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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 1976 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:

  • Albert BrooksTaxi Driver
  • Bruce Campbell – It’s Murder!
  • Stephen CollinsAll the President’s Men
  • Lindsay CrouseAll the President’s Men
  • Mariel Hemingway – Lipstick
  • Ernie Hudson – Leadbelly
  • Amy Irving – Carrie
  • Jessica Lange – King Kong
  • Delroy Lindo – Find the Lady
  • Jonathan Pryce – Voyage of the Damned
  • John Ratzenberger – The Ritz
  • Mercedes Ruehl – Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
  • Brooke Shields – Alice, Sweet Alice
  • Debra Winger – Slumber Party ’57
  • Chow Yun-fat – Tou tai ren

 

Top-grossing Films

  Title Studio Dom. gross
1. Rocky United Artists Pictures $117M
2. To Fly! National Air and Space Museum $87M
3. A Star Is Born Warner Bros. $80M
4. All the President’s Men Warner Bros. $71M
5. The Omen 20th Century Fox Film Corporation $61M
6. In Search of Noah’s Ark Sunn Classic Pictures

$56M

7. King Kong Paramount Pictures $53M
8. Silver Streak 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation $51M
9. The Enforcer Warner Bros. $46M
10. Midway Universal Studios / Cinema International Corporation $43M

 

Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: Rocky – Chartoff-Winkler, United Artists

Best Director: John G. AvildsenRocky

Best Actor: Peter FinchNetwork (first actor to win posthumously)

Best Actress: Faye DunawayNetwork

Best Supporting Actor: Jason RobardsAll the President’s Men

Best Supporting Actress: Beatrice StraightNetwork

 

Among Those Who Died In 1976:

    Name Age   Notable films
Jan 1 Walter Janssen 88 Actor The Great Longing
          Maskerade
           
  12 Agatha Christie 85 Writer Witness for the Prosecution
          Murder on the Orient Express
           
  13 Margaret Leighton 53 Actress The Go-Between
          The Best Man
           
  18 Sonia Dresdel 66 Actress This Was a Woman
          The Fallen Idol
           
  23 Paul Robeson 77 Actor, Singer Show Boat
          The Proud Valley
           
  29 Michael Gwynn 59 Actor Cleopatra
          Jason and the Argonauts
           
Feb 4 Roger Livesey 69 Actor The Entertainer
          The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
           
  11 Lee J. Cobb 64 Actor On the Waterfront
          The Exorcist
           
  11 John Twist 77 Screen-writer King Richard and the Crusaders
          Annie Oakley
           
  12 Sal Mineo 37 Actor Rebel Without a Cause
          Exodus
           
  13 Lily Pons 77 Singer, Actress I Dream Too Much
          Hitting a New High
           
  13 John Lounsbery 64 Ani-    mator Dumbo
          Lady and the Tramp
           
  15 Maria Corda 77 Actress White Rose
          The Private Life of Helen of Troy
           
  16 Campbell Singer 66 Actor The Square Peg
          The Hands of Orlac
           
  24 Peter Madden 71 Actor From Russia with Love
          Doctor Zhivago
           
  26 Frieda Inescort 75 Actress A Place in the Sun
          The Letter
           
Mar 3 Doris Hill 70 Actress Sons of the Saddle
          Men Are Like That
           
  5 Charles Lederer 69 Screen-writer His Girl Friday
          Ocean’s 11
           
  14 Busby Berkeley 80 Director, Chore-ographer 42nd Street
          Hollywood Hotel
           
  17 Luchino Visconti 69 Director, Writer The Leopard
          Death in Venice
           
  20 Michael Goodliffe 61 Actor Cromwell
          Jigsaw
           
  28 Richard Arlen 76 Actor Wings
          Wildcat
           
Apr 2 Ray Teal 74 Actor Judgment at Nuremberg
          Ace in the Hole
           
  4 George Pastell 53 Actor From Russia with Love
          The Magus
           
  5 Howard Hughes 70 Director, Producer Hell’s Angels
          The Outlaw
           
  5 Robert Lord 75 Screen-   writer, Producer One Way Passage
          20,000 Years in Sing Sing
           
  11 Liam    Dunn 59 Actor Blazing Saddles
          Young Frankenstein
           
  12 Paul Ford 74 Actor Advise & Consent
          The Music Man
           
  21 Léonide Moguy 75 Director, Writer Paris After Dark
          Action in Arabia
           
  25 Carol Reed 69 Director, Writer OIiver!
          The Third Man
           
  26 Neil McCallum 46 Actor The Longest Day
          Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors
           
  26 Sid James 62 Actor The Lavender Hill Mob
          Trapeze
           
  29 Thelma Connell 63 Film         Editor Alfie
          The Deadly Affair
           
May 3 David Bruce 62 Actor Susie Steps Out
          Lady on a Train
           
  7 Alan Baxter 67 Actor Saboteur
          The Set-Up
           
  27 Hilde Hildebrand 78 Actress Victor and Victoria
          Little Dorrit
           
  27 Ruth McDevitt 80 Actress The Parent Trap
          The Birds
           
Jun 5 Violet Wilkey 73 Actress The Birth of a Nation
          The Burned Hand
           
  6 Victor Varconi 85 Actor The King of Kings
          The Sea Hawk
           
  9 Sybil Thorndike 93 Actress The Magic Box
          Melba
           
  10 Adolph Zukor 103 Producer, Studio Executive Wings
          Shanghai Express
           
  25 Johnny Mercer 66 Song-      writer The Harvey Girls
          Darling Lili
           
  28 Stanley Baker 48 Actor The Guns of Navarone
          Helen of Troy
           
Jul 2 Frances Howard 73 Actress The Shock Punch
          The Swan
           
  7 Norman Foster 72 Actor,     Director Pilgrimage
          State Fair
           
  12 James Wong Howe 76 Cinema-tographer The Rose Tattoo
          Hud
           
  17 Rina Morelli 67 Actress The Leopard
          Senso
           
  28 Lucie Mannheim 77 Actress The 39 Steps
          The High Command
           
Aug 2 Fritz Lang 85 Director,     Writer Metropolis
          The Big Heat
           
  6 William Mervyn 64 Actor The Ruling Class
          The Long Arm
           
  10 Ray Corrigan 74 Actor The Three Mesquiteers
          Range Busters
           
  17 William Redfield 49 Actor One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
          Death Wish
           
  17 Murvyn Vye 60 Actor A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
          Al Capone
           
  18 Luigi Serventi 91 Actor A Woman’s Story
          The Story of a Poor Young Man
           
  28 Alastair Sim 75 Actor The Green Man
          Scrooge
           
Sep 10 Dalton Trumbo 70 Screen-        writer Spartacus
          Roman Holiday
           
  30 Paul    Dehn 63 Screen-       writer Goldfinger
          Murder on the Orient Express
           
Oct 5 Barbara Nichols 47 Actress Sweet Smell of Success
          The Naked and the Dead
           
  14 Edith Evans 88 Actress Tom Jones
          The Nun’s Story
           
Nov 15 Jean    Gabin 72 Actor La Grande Illusion
          Port of Shadows
           
  22 Rupert Davies 60 Actor Waterloo
          The Criminal
           
  28 Rosalind Russell 69 Actress His Girl Friday
          Auntie Mame
           
  29 Godfrey Cambridge 43 Actor Cotton Comes to Harlem
          The President’s Analyst
           
Dec 3 Mary Nash 92 Actress The Philadelphia Story
          The Human Comedy
           
  8 Cathy Downs 50 Actress My Darling Clementine
          The Dark Corner
           
  12 Jack Cassidy 49 Actor Bunny O’Hare
          The Eiger Sanction
           
  20 Walter Fitzgerald 80 Actor The Fallen Idol
          Man in the Sky

 

The Greatest Films of 1976

 

***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL***

 

Poster for the movie "All the President's Men"

© 1976 Wildwood Enterprises − All right reserved.

All the President’s Men

D: Alan J. Pakula

Alan J. Pakula’s mystery-thriller and taut docu-drama about President Nixon’s Watergate scandal and abuse of power followed two real-life, young, persistent investigative journalists at the Washington Post. [Executive producer and co-star Robert Redford’s well-known concern for political issues was reflected in his on-screen portrayal in this substantive film.] The detailed, dialogue-rich script, based on the 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning non-fiction book by the reporters, created an authentic and credible feel. The two main Hollywood actors in the lead roles as clashing Post reporters who reluctantly worked together seamlessly became their characters with contrasting styles and personalities: Robert Redford as the determined junior reporter Bob Woodward, and Dustin Hoffman as the more experienced and outspoken liberal Carl Bernstein. The intrepid rookie duo uncovered a possible connection, through a dogged search for clues, hunches, and informants (including the mysterious Deep Throat), between the 1972 Watergate burglary and an Oval Office staffer. As they uncovered dirty tricks and other illegal, conspiratorial activities, the famous catch-phrase: “Follow the money” (entirely invented for the film), became popularized.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Bound For Glory

© – All right reserved.

Bound For Glory

D: Hal Ashby

The Dust Bowl overtakes his native Oklahoma in the early 1930s, and struggling young musician Woody Guthrie (David Carradine) leaves his wife, Mary (Melinda Dillon), to join the great westward migration to southern California. When he meets singer and union agitator Ozark Bule (Ronny Cox), Guthrie finds his populist political voice — but at the expense of his personal life. Director Hal Ashby adapted this biopic from Guthrie’s 1943 autobiography of the same title.

 

© – All right reserved.

Carrie

D: Brian De Palma

Director Brian De Palma’s first commercial hit was this bloody, R-rated supernatural horror film based on Stephen King’s 1974 best-selling novel of the same name, his first published work. The story was about a socially-outcast, shy, abused and bullied schoolgirl (Sissy Spacek) possessed with retributive telekinetic powers – and continually tormented by her religiously fanatical, sexually-repressed mother (Piper Laurie). Carrie vengefully murdered high school senior prom-goers (shown in split-screen) after being humiliated and cruelly doused with a bucket of pig’s blood from above. The film has always been noted for its second, jump-scare shock ending – a nightmarish dream sequence in which Carrie’s surviving classmate Sue Snell (Amy Irving) was grabbed by Carrie’s bloody hand bursting out of the ground from her grave.

 

The Man Who Fell to Earth

© – All right reserved.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

D: Nicolas Roeg

Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet. He starts a high technology company to get the billions of dollars he needs to build a return spacecraft.

 

Marathon Man

© – All right reserved.

Marathon Man

D: John Schlesinger

From William Goldman’s best-selling novel comes one of the most daring and affecting thrillers ever brought to the screen. Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman (Rainman) plays the likable graduate student and marathon runner of the title, unwillingly trapped in a killing game of intrigue involving a Nazi fugitive, Christian Szell. Laurence Olivier received an Academy Award nomination for his chilling portrayal of the sadistic Szell, who turns dental instruments into tools of torture with dispassionate ease. Directed by John Schlesinger and featuring an all-star cast, Marathon Man moves with nail-biting suspense to its thrilling, fever-pitched conclusion. Co-starring Roy Scheider and William Devane.

 

Poster for the movie "Network"

© 1976 United Artists − All right reserved.

Network

D: Sidney Lumet

A prophetic, explosive, provocative satire from screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky about the medium of network television and its abusive, self-prostituting quest for ratings. Chief UBS TV (a fourth-rated fictional broadcasting system) veteran news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is driven insane when told that he will be fired after twenty-five years because of low ratings. On the air, the beserk newsman tells his audience that he will committ suicide during his final live broadcast. A ratings-mad, cold-blooded, ambitious programming VP Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) exploits the furor when ratings zoom. Messianic hero and cult celebrity Beale continues to report the news and evangelistically urges his viewers to go to their windows and yell: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” The craggy, dissenting head of the news division Max Schumacher (William Holden) is fired, as the network is overtaken by a multinational conglomerate and alliances are made with urban guerrilla terrorists for programming ideas. Married Schumacher, in a mid-life crisis, has a May-December affair with Diana and leaves his wife (Beatrice Straight).

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

The Omen

© – All right reserved.

The Omen

D: Richard Donner

A Series Of Shocking Deaths Leaves The American Ambassador To Britain Convinced That His 5-Year-Old Son Is Actually The Antichrist. Unbeknownst To Them, A Devil-Possessed Priest Changes Babies In The Hospital And The Child They Think Is Theirs Is Destined To Grow Up To Rule The World In The Name Of Satan.

 

The Outlaw Josey Wales

© – All right reserved.

The Outlaw Josey Wales

D: Clint Eastwood

A great Eastwood revisionistic western, and considered his personal favorite. [Note: It was Eastwood’s fifth-directed film and eighth Western as a performer. His next western would be nine years later. It was one of the last few major studio Westerns until the 1990s, marked by Eastwood’s own Unforgiven (1992).] Eastwood fully fleshed-out the title character Josey Wales, who became a vengeful, ex-Confederate rebel guerrilla fighter who refused to surrender. Earlier as a farmer during the Civil War along the Kansas-Missouri border, he had witnessed the massacre of his family and pillaging of his farm in a border raid led by marauding renegade Union Red Leg soldier Captain Terrill (Bill McKinney). Regarded as an outlaw after the war, wanted man Wales journeyed westward to Texas, still haunted by the slaughter and driven to murderous revenge. He joined a band of Confederate irregulars under Bloody Bill Anderson (John Russell). He was pursued by bounty hunters and other lawmen, including reluctant Confederate regimental Captain Fletcher (John Vernon). However, the angry loner-fugitive began to regain some of his humanity when he rescued aging Indian Cherokee Lone Watie (Chief Dan George). He also saved farm family settlers from Comanche raiders – pretty love-interest Laura Lee (Sondra Locke) and her spirited, self-righteous Grandma Sarah (Paula Trueman), on their way to settle down on an abandoned ranch near the ghost town of Santa Rio.

 

Poster for the movie "Rocky"

© 1976 United Artists − All right reserved.

Rocky

D: John G. Avildsen

The phenomenally successful, uplifting, “sleeper” film that was filmed in a record twenty-eight days with a paltry budget of about $1 million, and ultimately grossed well over $100 million. (This low-budget film was positioned between two early “blockbusters” – Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) and Lucas’ Star Wars (1977).) Its screenwriter and major star, Sylvester Stallone, was an unbankable unknown at the time – an underdog actor/writer in the film industry (with 32 previously-rejected scripts) similar to the boxing ‘bum’ in the film. Stallone supposedly wrote the script for the sports comeback film over a three-day period. The action-packed, ‘feel-good’ crowd-pleasing story, shot mostly on location, tells of the rise of a small-time, has-been, underdog Philadelphia boxer against insurmountable odds in a big-time bout with Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), with the emotional support of a shy, hesitant, loving girlfriend named Adrian (Talia Shire) and wily fight manager Mickey (Burgess Meredith). The low-key film was a combination of On the Waterfront (1954), Marty (1955), and a fairy-tale, Cinderella rags-to-riches story. The original Rocky film, from Oscar-winning director John G. Avildsen, packed movie houses, and beat out formidable competition for Best Picture: All the President’s Men, Bound For Glory, Network, and Taxi Driver. It was followed by four inferior sequels: Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990) and another entry titled Rocky Balboa (2006).

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Taxi Driver"

© 1976 Italo/Judeo Productions − All right reserved.

Taxi Driver

D: Martin Scorsese

One of Martin Scorsese’s greatest films, about a violent, alienated, unfocused, psychotic NYC taxi driver fatalistically disturbed by the squalid, hellish urban underbelly of pimps, whores, winos, and junkies. Ex-Marine Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) works the night shift through Times Square in his cab, encountering nightmarish Gothic horrors, moral decay and lowlifes. Off hours during the day, he kills time by frequenting sleazy porno houses and eating junk food. His one feeble attempt at social and emotional contact – a date with a blonde political campaign worker Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) fails miserably when he takes her to a porn film. His fantasized one-man campaign/mission to clean up the streets focuses on saving a prepubescent child prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster). It ends with a failed political assassination attempt, and a rage-filled, pent-up blood-bath massacre, including the killing of Iris’ pimp “Sport” (Harvey Keitel). In the aftermath, the repellent character emerges as a vindicated, folk savior-hero.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Did your favorite make our list of the greatest films of 1976?

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