When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1969, it gave its Best Picture award to Midnight Cowboy. I like that movie well enough, but it always seemed overpraised to me; it didn't find a home on my list.
1. The Wild Bunch Directed by Sam Peckinpah Written by Peckinpah and Walon Green, from a story by Green and Roy Sickner
2. Le Boucher Written and directed by Claude Chabrol
The director's debt to Hitchcock was never a secret, but it's especially obvious here. Still, this is more than mere imitation. If Hitch himself had made this movie, we'd be calling it Chabrolian.
3. The Passion of Anna Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman
"Has it ever occurred to you that the worse off people are, the less they complain? Finally, they're silent even if they're living creatures with nerves, eyes, and hands. Vast armies of victims and hangmen. The sun rises and falls, heavily."
4. The Honeymoon Killers Written and directed by Leonard Kastle
Yes, it's a low-budget exploitation flick about serial killers. It's also a bleak, tense, extremely artful film.
5. Goyokin Directed by Hideo Gosha Written by Gosha and Kei Tasaka
The ronin vs. the state.
6. The Milky Way Directed by Luis Buñuel Written by Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière
The Contra Haereses of road movies.
7. Take the Money and Run Directed by Woody Allen Written by Allen and Mickey Rose
Between this and Zelig, Woody Allen has to be acknowledged as a master of the mockumentary.
8. Easy Rider Directed by Dennis Hopper Written by Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Terry Southern
A Woodstock-era update of "The Pardoner's Tale." I like Bill Kauffman's reading of the movie: "The only characters that are depicted as unqualifiably virtuous are the homesteading family, living on their own acreage, raising their own food, teaching their own young....The hippies and the small-town southerners gathered in the diner; the small farmers and the shaggy communards: they were on the same side." The bikers "blew it" because they sneered instead of understanding.
9. Army of Shadows Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville Written by Melville, from a novel by Joseph Kessel
When it comes to films about the French resistance, this is Casablanca's cheerless cousin. There's no shortage of nobility here, but there is far more ruthlessness than romance.
10. Burn! Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo Written by Franco Solinas and Giorgio Arlorio
Very much a product of the '60s, this anti-imperialist saga is as soaked in the politics of the New Left as Easy Rider is drenched with the ambience of the counterculture. Marlon Brando is excellent as William Walker -- here transformed from a Tennessean filibuster to a British covert agent -- and Ennio Morricone contributes one of his finest scores.
11. Z (Constantin Costa-Gavras) 12. La Femme Infidèle (Claude Chabrol) 13. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill) 14. The Sun's Gonna Shine (Les Blank, Skip Gerson) 15. My Night at Maud's (Eric Rohmer) 16. That Cold Day in the Park (Robert Altman) 17. Invocation of My Demon Brother (Kenneth Anger) 18. The Adding Machine (Jerome Epstein) 19. The Cow (Dariush Mehrjui) 20. Bambi Meets Godzilla (Marv Newland)
Of the films of 1969 that I haven't seen, the one that interests me the most is Jacques Rivette's L'amour Fou.