Favorite Films of my Lifetime, pt. 1 of 4

I've seen a few of these "Favorite Film from Each Year of Your Life" facebook status things making the rounds lately. I wanted to do one, too, but as I sat down with the various year-in-film lists, mine got a little too annotated for facebook. Luckily for me (and you!) I have ol' Dog Star Omnibus to house my ramblings and rantings. And so:

I was born in August of 1974. I considered leaving off any films that came out prior to August but that seemed like a lot of work. Which brings me to an important confession up front: contrary to how this all might appear, I didn't really vet the below as much as I should have. I did a pass through wikipedia, imdb, my DVD folders, my external hard drive, and then wikipedia again. Even with that, I'm sure I missed a few.

In other words, this isn't really an honest attempt to evaluate the cinematic output of each year of my life, more like a overview of my tastes as they evolved over the years and a snapshot of those films I want to throw on right now in April 2017. It's more interesting to me to see how the same films hit me in different eras and contexts. 

I'm sure the rest will be self-explanatory. Let's get started. 


The Godfather 2 sucks all the air out of the room in any discussion of '74. Or Chinatown. Understandably so - both are well-deserved classics. But put either of them in front of me and I'll find myself instead throwing in:

Gone in Sixty Seconds
Written and Directed by H.B. Halicki

I just watched it not too long ago (and not too long before that) and that's the thing: who wouldn't want to watch it whenever, just because? And it's not just the cars - it's the sound design, the locations, the attitude, the scruffy DIY-ness, and the macho anti-heroism of it all. It's just goddamn entertaining, the kind of pure, reckless America cinema that was our best line of defense against the the communists.

Two slightly classier suggestions:

Bob Fosse's Lenny, and Ken Russell's Mahler.

Honorable Mentions: The Conversation, Electra-Glide in Blue, The Man with the Golden Gun, Steppenwolf, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And Zardoz. Because wtf.

Documentary: F for Fake.  

Foreign: Going Places aka Les Valseuses. This is my personal bar to clear in the French-evisceration-of-economic-classes-cloaked-in-provocative-sexual-satire genre.

As a kid: Not literally, obviously, but '85-86 I watched Island at the Top of the World an awful lot on VHS. A movie I hadn't thought of probably since then until looking things up for this post. I remember nothing about it.

Can You Believe I've Still Never Seen... Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla? Me neither. Plenty more (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, The Parallax View, et al) but I want to keep this as breezy as possible. (Says the guy turning a facebook status into 4 different blogs with a hundred screencaps.) 


You'll hear "arguably the best film ever made" a lot in this series of posts. Here's the first:

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Carl Gottlieb.

One of the most beloved and widely discussed films in film history hardly needs any further commentary from me (though I didn't let that stop me before) but what can you say? How much of a 911 pedo terrorist do you have to be to not love Jaws? Don't be an asshole.

Honorable Mentions: Barry Lyndon, Death Race 2000, Dog Day Afternoon, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Rollerball (also arguably the best film ever made), Shivers, The Stepford Wives. All classics. One more:

The Wind and the Lion
Written and Directed by John Milius.

This movie is seriously underrated. I watched it again the other night just to make sure I wasn't Rashomon-ing the awesomeness and am happy to report I am not.

As a kid: Escape to Witch Mountain. Many people I talk to focus only on the terrorized children aspect of it. While I can certainly see that as an adult viewer, such things were a) unremarkable for the era, and b) very appealing to me as a kid. Kid-protagonists in adventure movies need actual villains and danger the same way adult-protagonists do, especially when super powers and aliens enter the mix. This was implictly understood not just by me, I think, but by most kid-age viewers. Adults forget. Bill Denbrough was right. 

Can You Believe I've Still Never Seen... Nashville? One of these days.


As with '74, one film (Taxi Driver) tends to dominate all discussion of this year in film. (Although I could just as easily say Rocky or Carrie (or even Logan's Run) depending on the audience.) In my heart of hearts, though, if I had to be the director of any of those - as personally cherished as each of them are to me - I'd most want to be known as the guy responsible for: 

Directed by Blake Edwards and written by Blake Edwards and Frank Waldman.

Each scene is better than the next, but for me its appeal is summed up by the drawbridge scene. Well, kind of. I could just as easily have chosen any of the Doomsday Machine scenes, or the Oktoberfest scene, or any scene at random. Killer score, though, in that drawbridge scene - "Inspector Clouseau's Theme" by Henry Mancini, one of my faves - so there it is. I chose to emphasize this film, too, over the others because comedies too often get slighted in critical discussion (unless they're by Buster Keaton). Is any aspect of its production (from performance to composition to script) inferior to any from a "serious" movie? I'd never claim TPSA is superior to Taxi Driver or a few others mentioned below, but - speaking to my subjectivity as objectively as possible - it's probably my favorite.

Honorable mentions: Murder by DeathThe Killing of a Chinese Bookie, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and Network, which hasn't aged so well, but neither has America, I guess. That Chinese Bookie, though, man - what a classic. I've heard it described as overlong and I admit it's a slow burn. But for me it's an incredibly intense experience. Criterion reviewed it about as well as anyone ever could - too lengthy to quote here but worth reading for the interested.

As a kid: The Bad News Bears, Freaky Friday. I consider doing Freaky Friday from time to time as a From Novel to Film entry. But do I really want to? Seems like it's time better spent finishing any of the ones left to do on the list before adding any.


In some circles naming anything but Star Wars or Close Encounters of the Third Kind as your 1977 favorite will get you unfriended; in others, Annie Hall. (In still others, Suspiria.) I'd never argue with any of those - I only ever saw Suspiria once but I have no problem certifying its reputation as a bonafide - and I even support ending relationships over passionate disagreements on which movies are awesome. Better over art than politics or religion.

But I've got to choose the one I go back to more than all of those:

Directed by William Friedkin and written by Walon Green.

When I first saw this - 20 years after it came out - I was impressed but mystified. I kept coming back to it over the years, though, and each subsequent viewing revealed a new layer of awesomeness. In some alternate universe, Sorcerer was a huge hut, giving Friedkin another round of Oscars and cementing him on a different career path altogether. What films did that Friedkin go on to make? Maybe the same ones. Regardless, when you've got a one-two-three punch like The French Connection, The Exorcist, and Sorcerer on your cv, it puts you in rarefied company.

Honorable mention: The Duellists. A little rough in spots, but an auspicious beginning for one of one of filmdom's most consistent maestros, Ridley Scott. Here is an excellent case study of the worth of "foreign" accents in English language films. Is anyone fatally distracted by Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine not bothering to deliver their lines in a I'm-going-to-steal-your-girlfriend-Wood-ee way? I don't think so. (Keitel's New York accent is pretty thick, and perhaps that can be a tad distracting, but he owns the role and that's all that matters.)

Also: Slap Shot. (Not for accents, for the awesome.)

Documentary: A Grin Without a Cat, Pumping Iron.

Foreign: Hausu (wtf?)

As a kid: The Rescuers and of course:

Race for Your Life Charlie Brown
Directed by Bill Melendez and written by Charles M. Schultz.


I won't bury the lede:

Directed by John Carpenter and written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill.

Not just a holiday favorite, though it is undoubtedly that: no October passes without my watching it at least once, but I watch it outside of October at least twice. Halloween began a run of feature films for Carpenter that is even more rarely matched than the Friedkins just mentioned, and we'll be seeing 6 of his next 8 features in the next post. 

Honorable Mentions: Every Which Way but Loose (covers the same conceptual ground as Taxi Driver though rarely mentioned alongside it), Dawn of the Dead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dossier 51, Days of Heaven.

As a kid: Grease, Jaws 2, Lord of the Rings, Return to Witch Mountain

Man I can't tell you how often I watched these 4 movies 1982-1983.

Can You Believe I've Still Never Seen... The Deerhunter? Actually I probably have seen all of it, now, but never all the way straight through. Also: Convoy (famed for the amount of Bolivian marching powder its director consumed while making it - or rather, while holed up in his trailer while James Coburn finished making it for him), Cross of Iron, Harper Valley PTA, The Cat from Outer Space, and Up in Smoke. Seems crazy to me. How can I not have seen Up in Smoke even accidentally?


Honorable Mentions: All That Jazz, The In-Laws (this is the scene I think about at every dinner party I've ever been to.) I never saw the remake. I did watch the original not too long ago, though, and it's better than ever. 

You Should Probably Have an Opinion about... 10, Alien, Apocalypse Now, The Tin Drum.

Learn All That Is Learnable and Return That Knowledge to the Creator: Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Stalker.

As a kid: The Black Hole (if anything, I love it even more as an adult), The Frisco Kid, The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie

And Ladies and Gentlemen Literally the Best Film Ever Made: 

Directed by Lewis Gilbert and written by Christopher Wood.

Okay I overstate things. Perhaps. Is there ever a time I don't want to watch Moonraker? No, there is not. Just wanting to watch it all the time wouldn't alone make it my favorite film of 1979, but over the years something about this movie has turned it from a guilty pleasure/ nostalgic pleasure into a shining city on the hill. 

"Well" (clink) "here's to us."

Why the hell is this? I have no idea. You Only Blog Twice, though, does its usual comprehensive job of getting to the bottom of the Moonraker gestalt; the answer probably lies therein.   



  1. I'm often resistant to these sort of viral obsessions that worm their way through the Internet, but I wholly endorse this one.

    And since you and I were born in the same year, I'm gonna just piggyback on your list and give you my own here in the comments.

    First, though, lemme speak about your own list, which is eclectic and terrific and makes me want to sit down and watch a whole bunch of movies.

    (1) "I didn't really vet the below as much as I should have. I did a pass through wikipedia, imdb, my DVD folders, my external hard drive, and then wikipedia again." -- It'd be easy to get super-obsessive with a thing like this and make lists for the next three months. And don't think I'm not tempted!

    (2) That's a fine endorsement for "Gone in Sixty Seconds." Between this and the Scenic Route writeup, I'll have to see this one eventually, for sure.

    (3) I don't know what "Mahler" is -- I'll go out on a limb and assume it's got something to do with the composer -- but that image is intriguing.

    (4) I've never seen "The Conversation," which is something I've been meaning to fix for years. Not too speedy at crossing things off the list(s) around here, I'm afraid.

    (5) I don't know "Island at the Top of the World" at all, even by reputation! I dig the poster, though.

    (6) I'm PRETTY sure I've seen "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla," and if it's the one I'm thinking of, it is daffy as fuck.

    1. (3) Oh yeah "Mahler" is great. It (oddly enough) follows his (Gustav the composer) real life biography fairly closely, albeit with some 70s-tripped-out flights of Ken Russell fancy.

  2. (1) I just flat-out wouldn't trust the opinion of somebody who didn't love "Jaws." I mean, MAYBE if they just haven't seen it. But if they've seen it and weren't impressed? No thanks, we need have no further interaction.

    (2) God dang, a year that includes "Jaws" AND "Holy Grail," "Cuckoo's Nest," and "Barry Lyndon" is a bruiser of a year. PLUS "Dog Day Afternoon"?!? Jiminy...!

    (3) I've never seen "Nashville," but I've also never seen "Rollerball," "Picnic at Hanging Rock," or "the Wind and the Lion." I regret all of these things.

    (4) Also, never seen "Escape to Witch Mountain." I did see the remake starring The Rock, and it was butt.

    1. (3) All 3 are worth seeing, definitely. "Rollerball" is so underrated. It says it all.

      (4) I heard it sucked, yeah. There was a 90s Robert Vaughn remake that failed to launch as well.

  3. Hey, is this confusing? I'm doing a separate comment for each year, and numbered comments for easy reference in reply. Am I overthinking this? Probably. I'll keep going for consistency's sake.

    (1) That's a freaking GREAT pick for a favorite-movie-of-the-year list. In my world, it shares something with "Jaws" in that I first discovered it -- and all the Pink Panther movies -- while on a family vacation to the beach as a teenager. We'd go for a week, and a big part of what we did was go to the video store and rent a movie or two every day. So we burned through all the Pink Panther movies on one such trip, plus "Jaws" (and "Always," for some reason). My memory is that other than "A Shot in the Dark," this one was my favorite of the Clouseau movies.

    (2) It's probably true that "Network" hasn't aged well, but the last time I saw it -- likely nigh on twenty years at this point -- I thought it was riveting. Same goes for "Taxi Driver," which I assume HAS held up well.

    (3) Never seen "The Man Who Fell to Earth," which will change if and only if I ever go on a Bowie deep-dive. Which seems likely.

    (4) Never seen "The Bad News Bears," but would like to.

    (5) "Freaky Friday" is a novel?!?

    1. (1) "TPSA" is just so goddamn entertaining. Just thinking about it I want to rattle off a bunch of jokes. Such great pacing in that one, as well.

      (5) Indeed! We should co-blog a From Novel to Film about it.

    2. I don't know that I'd have the constitution for that! I might could work on developing it, though.

    3. We could do that and then another one for "Megaforce." I'm always thinking Team-Up/cross-over. It's the Bronze Age Marvel/DC fan in me.

    4. Oh, I'd be down for "Megaforce" without question!

  4. (1) I would never unfriend anyone for not having "Star Wars," CE3K, or "Annie Hall" in their top spot for '77. But I'd consider it with anyone who didn't love at least two of them. As with "Jaws," that person is simply not worth knowing. (Hyperbole, I speak. Mostly.)

    (2) "I even support ending relationships over passionate disagreements on which movies are awesome. Better over art than politics or religion." -- This is one of the best things I've ever seen on this blog, which is saying something.

    (3) I have really got to see "Sorcerer."

    (4) Never seen either "The Duellists" or "Slap Shot," but they've been on my list for eons.

    (5) I actually HAVE seen "Pumping Iron," for obvious reasons. My documentary-fu is weak, but my Schwarzenegger-fu is fairly strong, at least up to the mid-nineties. My memory of "Pumping Iron" is that it is terrific.

    (6) I'm sure I must have seen "Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown," because I was a nut for The Peanuts as a kid. But I don't remember it at all.

    (7) "The Rescuers" is solid Disney from that weird period after Walt died when the company hadn't figured out how to keep going. Lasted until at least the mid-eighties. I don't think I ever actually saw the movie as a kid; but I had a storybook of it that I loved.

    1. (2) I mean, if you absolutely HAD to, at least hang it on the best peg possible. "Die Hard 2" is such a peg.

      (7) I had a cassette storybook, as well! Probably the same one, I can't imagine they made any variants.

    2. Mine was likely an LP, but I have no memory of there being a record. Might have been broken early on by yours truly; that wouldn't surprise me; I was a rough lad.

  5. (1) "Yeah, you know every town has something like this happen... I remember over in Russellville, old Charlie Bowles, about fifteen years ago... One night, he finished dinner, and he excused himself from the table. He went out to the garage, and got himself a hacksaw. Then he went back into the house, kissed his wife and his two children goodbye, and then he proceeded to..."

    (2) I can't swear that I ever actually saw all of "Every Which Way But Loose," but boy howdy did I love its sequel as a kid. I should revisit both of 'em.

    (3) I only saw "Grease" once as a kid, but I dug it, and could not figure out why, because typically if it didn't have a spaceship or wasn't patently for kids, I'd avoid it. I felt very ... protective of Olivia Newton-John, though.

    (4) That "Dossier 51" trailer is great.

    (5) However you managed to not see "Up In Smoke," I managed it, too. Someday, maybe, which is when I will also see "The Deerhunter."

    1. (3) As a kid I only had eyes for Olivia Newton-John. No I can't believe how hot all of them are - and how racy the script is. A lot sailed over my head at the time. (I had this same experience re-discovering the Bangles. And En Vogue.)

      (4) Fun flick!

  6. (1) Any list such as this that has "Moonraker" on it in the top spot receives a lifetime pass from me to be wrong about anything else the list-maker so chooses. Not that I've spied anything wrong -- "wrong" -- in this entire post (I haven't), just saying. I appreciate the tip of the cap to You Only Blog Twice, and my musings on "Moonraker" remain one of my favorite blogging achievements to date. Not that it actually achieved anything beyond my own self-reeducation on that movie, but that's plenty enough for me.

    (2) Man, there are some movies I love from this year. ST:TMP for sure, but also "Alien" and (yes) "The Black Hole" and obviously "Apocalypse Now."

    (3) I went through a Tarkovsky phase around the turn of the century, and "Stalker" was one of my favorites. I'd like to revisit his stuff at some point.

    (4) Never have seen "All That Jazz" or "10," but imagery from the latter popped up everywhere when I was a kid. I'd be almost scared to see the actual movie lest it somehow tamper with my mind's-eye version of it.

    (5) I can't wait to see what the next few posts in this series are going to contain!

    1. (1) Moonraker rules.

      (3) Klum too, though a little later than that. He burned me his entire filmography during this phase. I still mean to wipe them all out, but the circumstances are rarer these days for that sort of thing.

      (4) I only know the 3 of Bob Fosse's films I've seen but for what it's worth they've all made the list for their respective year.

  7. Now, I'll briefly offer my own list of favorites from the '70s. I'm gonna restrict it to a definitive favorite and two runners-up.

    1974 -- "The Sugarland Express," with "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" and "Chinatown" as silver and bronze.

    1975 -- "Jaws," followed by brutal competition for the runners-up. I'll go with "Barry Lyndon" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," which I love unironically.

    1976 -- Close call, but I'll go with "Rocky." There are about a dozen I'd say vie for runner-up status, and I kinda want to mention all of them, but won't. So let's go with "Tax Driver" and (believe it or not) "King Kong."

    1977 -- "Close Encounters" all the way for me, but with "Star Wars" and "Annie Hall" not super far behind. Yes, I am THAT guy.

    1978 -- "Halloween" for me as well, followed by "Animal House" and "Superman" (the latter arguably for the music moreso than for the movie itself).

    1979 -- For me, it's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," which I just adore top to bottom. There are a TON of movies I considered for the runners-up, but I'm going to go with "Alien" and "Manhattan" even though I haven't seen the latter in a long while and probably SHOULD say "Moonraker" instead. It's a strong year, though.

    Favorite of all of these combined? "Close Encounters," which is perpetually in the mix for my-favorite-movie status alongside "The Wizard of Oz."

    1. Ahh I'm so tempted to edit now. I should've added "Sugarland Express," "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "King Kong" to their respective Can You Believe I Haven't Seen slots. One of these days! I've seen enough sequences of all of them from walking into a room or finding them on cable or what not to have a decent idea of them, but never all the way through.

      If it was just music I'd nominate "Superman" in a heartbeat, but the movie hits and misses for me. For some reason it was on all the time when I was catsitting recently and I ended up catching most of it again, out of order.

      "Animal House," too, not too long ago, but that one start to finish. A classic. I'd like to see Camille Paglia review it.

      You're in good company with "Close Encounters" - some of my best friends and favorite-movie/pop-culture thinkers agree with you.

    2. I saw "Superman" in a theatre not TOO too long ago, and was very depressed by the fact that it kind of didn't hold up at all. Reeve is undeniably awesome, though, as is the score, and arguably Hackman. So yeah, hits and misses for sure.

      I highly recommend "The Sugarland Express." It's possible that Goldie Hawn's performance will annoy you (it's supposed to) so much that the movie misses; but it's gorgeous and weird and funny and sad and easily Spielberg's most underrated movie, in my opinion.

    3. Oh, and I should also have spoken a bit about "King Kong." It's not a particularly good movie, but I loved it as a child, and still like it. The cast is good -- even Jessica Lange, who is famously criticized, but is actually quite good (and stonkingly hot) playing a very shallow woman. There's a great John Barry score, and the effects are okay. Bottom line is, I just LIKE the movie!

      As for "Rocky Horror," that's one that I would recommend to nobody, because if they disliked it, I think they'd judge me for it forever. They might not be wrong to do so. The first time I saw it was with a friend whose father had hooked her on it (oddly). She was really nervous to show it to me, because she was afraid I'd hate it and be judgmental, which I could never bring myself to be with her even if I didn't like something, but it never mattered, she was always afraid of it anyways. Regardless, she showed it to me, and I don't know if it was seeing it through her eyes or what, but I just loved it. And I still do. The hell with watching it in a raucous crowd; I just like it AS A MOVIE. And the music, of course. And Tim Curry, of course. And Susan Sarandon, of course. Not for everyone, but it's definitely for me.