28. “The Conversation”, Francis Ford Coppola (1974)

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

The Conversation

The Conversation

dir. Francis Ford Coppola scr. Francis Ford Coppola cin. Bill Butler with Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest

In 100 words: The Conversation is a stunning masterpiece—a fascinating character study that also works as a taut thriller that takes on one of the fundamental fears of many Americans: a lack of privacy. One genius thing about Harry Caul is despite his eminence in the field of surveillance, he’s ironically bad at keeping his life private. Moreover, I love how Coppola narrows in on Harry’s psyche—his deep Catholicism, which informs his guilt and fear of being complicit to a murder, for instance. Edited for ambiguity, shot with icy clarity and a sometime ethereal feel. Hackman gives an incredibly nuanced performance.

Other Movies for Context: Surveillance is an interesting subject for movies, because a lot of involves giving audiences a chance to snoop in on people. Rear Window expressed that perfectly. Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002) is also similar with its portrait of preventing crime by figuring out the crime before it occurs, similar to this.

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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).