Until a couple of days ago I’d never quite thought of 1971 as one of the truly legendary years in American cinema, or at least not along the lines of 1939 or ’62 or ’99. But on 3.18 a longish piece by a guy whose name might be Cole Brax (a vague echo of Cole Trickle, Tom Cruise‘s character in Days of Thunder) suggested this very thing. He didn’t make a complete-enough case for ’71’s lasting glory, but he definitely began the conversation. Key quote: “What I do know is that in 1971 many of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived released some of their best work. At the time, most of my favorite directors in film history were still active or just getting started. I don’t know what was in the water or the air that year (probably drugs), but the films that came out of that annum created a ripple effect that is felt to this very day.”
As noted Brax only lists a portion of the finest so here’s a more complete rundown, and listed in order of my personal preference:
Top 27 1971 Films: (1) The French Connection; (2) The Last Picture Show; (3) A Clockwork Orange (4) The Hospital, (5) McCabe & Mrs. Miller, (6) Sunday Bloody Sunday, (7) Get Carter, (8) Straw Dogs, (9) Murmur of the Heart, (10) Dirty Harry, (11) Klute, (12) Walkabout, (13) Two English Girls, (14) Death in Venice, (15) Two-Lane Blacktop, (16) Taking Off, (17) Carnal Knowledge, (18) Harold and Maude, (19) Roman Polanski’s Macbeth, (20) The Emigrants, (21) The Devils, (22) Play Misty for Me, (23) The Panic in Needle Park, (24) THX 1138, (25) Duel, (26) Little Murders, (27) Le Mans.
Special, Stand-Alone, Non-Numerical: The Music Lovers (1970 British release that opened in the U.S. in January ’71)
Second Tier: (28) Shaft, (29) WR — Mysteries of the Organism, (30) Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, (31) A New Leaf, (32) Fiddler on the Roof, (33) Bananas, (34) Minnie and Moskowitz, (35) Diamonds Are Forever, (36) $, (37) The Boy Friend, (38) Family Life (d: Ken Loach), (39) Summer of ’42, (40) Wake in Fright, (41) The Wild Rovers, (42) The Clowns (d: Federico Fellini), (43) Four Nights of a Dreamer (d: Robert Bresson), (44) Plaza Suite, (45) The Ceremony (d: Nagisa Oshima), (46) Nicholas and Alexandra, (47) Mon Oncle Antoine, (48) Skin Game, (49) Johnny Got His Gun, (50) The Anderson Tapes.
Third Tier: (51) The Last Movie, (52) And Now for Something Completely Different, (53) The Andromeda Strain, (54) Billy Jack, (55) Bless the Beasts & Children, (56 The Omega Man, (57) Support Your Local Gunfighter, (58) 10 Rillington Place, (59) Vanishing Point, (60) Such Good Friends (61) Kotch, (62) Mary, Queen of Scots, (63) Fata Morgana, (64) Doc, (65) Made for Each Other, (66) Duck, You Sucker, (67) The Grissom Gang, (68) Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.