Best Cast – 1981

My Nominations: Body Heat. The Cannonball Run. Chariots Of Fire. Clash Of The Titans. Escape From New York. Escape To Victory. Ragtime. Raiders Of The Last Ark. Reds. Time Bandits. True Confessions.

I love writing about this category because it unveils those ‘statement’ movies, those moments in time where some of the biggest names in showbiz just happened to appear on screen together, or in the same piece of work. It also allows people to perhaps learn about some movies featuring big names which they may have been unaware of. Take True Confessions – a barely known film by a barely known Belgian director, yet it’s a neo-noir starring Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall. Also popping up are Burgess Meredith, Dan Hedaya, Charles Durning, and Cyril Cusack.

In terms of Statement movies, The Cannonball Run brings together a variety of big global stars – Burt Reynolds, Jackie Chan, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, and Adrienne Barbeau. Everyone has their little moment to do what they’re known for, and it feels almost like a Variety show – fun to see them all together. Escape To Victory is similar, pulling together a range of real life football players and actors from around the globe – Pele, Ozzy Ardiles, Bobby Moore, John Wark, Mike Summerbee, Hallvar Thoresen, Michael Caine, Max Von Sydow, and Sylester Stallone – certainly one of the most unusual casts you’re ever likely to encounter.

If we’d had an Official Category, Reds would have been a near certain nomination considering the star power involved and its other category appearances – Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Gene Hackman, Paul Sorvino, Maureen Stapleton, Edward Herrmann, and M Emmet Walsh. Chariots Of Fire would have been guaranteed a spot – Nigel Havers, Nigel Davenport, Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, John Gielgud, Ian Holm, Patrick Magee, and Alice Krige. Ragtime would have been in with a shot – James Cagney, Mandy Patinkin, Brad Dourif, Elizabeth McGovern, Norman Mailer, Jeff Daniels, Mary Steenburgen, and Howard Rollins, while Body Heat would have been an outside chance with William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Mickey Rourke, Ted Danson, and Richard Crenna in tow.

Standing no chance of a vote are Time Bandits – Sean Connery, John Cleese, Ian Holm, Ralph Richardson, Kenny Baker, David Warner, Jim Broadbent, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Shelly Duvall, and Craig Warnock – and Clash Of The Titans with Harry Hamlin, Maggie Smith, Ursula Andress, Laurence Olivier, Burgess Meredith, and Claire Bloom. Escape From New York is eclectic – Kurt Russel, Lee Van Cleef, Issac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasance, Harry Dean Stanton, Charles Cyphers, and Tom Atkins. Finally, Raiders has the big star and a number of little known stalwarts for the time, but becoming icons on the back of their performances – Harrison Ford, Karen Black, John Rhys Davies, Denholm Elliott, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, and Alfred Molina. I honestly don’t know which to pick – I could go Raiders for iconic status, Reds for star power, or Cannonball for the novelty of it. I didn’t think I would, but:

My Winner: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Karen Allen Looks Back On 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' 40 Years Later - Variety

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Cast – 1980

My Nominations: Altered States. The Blues Brothers. Caddyshack. The Elephant Man. The Empire Strikes Back. Heaven’s Gate. The Long Good Friday. Ordinary People. Raging Bull.

As always with this category, I present a range of films with either a combination of big names which must have been an extraordinary feat to pull together in a single film, or a smaller cast pulling off extraordinary feats of acting. Altered States features William Hurt in his film debut (and Drew Barrymore to a lesser extent), backed up by the (marginally) more established Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, and George Gaynes. More a film of ideas than people and performances, the cast nevertheless do well with a bizarre story.

The Blues Brothers takes a list of fully established comedians and throws them in the middle of some of the most famous musical icons of all time. When I was young I didn’t really know that most of the performers in the film were actual singers who had been around for decades, so believable are the performances. You could argue that outside of Fisher, Aykroyd, and Belushi the others are cameos, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that you have John Candy, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, Charles Napier, James Brown, Ray Charles, Frank Oz, Chaka Khan, Paul Reubens, Kathleen Freeman, Twiggy, John Lee Hooker and others popping up. Caddyshack pulls a similar trick, upping the list of comedians instead of having Blues Legends. It’s the only film you’ll find Chevy Chase and Bill Murray together, throwing in Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Michael O’Keefe, Brian Doyle Murray, and Sarah Holcomb.

The Elephant Man is the actor’s dream – great story, great characters, and a great director behind it all – then you look at the cast around you, from John Hurt to Anthony Hopkins, and from Anne Bancroft to John Gielgud, Freddie Jones, and Wendy Hiller. Some of those give, arguably, career best performances. Raging Bull is in a similar vein, with De Niro, Pesci, and Cathy Moriarty leading the way. You can’t avoid Ordinary People thanks to its Awards success and list of names – Robert Redford directing Donald Sutherland, Judd Hirsch, Mary Tyler Moore, Elizabeth McGovern, Timothy Hutton, M Emmet Walsh, Adam Baldwin and others.

Likewise, you can’t ignore The Empire Strikes Back. The core cast returns (minus those killed off), and we have a few new faces and voices joining and instantly fitting in and making an impact. You all know it, no point saying any more. The Long Good Friday is probably the least known film here with only Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren known to audiences outside of the UK. For British viewers, there’s a host of familiar faces – Nigel Humphries, Derek Thompson, Brian Hall, Gillian Taylforth, with the likes of Dexter Fletcher and Pierce Brosnan popping up in cameos. Finally, Heaven’s Gate, if you want to find out why it was so derided for yourself beyond simply hearing the criticism and stories, has a cast you can’t balk at – John Hurt, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert, Jeff Bridges, Joseph Cotten, Kris Kristofferson, Brad Dourif, Geoffrey Lewis, Mickey Rourke, Terry O’Quinn – a mixture of big names and familiar faces most people will recognise even if they can’t place the name. Everyone is good too – not career best, but if you’re a fan of any of the performers, it’s a must see.

My Winner: The Elephant Man

Movie Review – The Elephant Man

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Cast – 1979

My Nominations: 1941. Alien. Apocalypse Now. Kramer Vs Kramer.

Steven Spielberg’s 1941 is one of the least remembered in his filmography, and in line with this curio is quite the unusual cast, containing comedy masters, new faces, and veterans – Dan Akroyd and John Belushi, Toshiro Mifune and Warren Oates, Nancy Allen and Tim Matheson, along with Spielberg favourites and many many more – John Candy, Lorraine Gary, Robert Stack, Patty LuPone, Michael McKean, James Caan, Ned Beatty, Christopher Lee, Mickey Rourke, Dick Miller, John Landis, Sam Fulller – you get the idea.

Alien is one of the great centralized ensemble casts, an an example of of each actor bringing each character fully to life (only to be killed off). Sigourney Weaver is the standout, but John Hurt and Ian Holm aren’t far behind, without forgetting Skerritt, Cartwright, Kotto, and Harry Dean Stanton. Apocalypse Now is in a similar vein, but has the added benefit of the central group coming into contact with a variety of other characters – any film with Dennis Hopper, Marlon Brando, and Martin Sheen is always going to make a category like this, but then we also throw in Laurence Fishbourne, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall. Kramer Vs Kramer is hard to avoid given both leads received Oscars.

My Winner: Alien

40 Years Ago: The 'Alien' Cast Gets an Actual Terrifying Surprise

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Best Cast – 1978

My Nominations: The Boys From Brazil. California Suite. Dawn Of The Dead. The Deer Hunter. Heaven Can Wait. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Midnight Express. Superman.

A great selection of films with either ensemble casts or smaller quality over quantity focused casts. The Boys From Brazil is not a film which is often spoken of anymore, but it is well worth revisiting giving its cultural significance – Oliver picked up an Oscar nomination – and because it takes a number of renowned actors known mainly for their heroic good guy roles, and having them act as some of the most horrible humans in history. James Mason, Gregory Peck, Bruno Ganz, Steve Guttenberg, Lilli Palmer, Denholm Elliot, Prunella Scales, and Michael Gough are among those rounding out the cast.

California Suite seems like the sort of film which would have been nominated had this category existed in 1978. It’s a Neil Simon comedy directed by Herbert Ross, and features a variety of A Listers and Oscar Winners – Maggie Smith winning another for this film, along with Michael Caine, Bill Cosby, Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, Walter Matthau, Elaine May, and Richard Pryor. One which would absolutely not have been nominated, but which remains a firm favourite in my personal mini category of single/near single location siege movies with a tight cast, is Dawn Of The Dead. Ken Foree is the standout, but the surrounding trio of Gaylen Ross, David Emge, and Scott Reiniger make a the film one of the all time great horror movies. It’s difficult to see another movie wrestling the win away from The Deer Hunter – De Niro was nominated for Best Actor, Christopher Walken won Best Supporting Actor, Meryl Streep was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, then you also have John Savage and John Cazale.

Heaven Can Wait is another cert for a nomination if this category had been around – Warren Beatty, James Mason, Julie Christie, Jack Warden, Dyan Cannon, Charles Grodin – good cast, decent movie. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is a Sci Fi classic which treats the audience and subject matter with respect, as well as giving a high calibre cast – Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, Brooke Adams. Midnight Express is filled with intense performances – John Hurt, Brad Davis, Randy Quaid, Irene Miracle, while Superman ushers in the age of the comic book blockbuster and features a huge and notable cast – Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeves, Ned Beatty, Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Terence Stamp, Trevor Howard, Susannah York, Maria Schell etc.

My Winner: The Deer Hunter

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Cast – 1977

My Nominations: Star Wars. Airport 77. A Bridge Too Far. Sorcerer. The Duellists.

I mean, I have to pick Star Wars again here, surely? You may say the cast don’t deliver the best individual or group performances of the year, but has there ever been a cast of performers creating a cast of more iconic characters in movie history? Every generation there’s a film which pulls the same trick, but in most cases those characters are based of an existing property. In any case, you have Mark Hamill perfecting the young man thrust into a huge adventure trope, Harrison Ford bringing the rugged space cowboy charm, Fisher as the feisty Princess, and Alec Guinness as the wise teacher – and that’s me being as simplistic as possible – and not mentioning James Earl Jones, Peter Cushing, Daniels, Baker, or Prowse.

Airport 77 brings together another sparkling cast – James Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Christopher Lee, Lee Grant, Olivia De Havilland, Joseph Cotten – just a pity the film isn’t great. Similarly, A Bridge Too Far brings the stars without quite hitting the heights – Sean Connery, James Caan, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Michael Caine, Max Schell, Ryan O’Neal, Liv Ullman – it’s a ridiculous cast. Sorcerer pits the always reliable Roy Scheider alongside a still little known cosmopolitan cast including Amidou, Bruno Cremer, Ramon Bieri, Paco Rabal, and Joe Spinell. Finally, The Duellists is more condensed in terms of casting, but exceeds in terms of quality – with Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel, Stacey Keach, Albert Finney, Tom Conti, Cristina Raines, and Diana Quick all contributing.

My Winner: Star Wars

Best Cast – 1976

My Nominations: Voyage Of The Damned. Taxi Driver. Rocky. The Omen. Network. Murder By Death. Marathon Man. The Last Tycoon. The Cassandra Crossing. All The President’s Men.

We close off the 1976 Academy Awards with the category I have most fun with. What’s interesting this year is that we don’t have a single War Ensemble (hello Slayer fans) movie nominated. There were some films of that ilk this year, but I don’t think they merit the nomination. That leaves us with the tail end of the Disaster movie boom, the big Oscar winners, and honestly not too many surprises.

All The President’s Men and Network are the heavy hitters – earning seven performance based Oscar nominations between them and four wins. If either of those is your choice, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone to argue against you. Taxi Driver and Rocky aren’t too far behind in terms of Awards, with De Niro cementing his name as one of the greats, and both Jodie Foster and Sylvester Stallone emerging as stars alongside such stalwarts as Burgess Meredith and Peter Boyle. The Omen continues the 70s trend of putting legitimate stars into horror movies, with Gregory Peck and Lee Remick appearing alongside the devilish Billie Whitelaw and Harvey Spencer Stephens.

Marathon Man is as horrific as anything you’ll see this year, that horror heightened by a great cast including Dustin Hoffman, Lawrence Olivier, and Roy Scheider while The Last Tycoon is another De Niro vehicle pitting him alongside no less than Tony Curtis, Jack Nicholson, Robert Mitchum, Donald Pleasance, Ray Milland, Theresa Russell, Angelica Huston, and Jeanne Moreau. Murder By Death also features an ensemble of respected thespian – Alec Guiness, Peter Falk, Maggie Smith, David Niven, and Peter Sellers all contribute. The Cassandra Crossing is one of several forgotten disaster movies of the era, worth a watch if you enjoy Alida Valli, Ava Gardner, Lee Strasberg, OJ Simpson, Martin Sheen, Sophia Loren, Burt Lancaster, and Richard Harris, while Voyage Of The Damned goes even more European merging Max Von Sydow, Oskar Werner, Jose Ferrer, Fernando Rey, and Maria Schell with James Mason, Fay Dunaway, Malcolm McDowell, Orson Welles, Katharine Ross, Jonathan Pryce and, ahem, Leonerd Rossiter. While the ensemble pieces are impressive purely looking at the names, they’re not as successful as the big hitters this year. I’m going with my gut again.

My Winner: Rocky

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Controversial? Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Cast – 1975

My Nominations: The Day Of The Locust. Dog Day Afternoon. Inserts. Jaws. The Man Who Would Be King. Nashville. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Shampoo. Tommy.

Not quite the usual mix of epic and smaller this year, in that the epics aren’t as epic and the smaller movies aren’t as small. Starting from the top, The Day Of The Locust is a pre-WWII movie set in Hollywood which follows a number of wannabees who haven’t and will never make it, starring the likes of Karen Black, Jacke Earle Hayley, Donald Sutherland, and Burgess Meredith. Inserts is set in a similar time with a similar group of people, but on a smaller scale and features Richard Dreyfuss, Veronica Cartwright, Bob Hoskins, Jessica Harper, and Stephen Davies. It’s the one film one the list you’re not likely to see, but it’s worth it for the performances. Dog Day Afternoon is all about Pacino, and a little bit about Sarandon and Cazale, while Jaws has masterclasses from Dreyfuss, Scheider, and Shaw. The Man Who Would Be King is an epic without a cast with only Connery, Caine, and Plummer though none of whom are at their best, while Nashville is a true ensemble featuring many established stars and up and comers – Karen Black, Ronee Blakely, Jeff Goldblum, Keith Carradine, Shelly Duvall, Lily Tomlin, Ned Beatty, Geraldine Chaplin, and more minor cameos from Julie Christie, Elliot Gould and others.

Shampoo is another smaller affair, pardon the pun, but features Christie again, Carrie Fisher, Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Jack Warden, Lee Grant while Tommy is a mess of musician and actors – Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Oliver Reed, The Who themselves, Ann Margret, Robert Powell, Paul Nicholas. My win though goes to a film where the lead performances are all perfect, and the supporting ones are more or less iconic too – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. 

My Winner: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

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Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Cast – 1974

My Nominations: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. And Then There Were None. Blazing Saddles. Chinatown. The Conversation. Earthquake. The Godfather Part II. The Great Gatsby. Murder On The Orient Express. The Towering Inferno. Young Frankenstein.

As usual we have a mixture of smaller character pieces and larger scale epics, and this year the disaster epic saw studios throwing as many star names as possible into casts to make as eye-catching a spectacle as possible. Martin Scorsese doesn’t get credit for helping to craft memorable characters as he should, and he doesn’t get enough credit for his non-mafia pieces. With Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore he shows why he should get more credit in both respects, the film being both moving and funny and striking a chord for me which Romantic Comedies almost never do – Ellen Burstyn doing some of her finest work as a widow travelling across the US with her son and meeting interesting characters played by Kris Kristofferson, Diane Ladd, Valerie Curtin, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and many others.

We got two Agatha Christie adaptations this year of a similar quality and international cast – And Then There Were None with Oliver Reed, Richard Attenborough, Charles Aznavour, Stephane Audran, Elke Sommer, Gert Frobe, and Orson Welles in a cameo, while Murder On The Orient Express features Albert Finney, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, and many more. Moving over to comedy, and another double – this time by Mel Brooks – Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein both featuring Madeline Kahn and Gene Wilder doing some of their most iconic work, and the former giving Cleavon Little a chance to shine with the latter allowing Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman to tear it up. Chinatown is one of the best examples of acting masterclasses in the 70s, with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway leading the way.

On to the disaster epics, there isn’t a lot to choose between them and will depend on your personal preference. Earthquake gives you Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, Ava Gardner, Richard Roundtree, Walter Matthau, Lorne Greene, Genevieve Bujold while The Towering Inferno has Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, OJ Simpson, Robert Wagner, Robert Vaughn, William Holden. Flicking back to literary sources, and The Great Gatsby brings us a Coppola penned version starring Robert Redford in the title role, backed up by Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Sam Waterson and others, but it is Coppola’s other two little known films of the year which I’ll choose my winner from. The Conversation is almost a Gene Hackman one-man show but smaller side performances from John Cazale, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford, and Robert Duvall raise the bar for these types of supporting roles. My winner, even though I’d be happy with a number of the other choices, has to be The Godfather Part II. Cementing and further morphing performances from Part I while bringing in a host of new cast members each providing defining work, it’s what the word masterpiece was created for – Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gastone Moschin, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, John Megna, Lee Strasberg, Bruno Kirby, Joe Spinell, Danny Aiello, Robert Duvall, Harry Dean Stanton, and why the hell not – Richard Matheson, Roger Corman, James Caan, Sofia Coppola, Gary Kurtz – you get the idea.

My Winner: The Godfather Part II

Let us know your winner in the comments – next time we dive into the deepest depths of 1975…

Best Cast – 1973

My Nominations: Badlands. The Exorcist. The Last Detail. The Last Of Sheila. Live And Let Die. Mean Streets. Paper Moon. Scarecrow. Serpico. The Sting. The Three Musketeers.

As always we finish with the Best Cast category. It’s always been my opinion that the 1970s was when the best performers we’ve yet to see hit their peaks – most of my nominations this year feature those performers. In Badlands it’s pretty much the one-two of Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek announcing themselves to the world, while The Exorcist is features a mini ensemble each delivering their most iconic performances. The Last Detail sees Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, and Otis Young in an underrated film while The Last Of Sheila does the same for James Coburn, James Mason, Raquel Welch, Richard Benjamin, and Dyan Cannon.

Live And Let Die sees a new Bond in Roger Moore taking the series in a newer direction, ably backed up by some of my favourites in the series – Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto, and good old Clifton James. Mean Streets, while not featuring their debuts, got to the heart of the raw talents of Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro and Paper Moon sees father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O’Neal in one of the most memorable real life partnerships along with Madeline Kahn. Scarecrow and Serpico were both Al Pacino vehicles with the former also seeing Gene Hackman in top form, the latter with a bunch of respected character actors in smaller roles. The Sting is another hit from Robert Redford and Paul Newman, also featuring Robert Shaw, Charles Dunning, Eileen Brennan and others. My only true ensemble nomination is The Three Musketeers – Michael York, Oliver Reed, Frank Finlay, Richard Chamberlain, Christopher Lee, Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway and others make up the exciting romp.

My Winner: The Exorcist.

Let us know in the comments which film of 1973 you think has the Best Cast!

Best Cast – 1972

My Nominations: Deliverance. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex. The Getaway. The Godfather. Junior Bonner. The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean. The Poseidon Adventure.

It’s time again for one of my favourite categories of the year. Here I can typically nominate films which would never normally get a nominations, although this year most of the films I have picked are fairly obvious choices. Deliverance is a terrific ensemble piece with the four central cast members descending into hell with the help of some memorable backup players. EYAWTKAS is a Woody Allen ensemble piece featuring himself in multiple roles but also esteemed performers like Lynn Redgrave and Anthony Quayle and new stars such as Burt Reynolds and Gene Wilder.

The Getaway and Junior Bonner saw Sam Peckinpah and Steve McQueen working together in the same year, the former also featuring Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson and others with the latter also seeing Johnson as well as Joe Don Baker and the great Ida Lupino. TLATOJRB sees a massive case led by Paul Newman, Anthony Perkins, Victoria Principal while also featuring New Beatty, Jacqueline Bisset, John Huston, Ava Gardner, Richard Farnsworth and more. Also going for numbers is The Poseidon Adventure – Shelly Winters, Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Albertson and others. My clear winner though has to be The Godfather – even as an ensemble piece the minor performers stand out or get iconic scenes. We have some of the most famous performances ever and some of the best actors ever – Pacino, Brando, Duvall, Shire, Keaton, Cann, Cazale, as well as Sterling Hayden, Gianni Russo, Richard Castellano, Alex Rocco, Simonetta Stefanelli and many more.

My Winner: The Godfather.

Where’s Al?

Let us know in the comments which film of 1972 you think has the Best Cast!