If you were a mugger, would you prey on a guy that looked like Charles Bronson? I guess this wouldn't have worked with Petula Clark in the lead, but Death Wish -- which spawned four sequels and endless knockoffs -- is a real piece of filmed Americana. Bronson plays Paul Kersey, an architect (and conscientious objector during Vietnam!) whose wife is senselessly killed by a mugger. Soon he learns the joy of the .32 handgun and begins shooting up the town whenever he spies a mugging, or -- more lifely -- when he is the victim of an attempted mugging himself. Bronson probably shoots more bullets than he utters lines of dialogues, and the police work in tracking down Kersey is uncannily good. All told this is a compulsively watchable bit of '70s nostalgia, a curious counterpart to Dirty Harry and an icon of New York-brand justice. (Make sure you dig the wallpaper in Kersey's kitchen.)
Nicholson went nuts in The Shining, but he did the time in Cuckoo's Nest as a rough-and-tumble felon looking to escape hard prison by spending a little quality time in a psychiatric institution. Little does he realize his phony illness is about to get him into all kinds of trouble. Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched, however, is the character who has since entered into the American lexicon, as have a host of other characters and scenes (most memorably: Nicholson's narration of a World Series game that's not on TV). Faithfully adapted from Ken Kesey's stirring novel.