Come December, it is customary for film critics introducing their Top Ten lists to declare that the 12 months just past have been “a very very good year” for film, and bemoan the hard choices they had to make to pick just 10.

Among the hundreds of films released every year, there are few years that can’t supply a few happy moments, thankfully.  However, looking back over the years past, it is clear that not all years are born equal. While there may have been things to celebrate in the weakest of years, there were times when the culture, the industry and the fates aligned to let genius flourish, and then there were moments when genius seemed to have other things on its mind.

Here at Hitfix, we’ve decided to weigh it all up and answer the question: what was the greatest year in film history?

Actually, we’re asking that within a couple parameters:

First, we’re not looking at all of history, just the last 50 years.  Pre-1965 in the days of the studio system, when a highly literate culture cranked out greatness in assembly line-fashion, it was just too different an animal to compare with the semi-dysfunctional process – via Kickstarter or Hasbro tie- in – by which films lurch to the screen today. So this debate will consider just what was the greatest film year of the past half century.

Second, we are confining our discussion to American film, American productions or co-productions. The cinema of the world is just too sprawling a beast to talk coherently about the quality of any one year of it, let alone, the entire history of film in every nation on earth.

To consider this fateful question, we’ve assembled a team of top-notch writers and thinkers on film matters – both Hitfix staff and very special guest contributors.  Each will make a case for one year out of the past fifty.  And we invite you to respond to them in the comments sections and make your own case for your own years.

The links are below.  We’ll add to this list all week long as each day we roll out new cases for new years.  Check back on this page for the complete list of essays, updated as we progress.  Tell us your thoughts and cast your vote below.  Later in the week, we’ll feature some of the best arguments in their own posts.

Can the indie era of the past decade stand up to the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls days?  Do the maligned depths of the 80’s hold a candle to the new auteurs awakening of the 90’s?  See what our contributors say and let us hear your thoughts.  

Who will history records as the Best Year when the dust settles?  Stay with us and find out.

1973 by Brian Formo

1974 by Daniel Fienberg

1977 by Louis Virtel

1980 by Richard Rushfield

1982 by Alan Sepinwall

1988 by Drew McWeeny

1995 by Jane Hu

1998 by Michael Oates Palmer

1999 by Kris Tapley

2001 by Chris Eggertsen

2012 by Zara Lisbon