1971 in Review

Other Notable Films from 1971

Dirty Harry: The film that made Clint Eastwood more than just a Western star and ushered in the “loose-cannon cop who doesn’t play by the rules” genre. I do not like the politics of the movie (and boy are they more relevant than ever), but the performances (both Eastwood and “The Scorpio Killer” Andy Robinson) and atmosphere still make it worth watching no matter who you are-if you’re from the Bay Area, even more so. In the National Film Registry.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller: Robert Altman was one of the best and most versatile directors of the 1970s, and this was his unsurprisingly idiosyncratic take on a Western. Despite only getting one Oscar nomination at the time (Julie Christie for Actress) and mixed reviews at the time, it is now considered one of the best Westerns of all-time and was #8 on AFI’s Westerns list. In the National Film Registry.

Harold and Maude: When you think “quirky, black comedy underground cult film”, this tops that list-it’s about a young man obsessed with death who befriends a 79 year old free-spirited woman that blossoms into a romance. One of the rare films to be on the AFI Laughs, Passions and Cheers lists.

The Hospital: Paddy Chayefsky won the Oscar for Original Screenplay and was once again ahead of the curve, much like he was six years later for Network: talking about the problems with the modern American health care system. In the National Film Registry.

Straw Dogs: When a movie released the same year as A Clockwork Orange, The French Connection and Dirty Harry is singled out for being overly violent, boy is that saying something-it wasn’t even released in uncut form in the UK until 2002. The film has and always be controversial for how people perceive its thoughts about vigilante revenge and rape, but nonetheless, it is generally considered one of Sam Peckinpah’s best works.

Shaft & Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song: The two films that established the Blaxploitation genre as something to be reckoned with in the next decade and established the main tropes of the genre, even if Sweet Sweetback’s tone is very different than most. Shaft is (I believe) the only Blaxploitation film to win an Oscar (Issac Hayes for his legendary theme to the movie) and is in the National Film Registry.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: Even though it didn’t make a dent at the box office upon its original release, TV and home video turned this into a beloved classic, and pretty much the only musical I ever watched as a little kid. It got a Best Original Score nomination, but not anything else. In the National Film Registry.

Get Carter: The 1970s had plenty of violent movies featuring a lone man taking out criminals, but this one is both unique and one of the best. In movies like Dirty Harry and Death Wish, the main character, for whatever you think about his actions, is still presented as likeable and is the person you are rooting for in the movie; in Get Carter, violence isn’t glorified and Michael Caine’s gangster character is soulless and brutal and is a villain in a world of other, even worse villains.

Sunday Bloody Sunday: One of only a few movies to be nominated for Best Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay but not Best Picture. It swept the BAFTAs that year, but despite strong critical acclaim (then and now), was not given a Best Picture nomination. Also, it stars the guy who sang “One Night in Bangkok.”

1971 Nominees in Review

A Clockwork Orange: A

The Last Picture Show: A-

The French Connection: A- (Won Best Picture)

Fiddler on the Roof: B-

Nicholas and Alexandra: C+

This is what I’m talking about, one of the best groups ever where you have a number of great movies and the others are still decent to pretty good. I’m still surprised that The French Connection won considering The Last Picture Show feels more like the kind of film the Academy generally rewards. A Clockwork Orange has left a huge legacy, but they were bold by even nominating it in the first place, and it had no chance of winning. Looking forward to more good things coming the rest of this decade.

1972 is considered one of the greatest nominee slates of all-time-we have: The only movie to win 8 Oscars (including Director and Actress) but not Best Picture; John Boorman’s big success that allowed him to waste millions of dollars making Zardoz and Exorcist II: The Heretic; A Best Picture nominee from Sweden that wasn’t from Ingmar Bergman (although it does have Liv Ullman in it); The first of Francis Ford Coppola’s 4 straight Best Picture nominees and the one that’s usually considered the best; and the first Best Picture nominee with a majority black cast.


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