1976 was a terrific year for filmgoers. The three pictures at the top of this roster would be on my short list of the best movies produced in any year.
1. Seven Beauties Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller
A pitch-dark comedy about sex, fascism, domination, submission, cruelty, conformity, and machismo.
2. Taxi Driver Directed by Martin Scorsese Written by Paul Schrader
The lost bridge between John Wayne and John Hinckley.
3. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie Written and directed by John Cassavetes
The oddest, least predictable gangster movie I've ever seen. Quite possibly the best as well.
4. The Outlaw Josey Wales Directed by Clint Eastwood Written by Philip Kaufman and Sonia Chernus, from a novel by Forrest Carter
An anarchist western.
5. Television Assassination Directed by Bruce Conner
The death of John F. Kennedy as a televised dream.
6. Harlan County U.S.A. Directed by Barbara Kopple
Anyone who thinks actually existing capitalism is a product of purely peaceful trade should watch this documentary. Anyone who thinks unions are uniformly devoted to the interests of the working class should see it too.
7. The Tenant Directed by Roman Polanski Written by Polanski and Gerard Brach, from a novel by Roland Topor
Paranoia, claustrophobia -- Polanski at his most Polanskian.
8. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane Directed by Nicolas Gessner Written by Laird Koenig, from his novel
Just try to imagine a studio making this picture today.
9. Network Directed by Sidney Lumet Written by Paddy Chayefsky
No, it isn't all that prophetic; and yes, like most of Chayefsky's efforts, it's absurdly overwritten. But it still carries more laughs in any given 15 minutes than most comedies can conjure in two hours. My favorite scene: when the host of The Mao Tse-Tung Hour renegotiates her contract.
10. Mikey and Nicky Written and directed by Elaine May
Contrary to rumor, co-star John Cassavetes did not ghost-direct this film. But he sure left his fingerprints all over it.
N.B.: Once again, I'm including a movie that was technically released too early to qualify. According to the IMDb, Seven Beauties made its European debut in 1975, a year before it came to America. If I had realized that when I made my 1975 list last year, it would have appeared in first place.