Revisiting the Box Office Hits of 1971: Top 10 Movies

Revisiting the Box Office Hits of 1971: Top 10 Movies


In the annals of cinematic history, the year 1971 stands out as a pivotal moment, with a slew of groundbreaking films hitting the silver screen. From gripping dramas to captivating comedies, these movies not only captivated audiences but also left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape. As we delve into the top 10 movies that grossed the most in 1971, it's essential to note the financial success each film achieved alongside their artistic merit.

1. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Grossing Amount: $26 million

Description: Directed by Stanley Kubrick, "A Clockwork Orange" is a dystopian crime film based on Anthony Burgess's novel. Set in a futuristic Britain, the movie follows the journey of Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell), a young delinquent who indulges in acts of ultra-violence. Kubrick's visually stunning depiction of societal decay and moral ambiguity continues to captivate audiences worldwide.

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee
Producer: Stanley Kubrick

2. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

Grossing Amount: $38.4 million

Description: Directed by Norman Jewison, "Fiddler on the Roof" is a musical drama set in Tsarist Russia. The film portrays the struggles of Tevye (Topol), a Jewish milkman, as he grapples with changing traditions amidst societal upheaval. With its iconic musical numbers and heartfelt performances, "Fiddler on the Roof" remains a timeless classic.

Director: Norman Jewison
Cast: Topol, Norma Crane
Producer: Norman Jewison, Walter Mirisch

3. Dirty Harry (1971)

Grossing Amount: $36 million

Description: Directed by Don Siegel, "Dirty Harry" is a gritty action thriller starring Clint Eastwood as Detective Harry Callahan. The film follows Callahan's pursuit of a sadistic serial killer known as Scorpio, challenging conventional notions of justice and morality. With its intense action sequences and Eastwood's iconic performance, "Dirty Harry" became a defining film of the 1970s.

Director: Don Siegel
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson
Producer: Don Siegel, Robert Daley

4. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Grossing Amount: $4 million

Description: Directed by Mel Stuart, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" is a whimsical musical fantasy based on Roald Dahl's book. The film follows young Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) as he embarks on a magical adventure inside Willy Wonka's (Gene Wilder) chocolate factory. With its colorful visuals and memorable songs, "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" continues to enchant audiences of all ages.

Director: Mel Stuart
Cast: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson
Producer: Stan Margulies, David L. Wolper

5. Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Grossing Amount: $116 million

Description: Directed by Guy Hamilton, "Diamonds Are Forever" is the seventh James Bond film starring Sean Connery. In this action-packed adventure, Bond investigates a diamond smuggling operation that leads him to the nefarious Ernst Stavro Blofeld. With its thrilling set pieces and Connery's suave portrayal, "Diamonds Are Forever" solidified Bond's status as a cultural icon.

Director: Guy Hamilton
Cast: Sean Connery, Jill St. John
Producer: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman

6. The French Connection (1971)

Grossing Amount: $51.7 million

Description: Directed by William Friedkin, "The French Connection" is a gritty crime thriller based on true events. The film follows detectives Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy "Cloudy" Russo (Roy Scheider) as they uncover a massive heroin smuggling operation. With its intense car chases and realistic portrayal of police work, "The French Connection" set a new standard for the genre.

Director: William Friedkin
Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider
Producer: Philip D'Antoni

7. Shaft (1971)

Grossing Amount: $13 million

Description: Directed by Gordon Parks, "Shaft" is a groundbreaking action film starring Richard Roundtree as private detective John Shaft. Set in Harlem, the movie follows Shaft's investigation into a kidnapping case, navigating the gritty streets with style and swagger. With its iconic soundtrack and charismatic lead, "Shaft" became a cultural phenomenon and inspired a new wave of blaxploitation films.

Director: Gordon Parks
Cast: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn
Producer: Joel Freeman

8. Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

Grossing Amount: $12.3 million

Description: Directed by Don Taylor, "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" is the third installment in the "Planet of the Apes" series. The film follows chimpanzee scientists Cornelius and Zira as they travel back in time to 1970s Earth, facing prejudice and persecution. With its thought-provoking themes and compelling performances, "Escape from the Planet of the Apes" explores issues of identity and social commentary.

Director: Don Taylor
Cast: Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter
Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs

9. Carnal Knowledge (1971)

Grossing Amount: $28.6 million

Description: Directed by Mike Nichols, "Carnal Knowledge" is a provocative drama exploring the complexities of male relationships and sexuality. The film follows two college friends, Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) and Sandy (Art Garfunkel), as they navigate love, lust, and disillusionment over several decades. With its frank depiction of intimacy and stellar performances, "Carnal Knowledge" sparked debates about gender dynamics and societal norms.

Director: Mike Nichols
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel
Producer: Mike Nichols

10. The Last Picture Show (1971)

Grossing Amount: $29.1 million

Description: Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, "The Last Picture Show" is a poignant coming-of-age drama set in a small Texas town in the early 1950s. The film follows a group of high school friends as they grapple with love, loss, and the transition to adulthood against the backdrop of a fading movie theater. With its evocative cinematography and ensemble cast, "The Last Picture Show" captures the nostalgia and melancholy of a bygone era.

Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Cast: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd
Producer: Stephen J. Friedman, Peter Bogdanovich


The top-grossing movies of 1971 not only entertained audiences but also reflected the social, cultural, and political landscape of their time. These films continue to resonate with viewers, showcasing the enduring power of storytelling in cinema.

FAQs About the Movie Industry in 1971

  1. What were some significant trends in the movie industry in 1971?
    • The 1970s witnessed the rise of independent cinema and the emergence of new genres, including blaxploitation and disaster films.
  2. Who were some notable actors and actresses in the 1970s film industry?
    • Icons like Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, and Jack Nicholson rose to prominence during this era, leaving a lasting impact on cinema.

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