The French Connection
( 20th Century Fox, 1971)
On only his fifth film, William Friedkin pulled off this brilliant effort, with a couple of ten-year veteran "overnight success" stars, Roy Scheider and Gene Hackman, and launched it out of the park. Made in a down-and-dirty style more reminiscent of period documentaries than feature films, for a budget of less than $2M, it grossed nearly $52M in box office, and another $75M a decade later in video rentals. Fictionalized from the non-fiction book by Robin Moore, former USAF officer/amateur boxer Scheider and former Marine radio operator and dog catcher Hackman had both the real-life chops, and the acting talent, to come off as the toughest badass cops ever seen on screen to that point (Dirty Harry was still two months from release). It also won five Academy Awards out of eight nominations, and a lasting spot as an American classic movie.
Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Hackman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing