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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 1974 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:

 

  • Armand Assante – The Lords of Flatbush
  • Chevy Chase – The Groove Tube
  • Jeff Goldblum – Death Wish
  • Edward James Olmos – Black Fist
  • John Rhys-Davies – The Black Windmill
  • Fred Ward – Ginger in the Morning
  • Denzel Washington – Death Wish
  • Henry Winkler – Crazy Joe

 

Top-grossing Films

  Title Studio Domestic gross
1. Blazing Saddles Warner Bros. $119,500,000
2. The Towering Inferno 20th Century Fox / Warner Bros. $116,000,000
3. The Trial of Billy Jack Warner Bros. $89,000,000
4. Young Frankenstein 20th Century Fox $86,273,333
5. Earthquake Universal Pictures $79,666,653
6. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three United Artists $61,984,039
7. The Godfather Part II Paramount Pictures $47,542,841
8. Airport 1975 Universal Pictures $47,285,152
9. The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams Sunn Classic Pictures $45,411,063
10. The Longest Yard Paramount Pictures $43,008,075

 

Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: The Godfather Part II

Best Director: Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather: Part II

Best Actor: Art Carney, Harry and Tonto

Best Actress: Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro, The Godfather: Part II

Best Supporting Actress: Ingrid Bergman, Murder on the Orient Express

 

Among Those Who Died In 1974:

Mon Date Name Age Profession Notable films
Jan 2 Tex Ritter 68 Actor, Singer Trouble in Texas
          Where the Buffalo Roam
           
  3 Gino Cervi 72 Actor Becket
          Black Eagle
           
  14 Paul Whitsun-Jones 50 Actor The Moonraker
          The Masque of the Red Death
           
  31 Samuel Goldwyn 94 Producer,  Studio Executive The Best Years of Our Lives
          Guys and Dolls
           
  31 Roger Pryor 72 Actor Glamour for Sale
          The Return of Jimmy Valentine
           
Feb 7 Arline Judge 61 Actress The Sin of Harold Diddlebock
          Pigskin Parade
           
  11 Anna Q. Nilsson 85 Actress Sunset Boulevard
          Sorrell and Son
           
  23 Florence Rice 67 Actress At the Circus
          Double Wedding
           
  23 Harry Ruby 79 Screenwriter, Composer Horse Feathers
          Duck Soup
           
  27 Orry-Kelly 66 Costume Designer An American in Paris
          Some Like It Hot
           
  28 Carole Lesley 38 Actress Woman in a Dressing Gown
          Three on a Spree
           
Mar 3 Barbara Ruick 43 Actress, Singer Carousel
          The Affairs of Dobie Gillis
           
  5 Billy De Wolfe 67 Actor Dixie
          Tea for Two
           
  7 Alberto Rabagliati 67 Actor, Singer The Barefoot Contessa
          Street Angel
           
  8 Martha Wentworth 84 Actress, Voice Actress Santa Fe Uprising
          One Hundred and One Dalmatians
           
  13 Howard St. John 68 Actor Born Yesterday
          Li’l Abner
           
  19 Edward Platt 58 Actor North by Northwest
          Rebel Without a Cause
           
  28 Dorothy Fields 68 Songwriter Swing Time
          Annie Get Your Gun
           
  28 Francoise Rosay 82 Actress September Affair
          The Seventh Sin
           
  29 Seton I. Miller 71 Screenwriter Scarface
          Here Comes Mr. Jordan
           
April 2 Douglass Dumbrille 84 Actor Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
          The Ten Commandments
           
  10 Patricia Collinge 81 Actress Shadow of a Doubt
          The Nun’s Story
           
  18 Betty Compson 77 Actress The Docks of New York
          The Miracle Man
           
  20 Peter Lee Lawrence 30 Actor For a Few Dollars More
          Black Beauty
           
  24 Bud Abbott 78 Actor Abbott and Costello in Hollywood
          Little Giant
           
  24 Agnes Moorehead 73 Actress Citizen Kane
          The Magnificent Ambersons
           
May 18 Mary Maguire 55 Actress The Outsider
          Sergeant Murphy
           
  24 Duke Ellington 75 Composer Paris Blues
          Anatomy of a Murder
           
  25 Donald Crisp 91 Actor How Green Was My Valley
          National Velvet
           
June 6 Blanche Yurka 86 Actress A Tale of Two Cities
          Queen of the Mob
           
  10 Lewis R. Foster 75 Director, Screenwriter Manhandled
          Hong Kong
           
  17 Pamela Britton 51 Actress Anchors Aweigh
          D.O.A.
           
  28 Frank Sutton 50 Actor Marty
          Town Without Pity
           
July 13 Joe Flynn 48 Actor McHale’s Navy
          The Barefoot Executive
           
  13 Marthe Vinot 79 Actress Le Mort vivant
          Le Calvaire
           
  27 Julián de Meriche 65 Actor The Incredible Invasion
           
  28 Truman Bradley 69 Actor, Narrator Millionaires in Prison
          Murder Among Friends
           
Aug 13 Ilona Massey 64 Actress Invisible Agent
          Love Happy
           
  16 Maxwell Reed 55 Actor Blackout
          The Notorious Landlady
           
Sept 6 Olga Baclanova 78 Actress Freaks
          The Wolf of Wall Street
           
  6 Otto Kruger 89 Actor High Noon
          Magnificent Obsession
           
  14 Barbara Jo Allen 68 Actress Girl Rush
          Lake Placid Serenade
           
  14 Warren Hull 71 Actor Star Reporter
          Mandrake the Magician
           
  18 Edna Best 74 Actress The Man Who Knew Too Much
          The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
           
  21 Jacqueline Susann 56 Author, Actress Valley of the Dolls
          Once Is Not Enough
           
  21 Walter Brennan 80 Actor The Westerner
          Rio Bravo
           
  22 Stephanie Bidmead 45 Actress Invasion
          Running Scared
           
  27 James R. Webb 64 Screenwriter How the West Was Won
          Cape Fear
           
Oct 13 Ed Sullivan 73 Actor Bye Bye Birdie
          The Singing Nun
           
Nov 7 Rodolfo Acosta 54 Actor The Sons of Katie Elder
          One-Eyed Jacks
           
  13 Vittorio De Sica 73 Actor, Director, Screenwriter Bicycle Thieves
          Miracle in Milan
           
  14 Johnny Mack Brown 70 Actor Coquette
          Our Dancing Daughters
           
  17 Clive Brook 87 Actor Shanghai Express
          Sherlock Holmes
           
  25 Rosemary Lane 61 Actress, Singer Four Wives
          The Return of Doctor X
           
Dec 4 Lee Kinsolving 36 Actor The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
          The Explosive Generation
           
  5 Pietro Germi 60 Actor, Director, Screenwriter Divorce, Italian Style
          Seduced and Abandoned
           
  10 Paul Richards 50 Actor The Houston Story
          Beneath the Planet of the Apes
           
  11 Reed Hadley 63 Actor The Baron of Arizona
          Big House, U.S.A.
           
  15 Anatole Litvak 72 Director, Producer The Snake Pit
          Anastasia
           
  21 Richard Long 47 Actor House on Haunted Hill
          The Stranger
           
  26 Jack Benny 80 Actor To Be or Not to Be
          Broadway Melody of 1936

 

The Greatest Films of 1974

 

***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL***

 

Poster for the movie "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"

© − All right reserved.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

D: Martin Scorsese

Ellen Burstyn (“The Exorcist,” “Same Time, Next Year”) won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in this memorable comedy-drama about a widowed mother suddenly forced to take charge of her own life. Director Martin Scorcese (“Cape Fear,” “GoodFellas”) guides a wonderful cast including the very young future Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster (“Maverick,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), singer-actor Kris Kristofferson (“Lone Star,” “A Star Is Born”) and Oscar-nominees Diane Ladd (“Ramblin’ Rose”) and Harvey Keitel (“Pulp Fiction”). This classic film served as the basis for the long-running TV comedy hit “Alice.”

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Blazing Saddles"

© − All right reserved.

Blazing Saddles

D: Mel Brooks

The iconoclastic, not-politically-correct western was one of director Mel Brooks’ funniest, most successful and most popular films. It was an unsubtle spoof or parody of all the cliches from the time-honored genre of westerns. Brooks’ third feature film tagline blurb advertised: “Blazing Saddles…or never give a saga an even break!” The crude, racist and sexist film with toilet humor (the infamous bean-eating campfire scene) and foul language included the main elements of any western – a dance-hall girl, a gunslinger, a sheriff, a town full of pure folk, and more, but it twisted them around. In the small frontier town of Rock Ridge (with all the racist townspeople named Johnson) in the 1870s, pardoned black railroad worker Bart (Cleavon Little) was appointed by dim-witted and sex-obsessed Governor William J. Le Petomane (Mel Brooks) as the new Sheriff. In cahoots was evil and corrupt State Attorney General Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) whose plot was to scare off the townsfolk, replace them with his own thugs, led by villainous Taggart (Slim Pickens), and complete a cheap land grab for a railroad route. Naive Bart joined with drunken “Waco Kid” gunslinger Jim (Gene Wilder) to save the town. There was also German seductress-for-hire Lili von Shtupp (Madeline Kahn), a spoof of Marlene Dietrich in Destry Rides Again (1939). In the absurdist finale, the action broke through the “fourth wall” into the WB studios, onto a film set with Buddy Bizarre (Dom DeLuise) directing a musical, then into the studio commissary for a pie fight, and onto the streets of Burbank and the landmark Grauman Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Chinatown"

© 1974 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

Chinatown

D: Roman Polanski

Atmospheric, subtly-paced, superbly-made neo-noir mystery about a hard-nosed detective uncovering urban corruption in late 1930’s Los Angeles. World-weary gumshoe Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), who specialized in adultery cases, took on Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) as a client. He was hired by the recently-widowed woman to investigate the infidelities of her alleged husband, the water commissioner for the drought-stricken city. As the film-noir plot unfolded, the detective got in way over his head in a case involving murder, the illegal diversion of water to artificially deflate land prices, fraudulent and corrupt politicians including sinister millionaire Noah Cross (John Huston) grabbing up land, and a prominent family’s scandalous, long-hidden dark secret. He uncovered scandal under many layers, facades and networks of corruption, conspiracy and deception. Nicholson’s multi-faceted performance struck a responsive chord after the scandalous Watergate era of the early 1970s. He was masterful as he flippantly and self-confidently offered pat explanations for the deeply-flowing corruption he unearthed, and then found that he had to continually revise his inaccurate pronouncements and backtrack, after uncovering further evidence. His transgressive snooping was symbolized throughout the film by a large bandage on his sliced nose, after it was slashed by a punk (director Roman Polanski in a cameo role). After original, complex plot twists, the film ended in an unsettling finale in the ‘Chinatown’ section of the city – a state of mind where the law was ineffectual. Gittes found himself impotent and powerless to prevent the inevitable tragedy that he had exposed.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Conversation"

© 1974 Paramount − All right reserved.

The Conversation

D: Francis Ford Coppola

A brilliant thriller and murder mystery that was made during the Watergate Era, and coming at the height of Coppola’s fame for his two Godfather films. One of the best films of the 70s. A professional, reclusive, alienated, and paranoid surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), assisted by Stan (John Cazale) is hired by the ‘director’ (Robert Duvall in a cameo) of an anonymous business, in a seemingly-routine job, to secretly wiretap the conversations of two employees – an unfaithful wife and her lover (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest). After repeatedly playing back the tape, he realizes that he has captured a terrifying conversation with clues about an impending tragedy – a death sentence. He feels compelled to intercede and circumvent fate with disastrous consequences.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Godfather: Part II"

© 1974 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

The Godfather (Part II)

D: Francis Ford Coppola

The continuing saga of a Mafia family and dynasty, one of the few sequels in film history that is considered superior to the original. This outstanding, Best Picture-winning film continues the first film and retraces the Corleone Family’s founding by the young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro), who immigrates to America from his native Sicily at the turn of the century and maneuvers his family to power in the ghetto of Little Italy. It also shows the maintenance of the family by young Michael (Al Pacino), Vito’s son, as he ages and confronts a second generation of criminal and family affairs in Vegas, Cuba, and in a Senate hearing on organized crime. After eliminating all rivals and enemies, he is a brooding character, alienated from his wife (Diane Keaton), and the murderer of own brother Fredo (John Cazale).

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Harry and Tonto"

© 1974 20th Century Fox − All right reserved.

Harry and Tonto

D: Paul Mazursky

A road film starring Best Actor-winning Art Carney as elderly widower and retired teacher Harry, a New Yorker facing the loss of his apartment building. He struck out from his Upper West Side home to travel cross country to find a new home, with his beloved feline pet Tonto.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Lenny"

© 1974 Marvin Worth Productions − All right reserved.

Lenny

D: Bob Fosse

Controversial comedian Lenny Bruce (Dustin Hoffman) begins his career telling bad jokes to bored audiences in the 1950s, but can’t repress his desire to unleash edgier material. When he does, he begins a one-man campaign to break down social hypocrisy, and his groundbreaking stage act propels him to cult-hero status. When authorities ban Lenny’s act for obscenity, he begins a downward spiral of drugs, sex and debt, aided by his bombshell wife, a stripper named Honey (Valerie Perrine).

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Parallax View"

© − All right reserved.

The Parallax View

D: Alan J. Pakula

After a presidential candidate is assassinated, political reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) begins to suspect that the mysterious Parallax Corporation may be involved. As he investigates, others who share his suspicions start turning up dead, including his editor, Bill Rintels (Hume Cronyn). Eventually, Frady uncovers a conspiracy bigger than anyone expected and must race to prevent the corporation’s next big hit as this political thriller plays out in an explosive game of cat and mouse.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "That's Entertainment!"

© 1974 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer − All right reserved.

That’s Entertainment!

D: Jack Haley, Jr.

Join star hosts Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, Liza Minnelli, Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Donald O’Connor, Peter Lawford, and Debbie Reynolds in a joyous celebration of MGM musicals, the Hollywood studio that practically invented the musical. Starting from 1929’s “The Broadway Melody” up to 1958’s Academy Award-winning “Gigi“, this collection of song, dance, out takes, and interviews will entertain the whole family. Featuring scenes from such American musical classics as “Singin’ In the Rain“, “Showboat” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and a parade of stars, including Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Esther Williams, and Clark Gable. A huge commercial and critical success, it was followed by two sequels.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Towering Inferno"

© − All right reserved.

The Towering Inferno

D: Irwin Allen, John Guillermin

A dedication ceremony at the world’s tallest skyscraper turns into a high-rise catastrophe when a defective wire in its systems-control panel causes an electrical flare-up. Within minutes the gala event turns into a hellish inferno, as a raging fire traps society’s most prominent citizens on the top floor. Winner of three Academy Awards, this spectacular suspense thriller features dazzling special effects and a star studded cast including Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden and Faye Dunaway.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "A Woman Under the Influence"

© 1974 Faces International Films − All right reserved.

A Woman Under the Influence

D: John Cassavetes

Mabel Longhetti (Gena Rowlands), desperate and lonely, is married to a Los Angeles municipal construction worker, Nick (Peter Falk). Increasingly unstable, especially in the company of others, she craves happiness, but her extremely volatile behavior convinces Nick that she poses a danger to their family and decides to commit her to an institution for six months. Alone with a trio of kids to raise on his own, he awaits her return, which holds more than a few surprises.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Young Frankenstein"

© 1974 Crossbow Productions − All right reserved.

Young Frankenstein

D: Mel Brooks

One of writer/producer/director Mel Brooks’ best films – a nostalgic, hilarious spoof-tribute to classic horror films (with its authentic black and white cinematography and production design/set decoration), and in particular, of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. This was his follow-up film to his westerns-spoof (Blazing Saddles (1974)). The main character, young brain surgeon and med-school professor, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is in denial about his heritage, and must continually and defiantly correct people about the pronunciation of his name: “That’s Frahnk-en-steen.” The reluctant scientist returns to Transylvania when he inherits his infamous grandfather Victor’s castle, and is inspired to finish his ancestor’s mad work to create life after he finds the journal book/diary “How I Did It” in his private library. In the castle and town, he finds a bug-eyed Igor (“That’s Eye-gor”) (Marty Feldman) with a shifting hunchback, an old housekeeper Frau Bleucher (Cloris Leachman) who inspires horses to whinny, and a pretty, dim-witted, voluptuous assistant from the village named Inga (Teri Garr). His sexually-repressed, spoiled fiancee Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) later joins him as he repeats his grandfather’s famous experiments and recreates the Monster (Boyle). The film ranges from slapstick and farce to dirty, bawdy humor to irreverent satire (e.g., a parody of the little girl drowning scene that was taken from Frankenstein (1931), and the blind hermit scene from Bride of Frankenstein (1935) with Gene Hackman in a cameo role.) Some of the more memorable images are Elizabeth’s encounter with the Monster and his “enormous schwanstucker” (singing “O Sweet Mystery of Life”), and the soft-shoe dancing duet of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by the Monster and creator Frederick, complete with tuxedos, canes, and top hats.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Did your favorite make our list of the greatest films of 1974?

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