Flickchart's "Best of the 6's" blog series has reached its halfway point. In previous posts, we've covered the top ten movies of each year ending in 6 as we work our way up to 2016 and the best films of this year. Thus far, we've covered 1966, 1946, 1996, 1986, 1916, and 1936. We now leap forty years into the past to take a look at the best films of 1976.
1976 was a year not unlike this one in some ways. It was an election year with the presidential race featuring Republican incumbent Gerald Ford being ousted by Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter. The Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty was being solidified as they captured another Super Bowl by defeating the Dallas Cowboys. The Viking program brought the world its first surface-level pictures of Mars.
And in film, the decade of auteurs was in full force. The 70's was the era of Kubrick, Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola, and even the time when Lucas could be considered an auteur. Needless to say, the 70's brought us many films that could be considered the best films of all time. In the middle of the decade, these directors were at the height of their talent as they made films that have secured a place in history. Now the Flickchart Bloggers share their take on Flickchart's Top Ten films of 1976.
Roman Polanski himself stars in this Kafka-like tale of paranoia and transformation — adapted from Roland Topor's novel, Le Locataire chimérique — as Trelkovsky, a bland young man who is inexplicably desperate to rent a scrungy apartment, the previous occupant of which is in critical condition after throwing herself out of the window. Once installed in his new digs, Trelkovsky is not only under constant scrutiny from his pesky neighbors and landlord, who lurk suspiciously outside his door, but faces the inside of the apartment which has its own eerie surprises. The first two-thirds of The Tenant are mildly but darkly funny and lead to a wicked finale that makes what at first seemed too deliberately-paced shockingly memorable.
Trelkovsky may be a cypher who is difficult to like, but his bizarre third-act transformation is remarkably fun to watch. Isabelle Adjani is always a welcome sight, and both Shelley Winters and Melvyn Douglas are effectively arch as disapproving observers. The Tenant recalls, at times, both Rosemary's Babyand Repulsion, and Polanksi considered it the final piece in his informal apartment-themed trilogy. Although less vital than the first two parts, The Tenant succeeds mostly on the strength of Polanski's technique — keep an eye out for the constant use of disembodied heads and reflections in the mise-en-scène — and the eerie wit that underlies nearly every scene as it slowly creeps toward the crazy denouement. — Greg Dorr
Coming after the success of The Exorcist, The Omen sits at the nexus of psychological horror, religious horror, and globe-trotting adventure. It handles — as tastefully as possible through cutaways and reflections and strong reaction shots — a hanging, an impalement, and a decapitation. It is as edgy and deadly serious as The Exorcist, but with more heart-pounding urgency. An invisible net seems to tighten around Ambassador Robert Thorn, a man of gravitas played by professional man-of-gravitas Gregory Peck, ensnaring his acquaintances, employees, and family. Thorn tries to outrun destiny in a long-shot quest that takes him into obscure corners of Italy, the Middle East, and a memorable graveyard. The occult mysteries and Biblical revelations he uncovers, though, point relentlessly back to the evil that dwells in his own house. The Omen's penultimate scene sees Thorn prepare a last bloody ritual as time runs out; his feverish determination to kill a child makes for a bizarre twist on Peck's do-gooder film persona. The Omen is an equally noteworthy entry in the extensive filmographies of director Richard Donner and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who give it a unique, ruddy, grainy aesthetic. — David Conrad
This adaption of Stephen King's debut novel would become the first of over a hundred adaptions of King's work. It's a testament to the strength of his stories that so many filmmakers want to bring them to life. Though King is a fair spot down the list of most adapted authors, his name stands beside legends of writing such as Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Few modern authors come close to touching this accomplishment. How fortunate that visionary director Brian De Palma was the first to bring King's vision and characters to the silver screen. It speaks to the power and prestige that horror had as a genre back in the 70's. Nowadays, horror adaptions receive bland teen stars and chopping block studio directors who bring them to life cheaply in an effort to make a quick buck. De Palma's adaption, however, was made with a focused vision that arguably helped make his reputation as a man of creative vision in Hollywood after a string of mixed results, critically and commercially, in his previous work.
Carrie is a powerful psychological film that benefits from De Palma's framing of shots and the way he sets an atmosphere of pain and angst. Sissy Spacek's turn as the titular character is spell-binding in many ways. This type of role could easily be over-dramatized and played up with lots of showy acting. Instead, Spacek plays her in a very grounded and realistic way. She is a quiet girl who's facing confusion as she matures into a young woman. Her telekinesis is a simple metaphor for her growth into adulthood and all of the confusing decisions and emotions it brings. It's ultimately this emotional content that makes for the real horror. The bullying of Carrie and the manipulation from her religious zealot mother (wonderfully portrayed by Piper Laurie) create a powerful sense of tension within the audience. The combination of score, framing, and acting act like a hotplate beneath you as gradually begin to bubble inside. Eventually, you reach your breaking point at the climax of the film as tension bubbles over into chaos and despair. The famed prom scene still works so well because its not played up or given tons of dramatic flair. Spacek stands with a plain face of pain and pleasure that haunts audiences to this day. — Connor Adamson
In some ways, Assault on Precinct 13 is the only theatrically released movie John Carpenter ever made set on planet Earth. Carpenter is perhaps best known as a master of horror, but he’s worked in romance (Starman), action (Escape from New York) and full-blown satire (Big Trouble in Little China, They Live). Yet, aside from Assault on Precinct 13, each of these reach toward science fiction or the supernatural. Assault on Precinct 13 spends some time setting up its character dynamics, ensuring that once the gunfire starts, the stakes are quietly, tensely high. A gang war united in a “Cholo” blood pact against the police force and citizens of Los Angeles grows gruesomely violent as Lt. Ethan Bishop (a fantastic performance from Austin Stoker) takes over the last remnants of the Precinct 13 office just hours before it closes. They get saddled with a few inmates while one of them gets medical attention. Once the Cholo forces start pounding on the threadbare station, the desperation inherent in the situation is enough to make the action heart-pounding. Carpenter aimed, in some way, to combine Rio Bravo and Night of the Living Dead, yet the film is so full of his personality that it stands apart. — Alex Lovendahl
I have to give credit to Birth.Movies.Death’s Devin Faraci for some exploration of the themes of this movie; his The Canon podcast with co-host Amy Nicholson opened some doors to this thriller that I hadn’t seen on my initial viewing. For one thing, John Schlesinger, perhaps best known for working with Dustin Hoffman on Midnight Cowboy in 1969, strives to restrain Hoffman somewhat in the film’s early going, ultimately allowing Hoffman to develop over the course of the film. This ends up giving Hoffman’s Babe a little bit more personality than some of the other paranoia thriller leads of the period, and it gives the film a rising tension. The themes presented in Marathon Man separate it from some of the other paranoia films of the 70s; a meditation in some ways on the Holocaust and complacency in the United States, the film differentiates itself from the more nebulous films inspired by Watergate and the Kennedy assassinations. A film with at least three fantastic scenes and zero bad ones, the interrogation scene is one of the more infamous and referenced scenes in 70's genre film. — Alex
Clint Eastwood made his name playing a Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy and parlayed that into a series of popular and successful westerns he directed himself in the 1970s. The title character here is about as taciturn and low-key as the Man with No Name, but his name is very important. The name “Josey Wales” is almost mythical in the film; as one of the last remaining Southerners who refused to surrender to the victorious Union army immediately after the Civil War, there’s a bounty on his head that nearly everyone wants to collect. But Josey is actually playing a cat-and-mouse game with the leader of a bloodthirsty gang of Union soldiers who burned his home and killed his family, who now leads the government-sponsored posse pursuing him.
The overarching plot is one of revenge, but in a sense this is almost a McGuffin, as Josey actually spends most of the movie protecting people: first a young wounded Southerner, then a couple of Native Americans (who, to be fair, also protect him at least as much), and finally a family moving to Texas. In a lot of ways, this film feels more like a traditional Western than the revisionist westerns more common in the '70s, but its focus on character, more contemplative pacing, tendency to punctuate with Josey’s quick disposal of his challengers rather than extended gunfights, and willingness to entertain verbal negotiation set it apart. The resolution between Josey and the Comanche chief, and between Josey and the man who betrayed him early on in the film are great examples of that. — Jandy Hardesty
While it would be easy to make a political thriller about the uncovering of the Watergate scandal tense and action-filled and full of heightened emotion, All the President’s Men stands out because it’s so procedural. The sense that something truly wrong is happening here is only a twinge of uncertainty for most of the film. Our protagonists don’t even entirely know what they’re chasing, just that as they keep digging, the facts get more and more obscured, and they feel the need to sort them out even if they’re not sure there’s anything to sort out in the first place. Pieces start to fall into place, and the movie’s casual tone in the first half sets us up perfectly for a very unsettling second half. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman carry much of this tone themselves. The two have great chemistry together, and watching them play off each other would make a good movie even if the story itself wasn’t as compelling as it is. All the elements work together here. The movie was released to massive critical acclaim a mere two years after Nixon’s resignation, but it still captivates its viewers today, even with 40 years of distance between the events of the story and present-day viewings. — Hannah Keefer
Rocky’s big moments are so ubiquitous that they’ve begun to lose their original meaning. Sylvester Stallone is so lovably sad as Balboa that it lends a somber tone to several parts of the film now taken simply as heroics. That shot of him drinking the raw eggs or punching meat is fascinating because they are so uninformed and so characteristic of a guy who has to take the outside chances to get his shot at a title. Watching with my family, my mom couldn’t understand what made the Adrian/Rocky relationship make sense; the relationship is perhaps purposefully a bit inexplicable because it makes the actual nature of their love undeniable. They don’t just get along or just find each other attractive, they just genuinely need to fall into one another’s arms once Rocky makes it through his bout with Creed.
James Crabe manages some great city photography throughout Rocky, almost more so in its earlier nighttime walks than in its powerful training montage. In Rocky, Stallone creates an enduring character, one who respects people good at what they do (that scene in the bar where Balboa reprimands the bartender for dismissing Creed because he’s black informs so much of his psyche) and just wants people to be up front with what they want. He’s surrounded by people who operate in opportunism and double-speak, but he cuts through the muck when he wants to make things happen. The fight photography is so well done that it enlarges itself in your mind; I always forget that the film ends in a montage of the fight more so than a full, uncut bout. — Alex
Cinema’s ability to function as media satire is exemplified by Network; using absolutely blistering humor and heightened reality, Sidney Lumet very naturally divides the broadcast from the action behind the scenes. When both are so absurd, the magnitude of that feat is pretty unbelievable. Part of it comes down to the cast; Ned Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Peter Finch stand out as uniting the comedic with the tragic. The story of a newscaster going mad at the idea of getting taken off the air, only to find that madness rewarded by the viewership, has so many contemporary allusions that it honestly might be exhausting to watch in our current political media climate. But Lumet’s control of the film’s tone is just so masterful that it’s hard to imagine not laughing along as well. — Alex
With a catalog as varied and deep as Martin Scorsese's, why is Taxi Driver considered by many to be one of his best? On Flickchart, Taxi Driver is the second highest ranked film from Scorsese and is #37 of all films. Despite being gorgeously shot, with a fantastic script by Paul Schrader and Robert De Niro giving one of the most iconic performances in film history, I think it’s the aura of loneliness enveloping Taxi Driver that makes it so beloved. Bickle is the hero of Taxi Driver, yet only in his own mind. He thinks he’s saving those around him, but really he’s only trying to gather some semblance of sanity back that he lost in Vietnam. To Bickle, the world is something he can’t fully become part of, can’t fully escape from and can’t be fully accepted within. Bickle is in a world he will never understand and that will never understand him.
Taxi Driver plays like a nightmare, one where at times we can’t be sure what is real and what isn’t. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What we know we’ve seen is the mind of Bickle, a confused, disturbed and lonely individual that can’t connect. At the end, is Bickle truly a hero or just one that he’s created in his own mind? Scorsese has dealt with this sort of masculine loneliness over and over in his work, from his very first film, his under-appreciated masterpiece Who’s That Knocking At My Door to Raging Bull, The Aviator and countless others. But Scorsese’s interest in that topic has never felt as real, painful and heartbreaking as in Taxi Driver. — Ross Bonaime
Global Ranking: #37
Ranked 551,121 times by 48,259 users
Wins 63% of matchups
550 users have it at #1
7,405 users have it in their top 20
The above list is calculated via hundreds of thousands of aggregated rankings on Flickchart. Through the collective effort of Flickchart users, the top films of each year and overall are determined. However, the bloggers on Flickchart have their own personal favorites for 1976 that may not have been cracked the site's top ten. These are our choices for additional films that ought to be recognized.
By the mid-1970s, MGM was floundering as a studio, no longer the powerhouse it was in the 1920s-1950s. But what years it had in its Golden Era! More stars than there were in the heavens, its promotional copy ran, and if you watch the one-two punch of self-celebratory That’s Entertainment! movies, you’ll believe it. Produced by Jack Haley, Jr. (son of The Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man), the films are basically clip shows of MGM’s greatest hits, strung together with on-screen appearances from some of their biggest stars. The first film in 1974 had quite a string of folks on-screen, from Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor to Mickey Rooney and Esther Williams to James Stewart and Elizabeth Taylor, and it focused solely on MGM’s great musicals. This second entry has just Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire on-screen, but also includes clips from non-musicals, so we get to see Garbo and Crawford and Gable as well as Garland and Kelly and Sinatra. In a way it’s a huge nostalgia fest for people who grew up or love the studio era, but it’s also a great introduction to the movies of that era, and like those films often were, a joyful escape from the troubles of today.
A musical mob movie starring children. In 1976, no one had seen anything like it before. As high concept as it may have sounded, nothing beats seeing this movie unfold before your very eyes. There is never a false beat, as the usual array of heroes and villains that populate the film fight each other with Tommy guns that fire custard pies and then somehow manage to grow up by the movie’s end. Writer/director Alan Parker (The Commitments, Evita) knows that this had to go beyond its high concept, and with a quality mobster plot, immaculately perfect songs written by Paul Williams, and an all-kid cast led by future stars Scott Baio and Jodie Foster (who both give spot-on performances), Parker manages to hit the bullseye on each and every scene, no matter how small. At 35, Bugsy Malone remains a true original that puts a smile on your face that simply won’t quit, and remember, “you give a little love and it all comes back to you.”
The strange conceit of Robin and Marian is that it tells of Robin Hood's later adventures. This Robin, played by the balding Sean Connery, is already a folk hero in England when he returns from the Crusades that killed King Richard (Richard Harris). His capers in the greenwood were long ago, and have already been committed to song by the likes of Will Scarlet (Denholm Elliott, best known for appearing with Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.) Marian, meanwhile, has entered a nunnery and taken the habit; this was Audrey Hepburn's second time playing a nun. Yet past proves prologue when Robin finds himself taking up arms against the Sheriff of Nottingham (Jaws's Robert Shaw) once again. The motivations for Robin's return to outlawry aren't important. By downplaying the usual explanations about wicked Prince John (though Ian Holm makes a wicked John indeed!) and his taxation woes, Robin and Marian is able to focus on what we all really care about when we watch a Robin Hood movie: the Ren-Faire pageantry, the storybook nostalgia, the romance, the swordplay.
Director Richard Lester imbues all of these elements with light comic touches and an overtone of world-weariness. When Robin and Little John climb a castle wall, it is purposefully rendered as a tiring ordeal for their old bones. When Robin and the Sheriff clash swords on the field of battle, they take long moments of rest between each laborious swing. Unlike virtually every other Robin Hood movie, this one feels like a real period piece because Robin and every other character is so physically average, over the hill even, and thus vulnerable. There are indelible moments — a punch, a death — that ought to be preserved for those who haven't yet seen it. Presumably the actors I've named have caused you to put it on your watchlist already. If not, add a summery John Barry score to the list of reasons to do so immediately.
Connor is an attorney residing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from West Virginia University and a JD from Villanova Law. He enjoys fancy foreign art films, Marvel films, and everything in between. Horror is his favorite genre though, if his Stephen King Book to Screen series is any indication.