shied away from images of blood, this one stayed true to history, and the film ended with the brutal slaying of both title characters. Actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty humanized Bonnie and Clyde, and the movie’s on-screen deaths reminded the American public of the horrors of violence.

“Years from now it is quite possible that Bonnie and Clyde will be seen as the definitive film of the 1960s, showing with sadness, humor and unforgiving detail what one society had come to,” Roger Ebert wrote in his review at the time. “The fact that the story is set 35 years ago doesn’t mean a thing. It had to be set sometime. But it was made now and it’s about us.” More than fifty years later, perhaps it still is.


2. Cool Hand Luke, November 1, 1967

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Cool Hand LukeCool Hand Luke, Paul Newman – 1967. Photo by Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

After war veteran Lucas Jackson (Paul Newman) vandalizes some parking meters one night, he goes to prison to work in a Southern chain gang. In the face of unrelentingly cruel treatment by the authorities, his defiant sense of humor, fierce independent streak, and attempts at escape inspire his fellow prisoners.

Why It’s Historic
Punctuated throughout by biblical imagery and allegory, Cool Hand Luke presented a flawed protagonist with a complicated and painful fate, blurring the lines between the traditional movie “hero” or “anti-hero.” The question of whether or not it spoke directly to the anti-authoritarian sentiments of the Vietnam War protests is sometimes debated by the experts, but in any case, this film gave voice to a generation of young people who felt disenfranchised, marginalized, and ignored.

Iconic Line
“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — "...A Failure to Communicate"Cool Hand Luke, Paul Newman – 1967. Photo by Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Why See It Today?
This is one of the few films Roger Ebert has ever called “iconic.” In 2016, he wrote, “Luke is one of those movies that seemed almost irredeemably dated maybe thirty years after it came out, but then left period associations behind and became timeless.” Cool Hand Luke is especially worth revisiting now, in the wake of recent movements aimed at dismantling abusive power structures.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Paul NemanCool Hand Luke, Paul Newman – 1967. Photo by Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock.


3. The Graduate, ‎December 22, 1967

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — The GraduateMike Nichols, Dustin Hoffman – 1967. Photo by Embassy/Kobal/Shutterstock

Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is straight out of college when he and Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father’s colleague, begin a clandestine affair. Soon after, he’s set up on a date with her daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross), with whom he becomes infatuated. As he pursues Elaine, he continues to search for meaning and purpose, all while hurdling towards an ambiguous and uncertain future.

Why It’s Historic
With an unforgettable soundtrack by Simon & Garfunkel, The Graduate was a coming-of-age story build for an era. Young moviegoers at the time longed for films that addressed the pressing issue of the day—i.e. the Vietnam War—but somehow, director Mike Nichols and the team managed to hone in on their anxieties indirectly and without mention of current events. When they previewed the film in NYC, the crowd erupted in cheers during the famous final moments.

Iconic Line
“I just want to say one word to you—just one word—’plastics.’”

Why See It Today?
“This movie is always relevant because it captures what it is to be young, to be in your early 20s, to be adrift, restless, confused, skeptical,” A. O. Scott of The New York Times said in 2009. “The Graduate seems especially resonant at a time when nobody seems to have any idea what the future has in store.” Every generation feels frustrated by the one that came before, their expectations and their rules, and this film speaks to the psychology of rebellion in an unexpectedly nuanced way.


4. Midnight Cowboy, May 25, 1969

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Midnight CowboyJon Voight, Dustin Hoffman – 1969. Photo by United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock

When hustler Joe Buck (Jon Voight) moves from Texas to New York City, he finds an unlikely ally and friend in con-man Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). The buddies dream of a future in Miami, even as Rizzo’s health declines.

Why It’s Historic 
“More than any other film of the era, Midnight Cowboy redefined the idea of the Hollywood blockbuster,” William J. Mann writes in his book Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger. As the only X-rated film to win Best Picture at the Oscars, Midnight Cowboy defied the status quo and frankly dealt with adult themes. Schlesinger captured New York City in a way that felt honest, raw, and immediate. “He has caught on film a slice of America as well, if not better, than one had any right to expect,” Derek Malcolm wrote for The Guardian in 1969.

Iconic Line
“I’m walking here! I’m walking here!”

Why See It Today?
“This movie holds up because it explores a deep and universal theme,” A. O. Scott claimed in 2009. “It’s a story of male friendship, in which the hero, helped by his friend, reaches a new level of maturity and wisdom.” Nearly fifty years after its release, Gwilym Mumford of The Guardian agreed, writing, “This is a story that still lingers.”


5. Easy Rider, July 14, 1969

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Easy RiderPeter Fonda, Dennis Hopper – 1969. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Living off of the proceeds from a drug deal, two bikers, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), embark on a road trip to New Orleans. Along the way, they meet George Hanson, a lawyer played by Jack Nicholson, who joins them on their journey to Mardi Gras.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Peter FondaPeter Fonda – 1969. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock. 8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Easy Rider and Hippie Counterculture

Peter Fonda – 1969. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

Why It’s Historic
With the famous tagline “A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere,” Easy Rider was a film for a generation of young people disillusioned with the government. As Roger Ebert noted in a 2004 review, “Easy Rider was playing in theaters at about the time Woodstock Nation was gathering in upstate New York.” This film gave voice to hippie counterculture while celebrating the freedom of the open road, and while it might have confused some members of the older Hollywood establishment, it definitely struck a chord with the public.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Dennis Hopper and Peter FondaDennis Hopper, Peter Fonda – 1969. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Iconic Line:
“We blew it.”

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — "We Blew It"Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda – 1969. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Independent SpiritsPeter Fonda – 1969. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

Why See It Today?
As Tom Folsom, the author of the book HOPPER: A Journey into the American Dream, suggests, Easy Rider is worth watching now because it represents the revolutionary power of cinema. Set against all the more polished, big-budget films that came after, this gritty and unexpected movie reminds us that it’s the independent spirits who make history.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Dennis HopperDennis Hopper – 1969. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Revolution and CinemaPeter Fonda – 1969. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock


6. Badlands, October 15, 1973

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — BadlandsSissy Spacek, Martin Sheen – 1973. Photo by Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

15-year-old Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek) narrates the story of her life on-the-run with 25-year-old boyfriend Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen). Loosely inspired by the story of teenage killers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, Badlands follows the young couple as they travel from small-town South Dakota to the Badlands of Montana, leaving Kit’s murder victims in their wake and the police at their heels.

Why It’s Historic
Though it sometimes draws comparisons to Bonnie and Clyde, Terrence Malick’s directorial debut resonated deeply with the climate of the 1970s. As Vincent Canby suggested in his 1973 review of the film, its heroes’ motives aren’t as clear-cut as Bonnie’s or Clyde’s; instead, Kit and Holly mirrored a kind of boredom and directionlessness that felt timely. Badlands was a subtle and poetic reflection on love, violence, and innocence lost, told without judgment and left up to interpretation.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Terrence Malick and Martin SheenTerrence Malick, Martin Sheen – 1973. Photo by Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Iconic Line
“Sometimes I wished I could fall asleep and be taken off to some magical land, and this never happened.”

Why See It Today?
Looking back on the Badlands script in 1999, Martin Sheen told The Guardian, “It was a period piece, and yet of all time. It caught the spirit of the people, of the culture, in a way that was immediately identifiable.” Set against the backdrop of a sprawling Midwestern landscape, this crime/love story still serves as a uniquely poetic meditation on American life.


7. Chinatown, June 20, 1974

Set in 1937 Los Angeles, this mystery follows private eye J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) as he digs deeper into the life of the mysterious socialite Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), uncovering a story about family, politics, murder, and deception. Inspired by the history of the “California water wars,” Chinatown weaves a complex web full of twists and turns.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — ChinatownJack Nicholson, John Huston, Roman Polanski – 1974. Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

Why It’s Historic
Chinatown brought the noir genre into a new era, and, in the process, it revealed the most disturbing contours of the human psyche. A. O. Scott put it this way: “When you look closely, it’s much blacker than even the darkest film noir.” After delivering a healthy dose of nostalgia, Chinatown took viewers down a long and winding path, ultimately reflecting on mankind’s capacity for evil. And like many other American New Wave films, it had an ending that stopped people in their tracks.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — A New Era of NoirChinatown – 1974. Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Iconic Line
“Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."Chinatown – 1974. Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

Why See It Today?
“The whole movie is a tour de force,” Roger Ebert wrote in his 1974 review. “It’s a period movie, with all the right cars and clothes and props, but we forget that after the first ten minutes.” Four decades later, Chinatown still doesn’t feel outdated. The mystery itself is enough to wow modern audiences, but it’s the strange and melancholy exploration of universal themes that make this film a classic.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Faye DunawayFaye Dunaway – 1974. Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Roman Polanski and Jack NicholsonRoman Polanski, Jack Nicholson – 1974. Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — On Set for ChinatownRoman Polanski, Jack Nicholson – 1974. Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock.


8. Taxi Driver, February 8, 1976

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Taxi DriverRobert De Niro, Martin Scorsese – 1976. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Former marine Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) works nights as a taxi driver in New York City, where he sees the seedy underbelly of the metropolis firsthand. After failing to win the affections of a political aide named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), he becomes embroiled in the life of an underage sex worker named Iris (Jodie Foster), with dreams of rescuing her from a brutal pimp. As a persistent passenger—Bickle’s own madness—takes the wheel, we follow him into a violent and disturbing crescendo.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Robert De Niro and Martin ScorseseRobert De Niro, Martin Scorsese – 1976. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

Why It’s Historic
In the wake of the nation’s recent traumas, Bickle’s sense of loneliness and alienation resonated with audiences. “You can’t make movies any more in which the whole country seems to make sense,” Martin Scorsese told Roger Ebert at the time. “After Vietnam, after Watergate, it’s not just a temporary thing; it’s a permanent thing the country’s going through.” A kind of innocence had been lost; America had changed, and, for Scorsese, movies had to change with it.

8 Iconic Movies from the New Hollywood Era, in Photos — Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, and Martin ScorseseRobert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Martin Scorsese – 1976. Photo by Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

Iconic Line
“You talking to me?”

Why See It Today?
The original trailer for Taxi Driver promised, “You’ve never seen a more chilling performance than this.” More than forty years later, those words still ring true. Writing for The Guardian in 2011, the author Danny Leigh suggested that Taxi Driver remains so steadfastly in our memories because of the mystery of De Niro’s character, about whom few biographical details are revealed. By leaving out much of Bickle’s history, the writer Paul Schrader keeps us guessing, and with every passing decade, the character takes on a new layer of meaning.