When my editor Keith Phipps asked me to post a movie-related follow-up to Steve Hyden's record-for-every-year-since-birth post, I plumbled through the last 37 years in cinema, eager to exhalt my favorites to the approval of the cheering masses. Then I put the list together. And I hated it.

Let me clarify: It's not that I don't believe that every single film on my list is a masterpiece. Quite the contrary, I'd argue the merits of every one of them until red in the face and find them all rich, vital, and essential in a multitude of ways. However, the list bores me and disturbs me. It bores me because so many of my #1's are obvious, canonical modern classics like The Godfather, Part II or Raging Bull, which leaves some of the less celebrated great films from those years unacknowledged. And it disturbs me because I don't have a single foreign-language film on there until 1988, and even that choice is a bit of a cheat, since it was a 10-part TV project that only found piecemeal theatrical distribution. (Had I been born a decade earlier, I wouldn't have had such a problem, given the wealth of great films coming from France, Italy, Japan, and other places.) A better list would have had more diversity, but I'm against composing "best of" lists for diversity's sake; "best" means "best," so I had no choice but be completely honest about what my favorite film was for each of those years.


So to avoid boring and disturbing you, too, I've provided an "alternative choice" for each year—movies that I'd have liked to champion had they not been eclipsed by the towering canonical classics at the top of the list. And one more note before I go: Scorsese is to me as U2 and Bruce Springsteen are to Steve. I apologize in advance.

1971: McCabe And Mrs. Miller (dir. Robert Altman) (alt: Two-Lane Blacktop)
1972: The Godfather (dir. Francis Coppola) (alt: Fat City)
1973: Badlands (dir. Terrance Malick) (alt: The Long Goodbye)
1974: The Godfather, Part II (dir. Francis Coppola) (alt: Ali: Fear Eats The Soul)
1975: Nashville (dir. Robert Altman ) (alt: Barry Lyndon)
1976: Taxi Driver (dir. Martin Scorsese) (alt: Assault On Precinct 13)
1977: Eraserhead (dir. David Lynch) (alt: Suspiria)
1978: Gates Of Heaven (dir. Errol Morris) (alt: Blue Collar)
1979: Alien (dir. Ridley Scott) (alt: Real Life)
1980: Raging Bull (dir. Martin Scorsese) (alt: Melvin And Howard)
1981: Modern Romance (dir. Albert Brooks) (alt: Blow Out)
1982: E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (dir. Steven Spielberg) (alt: Veronika Voss)
1983: The Right Stuff (dir. Philip Kaufman) (alt: Videodrome)
1984: Stranger Than Paradise (dir. Jim Jarmusch) (alt: Choose Me)
1985: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (dir. Tim Burton) (alt: Come And See)
1986: Blue Velvet (dir. David Lynch) (alt: Manhunter)
1987: RoboCop (dir. Paul Verhoeven) (alt: Housekeeping)
1988: The Decalogue (dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski) (alt: Bull Durham)
1989: Do The Right Thing (dir. Spike Lee) (alt: Speaking Parts)
1990: GoodFellas (dir. Martin Scorsese) (alt: Miami Blues)
1991: The Lovers On The Bridge (dir. Leos Carax) (alt: La Belle Noiseuse)
1992: Unforgiven (dir. Clint Eastwood) (alt: Lorenzo's Oil)
1993: Naked (dir. Mike Leigh) (alt: The Age Of Innocence)
1994: Exotica (dir. Atom Egoyan) (alt: Wild Reeds)
1995: Safe (dir. Todd Haynes) (alt: Fallen Angels)
1996: Breaking The Waves (dir. Lars Von Trier) (alt: Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills)
1997: Starship Troopers (dir. Paul Verhoeven) (alt: The River)
1998: The Big Lebowski (dir. Joel Coen) (alt: Buffalo '66)
1999: Audition (dir. Takashi Miike) (alt: The End Of The Affair)
2000: Yi Yi (dir. Edward Yang) (alt: Code Unknown)
2001: In The Mood for Love (dir. Wong Kar-wai) (alt: What Time Is It There?)
2002: 25th Hour (dir. Spike Lee) (alt: Gerry)
2003: The Fog Of War (dir. Errol Morris) (alt: Los Angeles Plays Itself)
2004: Before Sunset (dir. Richard Linklater) (alt: Tropical Malady)
2005: Brokeback Mountain (dir. Ang Lee) (alt: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
2006: The Departed (dir. Martin Scorsese) (alt: Climates)
2007: No Country For Old Men (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen) (alt: Lake Of Fire)