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Rian Johnson Shares His ‘Highly Personal’ List of Favorite 1970s Movie Musicals

From "Cabaret" to "All That Jazz," the "Knives Out" director takes a deep dive into an experimental decade for the movie musical.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by 20th Century Fox/Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock (5884957ah)Roy ScheiderAll That Jazz - 1979Director: Bob Fosse20th Century Fox/ColumbiaUSAScene StillMusicalQue le spectacle commence

“All That Jazz”

20th Century Fox/Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock

On the heels of Edgar Wright’s list of 100 favorite comedy films comes a more niche deep dive into the movie musicals of the 1970s, courtesy of Wright’s friend and fellow filmmaker Rian Johnson. The “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Knives Out” writer-director published a list on Letterboxd citing his 10 favorite movie musicals from the 1970s, from “Cabaret” to “All That Jazz” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

“When you think of the movie musical, the 1970s are not the first decade that comes to mind,” Johnson wrote in a statement. “But I love how that funky vital wilderness between the fall of the studio system and the ascent of the modern blockbuster manifested itself in this genre. One of cinema’s most classic forms was taken up by New Hollywood directors. It resulted in nostalgia as often as innovation, but more often than not the two mixed and filtered through a culture that was itself reeling from the 60s into the 80s. Things got weird.”

Johnson notes that “this is not a comprehensive list, it’s one movie per year, and is highly personal, meaning better movies were ignored for ones that I have more of connection to, or just something to say about.”

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In picking Bob Fosse’s Oscar-winning “Cabaret” adaptation, starring Liza Minelli and Joel Grey, Johnson writes: “There’s a damn good reason this reigns supreme on any list of modern musicals. Rewatching it, it’s hard to pull apart the ways it’s simultaneously about the past, of its time, and very much timeless today. But look, I’m not going to try to talk up ‘Cabaret.’ It’s simply one of the best movie musicals ever made.”

As for “All That Jazz,” Johnson calls the film “the perfect transition into the 80s, this paean to self-obsessed self destruction is a kick in the head. It’s also complex in ways that are genuinely uncomfortable — the line between self analysis and self aggrandizing, between examining the consequences of bad behavior and romanticizing it, that’s always a queasy line.”

Check out Johnson’s list below, and visit his Letterboxd profile to read his full explanations for each selection.

1. “Donkey Skin” (1970)
2. “The Boy Friend” (1971)
3. “Cabaret” (1972)
4. “Jesus Christ Superstar” (1973)
5. “Phantom of the Paradise” (1974)
6. “At Long Last Love” (1975)
7. “Bugsy Malone” (1976)
8. “Pete’s Dragon” (1977)
9. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1978)
10. “All That Jazz” (1979)

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