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The NBR Project: The Top 10 Lists, 1974-1988

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  • The Conversation
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • Chinatown
  • The Last Detail
  • Harry and Tonto
  • A Woman Under the Influence
  • Thieves Like Us
  • Lenny
  • Daisy Miller
  • The Three Musketeers

I can’t imagine why they left The Godfather Part II off. Did they not want to put two Coppola films on one list? They’ve allowed it with other directors, so that can’t be it. Did they want Daisy Miller on there so badly? At least they got A Woman Under the Influence on there.


  • Nashville, Barry Lyndon
  • Conduct Unbecoming
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Lies My Father Told Me
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • The Day of the Locust
  • The Passenger
  • Hearts of the West
  • Farewell, My Lovely
  • Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Yes, they had a tie for #1. Conduct Unbecoming, since I’m assuming you haven’t heard of it, is a courtroom drama involving the British military in 19th century India. Lies My Father Told Me is a charming little film set in the Jewish ghetto in 20s Montreal. The Day of the Locust is a weird film set against the seamier side of 30s Hollywood. Farewell, My Lovely is a revival of the Philip Marlowe character (set in the 40s and everything) starring Robert Mitchum. And Hearts of the West is a comedy set in old-time Hollywood (a lighthearted look at the movie business; the NBR has a weakness for movies about movies).

All of this doesn’t excuse the absence of Jaws.


  • All the President’s Men
  • Network
  • Rocky
  • The Last Tycoon
  • The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
  • The Front
  • The Shootist
  • Family Plot
  • Silent Movie
  • Obsession

I have no idea how they omitted Taxi Driver. None. I like some of the inclusions: Silent Movie is a fun gimmick comedy (though it’s not Mel Brooks’ best), and Seven-Per-Cent is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that has a good reputation, and it’s nice they found room for John Wayne’s final film, The Shootist. But not having Taxi Driver (or the Oscar-nominated Woody Guthrie biopic, Bound for Glory) on there is just disgusting. Especially since Obsession isn’t even the best Brian De Palma film of this year (it’s no Carrie, I’m sure).


  • The Turning Point
  • Annie Hall
  • Julia
  • Star Wars
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • The Late Show
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • Equus
  • The Picture Show Man
  • Harlan County, USA

The Turning Point was a major awards success, for reasons which elude me, since it’s not very good at all (at least it got totally shut out by the Oscars—11 nominations and no wins). The Picture Show Man is an Australian comedy about early traveling movie exhibitors; the trailer looks very good, but it’s very hard to get ahold of. Harlan is, I believe, the last documentary the Board cited to date. Bonus points for the Saturday Night Fever nod.


  • Days of Heaven
  • Coming Home
  • Interiors
  • Superman
  • Movie Movie
  • Midnight Express
  • An Unmarried Woman
  • Pretty Baby
  • Girlfriends
  • Comes a Horseman

They do right in putting Days of Heaven at #1 while the Academy failed to nominate it for Picture, and they cite Superman, showing their willingness to notice good genre films. The Girlfriends nod is nice, too, and Movie Movie (a comedy parody of 30s double features) sounds really cool. But I’m baffled by their failure to notice The Deer Hunter.


  • Manhattan
  • Yanks
  • The Europeans
  • The China Syndrome
  • Breaking Away
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Being There
  • Time After Time
  • North Dallas Forty
  • Kramer vs. Kramer

I love the North Dallas Forty citation—that was what spurred me to see the film in the first place (well, that and the generally solid reputation). It’s a bit of a shame they overlooked Alien, but you can’t have everything.


  • Ordinary People (AA)
  • Raging Bull
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • Tess
  • Melvin and Howard
  • The Great Santini
  • The Elephant Man
  • The Stunt Man
  • My Bodyguard
  • Resurrection

The Great Santini and The Stunt Man are very good choices. Melvin and Howard hasn’t aged too well, but it was well-liked at the time. Unfortunately, they overlooked all three of the great comedies that came out this year: Airplane!, The Blues Brothers, and Caddyshack.


  • Chariots of Fire, Reds
  • Atlantic City
  • Stevie
  • Gallipoli
  • On Golden Pond
  • Prince of the City
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Heartland
  • Ticket to Heaven
  • Breaker Morant

Another tie for #1. And they give attention to several films that were otherwise overlooked: Gallipoli, Prince of the City, Heartland, Ticket to Heaven, Breaker Morant. I just wish they’d found a slot for Herbert Ross and Dennis Potter’s brilliant, underrated Pennies from Heaven.


  • Gandhi
  • The Verdict
  • Sophie’s Choice
  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • Missing
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • The World According to Garp
  • Tootsie
  • Moonlighting
  • The Chosen

Love that The Chosen got on (though the book is better). Moonlighting, a drama about Polish laborers working illegally in London, trapped in the UK after Poland declares martial law, is a cool pick as well. No complaints about this list that I can think of (well, My Favorite Year might’ve been a fun choice…)


  • Betrayal, Terms of Endearment
  • Educating Rita
  • Tender Mercies
  • The Dresser
  • The Right Stuff
  • Testament
  • Local Hero
  • The Big Chill
  • Cross Creek
  • Yentl

Yet another tie for #1. Decent list, as far as I can tell (though, really, Never Cry Wolf should be on here).


  • A Passage to India
  • Paris, Texas
  • The Killing Fields
  • Places in the Heart
  • Mass Appeal
  • Country
  • A Soldier’s Story
  • Birdy
  • Careful, He Might Hear You
  • Under the Volcano

Where the hell is Amadeus? Mass Appeal is a comedy-drama involving priests (yes, the title is a pun) and Careful, He Might Hear You is an Australian film. Also, no Spinal Tap or Ghostbusters. The NBR has its missteps.


  • The Color Purple
  • Out of Africa
  • The Trip to Bountiful
  • Witness
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Prizzi’s Honor
  • Back to the Future
  • The Shooting Party
  • Blood Simple
  • Dreamchild

They cite the Coens for their first film (Blood Simple), and they get Back to the Future on the list, which is pretty cool. I’d have liked to see Runaway Train make it on, but whatever.


  • A Room with a View
  • Hannah and Her Sisters
  • My Beautiful Laundrette
  • The Fly
  • Stand By Me
  • The Color of Money
  • Children of a Lesser God
  • ‘Round Midnight
  • Peggy Sue Got Married
  • The Mission

The Fly is an awesome pick. Stand By Me is really cool to see here as well. But omitting Platoon? What’s that about?


  • Empire of the Sun
  • The Last Emperor
  • Broadcast News
  • The Untouchables
  • Gaby: A True Story
  • Cry Freedom
  • Fatal Attraction
  • Hope and Glory
  • Wall Street
  • Full Metal Jacket

No complaints here. They even got Full Metal Jacket, which the Academy overlooked, along with The Untouchables, which is incredible.


  • Mississippi Burning
  • Dangerous Liaisons
  • The Accused
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • The Last Temptation of Christ
  • Tucker: The Man and His Dream
  • Big
  • Running on Empty
  • Gorillas in the Mist
  • Midnight Run

Unbearable Lightness and Last Temptation are nice to see here, and Big is a very enjoyable little film, but the lack of Roger Rabbit here hurts. Oh, and Best Picture winner/top-grossing film Rain Man isn’t here, either.


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