1970s Psychological Thriller Is A Quintessential Classic About Conspiracies, Stream Right Now Without Netflix

By Nikola Pajtic | Updated

Francis Ford Coppola directed The Conversation, a chilling 1970s gem that is often overshadowed by his other works, including The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But that shouldn’t be the case and you can watch it now.

The Conversation Is A Psychological Thriller

The Conversation is a psychological thriller nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, brimming with Cold War paranoia and starring Gene Hackman, Harrison Ford, John Cazale, and others. It is a must-watch for any fan of classic thrillers and you can now revisit this often-forgotten classic on Pluto TV. 

The Conversation starts with Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, a brilliant surveillance expert in San Francisco, but an existential crisis has him wondering if his job is his true calling. Caul runs a successful business specializing in discrete audio recording but he starts questioning his life choices, sending him into a melancholic downward spiral. 

Thrown Into Moral Disarray

He prides himself on his professionalism avoiding being revealed by the targets he monitors, lurking in the shadows, and emotionally distant from his targets.

Often working with shad clients, a new assignment throws Caul into moral disarray along with his carefully constructed world. 

He is tasked with recording a young couple portrayed by Frederic Forrest and Cindy Williams through the busy crowd of Union Square.

Despite the background noise, Harry’s expertise shines through in the form of strategic setups helped by sophisticated equipment, is able to gather the audio into a clear recording. 

Raising More Questions

The Conversation

Once he pieces together the recording, it becomes clear the conversation itself is cryptic. This raises more questions than answers in Caul and becomes focused on uncovering the true meaning behind the couple’s conversation. Harmless words hint at a deeper truth.

This is where The Conversation shines in its genre as a psychological thriller. The film builds suspense through Caul’s obsession with his ruthless tries to decipher the recording. 

Paranoia And Self-Doubt

The Conversation

The obsession leads him down a path of paranoia and self-doubt, with the lines between his professional approach and personal involvement beginning to blur.

The audience is drawn into Caul’s deteriorating mental state, as the claustrophobic atmosphere filled with anxiety that he is the one being eavesdropped on takes the best of him. 

He distrusts everyone and everything, constantly searching for hidden cameras and bugs.  His obsession with the recording consumes him, leading to reckless decisions that put him in danger. The Conversation brilliantly portrays his psychological decline, leaving the audience questioning his grasp on reality.

A Masterful Twist

The Conversation

Eventually, a critical mistake by Caul sets the stage for a shocking truth, a twist that will force him to question everything he thought he knew about his job.

The film’s masterful twist is a play on the psychological toll Caul’s obsession has taken on him. Without revealing any spoilers, we highly recommend you give The Conversation a chance. 

Harry Caul draws inspiration from Martin Kaiser, a real-life surveillance technology expert who was a technical consultant on the film. Kaiser’s ingenuity is seen in the final scene’s hidden bug paranoia. 

Streaming The Conversation

The Conversation

Moreover, Coppola got inspiration from Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf, mirrored in Caul’s isolation.

The Conversation premiered in 1974 and received critical acclaim upon release. It was praised for its suspense, leading actors’ stunning performances, and plot. Because of all of this, the film has been named a classic psychological thriller.

Even today, the audience continues to praise The Conversation’s take on privacy, which is combined with paranoia and a moral dilemma regarding surveillance.