Now that the Academy Awards are over, it is the task of the film business to get back to doing its regular job: putting out movies that people want to see. However, with theatrical releases and endless streaming services, there are more movies than ever. But, as with anything, quantity does not always equal quality, and if 2017 wants to be a year of great movies, it should take note of the last 50 years.
What follows is a selection of films that all film students and film fans should see. Some of the titles will be familiar, but some are also titles that can slip through the cracks. Artifacts of pop culture tend to get absorbed through a collective osmosis and become part of the lexicon without us every actually seeing them. These are a small selection of three-film groups—well known and not as well known—from each year out of that five-decade span. A short note appears at the beginning, detailing the year and the decade in which the films were released.
1967 – The 1960s was an important time in America outside of film, so it stands to reason why it would also be an important time within the film business, too. The year of 1967 was the year of “The Graduate,” a film that most know and have probably seen. These films represent a change in the collective consciousness. All three present depictions of violence and social unrest in ways that American audiences had never really seen.
The films that should be seen from this year include “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “In the Heat of the Night.”
1977 – The year of “Star Wars” and, to a slightly lesser extent, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” This was the year that arguably ushered in the current age of film. It became a year in which George Lucas and Steven Spielberg paved the way for the modern comic book and fantasy film franchises. However, the 1970s was a massively important decade in American cinema and contains some of the greatest films ever made.
Here is a selection of films outside the reach of the space-themed juggernauts: “A Bridge Too Far,” “Annie Hall” and “Suspiria.”
1987 – The 1980s has been criticized for being a decade of commercialism and not a very good decade for film. In fact, most of the well-known movies of that time are widely liked and known by most of mainstream culture. Both 1986 and ’87 were pretty successful years for movies and contain some of the 80s best films.
Here are a few from that year that walk the line of being commercially entertaining as well as artistic achievements: “Hellraiser,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Raising Arizona.”
1997 – There was also a movie out this year that was pretty well known, something about a ship…
The 1990s are now considered a decade of great remembrance among college-age adults. On a positive note, aside from baggy-shirt and acid-wash jeans nostalgia, it was arguably the decade with the last great movement in film: the surge of indie and cult hits.
These are a selection of films which also crossed the mainstream, being written or conceived independently and finding a home through larger distribution: “Boogie Nights,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Jackie Brown.”
2007 – A great year for movies and one of the last which had truly great films. The 2000’s are a mixed-bag of genre mash-ups and uncertain identities. With the occurrence of 9/11 so early in the decade, it took the film business a few years to figure out what it should be and make. Independent film became commercial and Hollywood experienced the rise of the digital age. With that began the democratization of the art form and of the business.
A few notable films from this year include “No Country for Old Men,” “There Will Be Blood” and “Zodiac.”
These are a small number of movies from each year, but they also represent some of the best of what each decade has to offer. In an era of sequels, reboots, and reboot-reboots, looking back and learning about the past can inform a better, more hopeful future of film.