As early as the Kinetoscope and nickelodeons, filmmakers have been pointing their cameras at people and presenting their stories on a screen. People have been discussing, debating, and disputing about films since the creation of the medium. One of the most frequently asked questions among moviegoers is, “What was the best year ever for movies?” Which year has had the greatest impact on popular culture and the film industry in general? It’s been a great year for movies, but which ones have had the most engaging stories?
Certainly, there are a few years that stand out from the rest of the pack when it comes to movies. When it comes to unforgettable cinematic events, memorable characters, and memorable lines, these are the years. Our heart chords were plucked, we went into hysterics, and we were left feeling inspired by these years. These are the best years in movie history, from the golden age of Hollywood to the present day.
1. 1939 was Hollywood’s Golden Year
In 1939, World War II had just begun in Europe, but the United States had not yet joined the conflict. Despite the country’s recent economic recovery, many people chose to spend their spare time at the movies. In addition, there were a plethora of fantastic films to view.
It’s no exaggeration to proclaim 1939 “Hollywood’s Golden Year.” For example, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Ruby Red Slippers” are two of the most well-known songs from The Wizard of Oz. The Civil War epic Gone with the Wind is remains the highest-grossing film of all time, even when adjusted for inflation. Mr. Smith featured Jimmy Stewart in one of his finest performances as a gallant senator. Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, and Stagecoach all provided us legendary actors like Laurence Olivier and John Wayne.
Ingrid Bergman made her American film debut with Intermezzo, while Judy Garland sang and danced her way into our hearts. Not to mention titles such as Young Mr. Lincoln, Ninotchka and The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. A record number of films from that year have been preserved for posterity in the National Film Registry, including 19 in all. So, if you’re still not convinced that 1939 was Hollywood’s Golden Year, we could care less.
2. Nobody’s perfect… except for 1959
What distinguishes 1959 as a standout amongst the rest of the year’s film offerings? We got Some Like It Hot as a result, which the AFI and the BBC both hail as the greatest comedy of all-time. Although it dealt with controversial subjects like homosexuality and transgender identity, the film’s final phrase is a great epitaph for Marilyn Monroe.
Both Cary Grant’s escape from the deadly crop duster in North by Northwest and the heart-pounding race in Ben-Hur were captured on film during that year. Rio Bravo, a Western that Quentin Tarantino deems the best “hangout” movie ever filmed, was also on the list. When it came time for Disney to produce one of its most beautiful animated films, Sleeping Beauty, Roger Ebert hailed John Cassavetes’ Shadows as the most significant film ever made in the twentieth century for its part in the birth of the independent film movement. Even the most forgettable films of that year, like Ed Wood’s astonishingly poor Plan 9 from Outer Space, stood out.
Finally, The 400 Blows came around the corner. As part of the French New Wave, Francois Truffaut’s film was essential in the movement’s inception. Jump cuts, fragmented timelines, improvisation, and fourth-wall breaking were encouraged by the auteur theory (a.k.a. the auteur theory). To this day, it’s credited with reinvigorating interest in the art form and inspiring filmmakers from Quentin Tarantino to Wes Anderson.
3. 1967 stuck it to the man
When it came to creating money in the film industry, movie tycoons believed that the secret was to produce massive musicals and epic sword and sandals movies. This changed when youthful audiences demanded something more daring in 1967 and filmmakers were eager to deliver. There were a lot of great movies this year, including Bonnie and Clyde, which pushed the limits of on-screen violence. After that comes The Graduate, which takes the eroticism to a whole new level. There were a number of films that were driving Hollywood in new, hip directions at the same time as Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate pushed the boundaries of violence and sexuality.
A Fistful of Dollars was the first successful international spaghetti western. A worn genre was deconstructed, Clint Eastwood’s clean-cut image was remade, and Ennio Morricone’s talent was revealed to the world. They were both rebellious flicks that celebrated anti-heroes and gave society the middle finger. In the Heat of the Night, Sidney Poitier backhanded a white guy with a slap that went around the world. Breaking boundaries and sticking up for one’s self was a big theme in Hollywood in 1967, and this scene proved it when the film won Best Picture at the Oscars.
4. Things got dark in 1974
In 1974, the traditional studio system had crumbled totally. Young directors fresh out of film school were given the keys to Hollywood’s kingdom by Hollywood executives desperate to draw in a younger audience.
The Godfather: Part II, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, was a good example of this. The Sugarland Express, Caged Heat, Badlands, and Dark Star all had their feature film debuts this year, as did The Sugarland Express director Steven Spielberg, Jonathan Demme, Terrence Malick, and Carpenter. With Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Brian de Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, and the Watergate investigation at its height, conspiracy thrillers were all the rage at this time. This year’s best films included Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, which featured an arresting score and a razor-sharp story about crime and corruption by Roman Polanski, as well as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View.
Mel Brooks’ comedies Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein delighted audiences throughout the year. When Leatherface sliced his way into theaters, some moviegoers laughed, while others screamed in terror. Both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas, an independent film from the same year that produced a ton of blood-soaked money, helped establish the slasher subgenre. In 1978, Halloween became the first big-budget slasher film, but these two flicks set the framework for the genre.
5. We stayed away from the water in 1975
Many cinema buffs believe the 1970s were the best decade for filmmaking, and the year 1975 only serves to reinforce that belief. Three films have won the Big Five Oscars: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of them, thanks to the outstanding performances of Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher. The year 1975 also gave us Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which we can all thank for things like estimating the airspeed of an unladen swallow or randomly shouting “Ni.” Nashville, a fantastic film on the music industry and the fracturing of American identity, was also shown to the audience. Aside from Dog Day Afternoon and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, there is little doubt that Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, no matter how you feel about its subject matter, is an aesthetically stunning film.
1975, on the other hand, is a watershed year because of a giant mechanical shark and a beardy director named Steven Spielberg. Jaws frightened moviegoers into the theatre and into the ocean this year. Jaws was the highest-grossing film of all time (until Star Wars) and the inspiration for the summer blockbuster movie genre. Jaws, despite the fact that some claim it stifled the 1970s’ creative output, is a near-perfect film that paved the way for action films like Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, and The Avengers to thrive.
6. 1976 was talking to all of us
During the 1970s, Sylvester Stallone, an underdog in Hollywood, made his mark with Rocky, an inspirational story of romance and ringmanship that encouraged audiences to take their shot and soar. A critical and financial success, the film was only one of a dozen that year to become instant classics. What about Taxi Driver? It’s practically Rocky’s opposite. This film captures all of the angst, sadness, and paranoia of the ’70s in a way that is primal, strong, and lonely. “Are you talking to me?” is maybe the most famous improvised line of all time.
As a satire of television news, Network was so accurate that it didn’t even feel like a satire anymore. Thrillers like Assault on Precinct 13 and Marathon Man made us wonder if we could trust Hollywood, and All the President’s Men, a film about the value of investigative reporting in the wake of the Watergate scandal, brought us face to face with the Watergate scandal. Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek in a haunting performance, and The Omen, a picture that made everyone reconsider parenthood, were two of the best horror films of the year. What better way to mark a year in Hollywood history than to include The Shootist, Logan’s Run, The Bad News Bears, and The Outlaw Josey Wales?
7. 1982 had the best summer ever
Science fiction and fantasy aficionados will never forget the summer of 1982.
Some of the audience’s tears were wiped away in the rain by Blade Runner, which introduced them to cyberpunk.
Action movie The Road Warrior depicts a dystopian wasteland populated by armoured automobiles and people in leather garb. The Thing, a terrifying horror film by John Carpenter that features jaw-dropping special effects and a satisfyingly ambiguous conclusion, made us all go for the barf bags. Finally, Poltergeist, Tron and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan were all released within the same time period in the summer of 1984.
With Don Bluth’s The Secret of NIMH, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian, and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, the world of Muppets and monsters was put on display. It was Spielberg’s most personal (and lucrative) film and a heart-warming yarn about building up the galaxy’s greatest phone bill that made E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Sci-fi and fantasy were the most popular genres this year, but there was much more going on than that. Diner, Gandhi, and Das Boot were all there. Make no distinction between Sophie’s Choice, Tootsie, The Verdict, or any of the others. If you haven’t seenFriday the 13th Part III, First Blood, 48 Hrs, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High yet, you’re missing out. It’s hard to top ’82 when it comes to current masterpieces.
8. 1994 was pulpy and perfect
In 1994, moviegoers had nothing to worry about. With The Mask, Dumb & Dumber, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Jim Carrey was on fire. There was Speed, The Crow, True Lies, and Leon: The Professional if they needed some action. After witnessing The Lion King, audiences had no worries in the field of animation.
Let’s make a biography out of it! Ed Wood was Tim Burton’s answer. Want a dose of fantasy? Peter Jackson was in attendance with his Heavenly Creatures. With Natural Born Killers and Clerks, Oliver Stone and Kevin Smith proved that anyone could make a movie, regardless of budget.
But if you truly want to know how extraordinary 1994 was, you need look at the Oscar nominations.
Despite the fact that Forrest Gump won Best Picture at the Oscars, we’re still repeating it today. On the other hand, there was The Shawshank Redemption, a film about the power of hope and one that has remained at the top of IMDb’s Top 250 list. In addition to Pulp Fiction, other notable nominations included Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral.
An unconventional crime film directed by Quentin Tarantino shocked the industry. Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and John Travolta were all thrust into the limelight thanks to this film, as well as innumerable imitators. Even before the end of its non-linear narrative and ultra-violence, the film had changed how people viewed pocket watches forever.
9. 1999 gave us multiple modern-day classics
The century was just around the verge in 1999, and Hollywood was buzzing with excitement. Keanu Reeves and The Matrix redefined action films with bullet time, gun fu, and martial arts in the year of kung fu. ’99 also brought us Toy Story 2, Tarzan, and The Iron Giant in the world of animation. If you were looking for a good chuckle, Office Space, Election, and the best Star Trek movie ever made, Galaxy Quest, were all available. Then there’s Being John Malkovich, a black comedy directed by Spike Jonze, in which the title character is played by none other than himself.
Horror was also big this year. The Blair Witch Project popularized the use of discovered video and paved the way for other independent horror films to find popularity. One of the best twist endings ever was provided by the ghost story The Sixth Sense. It wasn’t just M. Night Shyamalan who got twisted. As soon as Fight Club swung into theaters, David Fincher unleashed an assault on both manhood and society with two devastating fists. American Beauty, Boys Don’t Cry, and The Talented Mr. Ripley were among the other films. It was a good year for movies: We had Magnolia, The Insider, and Eyes Wide Shut from Stanley Kubrick. With The Phantom Menace, Star Wars fans returned to the galaxy far, far away. A great way to ring in the new millennium, to put it mildly.
10. 2007 gave us serial killers, assassins, and milkshakes
Despite the widespread belief that movies aren’t being made as well as they once were, this is simply not true. Take a look at the year 2007. David Fincher examined the deadly effect of obsession in Zodiac at that time. In No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers and Javier Bardem created one of the most terrifying cinematic villains. With There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis crafted an American masterpiece.
With its harsh realism and shaky cam battle scenes, The Bourne Ultimatum finished off an incredible trilogy and influenced an entire generation of action pictures. Gone Baby Gone and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford were two of Casey Affleck’s best roles of the year. Edgar Wright’sHot Fuzz, the funniest of the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy, was filmed on the other side of the pond. And in 2007, Michael Bay unleashed Transformers on the globe, whether you love or loathe him.
Brad Bird’s Ratatouille, a film that made us fall in love with food, was also released in this same year. Ellen Page became a household celebrity because to Juno, which earned an Oscar for her unique and emotional writing. Superbad introduced Jonah Hill and Emma Stone to the world, and the list of great films could go on and on, including Atonement, Michael Clayton, Into the Wild, and Eastern Promises. We also got a dancing Spider-Man this year, so what’s not to like?
11. 2016 was a year of moonlight and musicals
Aside from flops such as Assassin’s Creed and Suicide Squad, 2016, is a year that ranks alongside the most well-known successes of this decade.
Amy Adams, Sasha Lane, Natalie Portman, and Isabelle Huppert are just a few of the actresses who wowed audiences this year. There was a darker side to Disney’s Zootopia and Pete’s Dragon films, with The Witch, The Invitation, Green Room, and10 Cloverfield Lane lurking in the shadows. In addition, there’s The Wailing and Train to Busan, a Korean horror double feature.
Marvel’s superhero films kept us spellbound with Doctor Strange and compelled us to choose sides inCaptain America: Civil War. For smaller roles, Casey Affleck was heartbreaking in Manchester by the Sea, Channing Tatum tapped his feet inHail, Caesar!, and The Nice Guys was unfairly overlooked. This year’s best films included quirky jewels like The Lobster and Swiss Army Man, as well as hard-hitting documentaries like 13th, Weiner, and OJ: Made In America.
Then there are La La Land and Moonlight, two of the most talked-about films of the year. In one of the musicals, there was an homage to the golden era of Hollywood. The other was a well-made drama about a gay black man who was struggling to figure out who he was. Despite the fact that only one of these films was awarded the Best Picture Oscar, both were huge hits with moviegoers all over the world.
12. 2017 helped audiences escape the Sunken Place
We believe that in the next 30 years or so, 2017 will be remembered as one of the best years in movie history. Pennywise emerged from the sewers in It, Luke Skywalker found his groove in The Last Jedi and Caesar finally returned home in War for the Planet of the Apes in the year 2017.
We bid farewell to the Wolverine in Logan and welcomed three of the best Marvel movies: Thor: Ragnarok, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 2015. Diana Prince finally received her due in Wonder Woman, a comic book film that finally included a female protagonist. All these superheroes, 2017 was a fantastic year for science fiction and fantasy, asBlade Runner 2049 lived up to its 1982 predecessor, and The Shape of Water won the Best Picture Oscar.
Isn’t it time for some more evidence that 2017 was a great year? And of course Lady Bird and Dunkirk were also in the running. We all cried at movies likeThe Florida Project,A Ghost Story, andCall Me By Your Name. Good Time, Split, Raw, and Personal Shopper were also there. Get Out, on the other hand, blew us away. First-time director Jordan Peele proved that racism is scarier than any villain in a slasher movie in his debut film, The Sunken Place.