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Couch Comfort: The 9 best 1970s movies to stream (that won't bum you out)

Walter Matthau (l) and Tatum O'Neal in "The

Walter Matthau (l) and Tatum O'Neal in "The Bad News Bears."   Credit: AP/George Brich

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The 1970s might have been the best decade ever for movies. The only problem: A lot of them were bummers. Classics though they may be, is this really the right moment to re-watch “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” "Taxi Driver" or “Apocalypse Now?”

We went back and looked for feel-good titles from that downbeat decade. We couldn’t find a streaming version of 1979’s “Norma Rae,” a rousing classic that earned Sally Field an Oscar – where’d it go, 20th Century Fox? But we found plenty of other ‘70s gems that will make you laugh, cheer or both.

BREAKING AWAY (1979) It’s town vs. gown in this story of four working-class friends (Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley) who enter a bicycling race against the wealthy students of Indiana University. Despite its scant budget and lack of big stars, Peter Yates’ comedy-drama became the sleeper hit of the summer on the strength of its sheer charm. The little movie earned five Oscar nominations – including Best Picture -- and scored a win for Steve Tesich’s screenplay. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)

PAPER MOON (1973) This black-and-white period-piece about a traveling con man and a little girl who becomes his partner is pure Hollywood, from its Great Depression setting to the father-daughter casting of Ryan O’Neal and 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal, who won the Oscar for best actress -- and still holds the record for youngest winner in any category. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)

ROCKY (1976) and ROCKY II (1979) If it’s been a while since you’ve seen Sylvester Stallone’s original franchise-launcher (we’re now at eight films and counting), you might be surprised at how gritty this boxing drama is, especially when Burt Young’s abusive Paulie is on screen. Still, it packs a rousing, romantic, irresistible ending. The great sequel “Rocky II” makes for a cinematic one-two punch. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977) This movie spread disco around the world at lightning speed and turned John Travolta into a superstar. It isn’t a goofy teen flick, though, it’s a serious drama about working-class youth who find identity and purpose – if not a future – in a flashy subculture. Based on Nik Cohn’s New York magazine article, which he later admitted was fiction. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)

SILVER STREAK (1976) On a cross-country train, a mild-mannered book editor (Gene Wilder) becomes entangled in a murder mystery. Arthur Hiller’s Hitchcockian crowd-pleaser, written by Colin Higgins (“Harold and Maude,” “Foul Play,” “9 to 5”) has it all: action, comedy, a classy leading lady (Jill Clayburgh) and the first on-screen pairing of Wilder and Richard Pryor (as a good-hearted criminal). Too racy for kids, though. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)

THE BAD NEWS BEARS (1976) A group of rag-tag Little Leaguers and their alcoholic coach (Walter Matthau in one of his best performances) attempt to beat the neighborhood champs. The playground vulgarity remains shockingly funny (though you’ll have to endure a slur or two) and the overall stick-it-up-your-nose attitude is infectious. If you want more, take in 1977’s reasonably good “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training.” (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)

THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977) Neil Simon movies can be polarizers, but if you’re a sucker for his neurotic/creative characters and their charmed New York City lives, then this one should hit the spot. Simon’s then-wife, Marsha Mason, plays a dancer with a precocious daughter (Quinn Cummings), while Richard Dreyfuss plays a struggling actor who becomes their roommate. Banter and romance follow. Forgotten fact: Dreyfuss won his first and only Oscar for this performance. (Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)

THE STING (1973) Paul Newman and Robert Redford reteam with director George Roy Hill (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) for a comedy about two con men who target a mob boss (Robert Shaw) in 1936. A big-budget caper film driven by its charming stars, with lots of breezy banter and winking moments. The movie won seven Oscars, including Best Picture. (YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu)


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