Someone else could speak to the historical importance of 1973's The Sting better than I, but I'm more interested in the film as a phenomenon. People speak of a trend in the Oscars where someone gets an award for the thing they do just after what they should have won for. Jeremy Irons in Reversal of Fortune is the one most oft cited. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid won four Oscars, but The Sting really cleaned up with seven. Meanwhile, director George Roy Hill did Slaughterhouse Five in between the two. You know, just to mix it up. A small project in between the big ones. Then he'd throw it all away afterwards on The Great Waldo Pepper, but gain some of it back with Slap Shot, and on and on and back and forth it goes. Also, The Sting fits nicely in the Generation Gap Nostalgia department, telling a story that happened about thirty years ago from its release date; thirty-seven in this case.
One of my viewing companions kept seeing visual references that would later influence Miller's Crossing. Well, that and Harlem Nights. Same with Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. There's a literal connection, of course: the casting of Billy Bob Thornton-ish character actor Brad Sullivan, a George Roy Hill favorite.
I hate to spoil the plot... it's just that good. Or at least, tries to be. It's one that fellow Minnesota natives the Coens surely love, as it involves pass-fakes that only the characters in the movie know. So it's this and 1979's The In-Laws that led to major advancements in screenwriting plot development (technology). Nowadays it's anything goes, and everything goes (in). One-too-many endings, flashbacks, flash-forwards, how the characters looked in the '70s... it's all starting to blur together. At one point, this same viewing companion asked me if they did a matte shot with computers. Ummm.......
What else? Oh, there's a slow speed homage to the big chase in The French Connection! That was sly. Paul Newman and Charles Durning would later appear in The Hudsucker Proxy, but they wouldn't do a scene together. Marvin Hamlisch won three Oscars in 1973 and was free from the shackles of Woody Allen forever after that. The Simpsons would do an homage to The Entertainer later on in the episode called... I think it's called New York City vs. Homer Simpson... something like that. Get better HD, TCM!!!!!!
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan