I’ve long felt that the Spill could be more than it is, there are so many more topics of interest here besides pop music that we could share and discuss. One of mine has been a lifelong interest in film and the way both it and the public’s perception has changed in the last half century, so I started scribbling some notes, here’s some of what I came up with.

During the 1960’s/70’s film played a significantly different role in society than it does in today’s. I’m choosing just those decades even though it’s influence continued but to a lesser degree into the next decades. The role of film has changed, it’s no longer the international social force that it once was. I choose the 60’s/70’s because that’s when the role of film was at it’s peak and also when I participated on a regular basis. Films were keenly anticipated based on directors prior work or on reviews by serious critics, my favorite critic without any doubt was Pauline Kael who wrote a weekly column in the New Yorker, she was brilliant and perceptive and turned me and thousands like me onto many wonderful and significant films. A film was much more than an evening’s entertainment back then, it became a source of discussion and argument both with friends and colleagues but also in the letters to the editor in most magazines and newspapers and there were so many films that I often went to the cinema two or sometimes three times a week, but times were different, it didn’t cost $10+, I recall $2-3 being typical.
Remember, there was no internet, TV was pathetic, cable TV didn’t exist and neither did the computer; film was a major social influence and it was international, in the US we saw films from all over the world, language didn’t matter if there were subtitles. The Italians were major players, Fellini, Antonioni and Visconti all had many successes as did the French, the Spanish the Germans and the Swedes, not to forget UK, USA and Japan.
Generally speaking they were all wonderful and it’s sad to see such significant work replaced by what we see offered today. I’m not sure what has changed or why but the creative edge has in large part gone, we should just be thankful for the archives of Netflix and similar. Perhaps what has changed is the nature of the film industry, it seems to have lost it’s individual vision and become a big business, films back then never had multi million dollar budgets and the titles at the end usually ran less than a minute, often a single page, now there’s literally many hundreds of highly paid specialists and that has to have an affect on the nature of the films.
As I sat thinking about this topic, films from that era kept popping into my head so I scribbled ’em down, they don’t represent a fraction of what was shown during that decade, they’re just some films that I saw and enjoyed and they must be memorable to have stuck for so long. If anyone is curious there’s a wonderful book I’d recommend, it’s ‘For Keeps, 30 years at the movies’ by Pauline Kael, 1250 pages of reprints of many of her reviews all of which are worth reading. Amazon UK has used copies for well below 10 quid.

Here’s my list, I limited it to 50 but it could easily be double that, do any ring any bells?

Aguirre, the Wrath of God -1972 – Werner Herzog
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie – 1972 – Luis Bunuel
L’Eclisse -1962 aka The Eclipse – Michelangelo Antonioni
Through a Glass Darkly – 1961- Ingmar Bergman
Dr. Strangelove… – 1964 – Stanley Kubrick
Annie Hall – 1977 – Woody Allen
Manhatten 1979 – Woody Allen
Lawrence of Arabia – 1962 – David Lean
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – 1960 – Karel Reisz
A Hard Day’s Night – 1964 – Richard Lester
Knife in the Water – 1962 – Roman Polanski
The Trial – 1962 – Orson Welles
‪The Stranger – 1967‬ Luchino Visconti
Bonnie and Clyde 1967 – Arthur Penn
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? – 1969 – Sydney Pollack
Faces – 1968 – John Cassavetes
Goldfinger- 1964 – Terence Young
You’re a Big Boy Now – 1966 – Francis Coppola
The Rain People – 1969 – Francis Coppola
The Godfather – 1972 – Francis Coppola
Taxi Driver – 1976 – Martin Scorcese
Mean Streets – 1973 – Martin Scorcese
The Seventh Seal – 1959 – Ingmar Bergman
8 1/2 – 1963 – Federico Fellini
La Dolce Vita – 1960 – Federico Fellini
Breathless – 1960 – Jean-Luc Godar
Yojimbo – 1961- Akira Kurosawa
Sanjuro -1962 – Akira Kurosawa
The Leopard – 1963 – Luchino Visconti
L’Avventura – 1960 – Michelangelo Antonioni
M. A. S. H. – 1970 – Robert Altman
Last Year at Marienbad – 1961 – Alain Resnais
The Battle of Algiers – 1966 – Gillo Pontecorvo
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – 1964 – Jacques Demy
Medium Cool – 1969 – Haskell Wexler
Belle de jour – 1967 – Luis Buñuel
Blow-Up – 1966 – Michelangelo Antonioni
Woman in the Dunes – 1964 – Hiroshi Teshigahara
Weekend – 1967 – Jean-Loc Godard
The Pawnbroker – 1964 – Sidney Lumet
My Night at Maud’s – 1969 – Eric Rohmer
Jules and Jim – 1962 – Francois Truffaut
The Exterminating Angel – 1962 – Luis Buñuel
Z – 1969 – Costa-Gavras
The Battle of Algiers – 1966 – Gillo Pontecorvo
Red Desert – 1964 – Michelangelo Antonioni
Juliet of the Spirits – 1965 – Federico Fellini
Accident – 1967 – Joseph Losey
Easy Rider – 1969 – Dennis Hopper
McCabe and Mrs Miller – 1971- Robert Altman
The Conformist 1970 – Bernardo Bertolucci
Cabaret – 1972 – Bob Fosse


  1. for the Polanski i’d mention Repulsion for the light switch alone .. Ken Russell bit of an aquired taste, Women in Love, Devils etc .. and Producers/Young Franenstein would be on my list .. my brother did some on-line list of his 100 top films and i only knew three ( Stardust Memories was one ).. very arty and foreign .. nice to see a list that i’ve seen about half of ..

  2. Great reminiscences as ever, gf. I’m not sure what to think about the changing nature of the movie industry and/or the seeming decline in quality of the films produced. My gut feeling would be that great movies are still being made – you may just have to search a little (further) beyond the mainstream for them. Or maybe, as you imply, the ‘talent’ is all going toward making boxset-ready telly these days. I dunno.

    As for your question in the title, well it’s a modest little film perhaps, but I absolutely adored “The Lunchbox”. It won’t win awards for technical achievement or boundary-breaking or whatever but it’s beautifully acted and just, just lovely.

    • The Lunchbox was a good one. A slice of Indian life. No special effects or international stars and the acting was great. Don’t see it if you haven’t eaten, you’ll be desperate for some Indian food by the end.

  3. I’ve mentioned this to gf directly, but a fantastic exploration of film over the last 120 years is:

    The Story of Film: An Odyssey, written and directed by award-winning film-maker Mark Cousins, is the story of international cinema told through the history of cinematic innovation.

    “Five years in the making, The Story of Film: An Odyssey covers six continents and 12 decades, showing how film-makers are influenced both by the historical events of their times, and by each other. It provides a worldwide guided tour of the greatest movies ever made; an epic tale that starts in nickelodeons and ends as a multi-billion-dollar globalised digital industry.

    “Described as a love letter to the movies, Cousins visits the key sites in the history of cinema; from Hollywood to Mumbai; from Hitchcock s London to the village where Pather Panchali was shot, and features interviews with legendary filmmakers and actors including Stanley Donen, Kyoko Kagawa, Gus van Sant, Lars Von Trier, Claire Denis, Bernardo Bertolucci, Robert Towne, Jane Campion and Claudia Cardinale.”

    That’s a quote from the DVD blurb, but it’s pretty accurate. Well worth 15 hours of anyone’s time (if you like films and can tolerate Mark Cousins’ flat, nasal voice).

  4. Movies as a discussion piece rang an affectionate bell, while it is a matter of amused annoyance with me that satellite TV offers something like 20 movie channels and I struggle to find one movie a week that I can actually watch. I’m grateful for your list too as it has reminded me of films that I should get on DVD. A few movies of the 60s and 70s that would make any memorable list of mine:
    A Clockwork Orange;
    This Sporting Life;
    The Servant.
    A memorable movie of fairly recent making that was recommended to me, and I found truly captivating is ‘The Secret In Their Eyes’, from Argentina, finely acted and brilliant on love, hate and the pull of the past. Thanks too for choosing a poster with Monica Vitti, undoubtedly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and by a country mile! I hope you’ll write about individual movies if you are minded. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Enjoyed the article and the list of films. The question you pose about the direction the film industry in general has taken seems to me to be based on two things:

    1. Outdoing the last “blockbuster’s” visual effects and

    2. Maximum first weekend box office receipts.

    The story lines seem to have taken third place, if that.

    As an example The Hobbit is a 300 or so page children’s book yet Peter Jackson has turned it into a 3 film spectacular with the first two parts running for over 330 minutes in total. That’s some adaptation and does it really add to the story, not in my opinion, I have seen them and there are gratuitous over long ‘chase’ scenes just to show off the special effects.

    Point made, I hope.

    The most enjoyable film that I have seen recently was Nebraska, which for those that don’t know is a father and son ‘road-trip’.

    Bruce Dern plays the father, suffering from early stage dementia and alcohol “abuse” who believes that he has won a million dollars and sets off to walk from Montana to Nebraska to collect it. It’s shot in black and white and Bruce Dern’s portrayal is brilliant.

    The films shown at the cinema that shaped my formative years, well the ones I immediately recall are:

    Star Wars
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind

    Though I recall watching the spaghetti western’s late at night on BBC2 but on the basis that The Good, the Bad and the Ugly came out in the year I was born I didn’t get to see them at the cinema.

    From your list my favourites would be Caberet, Easy Rider and Taxi Driver but I’d add a couple of frivolous ones too:

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    Roman Holiday – 50’s but still has Audrey Hepburn in it 🙂
    West Side Story
    Bullitt and The Great Escape (Steve McQueen fan)
    Cool Hand Luke
    The Sting

    More serious:

    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Midnight Cowboy
    The Graduate

    Special mention though for Tommy and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    I feel that The Spill has become more social of late and think widening the subject matter of the articles / posts is a good thing, nicely done goneforeign.

  6. I didn’t see a great many ‘new’ films as a child because we didn’t live near a cinema. I’ve never really become a cinema-goer, even when I moved to the city. Films I remember with affection tend to be quirky, kids films or light entertainment, here’s a few but don’t expect anything profound:

    Pan’s Labyrinth
    Paper Moon
    The Sting
    O Brother Where Art Thou
    Snow White (Disney)
    The Lord of the Rings
    The Draughtsman’s Contract
    The Fearless Vampire Killers
    The 39 Steps (Rober Donat)
    The Cat and the Canary (Bob Hope)
    Miranda (Googie Withers)

    I enjoy old films (Sherlock Holmes, spooky old house stories etc.), which I used to watch with my mum sometimes at home – and I like the Pirates of the Caribbean series because it’s swash-buckling tongue-in-cheek stuff. It’s a shame they don’t show some of the silent movies on TV these days, I’m sure slapstick would still make kids laugh & I can remember my dad laughing at Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton. Mum took me to see the Sound of Music 8 times when it first came out; still can’t face it!

      • I think a lot of us (of a certain age) remember her best for her 1970s British TV series “Within These Walls” where she played the governer of a women’s prison.

    • Oh god Ali! A freind persuaded me to go to a singalonga Sound of Music . Me as girl in a white dress with a blue satin sash and a bow in my hair, him as 6′ 4″ unshaven nun ..never again.
      I’m quite fond of some musicals though, Singin’ in the Rain being my favourite😁

  7. My two penn’orth:

    As with most art/life, it’s the money that skews the picture.
    France and some other European countries have usually invested in their filmmakers, allowing them to create their work relatively unhindered by commercial considerations. So the quality of (and lack of a wide audience for) such films has remained fairly constant through the years.
    The American scene has fluctuated wildly because of the opportunities to make serious money. Back when everyone went to the cinema twice a week, you got a wide variety of entertainment, from film noir through to screwball comedies (stand up, Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks!), all of which could turn a profit. But when TV joined the game, the big studios felt they had to start doing things that the small screen couldn’t, so the Road To Blockbusterland was opened. Smaller films, more along European lines, got made by ‘auteurs’ (Scorsese, Cassavetes), some of whom could also paint on a large scale (Coppola, Altman, Kubrick), and were watched by people who also were open to films-with-subtitles. Hence gf’s list, and the similar one I would draw up.
    Hollywood is based on pure capitalist principles: do something that others can’t (e.g. 3D CGI Avatar), spend vast sums of money persuading people in many different ways that they want to buy (i.e. see) it, and hope that you make vast profits. The transformation of the physical cinema from monolithic auditoria to multiplexes over the last 20 years has also allowed these profits to be maximised by matching audience size to seating space.
    But this has also allowed ‘smaller’ films to get a wider audience in recent years. Whereas ‘art films’ used to be shown only in cinema clubs and the like, it’s now possible to see them in more places (I am assuming this to be also true in the USA). There are, fortunately, still many filmmakers out there who consider cinema an art form, and so produce films that explore the less traveled roads. The big screen may be a greedy, bloated, glossy corpse but there’s still lots of life around. And, even then, you get Christopher Nolan, for example, crossing over from Memento to do Batman, and the brilliant conceit of The Matrix being a huge blockbuster.

    I have great sympathy with the feeling that things in cinema have gone downhill in recent decades but there have been some great developments in the expensive big screen world (Pixar) and a flourishing of individual talents from all over the world (Lynch, von Trier, Aronovsky, Carax, Ozon, Inarritu and many Asian directors whose names I confess to not remembering). And recent years have also seen the cinema documentary form mature to produce some of the most compelling films, thanks to Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and many others.

    For me, cinema is alive and very well, as long as you keep away from the bloated corpse. But that’s good advice for life in general, I find.

    The last three films I saw may illustrate what’s on offer:
    Calvary – Brendon Gleeson as a Catholic priest metaphorically living the last week of Christ’s life. Thought-provoking, funny and occasionally violent. Excellent.
    A Story of Children and Film – a documentary by Mark Cousins (see my post above) examining the experience of being a child as portrayed in films from across the world, triggered by a home movie of his niece and nephew. Insightful and learned and inevitably adorable in parts.
    Frank – Jon Ronson’s script based on his short stint as Frank Sidebottom’s keyboard player; Brendon Gleeson’s son, Domhall, plays Ronson and Michael Fassbender plays Frank. Funny, sad, and suitably weird.

  8. What an interesting bunch of comments, I’m glad that there’s still some around who appreciate these ‘old’ films. OK, Ken Russell, I’m in the group with an unaquired taste, in fact I lead that group. There’s only one of his films that I’d rate and that’s Women in Love, the rest, rubbish!
    Re. satellite TV and all the junk that they generally purvey rendered even more impossible to watch with the endless commercials; we have one commercial-free film channel that constantly shows classic films, frequently B&W from the 30’s-40’s, it’s American Movie Classics, owned by billionaire Ted Turner [owner of CNN] and he indulges himself and us by buying the rights from the various film studios. I record a lot of them for later viewing.
    Generally speaking I don’t go out much to see films these days, may’be a couple of times a month if there’s something special, but I do watch quite a few at home. I invested in a large flatscreen plus I have a decent sound system and two comfy chairs and access to almost unlimited DVD’s. Can’t beat it, my private cinema! Even when I was working I used to have a 16mm system at home so I got the habit early.
    A Clockwork Orange; This Sporting Life & The Servant.- all seen and enjoyed, particularly the last two.
    Re. the current prevalence of special effects, I was persuaded to see Gravity in 3D primarily for that reason, I wasn’t impressed, I thought it was fairly boring. mildly interesting but boring. Nebraska is much more to my taste. Not to knock special fx totally, i appreciate them where used to support a film but not to dominate it. I was so intrigued with the FX in 2001 that I set about building a system identical to the one that Doug Trumball designed for that film, never finished it.
    Star Wars, Jaws, Close Encounters & Grease, they were all OK but not ideally my first choices. Bullitt, The Great Escape, Cool Hand Luke and The Sting – getting better, I liked Bullitt. When I was at film school I had a close friend who I used to hang out with between classes, he always had this looseleaf notebook with him that he was constantly scribbling in, one day I asked him ‘What that your always writing?” Oh, it’s my script, it’s a screenplay I’m working on”. We graduated that summer and drifted apart, the next thing I knew was an item in one of the film papers, he’d sold the script to Paul Newman who was going to produce it, the film? “The Sting”! not bad straight out of school.
    Somehow I never saw the Rocky Horror show though it seemed to play constantly.
    Bladerunner and Chocolat would both be on my next list as would Apocalypse Now which I watched for half an hour just now as I ate my lunch, I’ve seen it many times, great film. I saw the world premiere at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome on the first day, they were giving out very well produced booklets about the film and I’ve still got it here somewhere. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that Francis’s brother and I were very close friends, we taught Comparative Literature together. Long before Apocalapse was even thought about, he on many occasions wanted to talk about our [he and I] producing a film of ‘Heart of Darkness’, the novel by Joseph Conrad. I suspect he and Francis were ultimately having the same conversation.
    When I compiled that list the word ‘documentary’ occurred to me and I decided to forego it, though it’s one of my favorite genres and I have many in my collection I’ll save that for another day.
    A bit more later.

  9. I will confess to having quite middle-brow tastes in films. I am not really into art-house films that much, but I also dislike multiplex fodder. Having said that, I am a sucker for super hero films, especially the latest set of Marvel ones.

    I like old films a lot, I am a huge fan of the Ealing stuff and I love Hollywood musicals, film noir and those classic melodramas like Now Voyager and Casablanca.

    I also likespy films, but not really James Bond that much. I hate glitzy, gimmicky spy stuff, though. I want gritty realism and all-embracing paranoia. I loved the recent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, it was so atmospheric and featured some superb performances.

    I’ll watch most sci fi and fantasy films at least once, because those things work well if they have a decent set of production values and a reasonable script. If not, they are usually dreadful.

    I am a huge fan of the LOTR and Hobbit films, because I love the books and Peter Jackson seems to care about what he puts on the screen.

    Mostly, unless a film is something I really want to see on the big(gish) scren, I’ll end up watching it on DVD.

  10. I know very little about films, but usually watch one if someone directly recommends it to me. 50 is a lot of recommendations, but I’ve copy&pasted your list GF and will have a poke around the internet to see which ones I can find …

    • Panther: I’d thought about this and would find it hard to recommend specific films from this list, they came about because they were all memorable but if I chose to re=see some of them again, I’d start with the following,
      Aguirre, the Wrath of God
      Dr. Strangelove…
      The Trial
      ‪The Stranger ‬
      The Rain People
      The Battle of Algiers

      • Thanks! That’s more manageable! The only one I’ve seen is Aguirre… as I’m a big Herzog fan – for his documentaries. will have a look around for the rest….cheers!

  11. Oh and if you’ve never read ‘Easy Riders Raging Bulls’ by Peter Biskind about the fall of the Hollywood film industry in the 60s/70s then do so as it’s a fantastic read

    • Rolo: Sounds like just what we’re talking about. I just checked my library and they have it, should be in next week. Thanks.

  12. Yeah, The Prophet was a memorable film, From Wiki “For the director Audiard, the film aims at “creating icons, images for people who don’t have images in movies, like the Arabs in France,” Memorable.

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