My favorite years

“Are you canonizin’ me?”

“Are you canonizin’ me?”

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For its winter 1991 issue, Premiere magazine published a special edition celebrating the 100th anniversary of Thomas Edison’s patent application for the film camera and projector. The centerpiece of the issue was an eight-page spread in which New Yorker critic David Denby listed the single best American film for every year since 1903.

As a film-curious 14-year-old looking to immerse myself in the American classics, this list was enormously influential and inspiring, and it long served as a guide to discovering worthwhile movies. Twenty years later, I have decided to rip off Denby’s idea, which should teach us all a valuable lesson about the futility of inspiring young people.

I will fill in the gap in Denby’s list from 1990 to the present with my own picks over the next several weeks. In the meantime, here is my own list of the best American films year by year, from my birth year through 1989:

1976: Taxi Driver

1977: Annie Hall

1978: The Deer Hunter

1979: Apocalypse Now

1980: Raging Bull (I was tempted to pick The Empire Strikes Back, but George Lucas is dead to me)

1981: Blow Out

1982: The King of Comedy

1983: Star 80

1984: Once Upon a Time in America

1985: Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

1986: Hannah and Her Sisters

1987: Raising Arizona

1988: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

1989: Enemies, A Love Story