1978 was great. As a film geek, I can honestly say that no decade supersedes the 1970s as the high water mark in American Cinema. I mean sure, the 1980s were fun, and every decade has cinematic gems in it. But the 70s were special. Every year practically was golden. So here are five films from the year I was born. A banner year for the earth if there ever was one. (Side Observation: all but one of these films has been remade, and the originals are all better.)
“Death has come to your little town, sheriff.”
Halloween may not have created the holiday slasher (that honor belongs to Bob Clark’s Black Christmas), but it sure as hell perfected and elevated it. John Carpenter and Debra Hill took a low budget, untried actors, with a simple, bare bones approach and made one of the most terrifying and effective horror movies ever made. So influential it was that copycats are still being made today. Combined with its eerie and iconic theme music, Halloween is a classic of not only horror but of all film as well.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
“We came here from a dying world. We drift through the universe, from planet to planet, pushed on by the solar winds. We adapt, and we survive. The function of life is survival.”
Jack Finney’s classic novel has been adapted four times, but Phillip Kaufman’s is by far the best version of the bunch. Invasion of the Body Snatchers drips with menace and paranoia. It also features a stellar cast led by the pitch perfect Donald Sutherland. And who can forget the human-faced dog creature!
“Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”
The movie that kick-started the still going National Lampoon movie machine, and also created the “slobs vs. snobs” college movie genre is a definite classic. Animal House also features the late and great John Belushi as Bluto, the prototype for all slackers who fought the system and danced to the beat of their own drum.
Superman: The Movie
“I’m here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American way.”
It’s a testament to this film and character that thirty-eight years later, Superman still holds up, and in some ways, surpasses modern superhero films. Relying on charm and storytelling, it has none of the post-modernism and cynicism of many comic book based films today. The tagline read “You will believe a man can fly.” Well, we did, and we still do.
Dawn of the Dead
“When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”
Zombies are more popular than ever, and zombie films are a dime a dozen. But it all really started right here with this one. The second in Romero’s “Dead” trilogy, Dawn of the Dead, with its attacks on consumer culture and the military, still feels relevant today. And the gore and make-up effects by master Tom Savini pretty much invented everything we see in the genre today. To be blunt, there would be no Walking Dead or any of its ilk today if it were not for this film.