The political turmoil of the 1970s and the public's subsequent distrust of the Nixon administration brought to the fore a subgenre of films which had been lurking in the studio system, in one form or another, since 1962's The Manchurian Candidate. Taking their cues from the film noirs of the 1940s and '50s, paranoid thrillers (also known as "conspiracy thrillers") featured flawed heroes trying to "do the right thing" in a society even more corrupt than they were. But where film noirs placed the blame on self-destructive antiheroes or femme fatales, paranoid thrillers usually led back to an overarching system of lies that no one person could dismantle, whether that system was a tycoon's empire, a corporation, or the government.
Though early-'70s crime thrillers like Roman Polanski's Chinatown expanded upon the themes of bureaucratic evil once explored by film noir pioneers like Fritz Lang, the paranoid thriller truly came to fruition with director Alan J. Pakula's self-described "paranoia trilogy" of films. 1971's Klute, 1974's The Parallax View, and 1976's All the President's Men, all, to an increasing degree, analyzed the role of the individual in a claustrophobic, Orwellian modern world of constant surveillance and conspiracy. Francis Ford Coppola responded in kind with The Conversation, a moody character piece about a meek audio expert who, while investigating a young couple, finds out that his work is being used against him. Even Coppola's epic The Godfather, Part II added federal indictment and corporate corruption to the masterpiece mob saga.
The decade would come to a close with a series of successful paranoid thrillers, among them Three Days of the Condor, Coma, Marathon Man, and (in the early '80s), Blow Out . Throughout the '80s and '90s, the subgenre would take on a more commercial sheen with such films as War Games, The Net, and Enemy of the State (which itself blatantly referenced The Conversation). By the time the turn of the century rolled around, paranoid themes popped up in the most unlikely places, perhaps no more unlikely than the Disney-released Monsters, Inc., which New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell dubbed "The Parallax View for kids."