The Movie Bloggers Roundtable is a feature where I join up with four esteemed movie bloggers and we share our thoughts on a certain subject. Everyone on the panel will share their thoughts and feelings on the topic of the day and then we share them with you. The panel may change from post to post and hopefully we will get a wide range and interesting mix of opinions and perspectives.
Today’s roundtable discussion is inspired by my pal Ruth over at FlixChatter (one of the absolute best movie blogs around). It’s a question that I found incredibly intriguing and it had me thinking on it for several days afterwards. It deals with the different decades and the movies that defined them. Joining me for this roundtable is Zoe from The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger, Michael from It Rains…You Get Wet, Cindy from CindyBruchman.com, and Richard from Kirkham A Movie A Day. Now I can easily say that I LOVE THESE BLOGS and if you haven’t been frequenting their sites you should. So lets get to this week’s question:
What has been the greatest decade for movies?
Keith (Keith & the Movies)
I had this question in mind for a later date, but after reading Ruth’s post I just had to talk more about it. This is really difficult because every decade has had its own flavor and has contributed to the world of cinema in different ways. I have a personal affection for the 1980s mainly because those were my teen years and so many of those films nurtured my love for cinema. But was it the greatest decade for movies? I don’t know. I think arguments could be made for almost every decade. But after sloshing it around for a while my pick is the 1950s.
The 1950s were an interesting time for movies. We were beginning to see a genuine shift in how movies were being made and how stories were being told. At the same time the decade still held on to some of the things that made the 1940s so special. The 50s gave us big screen debuts from all-time great performers like Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, and Audrey Hepburn. It gave us Hitchcock’s best including “Rear WIndow” and “Vertigo”, Kurosawa’s masterpiece “The Seven Samurai”, arguably the best musical ever made “Singin’ in the Rain”, and I could go on and on. The number of true cinema classics that found their genesis in the 1950s is astonishing.
More personally the 1950s also delivered some of my favorite movie trends. Science fiction and creature features were a staple throughout the decade with fun movies like “Them!”, “The Thing from Another World”, and “Godzilla” just to name a few. The late 50s also gave birth to the French New Wave, a movement that has influenced some of cinema’s greatest directors even today. Masters like Truffaut and Chabrol laid the foundation for the run of great New Wave classics that would come through the 60s. This just skims the surface of what made the 1950s great and it’s hard to find a decade any better.
So I have been thinking of the best decade for movies and I have to say, that after all the scratching, weighing up and contemplating that I have done, I am going to give it to 2000-2009. The sheer magic that was wrought in cinema during that time is simply staggering. There are amazing titles, some of the best performances of all time, and technology had so much advanced that it really made all the difference in the world. Granted, things like The Godfather, The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan, the Indiana Jones movies, the original Star Wars trilogy, etc. came from other decades, but in terms on consistency the 2000s get it. Hands down.
Michael (It Rains…You Get Wet)
Easily, it’s the 70s. A particular span of time that proved to be one of the most tumultuous for many in the latter half of the 20th century. A decade filled with economic downturns, disillusionment, and the realization that things really could get a Hell of a lot worst. And did. The timing for film couldn’t have been better, though. For all of its crises and missteps, corruption and loss of idealism, the Me Decade heralded some of the absolute best cinema this country had to offer for the period.
The uncertainty and controversy, which followed the waning years of the Vietnam War, aroused an atmosphere that prompted directors and producers to reflect so distinctly upon the eyes of movie audiences. Prompted seemingly from watershed moments, crossroads, and/or deflated dreams, nothing could hold the tide back. It shouldn’t surprise that the era’s off-beat and imaginative comedies, challenging dramatic themes, and the stellar crime films of the period have rarely been surpassed.
From the big and important films (The Godfather, Chinatown, Jaws, Star Wars) to the small and decidedly underestimated (Halloween, The Long Goodbye, The Driver, Sorcerer), this decade had it all…and in spades. Cast back on us via celluloid, in movie houses by filmmakers who’d tasted the same bitter tea the era had served up. Lastly, though the decade did not invent or even introduce the character of the anti-hero, that protagonist certainly came into its own during this distinct ten-year stretch.
Richard (Kirkham A Movie A Day)
So, the cynical side in me wants to believe that Keith selected me because of my clearly expressed view contained in my on-line moniker and Avatar. My ego wants to believe that I was asked because my writing on-line about movies from different time periods has been interesting enough to make it appear that I might make some insightful comments. The movie lover in my soul however knows that I’ve been asked to speak for the greatest decade in movies because of my passion. I cannot disappoint any of those selves or my friend Keith, the greatest decade of movies ever was the 1970s. If I were more knowledgeable about foreign language films, the 50s could have snuck in here or if I limited myself to the sheer quantity of great films than it might be the 30s. There are however a couple of different characteristics that I would use in defense of the 70s as the greatest decade.
I don’t think any other decade has the range of styles and subject matter that the seventies did. In 1970 “Airport” was a best picture nominee. It was a soap opera melodrama with a single unique idea, disaster, at it’s heart. Ten years later, “Apocalypse Now” was a best picture nominee and the distance traveled between those two styles of film is daunting. The studio film had given way to the movie brats of film school and their highly personalized view of cinema. In 1971 “Fiddler on the Roof” was a best picture nominee and it was as much “Tradition” as you can get. Back to 1979, and another musical is nominated for best picture, “All That Jazz”, which is a meta picture about a filmmaker, making a movie and a musical simultaneously and it is autobiographical. The mindsets between these bookend years could not be more different. In the center of the decade were films that made genre films acceptable mainstream fare; pictures like “The Exorcist”, “Star Wars” and “Superman”. The greatest film of the 1970s also changed how movies were exhibited, marketed, exploited and analyzed, “Jaws” changed everything. With the exception of the movie studios being divested of their theater chains, the box office returns and audience reaction to “Jaws” did more to change the movie business than the addition of sound. It also happens to be the greatest picture made since the 1930s.
I can’t imagine any decade could match the quantity of movies from the 1930s, after all the Dream Factory was cranking them out like cars on an assembly line. Pound for pound however, 1975 could match up against 1939 very well. The degree of autonomy that directors and writers had in the 1970s may never be seen again except in the new world of You Tube and VOD. Those are the places that movies like “Taxi Driver” or “The Conversation” would have to end up. Too many opinions from too many directions mean that more recent films will never be as raw. In the 70s, Science Fiction films could explore ideas without having to have gargantuan budgets. Off beat characters could be the focal point of a story, and everybody was OK with that. In later decades, if a character was unique in some way, that would be the marketing strategy. In the 70s, everybody just expected the characters to have character.
If you consider the firepower of 1970s films, no other decade comes close to the quality of movies made in a ten year period. Look at someones list of ten greatest movies of all time, I’d be surprised if a third of them did not come from that decade: The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars, Rocky, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, Network, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, The Exorcist. If your list is specialized to a genre, Gangster Films, Cult Movies, Sports Films, Science Fiction, somewhere on those lists are at least two movies that were made in the 1970s, and for some lists it would be more than half. Stars still mattered in the seventies and the list of actors and actresses who made their biggest marks in the 70s is a long one. If this were a boxing match, in my view it would be like one of those Mike Tyson fights in the early part of his career, a knockout in the first or second round. The winner and undisputed heavyweight champion of movie decades, the 1970s.
It’s obvious to me that the 1990s were the best years in film. Drama defined the decade because of the contributions of Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers.
Tom Hanks. He owned the decade. Sure, there were mediocre choices like That Thing You Do! in 1996 or in 1992, as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own. He managed to put his personal stamp on the film with the memorable phrase, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
But consider this blockbuster list:
1990, Bonfire of the Vanities
1993, Philadelphia (Best Acting Oscar)
1993, Sleepless in Seattle
1994, Forrest Gump (Best Acting Oscar)
1995, Toy Story
1995, Apollo 13
1998, Saving Private Ryan
1999, The Green Mile
1999, Toy Story 2
Many would say Saving Private Ryan is THE best war film. His ability to represent the common man with simplistic charm reminiscent of the great Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy only won one Oscar in 1940 with The Philadelphia Story. Of course, Tom Hanks greeted the new century with strong performances but it was the 1990s where he became the legend his is today.
Steven Spielberg. His relationship with Tom Hanks in films has served them both well. Not only is Saving Private Ryan arguably the best war film which is a Spielberg masterpiece, Spielberg gets the credit for the best film ever made with Schindler’s List. That’s a subjective claim, but no one would disagree that Schindler’s List is one of the finest films in the history of film making. It happened in the 1990s. What else did Steven Spielberg put out that decade? Two personal favorites are Jurassic Park from 1993 and Amistad in 1998.
Speaking of directors and actors teaming up, how about Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro in the 1990s? The best gangster films combined with strong acting in DeNiro’s career:
Martin Scorsese Robert DeNiro
1990, Goodfellas 1990, Goodfellas
1991, Cape Fear 1991, Cape Fear
1993, The Age of Innocence 1993, This Boys Life
1995, Casino 1995, Heat 1997, Wag the Dog
Other explosive directors that created iconic drama in the 1990s were Quentin Tarantino and The Coen Brothers. Look what they did during the decade:
Quentin Tarantino Coen Brothers
1992, Reservoir Dogs 1990, Miller’s Crossing
1994, Pulp Fiction 1991, Barton Fink
1997, Jackie Brown 1996, Fargo
1998, The Big Lebowski
If you disagreed that Schindler’s List wasn’t the best film of the decade, then you probably think along with a million other critics that Pulp Fiction was the best film of the decade. If you are a Coen Brothers fan, then you probably are a cult follower of the Dude and drink White Russians as a token of homage. I know that’s when I was snookered with Jeff Bridges as an actor.
Finally, if the above reasons doesn’t convince you, here are more random films from the 1990s that I personally favor:
L.A. Confidential, Mission Impossible, Being John Malkovich, Rushmore,Contact, Sense and Sensibility, Elizabeth, Dogma, Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves, Sling Blade, The Piano,
Star Trek: First Contact, and Run Lola Run.
Are you convinced now that the 1900s was the best decade in film-making history?
So what is the consensus?
I want to thank Zoe, Michael, Richard, and Cindy for participating in this third Movie Bloggers Roundtable. You have heard our thoughts, now we want to hear yours. Do you like the feature? More importantly, which decade do you think is the best and why? There are a ton of good defenses for each. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.