36. “Bonnie and Clyde”, Arthur Penn (1967)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde

dir. Arthur Penn scr. David Newman and Robert Benton cin. Burnett Guffey with Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, and Estelle Parsons

In 100 words: The game-changer that heralded the arrival of New American Cinema, and announced a liberated, risky, and challenging style that took its cues from the French New Wave, Bonnie and Clyde is a landmark. There’s so much ingenuity in the way it’s shot and edited violence—frantic, bloody, and chaotic—so much angst coming from carnality—when do you see leading characters as impotent as Clyde?—and I loved the glamour they found in their lives—Bonnie’s berets, Clyde’s suits. Penn’s movie is so innovative and its influence so incalculable that one can see all of modern cinema spring from here.

Other Movies for Context: Mark Harris wrote a great book called Pictures at a Revolution that analyzed five key films in 1967 (the Best Picture lineup) and how they relate to the bigger cultural revolution happening at the time: this movie, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, Doctor Doolittle, and In the Heat of the Night. Penn’s movie also feels like an upgrade of the earlier Gun Crazy, which was a darker take on this story and later lovers on a run spring from this: Malick’s Badlands (1973), the terrific Thelma and Louise (1991), and Natural Born Killers (1995).

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