Off the top of my head. I’m sure there are a few I’ve missed. Would love to hear your entries. Do they still hold up?
The Warriors (1979)
Can you dig it? Caaan yooou diiiig it??! A recent conversation with fellow writer/producer Remi Aubuchon led me to check out this movie again, some thirty years after I first saw (and loved) it. A contemporary (ish?) retelling of the Anabasis by Xenophon (Thank you, Professor Aubuchon), the film follows a street gang – named The Warriors – who, accused of a murder they didn’t commit, must negotiate miles of treacherous rival-controlled territory in order to reach the safety of their Coney Island home turf.
Does it hold up? Hmmm. Street gangs sure have come a long way since the late seventies. Those baseball bat-wielding Furies don’t quite instill the same sense of fear they once did –
And yet, for all of its faults – stilted dialogue, some equally stilted performances, the hilarious depiction of gritty New York gangs – it remains an enjoyable movie to watch. For very different reasons from when it first wowed me, mind you, but still very entertaining.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
I can’t even remember the number of times I watched this one growing up – often receiving a dispensation from my parents that allowed me to stay up past midnight on a school night to catch it for the twenty-fifth, thirtieth, probably fiftieth time. I delighted in multiple viewings of all the sequels AND the television series, collected the comic books, and owned all of the action figures as well (including multiple ape soldiers). I was such a huge fan that I forced by mother to take me to a traveling theater production of Charley’s Aunt because Roddy McDowall was headlining!
Does it hold up? Hell, yes! Which is why I was so outraged by the Tim Burton redo. Well, that and the fact that it was a truly horrible movie.
A small town, mysterious deaths, an ice cream truck, a funeral home, a spooky mortician, creepy dwarf minions, a deadly flying silver ball, a portal to another realm – all the makings of one of the most terrifyingly memorable horror films of my youth.
Does it hold up? Hell, yeah! Provided you’re fourteen. A year or two later – not so much.
Star Wars (1977)
Another movie I’ve seen more times than I can count. I actually kept an enormous scrapbook dedicated to the film that I updated, and even checked out the tie-in novels!
Does it hold up? While the scope and story are evergreen, countless smaller moments feel dated. Nevertheless, given the choice, I’d happily watch and re-watch this first film in the series countless times before I’d sit down to watch any of the last three installments.
In a corporate controlled future, the masses are entertained by the world’s most popular game, Rollerball, a mix of organized sport and warfare. The violent matches are a rating sensation, but when one gifted athlete begins to distinguish himself and rise above his fellow players, he becomes a threat to the global conglomerate running the sport…
Does it hold up? Depends. Are you drinking at the time of viewing? Again, a great concept but the details of its execution are wanting in the light of modern film. They should think about remaking it. No, wait. Scratch that.
Diamonds are Forever (1971)
Oh, there are plenty of Bond films that could have made the list but, reflecting back to my childhood, this one ranks as my favorites (with Live and Let Die – and its brilliant gator-hopping sequence – a close second). It had everything you could want from a Bond film: action, humor, gadgets, gals, colorful villains, and one crazy scheme (this one involving a giant laser).
Does it hold up? Hmmm. With Diamonds are Forever, the Bond series takes a campy turn, one I enjoyed immensely as a child that, in retrospect, feels more like a parody of the original than the original itself. Again, a case where, in spite of its shortcomings, there is much to like here, particularly Blofeld’s creepy-as-hell henchmen, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd.
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
In my opinion, the pinnacle of the master of disaster’s (Irwin Allen) grand catastrophe-themed entries. An all-star cast delivers as the desperate survivors of the doomed Poseidon, an ocean liner upended by a freak tsunami.
Does it hold up? Surprisingly, yes, it does hold up a lot better than I thought it would, in most part owing to some wonderfully suspenseful sequences – and my fear of cruise ships.
Death Race 2000 (1975)
In the not-to-distant future of the year 2000 (!), the fascist state keeps the masses entertained with a violent organized sport. No, not Rollerball! I’m talking about The Transcontinental Road Race, a three-day, coast to coast, ultra-violent extravaganza whose colorful participants score points not only for winning a leg but for mowing down hapless pedestrians as well (I’d personally award them a double score for cyclists, but that’s just me).
Does it hold up? Hell, yeah! It’s a movie that can be appreciated for exactly the same reasons today as it was thirty five years ago: as a joyously silly, cartoonishly violent, over-the-top satire of our obsessions with professional sports, pro athletes, and television.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
In future England, a young hoodlum facing a lengthy sentence, volunteers for an experimental aversion therapy designed to “turn him off” violence. His return to society proves problematic however…
Does it hold up? As a whole, yes, but, interestingly enough, not for the same reasons it first captured my interest. Looking at it with more mature eyes, the elements that fascinated me in my youth are now either downright silly or repellant while the movie’s message – lost on me way back when – resonates much stronger now.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Do you know how much I loved this movie about a kid winning a ticket to tour a magical chocolate factory? I loved it so much I didn’t – and still won’t – consider it a musical. Desserts and dark humor abound in this wonderful film version of the Roald Dahl classic.
Does it hold up? Yes, yes, yes! Chocolate, sweets, and children being dispatched in all sorts of colorful ways! As great as it ever was!
Some honorable mentions:
The robots at a futuristic Western-themed amusement park go bonkers, much to the displeasure of the park’s customers.
Does it hold up? Sure does. Yul Brynner is terrific as a particularly pesky robot gunslinger. In hindsight, maybe outfitting the robots with real guns and bullets may not have been such a good idea.
Damnation Alley (1967)
George Peppard and co. drive thought post-apocalyptic Southern California in a futuristic RV, battling giant cockroachs, in a bid to deliver a desperately-needed plague vaccine.
Does it hold up? In a word: no. In four words: no it does not.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
An eccentric (and clearly irresponsible) inventor takes his family on a road trip in a flying car. It may have been intended as a fun children’s movie, but I always viewed it as one of the most accomplished horror films of my childhood. That Child Catcher who went around sniffing out kids scared the shit out of me.
Does it hold up? Afraid not.
The Omega Man (1971)
As my writing partner Paul pointed out, the premise of this movie is every young boy’s dream: the lone, gun-toting survivor of an apocalypse battles for survival against homicidal mutants.
Does it hold up? Oh, hell no. If it’s any consolation, this Charlton Heston version is about as watchable as Will Smith’s version of the fantastic story (I Am Legend) by Richard Matheson.
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1973)
My very first zombie movie. And it scared the hell out of me.
Does it hold up? Wait. This was a horror-comedy? A comedy? Zombies have come a long way.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
It’s an alien invasion! People are being replaced by pod replicas. Do NOT fall asleep!
Does it hold up? Aside from that WTF moment with the human-faced dog, it does hold up pretty well. The film’s final moment still terrifies.