The Conversation

  • Directors: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Producers: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Writers: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest

Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a paranoid surveillance expert running his own company in San Francisco, and is highly respected by others in the profession. Caul is obsessed with his own privacy; his apartment is almost bare behind its triple-locked door, he uses pay phones to make calls and claims to have no home telephone, and his office is enclosed in wire mesh in a corner of a much larger warehouse. Caul is utterly professional at work, but he finds personal contact difficult. He is exquisitely uncomfortable in dense crowds and withdrawn and taciturn in more intimate situations; he is also reticent and secretive with work colleagues. He is nondescript in appearance, except for his habit of wearing a translucent plastic raincoat virtually everywhere he goes, even when it is not raining.

Despite his insistence that his professional code means that he is not responsible for worrying about the actual content of the conversations he records or the uses to which his clients put his surveillance activities, he is, in fact, wracked by guilt over a past wiretap job that left three persons dead. His sense of guilt is sharpened by his devout Catholicism. His one hobby is playing along with his favourite jazz records on a tenor saxophone in the privacy of his apartment.

Caul’s appalled efforts to forestall tragedy ultimately fail — and, it turns out, the conversation might not mean what he thought it did, and the tragedy he anticipated isn’t the one that eventually happens. In the final scene, he discovers that his own apartment is bugged and goes on a frantic search for the listening device, tearing up the floorboards and destroying his apartment. He fails to find it. At the film’s end he is left sitting amidst the wreckage, calmly playing his saxophone.

Dog Day Afternoon

  • Directors: Sidney Lumet
  • Producers: Martin Bregman, Martin Elfand
  • Writers: Article, P F Kluge, Thomas Moore, Screenplay, Frank Pierson
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller
  • Actors: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, James Broderick, Chris Sarandon

First-time crook Sonny Wortzik (Pacino) and his friend Sal (Cazale) show the intentions of robbing a Brooklyn bank, only to discover that it has very little money at the time. Their third accomplice loses his nerve, and runs off during the raid. They are then informed that the police have been tipped off and have the bank under siege. Unsure what to do, the two robbers camp out in the bank, holding all the workers hostage.

Detective Moretti (Durning) calls the bank to tell Sonny that the police have arrived. Sonny warns that he and Sal have hostages and will kill them if anyone tries to come into the bank. Detective Moretti acts as hostage negotiator, while FBI Agent Sheldon monitors his actions. Howard, the security guard, has an asthma attack, so Sonny releases him when Moretti asks for a hostage as a sign of good faith. Moretti convinces Sonny to step outside the bank to see how aggressive the police forces are. After a moment, Sonny starts his now-famous “Attica!” chant, a reference to the recent Attica Prison riot in which 39 people were killed, and the civilian crowd starts cheering for Sonny.

After realizing they cannot make a simple getaway, Sonny demands transportation: a jet to take them out of the country. When a tactical team approaches the back door, he fires a shot to warn them off. Moretti tries to persuade Sonny that those police were a separate unit that he was not controlling. Later, Sonny incites the crowd by throwing money over the police barricades. Some overrun the barricade and a few are arrested. When Sonny’s wife, Leon Schermer (a transwoman) arrives, he reveals to the crowd and officials that Sonny is robbing the bank to pay for Leon’s sex reassignment surgery and that Sonny also has a legal wife, Angie, and children.

When the limousine arrives, Sonny checks it for any hidden weapons or booby traps. When he decides the car is satisfactory, he settles on Agent Murphy to drive Sal, the remaining hostages and him to Kennedy Airport. Sonny sits in the front next to Murphy while Sal sits behind them. Murphy repeatedly asks Sal to point his gun at the roof so Sal won’t accidentally shoot him. As they wait on the airport tarmac for the plane to taxi into position, Agent Sheldon forces Sonny’s weapon onto the dashboard, creating a distraction which allows Murphy to pull a pistol hidden in his armrest and shoot Sal in the head. Sonny is immediately arrested and the hostages are all escorted to the terminal. The film ends with Sonny watching Sal’s body being taken from the car on a stretcher.

The Deer Hunter

  • Directors: Michael Cimino
  • Producers: Barry Spikings, Michael Deeley, Michael Cimino, John Peverall
  • Writers: Story, Quinn K Redeker, Deric Washburn, Michael Cimino, Louis Garfinkle, Screenplay, Deric Washburn
  • Genres: Drama, Thriller, War
  • Actors: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, Meryl Streep, John Cazale, George Dzundza, Chuck Aspegren

In Clairton, a small working-class domicile in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1960s, Russian-American steel workers Michael (Robert De Niro), Steven (John Savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken), with the support of their friends Stanley (John Cazale), John (George Dzundza), and Axel (Chuck Aspegren), are preparing for two rites of passage: marriage and military service.

The opening scenes set the character traits of the three main actors. Michael is the no-nonsense, serious but unassuming leader of the three, Steven the loving, near-groom, pecked at by his mother for not wearing a scarf with his tuxedo, and Nick as the quiet, introspective man who loves hunting because, “I like the trees…you know…the way the trees are…”.

Michael tells Nick that if it wasn’t for him, he’d hunt alone, because the other three guys are “assholes..I love ’em but they’re assholes… without you Nicky, I hunt alone.” Nick asks Mike if he’s scared about joining the Army and going to Vietnam, and Michael shrugs it off. He states his intent to get a deer with just one bullet. “One bullet. The deer has to be taken with one shot. I try to tell people that, they don’t listen.” This motif plays heavily later in the movie.

Back in America, there is a funeral for Nick, whom Michael brings home, good to his promise. The film ends with the whole cast at the wake, singing “God Bless America” and toasting in his honor.

The Godfather: Part II

  • Directors: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Producers: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Writers: Novel, Mario Puzo, Screenplay, Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller
  • Actors: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg

The Godfather Part II presents two parallel storylines. One involves Mafia chief Michael Corleone following the events of the first movie from 1958 to 1963; the other is a series of flashbacks following his father, Vito Corleone, from his childhood in Sicily (1901) to his founding of the criminal Corleone Family in New York City while still a young man (1917–1925).

In 1958, Michael Corleone, Godfather of the Corleone Family, deals with various business and family problems at his Lake Tahoe, Nevada compound during an elaborate party celebrating his son’s First Communion. He meets with Nevada Senator Pat Geary, who despises the Corleones, but has shown up with his wife to accept a large endowment to the state university. Senator Geary demands a grossly exaggerated price for a new gaming license and a monthly payment of 5% of the gross profits from all of the Corleone Family’s Nevada gaming interests, to which Michael responds with a counter-offer of “nothing … not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.”

Michael also deals with his sister Connie, who, although recently divorced, is planning to marry a man with no obvious means of support, and of whom Michael disapproves. He also talks with Johnny Ola, the right hand man of Jewish gangster Hyman Roth, who is supporting Michael’s move into the gambling industry. Finally, Michael meets with Frank “Five Angels” Pentangeli, who took over Corleone caporegime Peter Clemenza’s territory after his death, and now has problems with the Rosato Brothers, who are backed by Roth. Michael refuses to allow Pentangeli to kill the Rosatos, due to his desire to prevent interruption of his business with Roth. Pentangeli leaves abruptly, after telling Michael “your father did business with Hyman Roth, your father respected Hyman Roth, but your father never trusted Hyman Roth.”

The film ends with a final flashback depicting Vito and a young Michael leaving Corleone by train, and Michael sitting in the Lake Tahoe compound, alone in silence.