Greatest Films of the 1970s
Greatest Films of the 1970s

Greatest Films of the 1970s
1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1979


Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

(National Lampoon's) Animal House (1978), 109 minutes, D: John Landis

The Buddy Holly Story (1978), 113 minutes, D: Steve Rash

La Cage aux Folles (1978, Fr./It.) (aka Birds of a Feather), 91 minutes, D: Edouard Molinaro

Coming Home (1978), 126 minutes, D: Hal Ashby

Dawn of the Dead (1978, It./US), 126 minutes, D: George A. Romero
See Dead film series.
This was the most profitable of all of Romero's zombie films and the one that was received most favorably by critics. Unexpectedly, the dead were re-animating into flesh-eating zombies, and the ravenous, shuffling zombies were on the attack. Four survivors sought refuge in a deserted suburban shopping mall from ravenous zombies - and from a gang of post-apocalyptic bikers. They included TV anchorwoman (Francine Parker (Gaylen Ross)), her traffic helicopter-pilot boyfriend (Stephen "Flyboy" Andrews (David Emge)) , and two Philadelphia SWAT cops (Roger "Trooper" DeMarco (Scott Reiniger) and Peter Washington (Ken Foree)). They flew in a helicopter from Philadelphia to Western Pennsylvania (the Pittsburgh area), where they barricaded themselves within a well-stocked mall for sanctuary. The satirical film was a indictment of seventies consumerism, as it showed the group looting the mall and living the American Dream in a barricaded storage area, distracted by their material luxuries while undead danger lurked nearby. The biting social satire equated zombies with brainwashed automaton consumers slowly shuffling their way through malls as soothing Muzak played. Why did the zombies congregate there? As one character explained, "Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives." Remade as Dawn of the Dead (2004) by Zack Snyder (his feature film debut).

Days of Heaven (1978), 95 minutes, D: Terrence Malick
Director Terrence Malick's second feature film, an original, lyrical and gorgeously-photographed work of art. A tragic, turn-of-the-century tale of a hot-headed Chicago steel worker (Richard Gere) who flees to the wheat fields of the Texas Panhandle following the accidental murder of the mill foreman, with his lover-girlfriend (Brooke Adams) and his younger 13 year-old sister (Linda Manz) (who provides the film's raw commentary). He takes up itinerant work for the fall harvest with a wealthy and prosperous but terminally-ailing and lonely farmer (Sam Shepard). When an unusual love triangle develops, the farm-hand pretends that his girlfriend is his sister and encourages her marriage to the farmer, hoping that they can escape from poverty. The plot includes a plague of locusts, fire, and the tragic consequences of greed and jealousy.

The Deer Hunter (1978), 183 minutes, D: Michael Cimino
Michael Cimino's disturbing, emotionally powerful, Best Picture-winning film about three friends who are forever changed by imprisonment during the Vietnam War. Michael (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken), and Steven (John Savage) are three close buddies from the steel mill town of Pittsburgh who hang out in bars and hunt deer. Steven is getting married while Michael and Nick compete over the affections of Linda (Meryl Streep). Their lives are turned upside down when they are drafted into the airbourne infantry to fight in Vietnam, and are soon captured by the enemy. There, among other things, they are forced to endure a game of Russian Roulette in the P.O.W. camp. Michael and Steven manage to escape and return home, but each of their lives are forever changed by the experience.

Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978, Fr./Belg.) (Préparez Vos Mouchoirs), 109 minutes, D: Bertrand Blier

Grease (1978), 110 minutes, D: Randal Kleiser

Halloween (1978), 90 minutes, D: John Carpenter
A genuinely scary, stylistic and tasteful, extremely well-crafted slasher/horror classic from young film director/writer John Carpenter, with the tagline: "The Night HE Came Home!" The efficiently-suspenseful, surprise hit film, with a jarring musical theme, grossed over $60 million - and became one of the most successful independent films ever made. This PG-rated, low-budget film (filmed in only twenty days) invented many of the "slasher" film cliches (along with its predecessors: George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968), the big-budget The Exorcist (1973), and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)), but also paid homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) in the initial murder of the film. The film told about a psychotic, criminally-insane murderer, Michael Myers, who was on a homicidal rampage after escape from an institution, and on Halloween night terrorized his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. It also launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis (dubbed the "Scream Queen") in her film debut, as resourceful, teenaged baby-sitter Laurie who is terrorized in a house, and starred Donald Pleasence as the obsessed psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis (the name of the boyfriend character in Psycho (1960)) in pursuit. Unfortunately, the serial killer slasher film spawned many run-of-the-mill inferior sequels of its own, and other imitation films. See entire Halloween film series.

Heaven Can Wait (1978), 100 minutes, D: Warren Beatty, Buck Henry

The Last Waltz (1978), 117 minutes, D: Martin Scorsese

Midnight Express (1978, UK/US), 120 minutes, D: Alan Parker

Superman The Movie (1978), 143 minutes, D: Richard Donner
See Superman film series.

The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978, It.) (aka L'Albero Degli Zoccoli), 186 minutes, D: Ermanno Olmi

An Unmarried Woman (1978), 124 minutes, D: Paul Mazursky

Up in Smoke (1978), 86 minutes, D: Lou Adler, Tommy Chong

Watership Down (1978, UK), 101 minutes, D: Martin Rosen
Screenwriter-producer-director Martin Rosen brilliantly adapted Richard Adams's classic British dystopian novel - a dark allegory about seeking freedom. It was about a community of rabbits fleeing for safety and happiness after their warren came under a terrible threat of destruction. This was a hand-drawn animation effort, expressionistic and beautiful, with voice-work by the best British actors (John Hurt, Ralph Richardson, Richard Briers, and Denholm Elliott).

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