When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1967, it gave its Best Picture award to In the Heat of the Night, a police procedural with a civil rights message. It's an enjoyable movie, but it didn't make my list:
1. The President's Analyst
Written and directed by Theodore J. Flicker
For fans of Richard Condon and Robert Anton Wilson, and for anyone who has ever cast a suspicious eye at his phone.
2. The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade
Directed by Peter Brook
Written by Adrian Mitchell, from a play by Peter Weiss
"Marat, these cells of the inner self are worse than the deepest stone dungeon, and as long as they are locked all your revolution remains only a prison mutiny to be put down by corrupted fellow prisoners."
3. Play Time
Directed by Jacques Tati
Written by Tati and Jacques Lagrange, with additional English dialogue by Art Buchwald
Tati takes on high modernism.
Directed by Stanley Donen
Written by Peter Cook, from a story by Cook and Dudley Moore
No, not the awful remake with Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley. This one stars Cook and Moore, and it feels like a medieval folktale dropped into the Swinging Sixties.
5. Le Samouraï
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Written by Melville and Georges Pellegrin, from a novel by Joan McLeod
The best film noir of the '60s. Probably. Top three, anyway.
6. The Firemen's Ball
Directed by Miloš Forman
Written by Forman, Ivan Passer, and Jaroslav Papoušek
A caustic satire of life under a corrupt regime. But even if you don't pick up on the politics, it's still pretty funny.
7. Titicut Follies
Directed by Frederick Wiseman with John Marshall
A grotesque glimpse inside a total institution.
8. In Cold Blood
Directed by Richard Brooks
Written by Brooks, from a book by Truman Capote
"I thought Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the time I cut his throat."
9. Bonnie and Clyde
Directed by Arthur Penn
Written by David Newman and Robert Benton
Half a century later, it's hard to tell what all the fuss was about. But it's still a kinetic, engaging picture, even if you're not quite sure why this was the movie that turned Hollywood on its head.
10. Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator
Directed by Dušan Makavejev
Written by Makavejev and Branko Vučićević
"It's still unclear who will rule the Earth in 100 years: people or rats."
11. Report (Bruce Conner)
12. La Femme 100 Têtes (Eric Duvivier)
13. Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel)
14. Point Blank (John Boorman)
15. Cool Hand Luke (Stuart Rosenberg)
16. Spider Baby (Jack Hill)
17. Dont Look Back (D.A. Pennebaker)
18. Quatermass and the Pit (Roy Ward Baker)
19. The Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich)
20. La Collectionneuse (Eric Rohmer)
And a shoutout to the "Love Power" and "Springtime for Hitler" numbers in The Producers. The full film is uneven—too uneven to make my list—but those scenes are two of the funniest movie moments of the '60s.
Of the films of 1967 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Stolen Airship and China is Near.
When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1977, it gave its Best Picture award to Woody Allen's Annie Hall. I don't usually agree with the Academy's picks, but this is the second time in this year's series of lists where I think they got it right:
1. Annie Hall
Directed by Woody Allen
Written by Allen and Marshall Brickman
"Why don't you get William F. Buckley to kill the spider?"
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Peter Shaffer, from his play
Sex, faith, madness, and horses.
Written and directed by George Romero
"Things only seem to be magic. There is no real magic. There's no real magic ever."
4. The Last Wave
Directed by Peter Weir
Written by Weir, Tony Morphett, and Petru Popescu
Weir's early apocalyptic tale is as dreamlike as Picnic at Hanging Rock or Fearless but is contained—just barely—by a pulpy science-fiction plot.
5. 3 Women
Written and directed by Robert Altman
An American Persona.
6. That Obscure Object of Desire
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière, from a novel by Pierre Louys
Buñuel's final film hits some of his favorite themes: obsession, humiliation, and the strange power one person can hold over another.
7. Slap Shot
Directed by George Roy Hill
Written by Nancy Dowd
The standard by which all sports comedies should be judged.
8. God Told Me To
Written and directed by Larry Cohen
There are some low-budget glitches in this Phildickian detective story, but they ultimately add to its eerie charm.
9. The Sand Castle
Written and directed by Co Hoedeman
A brief parable about everything that anyone ever builds.
10. Citizens Band
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Written by Paul Brickman
It's my favorite movie about social media, and it came out years before Mark Zuckerberg was born.
11. Eraserhead (David Lynch)
12. Suspiria (Dario Argento)
13. The Finishing Line (John Krish)
14. Dog's Dialogue (Raúl Ruiz)
15. House (Nobuhiko Obayashi)
16. Take the 5:10 to Dreamland (Bruce Conner)
17. Perfumed Nightmare (Kidlat Tahimik)
18. La Soufrière (Werner Herzog)
19. Bead Game (Ishu Patel)
20. The Mallet (Aca Ilić)
And a shoutout to Stroszek, just for having the year's best ending.
Of the films of 1977 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Opening Night and Last Chants for a Slow Dance.
When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1987, it gave its Best Picture award to The Last Emperor, an opulent but bland biography with a moderately Maoist message. You won't see that one here:
1. Full Metal Jacket
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Kubrick, Gustav Hasford, and Michael Herr, from a novel by Hasford
I was watching one of those Siskel and Ebert ripoffs—I think it was the one with Michael Medved, but maybe it was the one with Rex Reed—when they preceded their reviews of this terrific black comedy with the film's funniest clip: the one where a drill instructor brags that Charles Whitman and Lee Harvey Oswald learned to shoot in the Marines. I was still laughing uncontrollably as one of the hosts gazed gravely from the screen and announced that the scene had sent a chill down his spine. Not for the last time, I realized that many critics are full of shit.
2. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
Directed by Todd Haynes
Written by Haynes and Cynthia Schneider
A 16mm biopic performed by Barbie dolls. A deeply disturbing movie, it ran into trouble with both Mattel and the Karen Carpenter estate; it's still under a legal cloud today, though you can find it easily enough online.
3. Raising Arizona
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
I was watching one of those Siskel and Ebert ripoffs—I think it was the one with Rex Reed, but maybe it was the one with Michael Medved—when one of the hosts announced that he couldn't understand why this comedy about kidnapping had gotten such a positive reaction. After all, he explained, kidnapping is a felony. Not for the last time, I realized that many critics are full of shit.
4. House of Games
Directed by David Mamet
Written by Mamet, from a story by Mamet and Jonathan Katz
Unlike many stories that rely on plot twists, this paranoid tale's sudden shifts are unpredictable without being unbelievable.
5. Law of Desire
Written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Someone once called this the gay Fatal Attraction, which is far too kind to Fatal Attraction.
Written and directed by Souleymane Cissé
The deep, authentic strangeness of real folklore.
7. Hope and Glory
Written and directed by John Boorman
From the screenplay: "...he is astonished to see hundreds of children in a state of delirious celebration. Boys fling their caps in the air. They cheer. They whoop. They run amok. Behind them lie the smouldering ruins of the school."
8. Tin Men
Written and directed by Barry Levinson
It's the best of Levinson's Baltimore movies, which is another way of saying it's the best Levinson movie, period. I like formstone, by the way. I don't understand why those yuppies insisted on peeling it off their houses.
Directed by Bill Forsyth
Written by Forsyth, from a novel by Marilynne Robinson
"Silvie had no awareness of time. For her, hours and minutes were the names of trains."
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner
The fake ads alone are enough to earn it a place on the list.
11. Barfly (Barbet Schroeder)
12. Red Sorghum (Zhang Yimou)
13. Withnail & I (Bruce Robinson)
14. Roxanne (Fred Schipisi)
15. Alice (Jan Švankmajer)
16. Walker (Alex Cox)
17. Au Revoir Les Enfants (Louis Malle)
18. Siesta (Mary Lambert)
19. The Dead (John Huston)
20. Moonstruck (Norman Jewison)
I swear I didn't do the "Alice Walker" thing on purpose.
Of the films of 1987 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in From the Pole to the Equator and Evil Dead 2.
When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1997, it gave its Best Picture award to a bloated soap opera called Titanic. These are much better:
Written by Tom Fontana
Directed by Darnell Martin, Nick Gomez, Jean De Segonzac, Leslie Libman, Larry Williams, and Alan Taylor
Power shifts constantly in a penitentiary's ever-evolving social web. In a perfect climax, the whole network explodes, inverting, distorting, and dashing the prison's hierarchies.
2. The Apostle
Written and directed by Robert Duvall
A double rarity: a thoughtful movie about religion and a textured portrait of the South.
3. The Sweet Hereafter
Directed by Atom Egoyan
Written by Egoyan, from a novel by Russell Banks
Death rips a hole in a town. The viewer drifts both through the community and through time, as helpless as the grieving parents of the story.
4. fast, cheap & out of control
Directed by Errol Morris
Studies in spontaneous order.
5. Deconstructing Harry
Written and directed by Woody Allen
The last great Woody Allen movie is a sardonic, self-lacerating remake of Wild Strawberries.
6. Jackie Brown
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Tarantino, from a novel by Elmore Leonard
All the Tarantino trademarks are on display here: the idiosyncratic structure, the brilliantly selected soundtrack, the rich and funny dialogue. But there's something deeper going on as well, a pulp fable about integration that refuses to preach or to give the audience a reassuring conclusion.
7. The Ice Storm
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by James Schamus, from a novel by Rick Moody
Before this movie, Christina Ricci had starred in a series of fluffy kid flicks, with only a quirky supporting role in the Addams Family films betraying more than a hint that she had something more in her. With this—released the same year as That Darn Cat!—she suddenly established herself as the indie queen of the late '90s.
8. Henry Fool
Written and directed by Hal Hartley
"OK, you got me outnumbered here four to one and you're gonna kill me here tonight and not a soul in this dimly lit world is gonna notice I'm gone. But one of you, one of you, one of you is gonna have his eye torn out. Period....One of you poor, underpaid jerks is gonna have an eye ripped out of its socket. I promise. It's a small thing perhaps, all things considered, but I will succeed, because it's the only thing I have left to do in this world. So why don't you just take a good look at one another one last time, and think it over a few minutes more."
Directed by Jonathan Nossiter
Written by Nossiter and James Lasdun, from a story by Lasdun
"I guess I'm too old to play a human being."
Directed by John Woo
Written by Mike Werb and Michael Colleary
This crazed sci-fi doppelgängerung is John Woo's best American movie, and frankly I like it better than most of his Hong Kong output too.
11. Grosse Pointe Blank (George Armitage)
12. Ulee's Gold (Victor Nuñez)
13. Gattaca (Andrew Niccol)
14. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson)
15. Public Housing (Frederick Wiseman)
16. The Rainbow Man/John 3:16 (Sam Green)
17. The Spanish Prisoner (David Mamet)
18. The Eel (Shohei Imamura)
19. Gummo (Harmony Korine)
20. Absolute Power (Clint Eastwood)
Of the films of 1997 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Live Flesh, Fireworks, and Jazz '34.
11. Off the Grid (Jeremy Stulberg, Randy Stulberg)
12. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik)
13. Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog)
14. One Night in One City (Jan Balej)
15. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel)
16. Confessions of a Superhero (Matthew Ogens)
17. 3:10 to Yuma (James Mangold)
18. In My Language (A.M. Baggs)
19. What Will Come (William Kentridge)
20. The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass)
Of the films of 2007 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in REC and Into the Wild.