On Filmspotting this weekend, the hosts chose their top five movie years EVER! That is a big topic, too big for me, but I loved the idea. So I pulled inspiration from another source to come up with a solution.
My older sister Michelle turned 40 over the weekend so I decided to look at the top 5 movie years on her lifeline. Happy Birthday to her! And a gift for all of you as well!
Please bear in mind it is not down the sheer number of good movies in a year. For instance, let’s say year A has 50 good movies and year B has 40 but year B still made it because they good movies in B were so much better, even if there were less of them, than year A.
Also, of course, recency bias will probably be an issue as will my admitted lack of foreign film and horror film knowledge/appreciation.
All caveats established, let’s do this!
Top Five Movie Years of the Past 40 Years (not ranked)
1.) 1977- Standout Movies- Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 21 Up, Annie Hall, Cross of Iron, Eraserhead, The Duelists, High Anxiety, The Hills Have Eyes, House, The Kentucky Fried Movie, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, New York, New York, Pumping Iron, Saturday Night Fever, Slap Shot, Sorcerer, Suspiria, That Obscure Object of Desire, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
A delightful animated movie, two sci-fi classics that could not be les alike, an incredible documentary, two excellent international films, a forgotten way classic, a couple of wild horror films, some excellent comedies, and still more. The 70’s were incredible for film and this still stands head and shoulders above the second half of the decade.
2.) 1981- Standout Movies- Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond, Stripes, Time Bandits, Arthur, Reds, An American Werewolf in London, Blow Out, Body Heat, Das Boot, Escape From New York, The Evil Dead, Excalibur, Gallipoli, The Great Muppet Caper, Absence of Malice, The Entity, History of the World, Part I, The Road Warrior, My Dinner With Andre, Scanners, Thief, The Howling, Modern Romance, Possession, Prince of the City, Ragtime, They All Laughed, Taps
The critics tend to pick ’80 or ’82 as the best of the 80’s, but ’81 is the one for me. The first Indiana Jones, arguably the best Gilliam, arguably the best De Palma, the birth of Mann on screen, some incredible horror films, and one of my favorite Carpenter movies.
3.) 1993- Standout Movies- The Age of Innocence, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, Barbarians at the Gates, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, A Bronx Tale, Carlito’s Way, Cliffhanger, Cronos, Dave, Demolition Man, Fearless, The Fugitive, The Good Son, In the Line of Fire, In the Name of the Father, Jurassic Park, Groundhog Day, Last Action Hero, Much Ado About Nothing, Naked, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Philadelphia, The Piano, Red Rock West, Rudy, Schindler’s List, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Short Cuts, The Snapper, Gettysburg, The Joy Luck Club, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Matinee, Menace II Society, A Perfect World, Romeo is Bleeding, Blue
Again, people tend to go ’94 but I find ’93 to be a lot more consistently strong year. While it lacks the dizzying heights of Pulp Fiction, it has a much deeper bench. Maybe if the luster hadn’t gone off Forest Gump for me—a movie I once loved that I now have warm feelings for but see plenty of flaws in—I might feel better about ’94, but Gump did lose that status so ’93 it must be. ’95, by the way, is also a really good year that suffers from so very low lows. ’97 is an abomination.
4.) 1999- Standout Movies- A Civil Action, 10 Things I Hate About You, All About My Mother, American Beauty, American Pie, Audition, Being John Malkovich, Beyond the Mat, Big Kahuna, Bowfinger, Boys Don’t Cry, Bringing Out the Dead, Buena Vista Social Club, Dick, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Election, Fight Club, Galaxy Quest, Ghost Dog, Go, The Insider, The Iron Giant, The Limey, Magnolia, Man on the Moon, The Matrix, Office Space, The Sixth Sense, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut, The Straight Story, Mumford, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Walk on the Moon, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Minus Man, Three Kings, Titus, Toy Story 2, The Virgin Suicides, The War Zone, The Winslow Boy
Simply put, 1999 is a monster year for cinema. Even if you are among those who think AMERICAN BEAUTY, the best picture winner, was overrated and felt out of date almost immediately (I don’t, for the record), there are at least 4 other movies you can argue for winning that slot, not just a nomination. Even the pure crowd pleasers seem smarter and more stylish in 1999.
5.) 2007- Standout Movies- Alpha Dog, Zodiac, Mr. Brooks, Black Snake Moan, Music and Lyrics, The Lookout, Hot Fuzz, Waitress, Bug, Knocked Up, 1408, Shoot ‘Em Up, Ratatouille, Rescue Dawn, The Bourne Ultimatum, 3:10 To Yuma, Easter Promises, The Hoax, Into the Wild, The Darjeeling Limited, Michael Clayton, Lars and the Real Girl, Gone Baby Gone, American Gangster, Dan in Real Life, No Country for Old Men, Enchanted, I’m Not There, Juno, The Orphanage, Charlie Wilson’s War, Walk Hard, There Will Be Blood
I am not a huge THERE WILL BE BLOOD fan—the widely considered best film of 07—but I can still recognize its incredible craft AND recommend you several movies from the same year that give it a run for its money in that department. Even on the next step down in quality, ’07 is stuffed with excellent offerings. Whether it be Ben Affleck’s surprisingly assured directorial debut with GONE BABY GONE or Dan Gilroy’s surprisingly assured directorial debut in MICHAEL CLAYTON, Paul Greengrass’s return to the BOURNE franchise or Werner Herzog’s return to the story of Dieter Dengler in RESCUE DAWN, ’07 offered now faces and old hands doing incredible work.