In 2017 this meme-list-game-datamining thing was going around Facebook, in which you were supposed to list your favorite movie from each year of your life. Naturally, like all things on Facebook, it’s coming around again; in fact it recently reappeared on my friend Terry Beatty‘s page, from whom I swiped it. Since I never did it back then, I thought I’d do it now. I quickly realized that while a Gen-Z or Millennial could bang out a list of a couple dozen films pretty quickly, for an old fart like, me, a list of films for every year of my life is a major undertaking; rather than squander all that time on a Facebook post, I thought I’d turn it into an article here, where I can expound a bit on some of the entries. Besides, this way I can add Amazon links to all the movies, and then when you click and buy, I get a little commission, Win-win, huh?
As Terry said, “these are not necessarily movies I SAW in each of those years — I didn’t see any movies when I was a year old, obviously — but movies RELEASED in those years. I mention this, because some folks didn’t get that the first time around. And also — this is FAVORITE film — not BEST film — those aren’t always the same thing.”
Let me emphasize that; these are not the best, nor the most important, popular, influential, or noteworthy films of their respective years; they are my favorites, and as always, taste is subjective.
Also let me note that since the subject is “favorite film,” it’s going to skew heavily toward fun, feel-good movies, comedies, and animated films; some serious or dramatic films may make the list, if something about them made them really appealing. For example, 2016’s The Finest Hours is on my list of films I liked, but didn’t earn a spot on this list. I liked it, but it’s not a fun movie.
So here we go:
1958 – No Time for Sergeants – This film was adapted from the Broadway play that was adapted from the U.S. Steel Hour‘s television production, all three of which starred Andy Griffith as a country bumpkin drafted into the U.S. Army. No Time for Sergeants also marks the first film appearance of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts driving each other nuts, and it launched both their careers.
1959 – Some Like it Hot – How does anyone not love this film? And if you’ve ever wondered what’s the big deal about Marilyn Monroe, you’ll see it here.
1960 – The Magnificent Seven – The most testosterone-laden film in history, and the best remake/adaptation/ripoff of The Seven Samurai.
1961 – The Hustler – Paul Newman at his best.
1962 – To Kill a Mockingbird – A classic, and the movie responsible for a few generations of girls named Scout.
1963 – It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World – It’s loud and long and generally ridiculous, but it’s also damn funny, featuring nearly every comedian working at the time. Dick Shawn kills me in this.
1964 – Topkapi – Peter Ustinov steals the film away from the rest of the cast. This is arguably the template for dozens of other comedic heist films.
1965 – The Great Race – To this day, my wife and kids and I (mostly me) routinely quote bits from The Great Race. “You’re banished! Banished! Banished! I’ll get a new tucker-inner!” “Push the button, Max!” Honorable mention to A Thousand Clowns, the film version of Herb Gardner’s play about an irresponsible ex-TV writer and his smartass nephew. Jason Robards was terrific as Murray, and Barry Gordon’s performance as Nick was a major influence on my youthful attempts to emulate a preadolescent Borscht Belt comic.
1966 – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – I’m a sucker for musicals, and a bigger sucker for borscht-belt comedians, especially the great Jack Guilford and Zero Mostel.
1967 – Bedazzled – Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are one of the world’s great comedy duos, and their riff on Faust is still funny.
1968 – The Producers – The scene in Max Bialystock’s office is the funniest 20 minutes ever filmed. I literally have scars from watching this movie. (I was in the hospital recovering from a ruptured spleen when I watched it on the TV; I tore three stitches.)
1969 – Support Your Local Sheriff – The first James Garner film I ever saw. He remains one of my favorite actors.
1970 – Start the Revolution Without Me – Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland play two sets of identical twins mismatched at birth; one pair is aristocratic, the other peasants, and they live through a parody retelling of the French Revolution, chock-full of references to A Tale of Two Cities, The Corsican Brothers, and The Man in the Iron Mask.
1971 – A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess gave Stanley Kubrick a script so dense and complex that he didn’t have room for any self-indulgence. One of his best films.
1972 – Cabaret – Like I said, I’m a sucker for musicals, and Bob Fosse is a hell of a director.
1973 – Paper Moon – There’s something inspirational about a kid who can outsmart her con-man dad.
1974 – Phantom of the Paradise – My all-time favorite movie. The first movie I ever made an effort to see multiple times. Between 1975 and 1984, I managed to see Phantom 37 times, never on TV; in theaters, at the Nuart and other art/revival theaters, at sci-fi conventions and comic-cons. If you wanted to be a geek in the old days, you had to work at it.
1975 – Rocky Horror Picture Show – Whose favorite film of 1975 isn’t Rocky Horror?
1976 – The Seven-Percent Solution – Dr. Watson takes Sherlock Holmes to Sigmund Freud for rehab, and they solve a mystery. How do you not love that?
1977 – Star Wars – Duh. And it’s just “Star Wars”; that “A New Hope” thing is a retcon.
1978 – Animal House – Yes, it’s vulgar, sexist, racist, excessive, gratuitous, a paean to rape culture and white privilege, but we didn’t really understand any of that then, especially at 19. Belushi is still funny in it. This film birthed a thousand vastly inferior knockoffs and arguably created an entire genre (if we overlook those grindhouse cheerleader movies from a few years earlier…)
1979 – The Muppet Movie – I took a day off from work to see the Muppet Movie on opening day. Me, my buddy Wally, and a few hundred 8-year-olds. Totally worth it.
1980 – The Elephant Man – One of the few films on my list that isn’t fun to watch.
1981 – Raiders of the Lost Ark – Also duh. And again, there’s no “Indiana Jones and the….” in the title. Another retcon. I swear, these directors who can’t leave their movies alone. Lucas treats his movies like Michael Jackson treated his nose. You notice they never went back and rebranded A Shot in the Dark as The Pink Panther and a Shot in the Dark. Why do the studios think we’re stupid?
1982 – My Favorite Year – Peter O’Toole was masterful in this film. Honorable mention to Diner, a great little gem from Barry Levinson (his first film) with a terrific cast.
1983 – Reuben, Reuben – It’s amazing to me that a film nominated for multiple Oscars could be so quickly forgotten. Tom Conti is the most underappreciated actor of his generation.
1984 – Garbo Talks – My all-time favorite non-genre movie for grownups. Anne Bancroft’s greatest performance, with Ron Silver as her nebbish son, Catherine Hicks as an aspiring actress, and great supporting performances from Howard Da Silva, Harvey Fierstein, Dorothy Loudon, and the incomparable Carrie Fisher, who makes an entitled Beverly Hills princess somehow sympathetic.
1985 – Return to Oz – Every bit as weird and creepy as the books. Audiences were baffled by it, and little kids were traumatized by Mombi and the Wheelers (that’s a great name for a band), but I love it. It barely beats out Back to the Future, with Real Genius trailing in third.
…in case you needed some nightmare fuel.
P.S. Tik-Tok the Clockwork Man is alive and well and living at Skywalker Ranch. I met him!
1986 – Miracles – I’m sure you never saw this one; it never got a wide release before being dumped to home video. Written and directed by Jim Kouf, the guy who wrote National Treasure, it’s a clever story starring Tom Conti and Teri Garr as a recently divorced couple caught up in somebody else’s miracle. Honorable Mentions to Saving Grace, in which Tom Conti (him again) is a disillusioned Pope accidentally locked out of the Vatican who goes to a nearby village and sets up shop as a priest, and Echo Park, a little indie film about three wannabes — Susan Dey as an actress reduced to delivering strip-o-grams, Tom Hulce as a pizza guy who writes songs or a songwriter who delivers pizza (and he’s not sure which he is), and Michael Bowen as an Austrian bodybuilder who wants to be the next Ah-nold — trying to make it in Hollywood. Sadly, Echo Park is really hard to find and isn’t legally streaming anywhere.
1987 – 84 Charing Cross Road – I know, everyone says The Princess Bride for 1987, but 84 Charing Cross Road is terrific, and it’s based on a true story. Anne Bancroft is Helene Hanff, a New York writer who strikes up a twenty-year correspondence with a London bookseller, played by Anthony Hopkins. It’s gold. Trust me.
1988 – Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – Another Duh. Honorable Mention to Francis Ford Coppola’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream, with Jeff Bridges (another criminally underrated actor) as Preston Tucker, creator of the most advanced car of its time.
1989 – UHF – Sure, yes, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is probably the best and most popular film of 1989, but Weird Al’s wacky little movie takes up more real estate in my head.
1990 – Back to the Future 3 – It’s a fun movie, and its presence here is a bit of a consolation prize for parts 1 and 2 getting beaten out in their respective years.
1991 – The Rocketeer – There are two Disney movies that were destroyed by bad ad campaigns; John Carter is the other one. It baffles me that The Rocketeer wasn’t a monster smash film. Honorable Mention to The Commitments, a terrific film by Alan Parker (he also directed Fame) about an R&B band in Dublin, with one of the all-time great soundtrack albums.
1992 – My Cousin Vinny – Who doesn’t love this movie? I’ve liked Marisa Tomei since she was playing the quirky roommate to Lisa Bonet on A Different World, a Cosby Show spinoff. She’s always been great.
1993 – Groundhog Day – This one was almost a tie, running neck-and-neck with So I Married an Axe-Murderer; Bill Murray barely beating Mike Myers’ belligerent Scottish dad.
1994 – The Lion King – Frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t more Disney musicals on this list.
1995 – Empire Records – I’ve even got a few designs you can buy referencing things from Empire Records.
1996 – That Thing You Do! – Tom Hanks put together a pretty good movie with a great cast and a killer tune.
1997 – Men in Black – Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith both playing the most iconic version of themselves.
1998 – The Big Lebowski – The secret to this film is the plot doesn’t matter; it’s just an excuse to watch these characters crash into each other over and over. “You see what happens, Larry?!?!”
1999 – The Iron Giant – Should be mandatory viewing for boys before they turn 13. Someday I’ll get through the end without crying. “Sooo-perr-mannnn.” Of course, if I had been about 15 years younger in 1999, Galaxy Quest would be in this spot.
2000 – An Everlasting Piece – An idiosyncratic film from Barry Levinson that was sabotaged by its studio for political reasons. The plot: In Belfast in the 1980s, two barbers, one Catholic, one Protestant, while cutting hair at a lunatic asylum, discover the opportunity to go into the toupee business. Billy Connolly plays one of the inmates. Coming in at second and third are Almost Famous and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
2001 – Ghost World – Dan Clowes’ graphic novel comes to life courtesy of Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson as awkward teens and Steve Buscemi as the poor schlemiel caught up in their schemes.
2002 – Bubba Ho-Tep – One of the great cult films. Bruce Campbell as Elvis (the guy who died at Graceland was an impersonator), injured and sharing a room at a nursing home with an old black man who believes he is JFK (Ossie Davis); together they have to fight a cowboy-hat-wearing-mummy who is killing the elderly residents.
2003 – Down With Love – Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor in a perfect recreation of those goofy romantic comedies of the early ’60s.
2004 – The Incredibles – Another almost-tie, this time with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The Incredibles is the best Fantastic Four movie ever made and I’ll fight you over that.
2005 – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – When anyone says Die Hard is the best Christmas movie, my response is always Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
2006 – Stranger Than Fiction – This film is the only time I’ve ever liked Will Farrell. He and Emma Thompson are fantastic together, and people don’t seem to be aware of how funny she is. Second place goes to Little Miss Sunshine.
2007 – Enchanted – Amy Adams is a Disney Princess. Juno made a valiant effort. I also liked Dan in Real Life.
2008 – Iron Man – the film that really kick-started the MCU. Second place goes to the first half of Wall-E, right up to when the humans show up and it turns into a different movie.
2009 – Up – Damn it, Pete Docter, you don’t get to make me cry twice in the first ten minutes. Honorable mention to (500) Days of Summer, a love letter to both the city of Los Angeles and Zoey Deschanel.
2010 – Toy Story 3 – I don’t know how they do it; just when you think Pixar has finished with Woody & Buzz, they come back for another round and nail it.
2011 – Captain America – Chris Evans really understands Steve Rogers and that sincerity carries him through a half-dozen movies. The Muppets was a lot of fun, and Real Steel was my first movie premiere and after-party, so I have fond memories of it.
2012 – People Like Us – A great little movie that had the misfortune to open on the same day as Ted. Elizabeth Banks deserved at least an Oscar nomination for this one, but Dreamworks was hoping for an award sweep for Lincoln and didn’t nominate her. Chris Pine joins the list of criminally underrated actors. The guy is good. I saw this at a preview screening when I went to Pixar to meet the animators of Brave, so Merida gets second place, followed by Paranorman and Safety Not Guaranteed, with Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza in a quirky little film about time travel, based on a real-life newspaper ad.
2013 – Iron Man 3 – There’s a lot to like about Shane Black’s contribution to the MCU, and I’m not among the people who were all mad about what they did to the Mandarin. (Of course, that subplot played out okay anyway.) I also liked Delivery Man, a remake of a French film that was a remake of a French-Canadian film, with Vince Vaughn as a slacker who discovers he’s fathered over 200 children and they want to meet him.
2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy – Hands down the most fun movie in the MCU.
2015 – Tomorrowland – I’ve written at length about this one on multiple occasions. Inside Out gets second, followed by Ant-Man, just because of Luis.
2016 – Moana – Possibly my favorite Disney Princess, barely beating Wreck-It Ralph‘s Vanellope Von Schweetz. Dr. Strange and Kubo and the Two Strings are tied for second. I think The Finest Hours is a better film than any of them, but it’s also on the short list of films I don’t need to see again because it’s just too stressful.
2017 – Thor: Ragnarok – GotG may be the most fun MCU film, but Thor: Ragnarok is the funniest. Jeff Goldblum is perfect. Second goes to Coco, and third goes to the first three-quarters of Wonder Woman before they get to the big pointless CGI fight scene.
2018 – Black Panther – Honorable Mention to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
2019 – Captain Marvel – Honorable mention to Toy Story 4; dammit, they did it again.
2020 – Hamilton – Lockdown made for a skimpy year for movies, but I also liked Palm Springs and Enola Holmes.
2021 – Ghostbusters: Afterlife – Sorry haters, I liked it a lot. I also liked Encanto, West Side Story, CODA, and Free Guy.
2022 – Not a clue so far.
Tell me I’m wrong in the comments.