Best of 1980

Starting in 1980, Patrick McGilligan and Mark Rowland conducted annual film polls where they asked critics across the US to list their top 10 films of the year.  They were the first to conduct such polls and the participation from critics was astonishing.

McGilligan was so kind to send me the results of each year, and gave me permission to include the results on this site.  I feel very fortunate that McGilligan and Rowland conducted these polls, as it would be impossible to get a consensus for these years if they hadn’t.

Many of you might be surprised that Ordinary People – not Raging Bull appeared on more top 10 lists than any other film in 1980.  This is likely due to the fact that Raging Bull did not receive a wide release in the United States until December 19th, and many of the voters had not yet seen it (which is also why many films from 1979 made the cut).

With that said, Ordinary People did appear on 84% of the lists – an extraordinary amount that makes me hesitant to say that Raging Bull  would have placed above it had it opened earlier in the year.

19. Dressed to Kill (8 lists)


“DePalma is not yet an artist of Hitchcock’s stature, but he does earn the right to a comparison.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

19. My Bodyguard (8 lists)


“This movie is fun to watch because it touches memories that are shared by most of us, and because its young characters are recognizable individuals, and not simplified cartoon figures like so many movie teen-agers.” – Roger Ebert, Chicgo Sun-Times

17. Melvin and Howard (9 lists)


“The film offers a bittersweet commentary about chasing the American Dream of monetary success and mobility and the constant attempt to rise above one’s situation by naive and optimistic charcaters, not fully aware of their class limitations.” – Emanuel Levy,

17. Stardust Memories (9 lists)


“Invokes the mood of an early Fellini film as it swirls through the troubled recollections of a film director, played by Mr. Allen.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

15. Best Boy (11 lists)


“This seminal docu, winner of the Oscar and other awards, is not just about a mentally challenged middle-aged man away from his parents; it’s also about the bond between him and the director (who’s his cousin) and what constitutes a family.” – Emanuel Levy,

15. Wise Blood (11 lists)


“John Huston, with uncluttered direction and expert handling of actors, has fashioned a disturbing tale of the fringe side of overzealous religious preachers in the deep South.” – Variety

12. All That Jazz (12 lists)


“A self-important, egomaniacal, wonderfully choreographed, often compelling film which portrays the energetic life, and preoccupation with death, of a director-choreographer.” – Variety

12. Being There (12 lists)


“No one seems to know what to do with the allegorical undertone of Jerzy Kosinski’s script, but as a whole this 1979 film maintains a fine level of wit, sophistication, and insight.” – Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

12. Fame (12 lists)


“Alan Parker has come up with an exposure for some of the most talented youngsters seen on screen in years. There isn’t a bad performance in the lot.” – Variety

10. Airplane! (14 lists)


“Airplane! is more than a pleasant surprise, in the midst of this dim movie season. As a remedy for the bloated self-importance of too many other current efforts, it’s just what the doctor ordered.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

10. The Tin Drum (14 lists)


“In Volker Schlöndorff’s restored version of his 1979 classic, Oskar Matzerath emerges as a tragic anti-hero, whose lustful imagination and prodigious magical gifts can’t shield him from the juggernaut of war.” – R. Emmet Sweeney, Time Out

9. My Brilliant Career (15 lists)


“This is a modest, clear sighted film, and it profits considerably from a lack of the bravura landscape photography that most directors would have used to puff up a movie set in Australia.” – John Skow, Time Magazine

8. The Great Santini (18 lists)


“This is one of those special films that moves effortlessly between tension, tears and laughs … Robert Duvall’s performance runs neck-and-neck with his Lonesome Dove turn as his career best.” – Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing

7. The Black Stallion (19 lists)


“Carroll Ballard’s feature debut is rich in adventure, suspense and mythical elements and marks the prize-winning short-subjects director as a major talent.” – Variety

5.  The Elephant Man (22 lists)


“Lynch’s powerful depiction of Merrick (played by John Hurt) moves a viewer from revulsion and fear to empathy and tenderness. That’s the very movement of the story itself.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker

5. The Stunt Man (22 lists)


“The fun lies in the journey. It is a trip of constantly shifting perceptions and sharply etched satirical sketches of movie types. It is also a carnival of bang-up stunt scenes.” – Richard Schickel, Time Magazine

4. The Empire Strikes Back (24 lists)


“The Empire Strikes Back is a worthy sequel to Star Wars, equal in both technical mastery and characterization, suffering only from the familiarity with the effects generated in the original and imitated too much by others.” – James Harwood, Variety

3. Raging Bull (25 lists)


“The most obvious basis for the film’s claim to greatness lies in Scorsese’s devastating critique of the very codes of masculinity that shaped him as a filmmaker, and in Robert De Niro’s performance, through which that critique is made flesh.” – Amy Taubin, Village Voice

2. Coal Miner’s Daughter (29 lists)


“A thoughtful, endearing film charting the life of singer Loretta Lynn from the depths of poverty in rural Kentucky to her eventual rise to the title of ‘queen of country music’.” – Variety

1. Ordinary People (42 lists)


“With the skill of a practiced surgeon, Redford gradually peels away the protective layers of his characters, exposing their flaws, their darkest fears and ultimately, their innermost feelings.” – Kathleen Carroll, New York Daily News