(1) Midnight Cowboy
Two fantastic performances by Jon Voight as wanna-be gigolo Joe Buck and Dustin Hoffman as sickly Ratso Rizzo (“I’m walkin’ here!”); two sad and gorgeous pieces of music (the Midnight Cowboy theme and “Everybody’s Talkin’”); and a gut-wrenching final scene make this movie unforgettable. The only X-rated movie to win an Oscar for Best Picture. (Later, it was downgraded to an R.)
(2) Take the Money and Run
This was the real beginning of Woody Allen’s movie career. He co-writes, directs and stars in this faux-documentary about a two-bit criminal. The movie proves the importance of legible handwriting, even for bank robbers: “Does this look like ‘gub’ or ‘gun’?”
(3) True Grit
I’ve noticed that people seem to divide themselves over whether they liked the 1969 original or the 2010 remake by the Coen Brothers. I like them both! John Wayne is great as Rooster Cogburn, and the story by Arkansan Charles Portis transcends directors, actors, and time.
(4) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The chemistry between Robert Redford and Paul Newman is at the soul of this revisionist western. Like Bonnie and Clyde, it takes historical figures from an earlier time and tells a story with contemporary significance. It’s also really funny.
(5) The Wild Bunch
Talk about revisionist westerns! Thanks to the popularity of spaghetti westerns, this most American of genres was already beginning to change its direction. With this bloody, super-violent film from director Sam Peckinpah, the western fully entered a new phase of its development.
(6) Cactus Flower
I love this romantic comedy with its fantastic cast – Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn in a love triangle. Imagine the beautiful Ilsa from Casablanca as a frumpy, no-nonsense nurse in her 50s!
(7) The Illustrated Man
This adaptation of a short story collection by Ray Bradbury was not well received by critics or the public, but I liked the middle story in the anthology, about astronauts landing on Venus, where it never stops raining. As the men try to find shelter, they each go mad from the pelting precipitation. If you’ve ever been in a days-on-end rain shower, you know how they feel.
(8) Don't Drink the Water
Woody Allen’s play is brought to the screen with Jackie Gleason as an obnoxious American who gets himself and his family in peril in the fictional country of Vulgaria, a stand-in for the Communist bloc.
(9) Easy Rider
Not a movie I love or even think is that good, it was extremely important in changing Hollywood. The film establishment discovered that an independent, low-budget picture could produce huge box office and that the youth counterculture was a valuable target audience.
Despite a goofy premise – cowboys discover a “lost world” of dinosaurs in Mexico – the blending of genres was great fun. Special effects legend Ray Harryhausen supplied the prehistoric beasts.