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10 Movies Turning 50 This Year

Some of the Best Films From 1973

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • January 10, 2023

The popular culture of an era often says something about the character of the time it inhabits. A few weeks ago, we considered a list of ten books published half a century ago. Today, we're revisiting some of the most notable films from 1973. Some of these titles tapped into the cultural zeitgeist of that moment in history. Others offer something universal that speaks to us all. Whatever the reason, they're still getting playtime.

The Sting

Paul Newman and Robert Redford are reunited with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid director George Roy Hill for this comedic caper about two grifters who are out to con a mob boss who had one of their friends bumped off. The film was nominated for ten Oscars and won seven, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Writing.

Papillon

They called him Papillon, meaning butterfly. If only he had wings to go with the name. Based on Henri Charrière's bestselling autobiography and starring Steve McQueen in the title role, this historical prison film depicts Papillon's desperate escape from an island prison with his friend, Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman), a frail but notorious forger.

Charlotte's Web

E. B. White's beloved middle-grade novel was brought to life in this animated film, which finds the young pig attempting to avoid a dire fate. Though beloved by Fern and many of the animals, Wilbur's staunchest ally is Charlotte (Debbie Reynolds), a thoughtful spider who devises an intriguing plan to keep the gentle little swine out of the slaughterhouse.

American Graffiti

A group of high school graduates consider their next steps in this nostalgic coming-of-age comedy-drama set in an innocent California town in the early 1960s. The film, written and directed by George Lucas, starred Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and a young Harrison Ford. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola, the film was a critical and commercial success.

The Exorcist

This landmark film spawned a new generation of horror movies. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty, it is the story of Regan (Linda Blair), a young girl who starts acting oddly—levitating, speaking in tongues, etc. Her mother (Ellen Burstyn) summons the help of a Catholic priest (Max von Sydow) who specializes in exorcisms.

Serpico

This neo-noir biographical crime drama film tells the story of police detective Frank Serpico as he fought corruption within the New York City Police Department during his eleven years of service. Directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Al Pacino in the title role, the film is based on a book of the same name written by Peter Maas with the assistance of the real-life Serpico.

Soylent Green

In a densely overpopulated, dystopian New York City, detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) investigates the murder of an executive at rations manufacturer Soylent Corporation. As he starts uncovering provocative clues, the governor mysteriously pulls the plug. So Thorn steps out from behind the badge and launches his own investigation into the murder.

Paper Moon

Real-life father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O'Neal (who won an Oscar for best supporting actress) team up as con artists in 1930s Kansas. When "Moze" is unexpectedly saddled with getting the nine-year-old Addie to relatives in Missouri, his attempt to dupe her out of her money backfires, and he ends up taking her on as a partner. Madeline Kahn turns up as a burlesque dancer.

The Way We Were

Opposites attract when, during their college days, Katie (Barbra Streisand), a politically active Jew, meets Hubbell (Robert Redford), a feckless WASP. Years later, in the wake of World War II, they meet again and, despite their obvious differences, marry. The film, directed by Sydney Pollack, traces the ups and downs of their relationship as they pursue a life together.

Day For Night

Director Francois Truffaut plays himself in this ebullient movie about making movies. As the beleaguered director tries to get his film made, he must manage the chaos of the real-life dramas affecting his actors. Severine forgets her lines when she drinks. Alexandre is distracted by the imminent arrival of his lover. Julie is recovering from a nervous breakdown.

Whether these films are new to you or favorites from your past, join us in celebrating their continued relevance and resonance after fifty years! How many have you seen?

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