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DISCLAIMER: All film criticism is extremely subjective and there is no such thing as the definitive list of the Greatest (English-language) Films. Great Films can't be measured scientifically because greatness is extremely subjective. Just because we like a film doesn't mean that you will like it as well. Please feel free to leave us a comment with the films that you think are the greatest which we have not included on our list.

Not only was 1972 a big year for movies but it was also a big year for actors making their film debuts and the deaths of some truly great talent. Here is a snap shot of the American film industry.

Making Their Film Debuts:

  • Margaret Avery – Cool Breeze
  • Ned Beatty – Deliverance
  • Jerry Bruckheimer – The Culpepper Cattle Co.
  • Robert Carradine – The Cowboys
  • Candy ClarkFat City
  • Ronny Cox – The Mind Snatchers
  • Blythe Danner – To Kill a Clown
  • Jodie Foster – Napoleon and Samantha
  • Bob Hoskins – Up the Front
  • Isabelle Huppert – Faustine et la bel été
  • Samuel L. Jackson – Together for Days
  • Madeline Kahn – What’s Up, Doc?
  • Ben Kingsley – Fear Is the Key
  • John Lithgow – Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues
  • Steve Martin – Another Nice Mess
  • Nick Nolte – Dirty Little Billy
  • Lily Tomlin – Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers
  • James Woods – The Visitors


Top-grossing Films

RankTitleStudioDomestic gross
1.The GodfatherParamount Pictures$134.97M
2.The Poseidon Adventure20th Century Fox$84.56M
3.Malcolm XWarner Bros.$48.10M
4.Jeremiah JohnsonWarner Bros.$47.74M
5.CabaretAllied Artists Pictures$42.77M
6.The GetawayNational General Pictures$36.73M
7.Last Tango in ParisLes Productions Artistes Associés  $36.14M
8.Fritz the CatCinemation Industries$25.00M 
9.The Valachi PapersDino De Laurentiis Company$20.27M
10.The Heartbreak KidPalomar Pictures$12.21M


Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: The Godfather – Albert S. Ruddy, Paramount

Best Director: Bob FosseCabaret

Best Actor: Marlon BrandoThe Godfather (declined)

Best Actress: Liza MinnelliCabaret

Best Supporting Actor: Joel GreyCabaret

Best Supporting Actress: Eileen Heckart – Butterflies Are Free


Among Those Who Died In 1972:

Mon Name  ProfNotable films
Jan1Maurice Chevalier83France





8Wesley Ruggles82USADirector, Producer

I’m No Angel


17Rochelle Hudson55USAActress

Rebel Without a Cause

Les Miserables

18George Mitchell66USAActor

The Andromeda Strain

Kid Galahad

19Richard Fraser58Scot-landActor
22Alec Coppel74Aus-traliaScreen-writer

The Captain’s Paradise


24Jerome Cowan74USAActor
Feb2Jessie Royce Landis75USAActress
7Walter Lang75USADirector
19John Grierson73Scot-landDirector, Producer

The Song of Ceylon

The Brave Don’t Cry

20Walter Winchell74USACommen-tator

Wake Up and Live

Love and Hisses

Mar3Harold Young74USADirector, Editor

The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Mummy’s Tomb

20Marilyn Maxwell51USAActress
30Peter Whitney55USAActor
Apr5Brian Donlevy71




Kiss of Death

Wake Island

5Isabel Jewell64USAActress
7Betty Blythe78USAActress

The Queen of Sheba


13Dorothy Dalton78USAActress

Behind Masks

The Woman Who Walked Alone

20Jorge Mistral51SpainActor

Andalusia Express

The White Sister

25George Sanders65Eng-landActor
28Harry Joe Brown81USAProducer, Director

Captain Blood

Knickerbocker Holiday

30Gia Scala38Eng-landActor

The Guns of Navarone

Don’t Go Near the Water

May3Bruce Cabot68USAActor

King Kong

Diamonds Are Forever

5Frank Tashlin59USADirector

Son of Paleface

Artists and Models

12Steve Ihnat37CzechActor


Zig Zag

13Dan Blocker43USAActor

Lady in Cement

Come Blow Your Horn

15Nigel Green47South AfricaActor

The Ipcress File


18Sidney Franklin79USADirector, Producer

Duel in the Sun

The Good Earth

21Margaret Rutherford80Eng-landActress

The V.I.P.s

Murder, She Said

25Charles C. Coleman70USADirector

Homicide Bureau

The Shadow

June17Jean Brochard79FranceActor

The Law Is the Law

Les Diaboliques

17Gale Henry79USAActress

Two-Time Mama

Darkened Rooms

20Sidney Lanfield74USADirector

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Lemon Drop Kid

27Thomy Bourdelle81FranceActor

The Return of Don Camillo

The Call of Silence

July3Hal Walker76USADirector

Sailor Beware

At War with the Army

6Brandon deWilde30USAActor
10Harmon Jones61Can-adaDirector

Pride of St. Louis

The Kid from Left Field

19Sally Benson74USAScreen-writer

Shadow of a Doubt

Viva Las Vegas

28Helen Traubel73USAActress, Singer

Deep in My Heart

The Ladies Man

Aug7Joi Lansing43USAActress

Touch of Evil

A Hole in the Head

14Oscar Levant65USAActor
24D. Ross Lederman77USADirector

Key Witness

The Body Disappears

27Gaby André52FranceActress

Verdi, the King of Melody

Highway 301

Sep12William Boyd77USAActor

Hop-Along Cassidy

The Volga Boatman

17Akim Tamiroff72RussiaActor
29Max Nosseck70Ger-manyDirector

Black Beauty


29Edward Sloman86USAActor

Gun Smoke

The Lost Zeppelin

30Edgar G. Ulmer68



Oct4Colin Gordon61




The Pink Panther

Casino Royale

9Miriam Hopkins69USAActress
16Leo G. Carroll85



22Jack Melford73




A Shot in the Dark

Lust for a Vampire

24Claire Windsor80USAActor

The Blot

Captain Lash

28Mitchell Leisen74USADirector



Nov5Reginald Owen85



16Vera Karalli83RussiaActress

A Woman’s Revenge

The King of Paris

23Marie Wilson56USAActress

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation

My Friend Irma

30William P. S. Earle89USADirector

The Way of a Maid

Love’s Masquerade

Dec6Janet Munro38




Swiss Family Robinson

Darby O’Gill and the Little People

9William Dieterle79Ger-manyDirector

The Life of Emile Zola

The Story of Louis Pasteur

15Edward Earle90Can-adaActor

The Law of the Yukon

Spite Marriage

19Jacques Deval77FranceDirector, Screen-writer

Women’s Club


The Greatest Films of 1972




Poster for the movie "Cabaret"

© 1972 ABC Pictures − All right reserved.


D: Bob Fosse

Set in a cabaret in sexually-charged, decadent, 1930s pre-war Berlin, one of the greatest musicals ever produced, adapted from the Kander-Ebb Broadway stage musical from John Van Druten’s play (and movie) I Am a Camera, which, in turn, was based on Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories. Young, bisexual Englishman Brian Roberts (Michael York) becomes involved with free-spirited, promiscuous Kit Kat Club singer and American expatriate Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli in her first singing role on-screen). Unbeknownst to her, he also shares her with wealthy German baron playboy/homosexual Maximilian von Heune (Helmut Griem). The seedy and sleazy Kit Kat Club is presided over by a sinister, leering, master of ceremonies (Joel Grey). After Sally’s abortion and the end of her affair, she sings: “Life is a cabaret, old chum, it’s only a cabaret, old chum, and I love a Cabaret!” The show ‘must go on’ night after night as the monstrous Nazis come to power, anti-Jewish persecution and propaganda increases (the subplot of the love affair between Brian’s Jewish friends Fritz and Natalia) and the horror of war appears on the horizon.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "The Candidate"

© 1972 Redford-Ritchie Productions − All right reserved.

The Candidate

D: Michael Ritchie

Robert Redford stars as a young, aggressive lawyer seduced into a political race against a well-respected incumbent Senator. Trying to do his own thing, he finds it difficult to call his own shots in the face of party efforts to mold him into a winner. Academy Award-winner for Best Screenplay and featuring strong performances by Peter Boyle and Melvyn Douglas. “The best political film ever” praises the National Observer, while Rex Reed declares it “like a string of Fourth of July firecrackers, exploding in joy…. It is clever and riveting and honest.”

Learn more and watch the preview here.



D: John Boorman

British director John Boorman’s gripping, absorbing, action-adventure film – about four suburban Atlanta businessmen-friends who encounter a disastrous rite-of-passage during a summer weekend’s river-canoeing trip. The buddy group, composed of Ed Gentry (Jon Voight), ultra-macho Lewis Medlock (Burt Reynolds), fearful weakling Bobby Trippe (Ned Beatty), and Drew Ballinger (Ronny Cox) face a nightmarish situation when they come upon the rapids and local hillbillies who degrade and terrorize them. The stark, uncompromising film was one of the first to deal with the theme of city-dwellers against the powerful, territorial forces of nature and the wilderness. The exciting box-office hit, most remembered for its banjo dueling and brutal, visceral action (and sexually-violent sodomy scene), was based on James Dickey’s adaptation of his own 1970 best-selling novel (his first) of the same


Poster for the movie "Fat City"

© 1972 Rastar Pictures − All right reserved.

Fat City

D: John Huston

In limbo between retirement and his youthful prime, alcoholic farm laborer Tully (Stacy Keach) shacks up with fellow outcast Oma (Susan Tyrrell) and keeps trying to make a boxing comeback, but his personal demons repeatedly overpower his ambitions. Meanwhile, fellow Stockton, CA resident and budding fighter Ernie (Jeff Bridges) takes Tully’s advice to join trainer Ruben (Nicholas Colasanto)’s gym and make something of himself. Learning the tough lesson that winning is not as easy as it sounds, Ernie is still determined to get what he can out of boxing and, unlike Tully, not let disappointments get the best of him.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "Frenzy"

© 1972 Universal Pictures − All right reserved.

Frenzy (UK)

D: Alfred Hitchcock

Jon Finch, Alec McCowen and Barry Foster star in this morbid blend of horror and wit-the first Hitchcock film to earn an ‘R’ rating. The Necktie Murderer has the London Police on red alert, and an innocent man is on a desperate quest to find the real serial rapist-murderer and clear his own name. Alternating heart-pounding tension with distinctive Hitchcock humor, Frenzy marked the Master of Suspense’s return to his native England after almost twenty years.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "The Godfather"

© 1972 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

The Godfather

D: Francis Ford Coppola

The operatic, violent Best Picture-winning drama was based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name. Here is a bravura, genre-defining, epic-length Mafia/gangster classic that evokes the mid and late 1940’s period with powerful character development, lighting, costumes, and settings. The film follows the fortunes of the fictitious Corleones, a powerful Mafia family with its own family rituals and separate code of honor, revenge, justice, law and loyalty that transcends all other codes. When Godfather Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) is shot by rivals, his sons Sonny (James Caan), Fredo (John Cazale) and favorite young son Michael (Al Pacino) assume control, with Michael ascending to a prominent position of power. Flawless performances from an all-star cast, a dramatic plot, Nino Rota’s unforgettable music, violent set-pieces, and the grotesque, severed horse-head scene.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "The Poseidon Adventure"

© 1972 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation − All right reserved.

The Poseidon Adventure

An all-star cast that includes Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Roddy McDowall, Shelley Winters and Leslie Nielsen heads this acclaimed film that set the standard for disaster movies. When the world’s largest ocean liner is capsized by a tidal wave, only ten passengers survive. Now, the race is on for these ten to make their way from the capsized top of the ship up to the bottom before they drown.

Learn more and watch the preview here


The Ruling Class

© – All right reserved.

The Ruling Class (UK) D: Peter Medak

When the Earl of Gurney (Harry Andrews) dies in a cross-dressing accident, his schizophrenic son, Jack (Peter O’Toole), inherits the Gurney estate. Jack is not the average nobleman; he sings and dances across the estate and thinks he is Jesus reincarnated. Believing that Jack is mentally unfit to own the estate, the Gurney family plots to steal Jack’s inheritance. As their outrageous schemes fail, the family strives to cure Jack of his bizarre behavior, with disastrous results.



© – All right reserved.

Sleuth (UK)

D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Based on the renowned play by Anthony Shaffer, this mystery finds Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier), a wealthy author of detective novels and game aficionado, facing off against his wife’s lover, Milo Tindle (Michael Caine), a middle-class hair salon-owner. When Wyke, who is seemingly content to split from his wife strikes an unusual deal with Tindle, it sets into motion a fierce game of one-upmanship between the two, with the stakes growing increasingly higher.


Poster for the movie "Sounder"

© 1972 Radnitz/Mattel Productions − All right reserved.


D: Martin Ritt

The Morgans, a family of poor black sharecroppers in the Depression-plagued South, struggle to find enough to eat despite the help their hunting dog, Sounder. When father Nathan (Paul Winfield) resorts to stealing food, he is captured by police and sent to prison, and his wife, Rebecca (Cicely Tyson), is left to care for their son, David (Kevin Hooks). Though Sounder has run away, David never gives up hope that his dog will return, just as he believes that he will see his father again someday.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Poster for the movie "Super Fly"

© 1972 Superfly Ltd. − All right reserved.

Super Fly

D: Gordon Parks, Jr.

Gordon Parks’ son directed this action-crime blaxploitation drama, one of the best of its type. It starred Ron O’Neal as flashy-dressing NYC cocaine drug-dealer Youngblood Priest, aka Super Fly, who was out to complete one last underworld drug deal or score in Harlem before going straight. Although rich, admired, and with many materialistic luxuries, the flamboyantly-stylish Priest was also glorified as a drug pusher, living in a corrupt world where even the Deputy Police Commissioner (“The Man”) was crooked, but was outwitted by Priest in the final scene. The film was notable as the first to be financed by two African-American businessmen (and the director), and made by a mostly-black crew filming on-location. It included a funky Curtis Mayfield score (that successfully outgrossed the film itself!) with the hit singles Pusherman and Freddie’s Dead.

Learn more and watch the preview here.


Did your favorite make our list of the greatest films of 1972?

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