When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1976, it gave its Best Picture award to Rocky. It was a weak choice for such a strong 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 Outlaw Josey Wales
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Philip Kaufman and Sonia Chernus, from a novel by Forrest Carter
The most anarchist western since The Oklahoma Kid.
4. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Written and directed by John Cassavetes
The oddest, least predictable gangster movie I've ever seen.
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 watch it too.
7. The Tenant
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Polanski and Gerard Brach, from a novel by Roland Topor
With its intense claustrophobia and paranoia, this is 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
Free Range Kids: The Thriller.
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Paddy Chayefsky
No, it isn't "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. The best scene: when the host of The Mao Tse-Tung Hour renegotiates her contract.
10. The Shootist
Directed by Don Siegel
Written by Miles Hood Swarthout and Scott Hale, from a novel by Glendon Swarthout
The film that finally proved, beyond all shadow of a doubt, that John Wayne could act. He was still playing the same character he always did, mind you; but now that man was dying.
11. Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May)
12. Small Change (François Truffaut)
13. Dôjôji (Kihachiro Kawamoto)
14. All the President's Men (Alan J. Pakula)
15. Bound for Glory (Hal Ashby)
16. Carrie (Brian De Palma)
17. The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg)
18. Impressions of Upper Mongolia (Salvador Dalí, José Montes-Baquer)
19. Massacre at Central High (Rene Daalder)
20. To Fly! (Jim Freeman, Greg MacGillivray)
I think Seven Beauties might technically be a 1975 release, but I left it out of my 1975 list last year because at that point I thought it was first screened in 1976. So here is where it goes.
Of the films of 1976 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Face to Face.