Fifty Years: Fifty Movies – part one

In five days, I will turn fifty.  Or maybe you could say, I will achieve fifty years old, finishing my 50th year.  Recently my wife asked me how I wanted to celebrate and my answer was that I had no idea, but I had thought about how I wanted to mark the occasion on my blog.

Birthday Cake

Part of that is via this series of posts.  I like movies, clearly, and having (shortly) lived for fifty full years, I thought I’d have a look back and what was released through the years since I was born, and take note of one film from each year of my life.  Fifty movies is a lot for one post, so we’ll stick with 10 movies each in a series of five articles.

Read Part Two

To be clear, I’m not warranting that these are the best movie from each year, or even my favorite.  I’m actually purposely avoiding mentioning any films that are on my recently created and revised list of 101 Movies That I Love the Most (to be revealed soon). The ones listed here are just movies I find interesting and worth noting–and that maybe are worth seeing if you have the opportunity. .

Anyway, each film listed was released in a particular year of my life.  So for example, I was born on June 7, 1970.  So I’m counting the 1st year of my life being June, 7 1970 – June 6, 1971.  The 50th year of my life is the one I’m in right now, which will come to end in just a few days.  The movies are not listed in the year that I saw them, but in the year they were actually released in America, according to Wikipedia.

As I was doing the research for this, I got another idea, which is to pick a film from each of those years that I haven’t seen, and make a viewing-list for myself for the 51st year.  So I’m going to list those as well.

1st Year (June 1970 – June 1971)

The Andromeda Strain

Directed by Robert Wise
Release Date:  March 12, 1971

The Andromeda Strain

This is a little bit of a cheat since I’m not 100% sure I’ve ever seen this entire film, but I have seen a good chunk of it back in the day on TV.  Based on a novel by Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain is a scientific procedural thriller about an alien virus which threatens life on earth, and a small team of elite scientists attempting to find a cure.  It’s a gripping and grounded science fiction movie which developed its suspense well and which I really enjoyed.

2nd Year (June 1971 – June 1972)

The French Connection

Directed by William Friedkin
Release Date:  October 7, 1971

The French Connection

The French Connection belongs on a list of films that I don’t remember very well, but that I still really like.  It’s a film that I assume would make it on my list of 101 Movies That I Love the Most, except that I don’t think I can put it there just on the basis of a vague sense of appreciation.  But this list of Fifty Years: Fifty Movies is not as hard to get onto!  Anyway, The French Connection is a classic police action thriller (two thrillers in a row, hopefully there’s some more variety to come) featuring an Oscar-winning performance by Gene Hackman as police officer Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle.  It features a gripping and iconic car chase, a slower chase on a subway train, and a lot of gritty 1970’s New. York atmosphere.  I definitely want to catch this one again someday, and maybe watch its sequel as well.

3rd Year (June 1972 – June 1973)

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Directed by Luis Buñuel
Release Date:  September 15, 1972

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie

The second film in a row to co-star Fernando Rey…and I think they are almost the only two films with Fernando Rey that I have ever seen.  The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a (mostly) French-language surrealist film about a handful of upper middle class people basically attempting to sit down for dinner together, but constantly have their plans thrown asunder by a series of bizarre interruptions.  In between, they go on long silent walks down a road.  The whole thing is full of commentary about social class  and societal norms, which I’m sure is quite beyond my understanding–but I remember the movie pulling me along as one flows through a series of overlapping dreams on a restless night.

4th Year (June 1973 – June 1974)

The Sting

Directed by George Roy Hill
Release Date:  December 25, 1973

The Sting

For a lot of people, The Sting is a big favorite.  It never quite got there with me, but it is a worthy film.  Paul Newman and Robert Redford  play two grifters–one an old pro and the other a talented newcomer–who get involved in a high-stakes con against a scary crime boss played by Robert Shaw.  The charming leads, an outstanding supporting cast (include James Ear Jones’ father Robert) and some memorable music help to make this puzzle-filled caper film a winner.

5th Year (June 1974 – June 1975)

The Towering Inferno

Directed by John Guillermin
Release Date:  December 14, 1974

The Towering Inferno

Two studios teamed up to make a movie based on two novels which featured two big-time movie stars who managed to share top billing via some diagonal credits, and the result is The Towering Inferno.  It’s not transcendent movie by any stretch, but it does the disaster film shtick like nothing else ever before or since.  In it, a fictional 138 floor skyscraper turns out to have been made with faulty electrical work, leading to a wave of fires breaking out all over its 138 floors (if it were a real building, it’d still have the second most floors out of any in the world), leading to a bit of an all-star barbecue.  Paul Newman (appearing on this list for the second year in a row) and Steve McQueen headline the cast, and they are ably supported by all sorts of interesting personalities, including Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Robert Vaughan (The Man from UNCLE), Mike Lookinland (Bobby Brady from The Brady Bunch), Gregory Sierra (Barney Miller), and O.J. Simpson (!!).

6th Year (June 1975 – June 1976)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Directed by Milos Forman
Release Date:  November 19, 1975

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

This is the first film on this list that I actually saw in the theatres back in the day, apparently when I was only 5 years old.  What were my parents thinking?  Anyway, much later I saw it again and for a while it became one of my favorite movies.  Since then it’s fallen lower on my list, but it’s still a piece of work I respect a lot.  Jack Nicholson shows us he is the American actor of the 1970’s in his role as Randle P. McMurphy, a skeevy patient in a mental institution who ends up being a symbol of individuality and dignity.  He’s surrounded by an amazing cast which includes Louise Fletcher, Scatman Crothers, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, and Vincent Schiavelli.

7th Year (June 1976 – June 1977)

Black Sunday

Directed by John Frankenheimer
Release Date:  April 1, 1977

Black Sunday

Black Sunday is another film that I saw on its original release, I suppose when I was six.  I have vivid (though probably exaggerated) memories of police officers being mowed down with machine guns, which again goes to the show the difference between what my parents would allow and what allowed with my own children.  Anyway, I went back to it as an adult some years back and found it be a pretty gripping political action thriller, which stars one of my favorite actors of the day, Robert Shaw (who also appeared in the 4th year project, a few paragraphs above).  The plot features Bruce Dern and Marthe Keller as terrorists who plan to blow up a Goodyear blimp at the Superbowl.  Robert Shaw plays the Israeli intelligence agent out to stop them.  It’s high stakes and over-the-top action but still with the gritty earthiness that we got with so much 1970’s American cinema.  I enjoy the combination.

8th Year (June 1977 – June 1978)

The Rescuers

Directed by John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, Art Stevens
Release Date:  June 22, 1977

The Rescuers

This is the third film in a row that I saw in the theatres in its original release, but at least this one was age-appropriate.  I don’t think there are any (non Pixar) Disney animated films that are in my list of Most Loved 101, but I’ve always had a soft spot for The Rescuers.  I liked the idea of this league of mice that were organized and ready to help those who were suffering, and I would have enjoyed seeing more of that world developed (beyond the one sequel that we got).  I also enjoyed Bernard as a hero.  Bob Newhart is a bit of a favorite of mine, and he voices the character, so that’s a big plus.

9th Year (June 1978 – June 1979)

Superman the Movie

Directed by Richard Donner
Release Date:  December 15, 1978


In the same way that Superman is often looked at as one of the prototypical superhero characters, Superman the Movie can be considered the first real superhero blockbuster film. Richard Donner directs the project with a lot of care, creating an epic quality to Superman’s origins, and a legitimate nobility to the character.  Christopher Reeve did the best job anyone has done in live action making Clark Kent and Superman seem like two different people.  And the whole film does an outstanding job creating new and innovative visual and optical effects in order to bring the fantasy elements of the story to life.  I’m a little surprised this movie didn’t place on my 101 Moves that I Love–it’s really just because so many superhero films have built so well off its foundations.  But I still love it.  It’s easily still the best cinematic depiction of Superman that we’ve ever had.

10th Year (June 1979 – June 1980)

The Muppet Movie

Directed by James Frawley
Release Date:  June 22, 1979

The Muppet Movie

The fifth consecutive movie on this list which I saw in the theatre, I was big fan of The Muppet Show, so the movie was perfect for me.  Back then, theatrical films based on TV shows were pretty rare (especially shows that were still in production) so that made this even more special.  The Muppet Movie  is a great “all-ages” film which builds off everything that was fun about the show and then takes it further, by taking Kermit, Fozzie and the rest out of the theatre and into the “real world”.  In one of the great feats of movie practical effects, suddenly Kermit was riding a bicycle!  I really enjoy this film and it’s quirky music–it’s a near-miss for my list of 101 Movies That I Love the Most.

Fifty Films for my Fifty-First Year – Part One

As I mentioned above, my plan is now to choose fifty more films, one from each year, which I will watch in this upcoming year, and hopefully write some sort of blog for them, even a short one.  Each movie again was released in the year of my life that I’m talking about, and none of them have I ever seen before. Some are movies I’ve always wanted to see, and others I’ve never really thought about (or even heard of in some cases) before writing this post.

Two Mules for Sister Sara

Year One – Two Mules for Sister Sara directed by Don Siegel–I recently watched Escape from Alcatraz and this is another collaboration between Siegel and Clint Eastwood, albeit ten years earlier.

Year Two – The Hot Rock directed by Peter Yates–a comedy-drama caper film which I’ve never heard of before.

Year Three – Butterflies are Free directed by Milton Katselas–I was in the play this movie was based on years ago so I’ve always been curious to see it.

Year Four – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad directed by Gordon Hessler–it’s possible that I have seen a few minutes of this before, but I don’t really count it.  But it is an easy pick, with its Ray Harryhausen special effects and the fact that Tom Baker (Doctor who plays the villain.

Year Five – The Odessa File directed by Ronald Neame–a political thriller which I’m only aware of because it co-stars Mary Tamm, who played Romana (the first one) on Doctor Who back in the 1970’s.

Year Six – All the President’s Men directed by Alan J. Pakula–a very well known drama that I have just never gotten around to watching, about the whole Watergate scandal which brought down President Richard Nixon.

Year Seven – Rocky directed by John Avildsen–that’s right, I’ve never seen Rocky.  At least not all of it, and not all in a row.

Year Eight – I Never Promised You a Rose Garden directed by Anthony Page–a fantasy drama about mental health that I don’t really know anything about

Year Nine – Murder by Decree directed by Bob Clark–a Sherlock Holmes mystery featuring Christopher Plummer, which I’ve never heard of.

Year Ten – Kramer vs. Kramer directed by Robert Benton–another classic that I have never seen.

Kramer vs. Kramer

Read Part Two


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