What was the best year in film history? HitFix readers continue the debate

05.01.15 2 years ago

HitFix's recent spate of “Best Year in Film History” pieces inevitably spurred some furious debate among our readers, with some making compelling arguments for years not included in our pieces (2007 and 1968 were particularly popular choices) and others openly expressing their bewilderment at the inclusion of others (let's just say 2012 took a beating).

In the interest of giving voice to your comments, below we've rounded up a few of the most thoughtful, passionate, surprising and occasionally incendiary responses to our pieces, including my own (I advocated for The Year of Our Lynch 2001, which is obviously the best).

Here we go…

Superstar commenter “A History of Matt,” making an argument for 1968:

The Graduate. Bullit. The Odd Couple. The Lion in Winter. Planet of the Apes. The Thomas Crown Affair. Funny Girl. Rosemary's Baby. And of course, 2001, A Space Odyssey. And that's only a taste of the greatness of that year.

“Lothar the Flatulant,” (!) one voice among many to come out for 2007:

I find it hard to believe that [anybody] can discount any year that contains not just There Will Be Blood, Zodiac, and Sweeney Todd but also the debut of Ben Affleck as a director with the taut Gone Baby Gone, Joe Wright's unfairly maligned Atonement, the hilarious Hot Fuzz, the awesomeness of The Simpsons Movie, Ridley Scott's best work of the 00's with American Gangster, Judd Apatow's Knocked Up which was as earth-moving to American comedy going forward as Animal House was to the 80's, and one of David Cronenberg's best with Eastern Promises.

“Ben” for 1994:

When a single year produces “Pulp Fiction”, “The Shawshank Redemption”, “The Lion King”, “Forrest Gump”, “Hoop Dreams”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Speed”, “True Lies”, “Natural Born Killers” and of course the Jim Carrey Trilogy of “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective/The Mask/Dumb & Dumber” (just for starters), that year's worthy of mention. I agree with 1982 as the Best Ever, but if I had a draft with friends where the format was “pick a year and get every DVD or Blu-Ray available of films released that year”, and I ended up with 1994? I'd be ecstatic. And so would you.

“SlackerInc” for 2008:

For me it's got to be 2008. Two (“Synecdoche, NY” and “Wendy and Lucy”) in my top ten; another (“Happy Go Lucky”) in my top 25; two more (“Blindness” and “Two Lovers”) in my top 100; and another two (“Revanche” and “Middle of Nowhere”) still in my top 150.

“David Dallas” for 1987:

I think if you look back to 1987 you will find far more influential films [than 1988] (if that is the standard we are using). Wall Street for example was a movie that launched a generation of people who wanted to be Gordon Gekko. It's a film that still has something to say about today's Wall Street crooks. Lethal Weapon, Predator, RoboCop, The Princess Bride, Fatal Attraction and while the various Vietnam films (Hamburger Hill 87, Platoon 86 to name a few) may not mean much today since we have a new war to replace Vietnam, Full Metal Jacket gave us the template for Drill Sergeants for all time. You still see this character emulated or parodied still.

“Save Farris,” making a list-heavy case for 1989:


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Lethal Weapon II
When Harry Met Sally
The Little Mermaid
Back to the Future II
Christmas Vacation
The Abyss
Uncle Buck

Critically Acclaimed:

Driving Miss Daisy
Field of Dreams
Born on the 4th of July
Dead Poet's Society
Do the Right Thing
Lean on Me
Steel Magnolias

Memorable Debuts:

Say Anything
Sex Lies & Videotape
Drugstore Cowboy
Roger & Me

Cult Favorites:

Major League
Road House
Weekend at Bernies
War of the Roses
Tango & Cash

“Charles” for 1993:

No 1993?

The Fugitive
Searching for Bobby Fischer
Groundhog Day
Remains of the Day
Schindler's List
Jurassic Park
What's Eating Gilbert Grape
The Piano
Sleepless in Seattle
Mad Dog and Glory

Among others. We haven't had as good a year since.

“Ribelin2000” for 1986:

How about 1986? That year, you had:
Blue Velvet (which I personally find overrated, but is still highly regarded by many)
Hannah and Her Sisters
Sid & Nancy
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Stand by Me
The Fly
Ruthless People
A Room with a View
Down and Out in Beverly Hills
Round Midnight
The Color of Money (very underrated, in terms of Scorsese movies)
Crocodile Dundee
She's Gotta Have It
Something Wild
Little Shop of Horrors
…plus, cult classics like Big Trouble in Little China and Maximum Overdrive

“Blaze Domingo” for 1975:

After checking the other links, I'll go with 1975:

Barry Lyndon, Day of the Locust, Dog Day Afternoon, Grey Gardens, Hustle, Jaws, Love and Death, Man Who Would be King, Nashville, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Rollerball, Shampoo, Smile, Stepford Wives, Three Days of the Condor

“Joe Gideon” for 1979:

In my lifetime, I'll have to go with 1979:

– Alien
– All That Jazz
– Apocalypse Now
– Being There
– Breaking Away
– The Great Santini
– The Jerk
– Kramer vs. Kramer
– Meatballs
– Monty Python's Life of Bryan
– Norma Rae
– North Dallas Forty
– Wise Blood

Dominik for 1971:

My favourite year in movie history is pretty certain 1971:
1. Mc Cabe & Mrs. Miller
2. The Last Picture Show
3. A Clockwork Orange
4. The French Connection
5. Don´t look now (or probably “Fiddler on the roof”, always been a sentimental favourite)

And everyone and their mothers for 1939, which is unquestionably great and which also doesn't count, as per Richard Rushfield's intro included at the top of every piece: “Which was the greatest film year of the last half-century?” Sorry for the confusion there.

There were also some commenters who found themselves dismayed/perplexed/bewildered at the absence of individual films from our writeups (which fyi were never meant to be exhaustive), including:

You forgot 'Enter The Dragon'… – “Terry Powell” on 1973

How the hell do you miss John Carpenter's 'The Thing'? One of the greatest horror movies ever, and Carpenter's best film? – “Daytona22” on 1982

Best movie of 1974 was…Towering Inferno – “ponce” on 1974

The South Park movie must be part of the 1999 discussion. – “Ungruntled” on 1999

Don't forget the Horse Whisperer, Robert Redford, Sam Neill, & a young girl named Scarlett Johanson. – Danimal on 1998

Wow but you left out the greatest action movie of all time THE ROAD WARRIOR! Not to mention John Carpenter's (at the time) un-sung masterpiece THE THING! Lest we forget the legendary first pairing of Stephen King and George A. Romero in CREEPSHOW? What about John Rambo's introduction to cinema in FIRST BLOOD? And how about the digital revolution of TRON? POLTERGEIST? You are right 1982 was the best year ever for movies…however you failed to recognize some the greater genre entries. – “George Rockatanasky” on 1982

Police Story 2
Maniac Cop
The Navigator
Return of The Living Dead Part 2
Young Guns
Naked Gun
My Neighbour Totoro
Miracle Mile
Monkey Shines
High Hopes
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers
– Tuco on 1988

And by the by? These movies aren't nearly the classics you think they are, according to a few contrarian readers:

“Chinatown”: I was underwhelmed. I rate it a C+. – SlackerInc

“The Conversation”: I watched “The Conversation” a few years ago and it was horrible. – Michael Turner

“The Matrix”: I think the Matrix may be one of the most over-hyped movies there is. Good mindless fun, but nothing innovative. Imitated by carbon copy yes, innovative no. But still, mindless fun. – Salticid

“Tootsie”: I guess I'm in the minority on this, but I think Tootsie is way, way, way overrated. It's fine. It's kind of good, I guess. But I've never understood how it regularly ends up in the conversation about best all time comedies. But again I realize most people would disagree with me on that. – American Jedi

“A.I. Artificial Intelligence”: Ai was the longest two hours of my life. It was boring and miserable. Easily forgettable. – Kellers80

“The Hunger Games”: The Hunger Games is a Battle Royale knockoff. Without even the decency to credit it as an adaptation. So. Lame. – Salticid

“Rocky III”: Rocky III isn't the best of the Rocky sequels. That would be Rocky II. Rocky III is actually the first bad Rocky movie (but not the last). – American Jedi

“Jumanji”: Did you cite Jumanji with a straight face? – George Kaplan

Strong opinions all around! A few other highlights:

Bug_Guy commenting on 2001: Anybody who chooses a year between 2000-2015 is wrong

ApocDave commenting on 1999: Nope 1986 is the best due to the Academy Awards naming The Highlander greatest movie ever made. Just ask Ricky Bobbie [sic].

Reagan commenting on 1982: It has the best Star Trek movie….It has the best Rocky sequel…The fact that these things are cited as support for 1982 is a strong evidence that the case for 1982 is weak.

K. Bowen commenting on 1980: There was a film that got robbed of Best Picture in 1980 by Ordinary People, and that film was ….. The Empire Strikes Back. ESB got two votes in the last Sight and Sound poll. That's ridiculously low for a film that both honored film history and advanced the medium.

George Kaplan commenting on 2001: Who's debating the quality of AI? It's a masterpiece and anyone who doesn't like it can be easily dismissed. It is, on the other hand, a great film to discuss for its themes and approach.

billfromthehill commenting on 1973: No


Haven't read all the pieces? Links to the entire series here:

1973 by Brian Formo

1974 by Daniel Fienberg

1977 by Louis Virtel

1980 by Richard Rushfield

1982 by Alan Sepinwall

1988 by Drew McWeeny

1995 by Jane Hu

1998 by Michael Oates Palmer

1999 by Kris Tapley

2001 by Chris Eggertsen

2012 by Zara Lisbon

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