This is the final installment of my series on The Best American Films By Year series, from 1915 to 1980. Why do I stop with 1980? Essentially, I think that by then, most of the great American directors were either not working or had passed on. As in the other postings, I begin with the choice of my friend Lee Sanders, who has seen far more films than I have.
Lee’s list stops at 1977. The choices for 1978-1980 are all my own.
When there is a second choice, it’s my selection when I have either not seen Lee’s choice or have my own preference. My choices are shown in red.
1961 – Two Rode Together (John Ford)
1962 – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford)
1963 – The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock)
1964 – Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock)
1965 – Red Line 7000 (Howard Hawks); Inside Daisy Clover (Robert Mulligan)
1966 – Seven Women (John Ford)
1967 – El Dorado (Howard Hawks)
1968 – The Legend of Lylah Clare (Robert Aldrich)
1969 – Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone); The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah)
1970 – On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Vincente Minnelli); Patton (Franklin Schaeffner)
1971 – The Grissom Gang (Robert Aldrich); They Might Be Giants (Anthony Harvey)
1972 – Travels With My Aunt (George Cukor); The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
1973 – American Graffiti (George Lucas)
1974 – The Tamarind Seed (Blake Edwards); Godfather II (Francis Ford Coppola)
1975 – Night Moves (Arthur Penn); The Man Who Would Be King (John Huston)
1976 – A Matter of Time (Vincente Minnelli); Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese)
1977 – Twilight’s Last Gleaming (Robert Aldrich); 3 Women (Robert Altman)
1978 – Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick)
1979 – Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola)
1980 – Popeye (Robert Altman)
And that’s how the American Cinema ended, not with a bang but a whimper….