New Hollywood

The New Hollywood designates an American cinematic movement from the late 1960s to the early 1980s , which significantly modernizes Hollywood film production . This cinema, inscribed in the counter-culture and influenced by Italian neorealism , European modernity and the Nouvelle Vague française, is characterized by the takeover of directors in the major American studios and the radical representation of previously taboo themes like violence, the corruption of the political powers, the massacre of the Indians or sexuality . The New Hollywood also renews the classic genres of American cinema ( western , film noir ) or “deconstructed” by disregarding the conventions of these.

The relatively short period of New Hollywood is considered one of the most important phases of American cinema from an artistic point of view, and reveals many directors like Steven Spielberg , George Lucas , Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese , Brian De Palma , Michael Cimino and Dennis Hopper .

The “old Hollywood”

The Golden Age

The classic era of American cinema preceding the New Hollywood is often referred to as the “golden age”, referring to the cinema produced by the majors from the early 1930s to the late 1950s . The films are marked by the production structures and cinematographic genres , which have come together since the days of silent cinema , just like the star system of the “dream industry”. Generally, the works of the golden age are classified according to a well defined genre ( comedy , western , adventure movie …) and include stars identified with a precise register ( Cary Grantin comedy seducer , John Wayne as a virile western hero , Errol Flynn twirling adventure film protagonist etc.). For decades, the majors control the entire production and film production chain: from writing to distribution to production and editing.. The leaders of the big firms order the script to an author on a subject that they determine. They then define the budget and the preparation time and choose actors, director and technical collaborators. The decision on the final assembly is theirs before ensuring the promotion and distribution. Every major studio – Warner , MGM , Twentieth Century Fox , Paramount , Columbia, and Universal – has a stable of actors, directors, and star writers. In addition, everyone has his favorite genre and his own aesthetic. The great directors of the golden age, like John Ford andHoward Hawks , see themselves primarily as privileged employees of the production of empires for which they sign entertainment calibrated that print, implicitly, their own style 1 .

The classic rules

Hollywood classicism, which triumphed in the 1930s , respects the Hays code of censorship that major corporations have called for in order to broadcast their films throughout the US, including the most conservative and puritanical states. Some taboo subjects can only be mentioned in a roundabout way (notably sexuality). The purpose must be consistent with mainstream thinking. In general, the scenarios show protagonists linked to a quest. They undergo a narrative and psychological evolution, are eminently positive and serve a moral purpose. If they are initially bad (as in gangster movies), they will be severely punished. The story is fluid and decent and the way of arranging it elegant and understandable. The directors are required to respect a rigorous audiovisual grammar: staging centered on the actors, readable plans, rule of the connections , assembly softened etc.

The big names

This production system, run by the majors in the silent film era , is a powerful, productive and lucrative industry, both commercially and artistically. This automation in the making of films includes a strict division of labor and respect for agreements made with professional guilds that prohibit screenwriters from staging their own stories. Despite this rigid system, renowned filmmakers like Frank Capra , Howard Hawks , John Ford , William Wyler , King Vidor , Leo McCarey , William A. Wellman , Raoul Walsh ,Ernst Lubistch , Josef von Sternberg , Alfred Hitchcock , Orson Welles , Joseph L. Mankiewicz , Vicente Minelli , John Huston , Preston Sturges , George Cukor , Stanley Donen , Anthony Mann , Otto Preminger and Billy Wilder find a certain autonomy, increase their prestige and create reference films, even works-monuments which base their singular, personal and inimitable style. At that time, most of the best directors , writers ,actors , conductors and composers of all nationalities emigrate to Hollywood thanks to the comfort of work. The technical quality of the films is of a notable level.

A new era

The formula for success is variable, and when television arrives , Hollywood feels threatened. The film industry replicates by producing monumental epics and great peplums like The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur . It also invents or popularizes new technical innovations such as CinemaScope and VistaVision . Many “Old Hollywood” movies take place in an idealized world and appeal to an audience seeking entertainment that does not wish to be confronted with any unpleasant social or political reality.

The crisis

In the early 1960s , the Hollywood “dream factory”, and the recipes that had previously proven themselves, are at a standstill. In 1963 , the financial pitfall of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s epic shooting of Cleopatra and his insufficient operational yield failed to sink the Fox . The careers of renowned filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford decline, and the stars of the “Golden Age” are either gone ( Humphrey Bogart , Gary Cooper ), or on the return ( Cary Grant , John Wayne ). The studio bosses, all very old asJack Warner , have held their posts since the era of silent film and are unable to mount projects likely to appeal to spectators no longer belonging to their generation. More and more films are produced for an audience that no longer exists, and, in a desperate attempt to win back, the majors commit huge sums in monumental films or musicals . Studios have a hard time countering TV, the new big media. The drastic decline in room attendance brings them to the verge of bankruptcy and forces them to drastic budget cuts or a consequent reduction in staff. Leaders of big firms lose control over financing and filmmaking.

New Hollywood is interfering

First successes

The artistic void that can be felt in Hollywood in the mid -1960s allows young filmmakers to establish a new way of doing cinema. In 1967 , a year after the definitive abandonment of the Hays code , Arthur Penn made Bonnie and Clyde a gangster movie whose skeptical anti- establishment position broke the taboos of Hollywood 2 in a style of harsh, lyrical , modern narrative. . This film meets the spirit of its time and is extremely successful. The same year, Mike Nichols seduced with his film The Winner , in whichDustin Hoffman , who is revealed to the public and to the critics with this film, portrays a character in rebellion against the boring, stale and “petty-bourgeois” world of his parents’ generation.

The first big success that records the New Hollywood is the road movie Easy Rider with Dennis Hopper ( 1969 ), featuring the journey of two bikers – played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda – amid a deep conservative and racist America . Easy Rider , which costs less than $ 400,000, is greeted enthusiastically by the ” Woodstock Generation  “. He is experiencing tremendous commercial success around the world and is winning approximately $ 60 million. The film also launches the fashion of the road movie protestnaire as Point limit zero ( 1971 ) of Richard C. Sarafian, Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Macadam ( 1972 ) , Jerry Schatzberg’s The Scarecrow ( 1973 ), and Terrence Malick’s The Wild Stroll ( 1975 ) .

Director Robert Altman , then on television , turns in the midst of the Vietnam war M * A * S * H ( 1970 ), a caustic and antimilitaristic satire on the Korean War , where the heroes (including Donald Sutherland ) lead the war. military code to the point of absurdity. With Nashville ( 1975 ) and Three Women ( 1977 ), Altman explores new modes of choral narration and paints a kaleidoscopic, truculent and incisive portrait of deep America.

Former editor Hal Ashby performs Harold and Maude and The Last Corvée two New Hollywood films with a fresh look at social behavior. John Cassavetes , who previously played in commercial productions and series B ( The Twelve Thieves ), films as a director the crises and neuroses of the middle- aged forty-year-olds of the American middle class ( Faces , 1968 ).


Hollywood veteran director Sam Peckinpah is signing some inimitable, poetic and pessimistic third-generation westerns like The Wild Horde or Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid . Sympathy Peckinpah will ostensibly to off-the-law in situations of failure – like the endearing bandit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid of George Roy Hill ( 1969 ) – before an all-powerful State that befall them mercilessly . In Little Big Man (1969), satirical and entertaining “antiwestern”, Dustin Hoffman embodies a friendly anti-hero in the midst ofIndian wars . The film’s friendly Indians contrast with the portrayal of national hero George Armstrong Custer as a brutal psychopath .

In John McCabe ( 1971 ), Robert Altman frees himself from all the rules of the genre and draws the portrait of a disillusioned adventurer in a muddy city of the West. In Arthur Penn ‘s The Missouri Breaks ( 1975 ), Marlon Brandoplays a strange killer parodying the traditional western bandits. Robert Redford plays Sydney Pollack as a young trapper who discovers the beauty and cruelty of the Rockies ( Jeremiah Johnson , 1971). Spaghetti western superstar Clint Eastwood , as a director, pays homage to the baroque genre that brought him to life and to his director-fetish Sergio Leone in The Man of the High Plains ( 1971 ).


In the late 1960s , the humorist of theater Woody Allen begins to represent the neuroses – often sexual – of a modern city in original comedy, filled with a Jewish humor corrosive New York, like Annie Hall or Manhattan , assisted by the innovative photography of Gordon Willis . With his glasses and his frail silhouette, Allen, first role in most of his films, becomes the emblematic figure of the anti-heroof this time. In his films, the plot is based on an intimate and sentimental frame reduced to the bare minimum. The protagonist is constantly frustrated and frustrated in the achievement of unclear and contradictory objectives. The principle of the quest for the hero, present in the Hollywood classic cinema, is largely put in crisis.

Woody Allen, scriptwriter and director, is also the actor of his creations. This freedom is made possible by the United Artists who produced films in the 1970s from which it derives some benefit as well cultural and popular as pecuniary.

Mel Brooks creates a series of parody films such as Frankenstein Junior ( 1974 ) or Mel Brooks’ The Last Folly ( 1976 ) in which the time of the classic Hollywood is disrespectfully mocked but without animosity.

Horror Movies

With The Night of the Living Dead , shot without means, George A. Romero lays the foundation for the modern horror film in which the mutant zombie menace of city ​​dwellers symbolizes a society sclerotic by racism and mass consumption . Always under difficult financial conditions, John Carpenter turns a series of critical thrillers initiated with Assault ( 1976 ) and Halloween, the night masks ( 1978 ), characterized by their dark and pessimistic atmosphere. In Texas Chainsaw Massacre( 1974 ) by Tobe Hooper , peaceful provincial hippies are brutally murdered by farmers. Rosemary’s Baby ( 1968 ), The Exorcist and The Curse portray “children-demons” – these three films can be interpreted as allegories about the generation conflict of the time.

Brian De Palma with Carrie ( 1976 ) and Stanley Kubrick with The Shining ( 1979 ) adapt in their own way the horror novelist hit Stephen King . Both deliver a cult work in which a set of references and complex signs punctuates a hypnotic, virtuoso and conceptual staging that scrutinizes the murderous disintegration of the family unit or the intrusion of morbid impulses into Anglo-Saxon Puritanism .

Science fiction

The science fiction films of New Hollywood are distinguished by their pessimistic and critical climate towards civilization . In The Planet of the Apes ( 1967 ) and The Survivor ( 1970 ), Charlton Heston ventures into oppressive post-apocalyptic worlds . Green Sun ( 1973 , still with Heston) shows the terminal phase of Western civilization under the influence of fog , pollution and a new form of cannibalism . InDouglas Trumbull’s Silent Running ( 1972 ), the last forests of the Earth are maintained in a spaceship – greenhouse . In Robert Wise’s The Mystere Andromeda ( 1971 ), external micro-organisms attack a secret laboratory, inRomero’s Night of the Crazy Fools ( 1973 ), military chemical substances mutate peaceful villagers into killers. In 1971 , Stanley Kubrick provoked a resounding scandal at the release of his anticipation movie Clockwork Orange , adapted fromAnthony Burgess , in which a band of idle youths delights in acts of ultra-violence.

John Carpenter describes in Dark Star ( 1974 ) the absurd adventures of the occupation of a ship whose task is to annihilate “unstable planets”. In George Lucas’ THX 1138 ( 1971 ) , the blunt victims of a sanitized dictatorship rebel against their executioner. Phase IV ( 1974 ) by Saul Bass tells the story of a team of scientists in a futile struggle against a society of ants of superior intelligence. Finally the movie Alien – The eighth passenger of Ridley Scott, which revolutionizes the aesthetics and narration of the science-fiction film, represents through a nightmarish atmosphere the extermination of a spaceship crew by an extraterrestrial .

Music Movies

Popular music from the 1960s – 1970s is widely used as a soundtrack in New Hollywood movies. Alongside are produced musicals such as Head ( 1968 ), in which Bob Rafelson (a scenario Jack Nicholson ) chronicles the adventures excited and psychedelic pop-rock group The Monkees , inspired by the movies of the Beatles to Richard Lester . The famous choreographer Bob Fosse returns to the dark hours of history and merges references to painting, expressionist cinema, theater and Broadway musical tradition in Cabaret ( 1972 ) which won eight Oscars . Documentary filmmaker DA Pennebaker filmed a tour of Bob Dylan in Dont Look Back ( 1967 ) and the Monterey Pop Festival (1968). The film Michael Wadleigh on Woodstock is considered a document witnessed the “generation flower power  “. In The Last Waltz , Martin Scorsese filmed the farewell concert by The Band . In 1979 ,Hair of Miloš Forman becomes the first musical on the hippie movementand protest youth.

Two generations of filmmakers

Two waves of filmmakers seized power in large firms in the 1970s . The first is that directors born in the years 1930  : Peter Bogdanovich , Francis Ford Coppola , Stanley Kubrick , Dennis Hopper , Mike Nichols , Woody Allen , Bob Fosse , Robert Benton , Arthur Penn , John Cassavetes , Alan J. Pakula , Paul Mazursky , Bob Rafelson , Hal Ashby , William Friedkin ,Robert Altman , Michael Cimino and Richard Lester 1 .

The second is the baby boomer who did not know the Second World War and attended film schools: Martin Scorsese , Steven Spielberg , George Lucas , John Milius , Paul Schrader , Brian De Palma or Terrence Malick 1 .

Opening on the foreigner and new system

The New Hollywood Revolution opens the doors of major studios to unique and radical British filmmakers like John Schlesinger ( Macadam Cowboy ), John Boorman ( Deliverance ), Karel Reisz ( The Flambeur , The Warriors of Hell), Ken Russel ( Love ) and Nicolas Roeg ( Do not go back ). It also allows European writers, either beginners or established, to make a career in the United States  : Miloš Forman ( Taking Off , Flight over a cuckoo’s nest), Roman Polanski ( Rosemary’s Baby , Chinatown ), Bernardo Bertolucci ( The Last Tango in Paris , 1900 ), Sergio Leone ( Once Upon a Time in America ) or Louis Malle ( La Petite , Atlantic City ) 1 .

In addition, some big names of the previous generation such as Don Siegel and John Huston find again the way to realize masterpieces, in complete freedom: The Inspector Harry , The Man who wanted to be king or The Last Chance ( Fat City ) 1 . Former filmmakers on the ”  blacklist  “, in the McCarthyism era , are rehabilitated and come back to the fore with intimate and militant feature films like Martin Ritt ( Norma Rae ).

New Hollywood also honors independent filmmakers such as Sydney Pollack ( Finishing the Horses ) and Sidney Lumet ( Serpico ) and allows actors like Jack Nicholson , Clint Eastwood , Peter Fonda , Paul Newman , Robert Redford and Warren. Beatty to become directors 1 . Similarly, talented writers like Paul Schrader and John Miliuspass, with ease and success, to the realization. The time of the classic Hollywood blocking all professional gateways is over.

The director-writer

In most New Hollywood films, the director holds a central place. He is responsible for the history and the artistic look that results. He has the final cut , that is to say he decides until the end of the editing of his film. In previous productions of Hollywood, only producers or studio directors held the final authority 3 .

The spirit of freedom and independence prevails, including in the most expensive projects. Most directors of New Hollywood recognize themselves in the European tradition of auteur cinema where the director is considered as the main creator of the film and is involved as well in scriptwriting as production and editing 1 . Many of the innovations of the New Hollywood – stylistic or narrative – are a continuation of the French New Wave , Italian neorealism , the British Free Cinema and modern filmmakers of the 1960s ( Ingmar Bergman , Federico Fellini ,Michelangelo Antonioni , Alain Resnais , Andrey Tarkovsky , etc.).

New film directors are very enthusiastic about the quality of European cinema and admire directors such as Roberto Rossellini , François Truffaut , Jean-Luc Godard , Resnais , Jean Renoir , Bergman , Fellini , Carl Theodor Dreyerand Luis Buñuel . Luchino Visconti and Antonioni . They also welcome filmmakers from Asia such as Akira Kurosawa , Kenji Mizoguchi and Satyajit Ray .

They then ostensibly distance themselves from commercial Hollywood productions and follow an original path that leads them to express a personal vision in subtle and mature works. As with Godard, Truffaut, Antonioni or Bergman, their style goes against the classic rules: the stories take a slower pace and are apparently less structured, the characters seem more opaque, ambivalent or inaccessible and are sometimes without desire for action , the meaning is less legible, the values ​​exhibited more complex and abstract and the ends more open, even ambiguous ( Orange mechanical , Serpico , A woman under influence , Nashville , Taxi Driver). On the example of Fellini, Buñuel and Bergman, some works recreate a form of fantasy memory and autofiction ( Annie Hall ) or abolish the boundaries between dream, hallucination, mythology and reality ( Apocalypse Now , Let the show begin , Shining ) .

New themes, new techniques, new stars


The films of New Hollywood are concerned with the subjects of society and evoke the protest movements born in May 1968 . They do not hesitate to stage the rebellions of youth for the liberalization of society and against the numb socio-political structures or the war of Vietnam . It is not uncommon to hear in the soundtracks of the films the music bands that symbolize these aspirations, such as Bob Dylan , Cat Stevens , Simon and Garfunkel , The Doors , Steppenwolf or The Rolling Stones .

The engagement in Vietnam, its atrocities, its absurdity and its repercussions on the individual are precisely questioned in films as different as The Return ( 1978 ) of Hal Ashby , Hair or Journey to the end of the hell ( 1978 ) of Michael Cimino and Apocalypse Now ( 1979 ) by Francis Ford Coppola , two epic frescoes whose planetary triumph renews the aesthetics and treatment of the war film .

The stories of New Hollywood do not unfold in an idyllic and hermetic world, but give way to a realistic view of the individuals and their problems. We do not raise the protagonists as heroes, but we question their actions and analyze their deep motivations. Many of them clash with realities without finding remedies, or end up with their failure – often fatal – as martyrs of a “system” that has morally defeated them. Often, the characters are confronted with a violence that is not justified by an emergency law intended to find the community and social balance as in the old westerns. Power and barbarism are intimately linked and the official ideology is questioned, especially on the vision of history: the Indians for example are no longer shown as a bellicose and hostile people but as victims of massacres orchestrated by whites ( Little Big Man , Jeremiah Johnson ).

The representatives of the authority or the traditional social structures (State, family, Church …) are corrupt, psychopaths and plotters. The conservative and obsolete values ​​of the middle class are mocked or castigated. The nauseating ideology and ordinary racism of deep America are denounced in the example of Norman Jewison’s Heat of the Night ( 1967 ) . Men of power, the high placed themselves as moral bankruptcy. Behind appearances of propriety, they lead opaque maneuvers worthy of the secret services threatening harmless average citizens. Sex, immorality and extreme violence, previously censored by the Hays code, mingle in twilight and desperate stories. New Hollywood reflects the state of insecurity and paranoia of the Vietnam and Watergate era .

Techniques and aesthetics

On the technical side , several innovations allow new styles of storytelling and image to hatch. Like the New Wave , filmmakers can leave the sets to shoot outdoors with lighter cameras and more daylight-sensitive film. Sometimes, a quasi- documentary style in natural light and without additional lighting is developed. The city, which is filmed as is, with its crowded streets and contrasting soundscapes, supplants the studio decorations. The typical aesthetic of these urban films can be defined as that of “documentaries staged” ( Macadam Cowboy , French Connection ,Mean Streets ) with a very innovative use of the camera range. This realistic approach, which aims to bring an objective point of view to the world, is often paradoxically combined with an expressionist style- whose stylistic bias highlights the subjectivity of the gaze. The leading figures of this new, realistic cinema are documentary filmmakers Richard Leacock , DA Pennebaker , and Albert and David Maysles .

Influenced by European modernity, the filmmakers of New Hollywood deviate from the technical and aesthetic canons of the golden age. New York directors in particular ( John Cassavetes and Woody Allen for fiction and Shirley Clarke for documentary) are distinguished by the rejection of the standards of the great Hollywood show. They develop a personal and quasi-experimental cinema: no or few fields-contrechamps , plans inscribed in the duration, repeated use of the panoramic , unstable or non-posed frames etc.

Under the impulse of the alternative rock bands and the utopian youth of the Summer of Love and the Woodstock Festival in which he recognizes himself, several filmmakers of New Hollywood do not hide their significant drug consumption and evoke or illustrate, through their images, psychedelia in vogue 4 .


The big roles of New Hollywood do not usually come back to well-established Hollywood stars, many of whom had a career decline in the late 1960s . They are replaced by performers far from the physical canons of the genre, without real glamor, but with an undoubted talent and quickly recognized. With the intention of introducing a new naturalism and greater expressiveness of the characters’ game, the careers of Gene Hackman , Robert Duvall , Martin Sheen , James Caan , John Cazale , Gene Wilder , Richard Dreyfuss , Donald Sutherland , Elliott Gouldor Bruce Dern . Many of these actors, who come from the “off” Broadway scene , could only have aspired to small supporting roles in the old Hollywood system.

Jack Nicholson , Robert De Niro , Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino represent the major players of this era. Thanks to their intensive engagement, their magnetism and their extreme way of “inhabiting” their characters, they earn their stripes of “superstars” and Hollywood myths that still last today.

Warren Beatty et Robert Redford deviennent également les stars de premier plan du Nouvel Hollywood. Malgré leur allure plus conforme au stéréotype d’acteur-star, ils apportent à leur jeu un scepticisme, une ambivalence et une mélancolie à l’opposé du glamour. De plus, ils assument les fonctions de réalisateur et producteur. Jon Voight et Ryan O’Neal, également remarqués pour leur physique, interprètent des rôles marquants du Nouvel Hollywood. Des acteurs déjà reconnus comme Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds, Steve McQueen ou Burt Lancaster travaillent avec les plus importants réalisateurs du mouvement. La légende Marlon Brando, après un « trou » de carrière, est relancée grâce à Francis Ford Coppola et ses rôles dans Le Parrain et Apocalypse Now.

Les thèmes « masculins » du Nouvel Hollywood laissent peu de place aux actrices pour les principaux rôles. Parmi les actrices ayant émergé du mouvement, on compte Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, Diane Keaton, Jill Clayburgh, Maggie Smith, Liza Minnelli, Ellen Burstyn, Shelley Duvall, Susan Sarandon, Sissy Spacek, Karen Black ou encore Meryl Streep.

Techniciens et producteurs

Whereas before, the big companies and the star system determined the name and the place of the chief technicians on a film according to the actors and the aesthetic signature claimed by each studio, it is now the filmmakers who choose their collaborators. The new generation of technicians from all over the world knows how to serve the artistic vision of the directors whose style it radiates. Of cinematographers , designers , costume designers , editors and sound engineers virtuoso and innovative emerging in the new film industry: Dede Allen , Néstor Almendros ,Bill Butler , Milena Canonero , Caleb Deschanel , Conrad L. Hall , László Kovács , Walter Murch , Thelma Schoonmaker , Dean Tavoularis , Haskell Wexler , Gordon Willis and Vilmos Zsigmond .

In the same way, new heads of production play the role of talent discoverers within the studios. They become the linchpins of ambitious projects both financially and artistically and bring to the skies directors of the New Hollywood: David Begelman , David Brown , John Calley , Robert Chartoff , Barry Diller , Robert Evans , Gary Kurtz , Arthur Krim , Alan Ladd Jr. , Phillips Julia , Michael Phillips , Fred Roos , Bert Schneider , Irwin Winkler ,Saul Zaentz or Richard D. Zanuck .

The high point

Friedkin, Bogdanovich and Polanski

The New Hollywood reached its artistic and commercial peak in the early 1970s . Filmmakers who have not yet shot low-budget films are gaining considerable public and critical acclaim in both the United States and internationally.

In 1971, Friedkin initiated the prototype of the modern detective film with French Connection and composed with Gene Hackman his character of investigator of ”  stupas  ” fanatic latent racism. Friedkin reoffends two years later with L’Exorciste , a highly innovative horror film on a technical and plastic level that is becoming a global phenomenon.

Peter Bogdanovich, a very cinephile, knows the successes with his first films, the melancholy La Dernière Séance ( 1970 ) and the daring comedy ( 1972 ).

French-Polish novelist Roman Polanski , who has been in Hollywood for a number of years, surprises critics and audiences with the intrigue of drawers and the poisonous atmosphere of Chinatown ( 1974 ), brilliantly staged, in which Jack Nicholson plays a private detective slashed nose. Note that this is a commissioned work that the filmmaker totally appropriates and that raises, with Klute ( 1971 ) of Alan J. Pakula and Le Privé ( 1973 ) of Robert Altman , the fashion of the film blackwith an even darker and pessimistic approach than the 1940s . The initiator of Chinatown is producer Robert Evans , who entered Paramount in the 1960s and is behind some of New Hollywood’s greatest commercial successes such as Rosemary’s Baby , Love Story and The Godfather .

Francis Ford Coppola

The American of Lucan origin Coppola experiencing a wave of unprecedented triumphs. After winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for the biographical war movie Patton , he has fascinated audiences and critics with his monumental ” Godfather  ” fresco  about the Italian-American Mafia . The Godfather shows Marlon Brando in the often parodied role of baroque boss of the underworld, whose notion of honor is not shared by his successors and unscrupulous competitors. With his sequel The Godfather 2 ( 1974 ), and the fascinating and grand epic about Vietnam Apocalypse Now , Coppola stands out as one of the most influential and powerful directors of the 1970s . He is the only filmmaker to have signed a film and his sequel crowned by the Oscar for best film ( The Godfather 1 in 1973 and The Godfather 2 in 1975). In 1979, he opened the very exclusive club of two-time winners of the Palme d’Or atthe Cannes Film Festival (he won for Secret Conversation and Apocalypse Now ).

The films of Coppola, Friedkin and Bogdanovich have in common to have transformed the “radical chic” of New Hollywood into a more temperate style, intended for a wider audience, shortly before the decline of the movement, supplanted by the era of blockbusters .


Martin Scorsese

The director Martin Scorsese is an Italian-American like Coppola, like him and others, from the school of the producer of series B Roger Corman , who built an independent system effective and very lucrative. At home, the future stars of the realization practice staging, and actors like Jack Nicholson , Robert De Niro , Bruce Dern or Sylvester Stallone get their first roles.

Scorsese first convinced critics, public and profession in 1973 with Mean Streets , a portrait of realism supported by little mobsters wandering the streets of New York . He then realizes the naturalistic drama Alice is no longer here ( 1974 ) which denotes the influence of Cassavetes and is worth to Ellen Burstyn the Oscar of the best actress . In 1976 , he signed Taxi Driver , Palme d’Or at Cannes. The work, written by Paul Schrader and very distantly inspired by Albert Camus ‘ L’Etranger, mark his era and install the universe of predilection of the director: New York wildlife, characters drifting, confusion of good and evil, cathartic violence and metaphysical questioning. It is a huge success and almost immediately becomes a classic in the history of cinema . Robert De Niro reveals himself in the role of a veteran of uprooted Vietnam who begins a campaign of revenge in the slums of New York. The scary Raging Bull , where the performance of De Niro dates back, becomes in 1980 another Scorsian classic.

After the mid -1970s , the success of established New Hollywood filmmakers like Mike Nichols , Robert Altman or Arthur Penn dwindled. Other directors such as George Roy Hill , Miloš Forman , Sidney Lumet, and Alan J. Pakulaperform in an innovative style, hit movies, more accessible to the masses, such as L’Arnaque (1973), Vol au dessus of a cuckoo’s nest ( 1975 ), Network ( 1976 ) or Men of the President(1976). They combine the tradition of the New Hollywood, including the principle of social denunciation (in this case gangsterism, psychiatric treatment in force, the cynicism of television and state violence) to a story and a staging more suited to commercial standards.

Lucas, Spielberg and first blockbusters 

The decline of New Hollywood is parallel to the emergence of directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg , from the same generation. Former TV movie director Spielberg gets his attention with his thriller Duel and, with little initial success, begins a film career with Sugarland Express (1973), a variant of Bonnie and Clyde . Teeth of the sea , a huge success supported by effective marketing, becomes the precursor of summer blockbusters . With his optimistic and visually spectacular UFO film Rencontre du troisième typeSpielberg gives a counterpoint to the apocalyptic visions of traditional science fiction .

At that time, George Lucas surpassed the immense success of Spielberg. He signed a first big hit in 1973 with the nostalgic American Graffiti . In 1977 , his space opera Star Wars broke all entry records and established a new “religion” of popular culture . Star Wars , whose wonderful plot can be likened to a fairy tale or chivalric novel , advocates the formal structure of blockbustersof the following decade: well-identified characters, victory of the “good guys” over the “bad guys”, sentimental story ending well, as opposed to the controversial themes of New Hollywood. The abundance of sound and visual effects, the power of marketing and international merchandising (launching many derivative products) complete this “formula of success”, which is constantly being taken up in Hollywood ( Jurassic Park , Avatar … ).

The emergence of Spielberg and Lucas, who invent the “positive” blockbuster, seals the decline of the “old” New Hollywood, skeptical, critical and turned towards a mature artistic vision, modeled on European authors. These two filmmakers therefore take advantage of technological progress, especially in terms of sound and special effects , to renew the imagery of consumer cinema. The commercial triumphs that they undertake raise the economic situation of Hollywood and reorient the productions of studio towards the young public, now conditioned by the television. The big-budget films, which see the day, are based on the great spectacle, the action, the simplicity of Manichaean stories and the protagonists full of good feelings.

After the end of the Vietnam war and the fall of Richard Nixon , the mass public wants to see again light films to happy end , turned to the escape and the imaginary and not of constant evocations of social dysfunctions, moral , judicial or political. Many New Hollywood directors are experiencing artistic decline or heavy financial setbacks due to their megalomania and there is suddenly no room for their original cinematic vision. In the early 1980s , big-budget anti- establishment productions like The Paradise Door , The Blues Brothers or 1941are resounding commercial failures and studios are turning drastically towards formatted and lucrative films. The era of popcorn movies (popcorn films), intended for a large exploitation, is established. Producers took the opportunity to regain the total stranglehold they had lost twenty years ago on the financing, production and editing of films.


During the Reagan era , despite residual productions like Warren Beatty’s Reds ( 1981 ), which evokes the birth of the American socialist and communist movements , studio cinema is moving towards optimistic and patriotic success, intimately linked to ideology. of State ( Rambo 2: The Mission , Top Gun ). Spielberg and Lucas consolidate their position as directors-producers through lucrative trilogies ( Star Wars , Indiana Jones , Back to the Future). They put together smoother, less personal projects that abound with special effects and turn resolutely towards entertainment . The generation of entertainers is launched, promoted and produced largely by Spielberg and Lucas. This establishes the basis of a new and spectacular children’s cinema ( Willow , Who wants the skin of Roger Rabbit ). Robert Zemeckis , Ron Howard or James Cameron supplant their elders. Major action films like Terminator , Aliens the Return , RoboCop and Crystal Trapbecome global successes and found a new subgenre. The superficiality of commercials and clips is adapted to the screen successfully ( Flashdance , 9 1/2 weeks ). These planetary triumphs bolster the majors who acquire a better control of the diffusion, the promotion and the sale of the films on television. The economic globalization strengthens their supremacy on the market and places them in the hands of big trusts .

Important filmmakers from the previous two decades like Coppola , Penn and Nichols lose their influence and settle into the routine of command films. The career of Friedkin , Bogdanovich , Ashby (who dies in 1988), Altman and Scorsese stagnates; that of Lumet, Hill and Pakula declines and that of Cimino collapses. New filmmakers, who claim the influence of the New Hollywood but remain tied to the mainstream industry, end up dethroning them in the eyes of the public and voters at the Oscars likeOliver Stone , James L. Brooks and Barry Levinson .

The end

In the mid -1980s , the time of New Hollywood was definitely over, but veterans like Altman or Scorsese returned to critical and public success in the 1990s ( The Affranchis , The Player , Short Cuts , Casino ). In parallel, new filmmakers, mostly from independent production , appear. They sign works conforming to the requirements of the studios but their singular and personal style find the means to express themselves: Tim Burton , Michael Mann , Quentin Tarantino , Steven Soderbergh ,David Fincher or the Coen brothers . Other young, original filmmakers, close to the European notion of ”  auteur film  “, however, enter into open conflict with the majors ( Paul Thomas Anderson , James Gray ). Big names in New Hollywood, like Terrence Malick , are back on the public stage, but prefer to evolve freely in independent circuits.

Note that Clint Eastwood continues to enjoy his acting prestige to consolidate his status as a major and independent director in the Hollywood industry.

The post-New Hollywood and the possible renewal

Since the late 1990s , facing a global film production in decline, several TV series , acclaimed by critics, are considered the heirs of narrative and formal research and legal questions and sociopolitical New Hollywood: The Soprano , The Wire , Weeds , The Walking Dead , Boardwalk Empire , Homeland , Mad Men or Breaking Bad 5 .

For their part, the war machines of the studios and the blockbusters continue to assert their monopoly thanks to the development of the multiplexes ( Titanic , Matrix , the Lord of the rings , Avatar , Inception , the films of superheroes …) and revolutionize the techniques of digital imaging . Nevertheless, some filmmakers like the veteran Scorsese and Ang Lee are trying, through the big companies, to use computer-generated images and 3D projection to make films for big show more mature and cinephiles ( Hugo Cabret , The Odyssey of Pi).

The independent film , very productive, also seems to take over the New Hollywood and is in an identical form of immediate reactivity with political and historical news ( Hurt and Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow , Fair Game by Doug Liman . ..). In addition, several big American stars command, with more or less commercial success, committed and militant films that they produce, write or carry out in the minds of filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s  : Brad Pitt finances An undefeated heart that treats of the assassination ofDaniel Pearl , Matt Damon writes and produces Promised Land on the exploitation of shale gas , Angelina Jolie realizes In the land of blood and honey that goes back on the wars of Yugoslavia , George Clooney signs Good Night and Good Luck on McCarthyism and Ben Affleck starring Argo ( Oscar for Best Picture ) about the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979 .

In 2013, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg , who had yet established the supremacy of blockbusters thirty years earlier, publicly predict the failure of future big productions, too turned to the adolescent public and a new implosion of Hollywood studios 6 , 7 .

Iconic Movies of New Hollywood

  • 1967: Winner of Mike Nichols , Bonnie and Clyde of Arthur Penn
  • 1968: The Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero
  • 1969: Easy Rider with Dennis Hopper , The Wild Bunch of Sam Peckinpah , Midnight Cowboy by John Schlesinger
  • 1970: M * A * S * H by Robert Altman
  • 1971: The Last Session of Peter Bogdanovich , French Connection of William Friedkin , Clockwork Orange of Stanley Kubrick
  • 1972: The Godfather of Francis Ford Coppola
  • 1973: American Graffiti from George Lucas , Badlands of Terrence Malick
  • 1974: Chinatown of Roman Polanski , The Godfather 2 by Francis Ford Coppola
  • 1975: Flight over a cuckoo’s nest of Milos Forman
  • 1976: Taxi Driver of Martin Scorsese
  • 1977: Annie Hall of Woody Allen
  • 1978 Halloween night masks of John Carpenter , The Deer Hunter by Michael Cimino
  • 1979 Apocalypse Now of Francis Ford Coppola , Manhattan of Woody Allen
  • 1980: Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese , The Paradise Door by Michael Cimino

Iconic filmmakers with a selection of films

  • Woody Allen : Take the sorrel and pull yourself (1969), All you ever wanted to know about sex without ever daring to ask (1972), Woody and the Robots (1973), Annie Hall (1977 – Oscar of the best movie ), Manhattan (1979)
  • Robert Altman : M * A * S * H (1970 – Palme d’Or ), John McCabe (1971), The Private (1973), Nashville (1975), Three Women (1977)
  • Hal Ashby : Harold and Maude (1971), The Last Corvée (1973), Shampoo (1975)
  • John G. Avildsen  : Save the Tiger (1973), Rocky (1976 – Oscar for Best Picture )
  • Warren Beatty  : Reds (1981)
  • Robert Benton  : Kramer vs. Kramer (1979 – Oscar for Best Picture )
  • Bernardo Bertolucci  : The Last Tango in Paris (1972), 1900 (1976)
  • Peter Bogdanovich : The Target (1968), The Last Sitting (1971), Is the Suitcase Packed, Doctor? (1972), Cotton Candy (1973)
  • John Boorman : The Point of No Return (1967), Deliverance (1972)
  • Mel Brooks : The Producers (1968), The Sheriff Is In Jail (1974), Frankenstein Junior (1974)
  • John Carpenter : Dark Star (1974), Assault (1976), Halloween, Night of the Masks (1978)
  • John Cassavetes : Husbands (1970), A Woman Under Influence (1974), Murder of a Chinese Bookmaker (1976)
  • Michael Cimino : Journey to the End of Hell (1978 – Oscar for Best Picture ), The Gate of Paradise (1980)
  • Francis Ford Coppola : The Godfather (1972 – Oscar for Best Picture ), The Godfather 2 (1974 – Oscar for Best Picture ), Secret Conversation (1974 – Golden Palm ), Apocalypse Now (1979 – Golden Palm )
  • Roger Corman  : The Trip (1967), Bloody Mama (1970), Gas-sss (1971)
  • Brian De Palma  : Sisters of Blood (1973), Phantom of the Paradise , (1974) Carrie at the Devil’s Ball (1976)
  • Clint Eastwood : A Thrill in the Night (1971), The Highlander Man (1971), Breezy (1973), Josey Wales Outlaw (1976), Bronco Billy (1980)
  • Peter Fonda  : The Man Without Borders (1971)
  • Miloš Forman  : Flight over a Cuckoo’s Nest (1975 – Oscar for Best Picture ), Hair (1978)
  • Bob Fosse  : Cabaret (1972), Lenny (1974), Let the show begin (1979 – Palme d’Or )
  • Costa-Gavras  : Missing (1982 – Palme d’Or )
  • William Friedkin  : French Connection (1971 – Oscar for Best Picture ), The Exorcist (1973)
  • Monte Hellman : The Shooting (1967), Two-Lane Macadam (1971)
  • George Roy Hill : Butch Cassidy and the Kid (1969), Abattoir 5 (1972), The Scam (1973 – Oscar for Best Picture )
  • Tobe Hooper : Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  • Dennis Hopper : Easy Rider (1969), The Last Movie (1971)
  • Norman Jewison : In the Heat of the Night (1967 – Oscar for Best Picture ), The Thomas Crown Affair , Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) [FIST] (1978)
  • Stanley Kubrick  : Mechanical Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), Shining (1979)
  • Sergio Leone  : Once upon a time in America (1983)
  • George Lucas  : THX 1138 (1971), American Graffiti (1973), Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Sidney Lumet  : Serpico (1973), The Crime of the Orient-Express (1974), A Dog Afternoon (1975), Network (1976)
  • Louis Malle  : The Little (1978), Atlantic City (1980 – Golden Lion )
  • Paul Mazursky : Bob and Carole and Ted and Alice (1969), Alex in Wonderland (1970), The Free Woman (1978)
  • Russ Meyer : MegaVixens (1970), Orgissimo (1970)
  • John Milius : Dillinger (1973), The Lion and the Wind (1975)
  • Paul Newman  : Rachel, Rachel (1968) The Clan of the Irreductible (1971), The influence of gamma rays on the behavior of daisies (1972)
  • Mike Nichols : The Winner (1967), Catch 22 (1970)
  • Jack Nicholson : Drive, He Said (1971)
  • Alan J. Pakula : Klute (1971), Because of an assassination (1974), Men of the President (1976)
  • Sam Peckinpah : The Wild Horde (1969), Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
  • Arthur Penn : Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Little Big Man (1970)
  • DA Pennebaker  : Do not Look Back (1967), Monterey Pop (1968)
  • Roman Polanski  : Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Chinatown (1973)
  • Sydney Pollack  : The Horses Completed (1969), Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Three Days of the Condor (1975)
  • Bob Rafelson  : Five Easy Pieces (1970), The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)
  • Robert Redford  : People Like Others (1980 – Oscar for Best Picture )
  • Carl Reiner  : Where’s Poppa?  (in) (1970)
  • Karel Reisz  : The Flambeur (1974), The Warriors of Hell (1978), The Mistress of the French Lieutenant (1981)
  • Tony Richardson  : The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), Ned Kelly (1970)
  • Nicolas Roeg  : Do not go back (1974), The man who came from elsewhere (1976)
  • George A. Romero : The Night of the Living Dead (1968), Zombie (1978)
  • Ken Russell  : Love (1969)
  • Herbert Ross : The Owl and the Pussycat  ( 1970), Play It Again, Sam (1972), The Turn of Life (1977)
  • Franklin J. Schaffner  : The Planet of the Apes (1968), Patton (1970 – Oscar for Best Picture ), Papillon (1973)
  • Jerry Schatzberg  : Panic at Needle Park (1971), The Scarecrow (1973 – Palme d’Or )
  • John Schlesinger  : Macadam Cowboy (1969 – Oscar for Best Picture ), Marathon Man (1976)
  • Paul Schrader  : Blue Collar (1978), Hardcore (1979), American Gigolo (1980)
  • Martin Scorsese  : Bertha Boxcar (1972), Mean Streets (1973), Alice is no longer here (1974), Taxi Driver (1976 – Palme d’Or ), The Last Waltz (1978), New York, New York (1977) ), Raging Bull (1980)
  • Steven Spielberg : Sugarland Express (1974), The Teeth of the Sea (1975), Encounter of the Third Type (1977), 1941 (1979)
  • Douglas Trumbull : Silent Running (1972)
  • Michael Wadleigh : Woodstock (1970)
  • Peter Yates : Bullitt (1968), John and Mary (1969), Murphy’s War (1971), The Four Malfrats (1972), My wife is crazy (1974),

Other characters

  • Producers : Bert Schneider ( Easy Rider , Five Easy Pieces , The Last Sitting ), Robert Evans ( The Godfather , Chinatown , Marathon Man ), Roger Corman
  • Writers : Alan Sharp  (in) ( Fury apache , Fugue ), William Goldman ( Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , The Men of the President , Marathon Man ), Robert Towne ( Bonnie & Clyde , The Last Detail , Chinatown ), Rudy Wurlitzer  ( in) ( Two Lane Macadam , Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid ), Buck Henry ( The Winner , Catch 22 , What’s up, Doc? ),Mario Puzo ( The Godfather , The Godfather 2 ), John Milius ( Jeremiah Johnson , The Teeth of the Sea , Apocalypse Now ), Robert Benton ( Bonnie & Clyde , What’s up, Doc? ), Paul Schrader ( Taxi Driver , Obsession , Raging Bull )
  • Operators : Vilmos Zsigmond ( John McCabe , Deliverance , Sugarland Express ), László Kovács ( Easy Rider , Five Easy Pieces , Shampoo ), Conrad Hall ( Butch Cassidy and the Kid , Marathon Mann ), Gordon Willis ( Klute ,The Godfather , To cause of murder , Men of the President )
  • Editors : Marcia Lucas ( American Graffiti , Alice is no longer here , Star Wars ), Verna Fields ( What’s up, Doc , Cotton Candy , The Teeth of the Sea ), Owen Roizman ( French Connection , Der Exorzist , The Three Days of the Condor ), Thelma Schoonmaker ( Woodstock , Raging Bull ), Sam O’Steen ( The Winner , Catch 22 , Chinatown ),Walter Murch ( Secret Conversation, Godfather 1 and 2, Apocalypse Now )

Pauline Kael , one of the most influential American critics, supported the New Hollywood through her positive articles and interviews and maintained friendly relationships with a few protagonists.


  1. ↑ a , b , c , d , e , f and g Peter Biskind , ”  The New Hollywood  “, Cinéclub of Caen , ( read online  [ archive ] )
  2. ↑ You can see in this film of rare violence for the time, the killings in one shot wide, while Hollywood codes advocate a cut in a field / field to mitigate against violence of such scene
  3. ↑ For example, it was necessary to hold a card editor for access to editing rooms, map that directors did not have in general.
  4. ↑ Thomas Sotinel , ”  Hollywood at the age of Aquarius  ” Forum Conference Images , ( read online  [ archive ] )
  5. ↑ Table Round , ”  Is the TV series the future of cinema?  », France Inter , ( read online  [ archive ] )
  6. ↑ George Lucas & Steven Spielberg Studios Will Implode; VOD Is the Future  [ archive ] , Variety , June 12, 2013.
  7. ↑ Didier Perron , ”  Steven Spielberg announces” the implosion “of Hollywood  “, Liberation , ( read online  [ archive ] )

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