The Most Far-Out Modern Movies Set in the Disco Era

In anticipation for the upcoming David O. Russell movie American Hustle, we’re celebrating the 1970s with a look at our favorite modern-day films set in the disco era. Based on the FBI Abscam operation in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the movie centers around a cunning con man (Christian Bale) and his partner (Amy Adams), who are forced to cooperate with the FBI. Besides being excited to watch Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper reunite on screen, we’re also looking forward to the leisure suits, perms, and boogying. The ’70s, which has been called “a pivot of change” and the “Me Decade,” had one of the most distinct looks and feels (everyone wanted to look fabulous and go dancing), and lends itself well to cinema. Before American Hustle comes out, let’s revisit all the best modern movies set in the 1970s.

Boogie Nights

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Boogie Nights featured a phenomenal cast playing various characters in the 1970s adult film industry. Mark Wahlberg turned out a career-making performance as Dirk Diggler, an up-and-coming porn star who rose to fame in the Golden Age of Porn. Movies about the porn industry are never warm and fuzzy, though, and the movie presents a very real and harrowing look at how easily one can spiral out of control in the business.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is easily one of the most iconic movies of all time. The title character (Tom Hanks), though limited in his intelligence, experiences the most significant historic moments of the ’60s and ’70s. ForrestΒ  fights in the Vietnam War, meets Lyndon B. Johnson, speaks at anti-war rallies with hippies, discovers the Watergate break-in, defeats China in ping-pong, and runs across the country several times. Everything from the political climate to the fashion and soundtrack paints a picture of the time period to a tee.

Summer of Sam

Spike Lee‘s Summer of Sam centers around a group of people caught up in the frenzy of one of the most infamous summers in U.S. history. In 1977, a serial killer calling himself Son of Sam terrorized New York City as he went on a killing spree shooting women in parked cars and wrote letters to the media warning that he would kill again. The movie depicts the fear that New Yorkers lived in during those fraught months, while also touching on the rise of punk music and the relationship between organized crime leaders and the NYPD.


As if the ’70s weren’t pronounced enough as an era, the ’70s in Las Vegas was a visual overload of bell-bottoms, colorful leisure suits, and gold jewelry. Martin Scorsese‘s Casino follows three characters intertwined in a corrupt casino as they rise to power and then crumble as the FBI, government officials, and the mafia take down their empire. Sharon Stone (as Ginger) shines in the film, both in her performance and in her glittery gowns.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

The time period may not be the first thing you think of when you thinkΒ Anchorman, but Ron Burgundy and his news team did rock some pretty serious ’70s moustaches, sideburns, and leisure suits between them. Not to mention Veronica Corningstone’s sharp skirtsuits.

Almost Famous

The 1970s created some of the best rock bands in history, and Almost Famous is a celebration of the rich decade for music. Based on director Cameron Crowe‘s own experience as a teenage rock journalist for Rolling Stone, the coming-of-age film sees protagonist William go from his typical high school life with a strict mom to life on the road with fictional band Stillwater. The movie’s soundtrack alone will completely take you back to the time period.

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused makes high school look so much more fun in 1976 than 2013, especially the last day of school. The movie follows the course of one day and night, as the incoming freshmen get hazed by next year’s seniors, kids try marijuana for the first time, and everybody lets loose at a keg party. And who can forget Matthew McConaughey in his tight t-shirt and pink bell-bottoms as the creepy older guy who still picks up high school girls?