These Are 40: The Films Born in '72 That Have Shaped Cinema

The new Judd Apatow comedy "This Is 40," which hits theaters on Friday, December 21 (aka the day of the Mayan apocalypse), stars Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann as a married couple dealing with the fact that they have turned 40 and their lives aren't what they expected. Hey, join the club, right?

But while their expectations may be out of whack, there's nothing wrong with having high expectations for things born in 1972. That's because 40 years ago, Hollywood put out a crop of new movies that haven't just gone on to become classics — on a fundamental level, they've changed the way people think of cinema.

So to celebrate their 40th birthday, here's a look back at some of the most important and influential films that were born in 1972.

'The Godfather'

The Scoop: Adapted from Mario Puzo's popular novel about a family of mobsters, "The Godfather" was expected to do pretty well at the box office. It was a real leap of faith to entrust it to a mostly unknown director (Francis Ford Coppola) and an even more unknown leading man (Al Pacino). As it turns out, that roll of the dice ended up paying off some very long odds.

The Legacy: It hardly needs to be said, but 'The Godfather" became an instant classic, establishing Coppola and Pacino as instant A-list talents and thereby indirectly leading to dozens of great films. Routinely cited by fans and critics as the greatest film of all time, "The Godfather" set a new bar for cinematic excellence that has rarely been met.

'The Poseidon Adventure'

The Scoop: Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters were just a few of the kinda biggish names filling the cast of this ensemble piece about an ocean liner that gets capsized by a tsunami. The result is basically "2012" crossed with "Titanic" by way of "The Day After Tomorrow."

The Legacy: One of the reasons "The Poseidon Adventure" calls to mind those films is that "The Poseidon Adventure" basically created the template for both the disaster epic and the modern effects blockbuster. It put action and in-your-face theatrics ahead of, well, everything else, and for better or worse, people like Michael Bay were paying very close attention. You're welcome?

Cabaret 'Cabaret'

The Scoop: Liza Minnelli stars in this Bob Fosse-directed musical about a cabaret singer in pre-World War II Germany who gets caught between two men during the rise of the Nazi Party.

The Legacy: At this point, it's almost been forgotten that despite being up against "The Godfather," "Cabaret" still won eight Oscars, including Best Director for Fosse, who beat out Francis Ford Coppola. That would be enough of a legacy for most films, but "Cabaret" also cemented Minnelli's status as a counter-culture icon, setting her on the path to become the entertainment icon she is today.


The Scoop: Considering it's one of the most famous films of the '70s, you're probably all familiar with the basic story of "Deliverance," but here goes: Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty play two members of a group of city slickers who go on a camping trip, only to run into some inbred weirdos who do a little bit more than rough them up.

The Legacy: "Deliverance" has left a pretty big footprint on the pop culture landscape. Reynolds, for instance, parlayed his success in the film into becoming the biggest movie star of the '70s. The basic elements of the film, from the hillbilly antagonists to the revenge fantasy action sequences, have become standard Hollywood fare. Most of all, of course, there is the infectious song "Dueling Banjos" and the timeless catchphrase "squeal like a pig." We're shuddering just thinking about it.

'Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)'

The Scoop: As we'll see, 1972 was a big year for sex in the movies, and Woody Allen was at the forefront of this movement thanks to his high profile adaptation of the popular self-help guide of the same name. Where the book took sex more or less seriously, Allen went very much for the less seriously side of things.

The Legacy: Though the film was important in terms of its cultural impact, it's probably more notable for its effect on Allen's career. Though he had some previous hits on his resume, they were more traditionally structured comedies. "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)" allowed him to experiment and stretch himself. As a result, in many ways, it's the first of his films clearly recognizable as a Woody Allen movie.

'Fritz the Cat'

The Scoop: Based on the underground comics by Robert Crumb, "Fritz the Cat" was a satirical X-rated animated film following the adventures of a sexually active anthropomorphic cat exploring what passed for culture in early '70s New York.

The Legacy: Both Crumb and animator Ralph Bakshi rose to instant fame as the result of the movie's unprecedented success. 40 years later, "Fritz the Cat" remains the most successful independently made animated film, with over $190 million worldwide at the box office. It also was a landmark in animation for its content, which obliterated forever the idea of animation being for kids only and paved the way for the more serious and adult animated films that have followed in the years since.

Deep Throat'Deep Throat'

The Scoop: As the title implies, this is a porno. Linda Lovelace stars as, well, a lady in a porno.

The Legacy: "Deep Throat" was basically the first porno to actually have a plot and developed characters as opposed to, you know, people just engaging in sex on film. The film became a sensation, launching a whole new style of pornographic film and also legitimizing pornos to a degree, as the (relatively) more sophisticated take brought with it a level of mainstream acceptance. The late Lovelace later famously denounced the film, but "Deep Throat" still remains a milestone in the evolution of America's sexual mores.