2018 has been a pretty good year for movies so far. We’ve had Black Panther and Ready Player One and A Quiet Place and Annihilation – and there’s still so many to come! Plus, Avengers: Infinity War is already well on its way to becoming what will potentially be the highest grossing movie of all time, or at least in the top 5. But even with all this, 2018 hasn’t been the best year for movies of all time. There are a few better, actually. Here are the 10 best years for the movies that they had the privilege of introducing to the world!
In 1964, Stanley Kubrick had the balls to satirize the Cold War with his screwball comedy Dr. Strangelove – and succeeded incredibly. Julie Andrews picked up her umbrella for the iconic lead role in Mary Poppins. Sean Connery starred as 007 in the phenomenal Goldfinger, which is still arguably the best of all the James Bond movies, even more than five decades later. A Shot in the Dark, which earns itself the honor of being the best of all the Pink Panther movies, since it was the first where the filmmakers had the common sense to focus the plot on Peter Sellers’ bumbling Inspector Clouseau and just pointed the camera at him and let the comic genius just do his thing. The Beatles released their first movie with A Hard Day’s Night, which could easily have failed, since it stars a rock band as themselves, but was one of the best British movies of all time and still is today. A slew of paranoid political thrillers that would follow the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal began with Seven Days in May. Sergio Leone blazed the trail for the spaghetti western genre with Clint Eastwood playing the Man with No Name for the first time ever in A Fistful of Dollars. 1964 was a great year for the movies – and it was back when everything was shot on film, and if you wanted to watch it, you had to go to a theater and see it gloriously projected up on a big screen, the way movies are meant to be seen.
All throughout the 1970s, movies were becoming much less clean and descending into dark, gritty, controversial, unconventional territories. The Vietnam War was raging, the Watergate scandal had erupted – as soon as Americans couldn’t trust their government, they couldn’t safely trust anyone. So, the movies responded. In 1973’s Soylent Green, the government feed you a food product that they promise gives them all the nutrition they need – but what they don’t tell them is that this food product is made of people. The year also gave us Mean Streets, which introduced us to Martin Scorsese’s sharp eye for capturing the gangster lifestyle and blending it with themes of Catholic guilt. Clint Eastwood made another western, High Plains Drifter, this time with Satanic overtones. Al Pacino starred in the gritty cop thriller Serpico about an unorthodox undercover detective. And yet, hearts were touched by Paper Moon – and The Last Detail had a delightfully hopeful note to it. Bruce Lee kicked ass in his final ever movie, Enter the Dragon, while Robert Redford and Paul Newman were swindling people and having the time of their lives in The Sting. Horror movies got even more graphic and terrifying with The Exorcist and The Wicker Man. Michael Crichton adapted his own novel Westworld for the screen. George Lucas gave us American Graffiti, the seminal Superbad-esque teen comedy that paved the way for Star Wars.
In 1976, Martin Scorsese gave us his harrowing take on the psychological toll that the Vietnam War took on its soldiers as one returned to New York and sought vengeance against all the crime in the city, or “scum on the streets” as he puts it, in Taxi Driver. Or if you wanted something lighter and more touching, you could fall in love with Sylvester Stallone’s underdog for the first time ever in the original Rocky. You had Carrie and The Omen if you were looking to get a serious fright that would stand up for over forty years to follow. You could see the dark side of TV production in Network, which won Peter Finch the first ever posthumously awarded Oscar. And you got the full story of the Watergate scandal in All the President’s Men. Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder teamed up for one of their many great buddy comedies together in Silver Streak. You could get one of the first looks at Hollywood’s idea of a dystopian future world governed by bureaucracy in Logan’s Run. You could go and see a brilliantly dark and violent western in the form of The Outlaw Josey Wales, or if you were looking to see Clint Eastwood in a more familiar role, you could catch him in The Enforcer, Dirty Harry’s finest hour.
1980 was the only year were all of the comedy camps succeeded admirably. The Blues Brothers was one of the only movies based on characters from Saturday Night Live to be both critically acclaimed and a box office success. The National Lampoon team came back with a vengeance to produce the cult classic golf comedy Caddyshack. And all of those guys were put out of business by the unprecedented oncoming comedy firestorm of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker who blazed onto the scene with Airplane! and completely changed the way that comedy movies were made. Also, women in comedy got an early chance to shine with 9 to 5. The Empire Strikes Back, arguably the greatest Star Wars movie ever made, took the world by storm. 1980 was also a great year for auteurs. Martin Scorsese gave us one of his finest films with the black and white boxing biopic Raging Bull and Stanley Kubrick gave us one of his finest films with his freaky deaky Stephen King adaptation The Shining. Friday the 13th was an early forerunner to the slasher movie genre, The Elephant Man was a timely and harrowing true story that touched us all, and Flash Gordon managed to be somehow camp, corny, ridiculous, and completely awesome all at the same time.
People had a rollicking good time at the movies in 1989. Tim Burton brought his gloomy take on Batman to the big screen, while Steven Spielberg closed off one of the finest trilogies ever made with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the year’s highest grossing movie, which introduced us to Indy’s endearing father, Dr. Henry Jones, played brilliantly by Sean Connery. We caught up with some old favorite characters, whether they be Riggs and Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon 2 or Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Both Driving Miss Daisy and Say Anything would tug on your heartstrings in different ways. If you wanted to laugh, you had John Candy in Uncle Buck. If you wanted to cry, you had Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. If you wanted the sweet spot right in the middle, then you had Steel Magnolias. If you wanted something dark, you had such masterpieces as Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Drugstore Cowboy and Born on the Fourth of July. If you wanted something lighter, then you had When Harry Met Sally, or if you were looking for something sillier, then you had Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure or Weekend at Bernie’s. If you like lovable cop team-ups, then you had either Turner and Hooch or Tango and Cash to choose from. Or if you simply like dumb, action-packed guilty pleasure movies, then you had Road House! Disney fans could enjoy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids or The Little Mermaid, while James Cameron fans and science fiction nerds could feast their eyes on the underwater epic that is The Abyss. There was dark comedy in The War of the Roses and The ‘Burbs or light drama in Dead Poets Society, where you would’ve gotten to witness one of Robin Williams’ most touching performances on the big screen. What a year!
In 1994, Tom Hanks gave us a cinematic icon – and a 20th century American history lesson along the way – with Forrest Gump. Frank Darabont wrote and directed The Shawshank Redemption, which is now considered by IMDb to be the greatest movie ever made. Quentin Tarantino changed the way that movies were made and cultivated a unique style that is still attempted to be emulated to this day with his sophomore feature and follow-up to Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction. Disney turned the dark Shakespeare play Hamlet into timeless family fun with The Lion King. Natural Born Killers became one of the most controversial and violent and slyly satirical movies ever made. Speed made the premise of “Die Hard on a bus” work marvelously and Leon made us empathize with an assassin. Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and The Mask introduced the moviegoing world to the comic genius of Jim Carrey and launched him into superstardom over the course of just one year. Kevin Smith’s ultra low budget debut feature Clerks marked the beginning of a revolution in filmmaking that moved away from the bureaucratic control of the studio system and more towards the creative freedom allowed by self-funded indie cinema. 1994 was an extremely important year for film!
The year 1999 was filled with so many great movies that it begs the question about whether or not all of Hollywood was terrified of the prospect of Y2K and they wanted to make sure all of their best ideas and performances were seen before the world ended. Married suburban life was epitomized both hilariously and tragically in American Beauty, minds across the world were blown by Fight Club, gunfights and explosions kept us entertained while the meaning of life was questioned by The Matrix, Toy Story got a sequel that lived up to the original, The Sixth Sense introduced us to the twisty works of M. Night Shyamalan, American Pie was a must-see sex romp to rival Porky’s, Frank Darabont went back behind bars with the heartbreaking The Green Mile, Paul Thomas Anderson gave us his self-proclaimed greatest movie with Magnolia, Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman collaborated for the first time on the quirky meta comedy Being John Malkovich, Mike Judge’s underrated cult comedy Office Space was released, Star Trek and its fans were lampooned to perfection in Galaxy Quest, Sofia Coppola showed us her dark cinematic eye with The Virgin Suicides, we first empathized with the plight of the transgender community in the harrowing Boys Don’t Cry, the Gulf War was daringly satirized in Three Kings, Jim Carrey gave his most committed performance ever as his idol Andy Kaufman in the heartfelt biopic Man on the Moon, the world was introduced to an obscure actress named Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted (which also showed us a side of Winona Ryder that we’ve never seen before), and Trey Parker and Matt Stone adapted their animated TV hit into the hilariously satirical movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Luckily, Y2K didn’t happen, so we can still enjoy these movies again and again.
There was a lot of fun to be had at the movies in 2004. The Incredibles emerged as a terrific superhero satire and one of Pixar’s finest films, even to this date. Shaun of the Dead introduced the world to the sharp talents of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, while everyone fell in love with the absurdist humor of Anchorman. Tina Fey wrote actual three-dimensional female characters for her seminal high school romcom Mean Girls. You had Napoleon Dynamite and Sideways if you like dark or quirky or less conventional comedies. Also, Saw changed the face of horror movies forever with its blend of excessive, twisted gore and genuinely smart storytelling. The Passion of the Christ renewed everyone’s faith in God. And we got all the best sequels: Spider-Man 2, Shrek 2, Kill Bill: Volume 2 etc. Plus, The Bourne Supremacy, when Bourne became Bourne with the shaky camerawork and the fast cuts. Or if you wanted a slicker and more polished thriller, you had Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in Collateral. Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio gave us the phenomenal Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator. Paul Haggis directed Crash, the controversial Best Picture winner that is great, but maybe not as great as Brokeback Mountain. We saw another side to Jim Carrey in the solemn and contemplative Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which was written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry. If you were looking to cry your eyes out, you had the bold and powerful Million Dollar Baby or the endlessly weepy The Notebook. It was a year that had something for everyone.
2015 was definitely the year for franchises. If there was a movie franchise that hadn’t had a new movie for years and years that you missed, then those chickens all came home to roost in 2015. Star Wars: The Force Awakens saw the return of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia after over thirty years. Jurassic World took us back to Steven Spielberg’s magical dinosaur kingdom with a new twist – they actually got the park up and running, so there’s more people for the dinos to kill when they inevitably escape. We got a second Avengers movie and the last Fast and Furious movie with Paul Walker in it, which was released posthumously. Mad Max came back in a major way with the action-packed Fury Road and Sylvester Stallone came back as Rocky Balboa to train Apollo Creed’s son in Creed. There were plenty of great original movies, too. Inside Out is one of Pixar’s finest, which is saying a lot. Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight blended the spaghetti western mentality of Django Unchained with the director’s claustrophobic roots from Reservoir Dogs. The Martian gave us a survival movie that was a testament to the human spirit instead of the usual harrowing endless downer that survival movies tend to be. The Revenant and Sicario weren’t easy watches, but they were rewarding ones.
For all the terrible things that happened in 2017 – be it the President, the fears of nuclear war, the history of sexual abuse in the film industry being revealed, whatever – there were a ton of fantastic movies. There were so many movies that you can picture becoming classics in the future. There were movies that were released in 2017 that you can imagine yourself still watching semi-regularly in 2047. White people’s eyes were opened to modern racism in the absurdly relevant Get Out, real life protest groups have followed the example set by Martin McDonagh in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Christopher Nolan gave us one of the finest World War II movies of all time with his epic Dunkirk, the DCEU actually got good (and empowering) with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, It became the highest grossing horror movie ever made (and one of the scariest), Greta Gerwig challenged gender stereotypes in her stellar directorial debut Lady Bird, Edgar Wright created an entirely new genre (the jukebox iPod musical car action comedy thriller) with Baby Driver, James Mangold made a Wolverine movie that was genuinely a masterpiece with Logan, a married couple of writers revitalized the romantic comedy genre by funnelling their actual life experiences into The Big Sick, Pixar made death more palatable for children with Coco, James Franco made his best movie about the making of the worst movie ever made with The Disaster Artist, and Tom Holland won over MCU audiences with his performance in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The movies of 2017 affected real sociopolitical change in how we see gender, how we deal with race, even the way that we protest political issues – it was a very important year for movies.