Stars of the 70s: 12 Leading Men and Women Who Were Household Names

The 1970s produced a new generation of film stars that took Hollywood by storm.

Whether they started their career in the 70s or ended it there, some of the biggest names in Hollywood are featured on this list. There are many more stars of the era, but these were some of the most popular.

1. Bruce Lee

Enter the Dragon (1973) Bruce Lee
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

How many young boys decided to take kung fu classes in the 70s because they wanted to be Bruce Lee? One of the most remarkable characters of the 70s, he brought a new wave of movies to the United States. Sadly, his career wasn’t a long one — he passed away in 1973. Luckily, we are left with great kung fu movies like Fist of Fury (1972) The Way of the Dragon (1972), and Enter the Dragon (1973).

2. Paul Newman

The Prize (1963) Paul Newman
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The younger generation might recognize Paul Newman from his face on salad dressing bottles. But he was a superstar in the 1970s. Not only was the man a gifted actor, but he also drove race cars. He starred in films including The Sting (1973), The Towering Inferno (1974), Pocket Money (1972), and the raunchy comedy Slap Shot (1977). It’s safe to say this man owned a portion of the 70s and is still one of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities, even though he died in 2008.

3. Gene Wilder

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) Gene Wilder
Image Credit: United Artists.

One of the funniest comedic actors of the 70s is making a wave of new fans laugh at his antics almost 50 years later. Known for his iconic role as the original Willy Wonka, Wilder made a generation of sugar-loving kids want to taste a snozzberry in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). He later struck comedy gold with Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, both from 1974. Suffice it to say, the 70s would have had a lot less laughter without funnyman Gene Wilder.

4. Madeline Kahn

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975) Madeline Kahn
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

It’s hard to mention Gene Wilder without mentioning Madeline Kahn, his co-star in Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. She was a true comedic genius, and their chemistry is perfect in these two films. Her natural beauty and comedic timing made her notable as a scene-stealing actress of the decade.

5. Marlon Brando

One-Eyed Jacks (1961) Marlon Brando
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Marlon Brando was already a bonafide star by the time the 70s rolled around, but this decade solidified his spot as one of the greatest actors ever. His Oscar-winning performance in The Godfather (1972) will go down in history as one of the greatest performances in cinema history. He followed that up with an Oscar nomination for Last Tango in Paris (1972) and also had an iconic role in Apocalypse Now (1979). His career faded after the 70s, but in this decade, he was king.

6. Jack Nicholson

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) Jack Nicholson
Image Credit: United Artists.

Before Jack starred as the psychopathic writer in The Shining (1980) or brought the villain Joker to life in Batman (1989), he was in some of the best movies of the 70s. Starring in over 10 movies during the decade, Nicholson became a household name as one of the most versatile actors of his generation. His films of the decade, including Chinatown (1974) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), the latter earning him an Academy Award for Best Actor.

7. Al Pacino

Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Al Pacino
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The 70s put Al Pacino on the map. He’s been a household name ever since he turned heads in the early part of the decade. It’s hard to imagine an actor having a better lineup of movies than Pacino did in the 70s. Hits like The Godfather (1972), The Godfather II (1974), Serpico (1973), and Dog Day Afternoon (1975) were all successful. Pacino turned this decade of excellence into one of the most prolific careers any actor has ever seen.

8. Burt Reynolds

White Lightning (1973) Burt Reynolds
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

How many men wanted to be Burt Reynolds, and how many women wanted to be with Burt Reynolds in the 70s? He and his iconic mustache were the epitome of the Hollywood heartthrob. He starred in hit after hit during the decade. Some of his most famous performances were Deliverance (1972), The Longest Yard (1974), and the action-packed Smokey and the Bandit (1977). Burt and the 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in that movie helped me understand the definition of “cool” when I was a kid.

9. Carrie Fisher

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Carrie Fisher
Image Credit: 20th Century-Fox.

Fisher only had one major acting credit under her belt before she landed the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).  This role brought her near-instant fame and a place in the hearts of sci-fi nerds worldwide. She became one of the leading ladies in Hollywood during the 1980s, but she got her start in the 70s.

10. Jane Fonda

All's Well (1972) Jane Fonda
Image Credit: Gaumont.

Jane Fonda had a resurgence of success in the 2000s, but her run in the 1970s was pretty impressive. Starring in hits like Klute (1971), Fun With Dick and Jane (1977), The China Syndrome (1979), and The Electric Horseman (1979). She balanced the ability to be funny with being a sex symbol.

11. Clint Eastwood

Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Clint Eastwood is the epitome of the tough guy. Almost every role he tackled involved a good guy with a rough streak. Evidence of this persona can be seen in Dirty Harry (1971), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), and The Gauntlet (1977). This persona made every man want to be as rigid and cool as Eastwood. He continued his legacy for the rest of the century and is still making hits today.

12. Diane Keaton

Reds Diane Keaton
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Diane Keaton was one of Hollywood’s most sought-after women and many a young man’s first crush in the 70s. She landed her first significant role in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). She went on to make comedies with Sleeper (1973) and Love and Death (1975). She won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in the 1977 Woody Allen hit Annie Hall.

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