Movies of the P2B Generation: 1978

One thing we at Place to Be Nation like to celebrate is the subjectivity inherent in entertainment — be it in wrestling, comics, music, television or, indeed, film. With that in mind, ten members of the PTBN staff will be picking the movies of the PTB generation.  In this series, panel members will collect their five favorite films of each year, beginning with the year in which the oldest writer was born — 1976. The only rule given to each contributor was to provide his or her own criteria. Some writers may go with the most artistic films, while others might side with the most iconic blockbusters. We welcome your lists on Facebook and Twitter. Each staff member has submitted a list of five movies from 1978 ranked 1 through 5. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote worth four points, and so on. Using that point system, we have identified the top 5 movies of 1978.

1978 was the year that the world would believe a man could fly, but there were also several other critically acclaimed films that year as well. But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.

Honorable Mentions

Dawn of the Dead was one of two honorable mentions that just missed the cut with 6 points. Both Dawn of the Dead and The Wiz received a second-place vote and a fourth-place vote.
Dawn of the Dead was one of two honorable mentions that just missed the cut with 6 points. Both Dawn of the Dead and The Wiz received a second-place vote and a fourth-place vote.

Dawn of the Dead — 6 points

The Wiz — 6 points

The Boys From Brazil — 5 points

The Lord of the Rings — 4 points

Coming Home — 4 points

Days of Heaven — 3 points

The Buddy Holly Story — 1 point

Drunken Master — 1 point

Jaws 2 — 1 point

Revenge of the Pink Panther — 1 point

Watership Down — 1 point

And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 1978, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.

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5. The Deer Hunter

11 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Aaron George and Greg Phillips at No. 2

Greg Phillips: When it comes to emotionally draining film experiences, it doesn’t get much bleaker than Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter.

Yet from that bleakness comes the heart of one of the best ensemble acting pieces I’ve seen. Christopher Walken gives his all-time greatest performance alongside the great Robert De Niro and Jon Savage as three buddies whose lives are forever changed by the horrors of war. Meryl Streep is spectacular as the woman who links Walken and De Niro’s characters.
And I promise you this — after seeing this film, you will never be able to hear the term “Russian roulette” without thinking of Saigon. The Russian roulette scenes capture raw terror and emotion in a way that modern horror films would envy.

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4. Grease

16 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Kati Price at No. 1

Kati Price:  First, I would like to say we actually had 2 rules. Aside from the one mentioned, we also have to have actually seen the movie. I ranked Grease at number one because I’ve never seen Superman and I don’t like horror films.

With that being said, I still would have probably ranked Grease at number 1 if I had seen Superman. I love musicals and I think it is a safe bet that if you have only seen one musical in your life it is this one. And an even safer bet is that you know at least one song from the film. Olivia Newton John and John Travolta are amazing singers and performers. At a recent event, the two paired up to recreate the iconic “ou’re the One That I Want” and  they are just as good now as they were 36 years ago.

Grease is set in the 50s and takes you on a journey of high school love. There is some pretty heavy character development as the leading actress transforms from a sweet innocent new student to a… well, you’ll see. She isn’t so nice or innocent anymore. 

This is absolutely one of my favorite films — I can quote it beginning to end. If you have never watched a musical, start with this one.

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3. Animal House

20 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 2

Andrew Woltman: There are many compelling reasons to like Animal House, (If you really feel the need to call it National Lampoon’s Animal House, feel free) but the fact that sparks little to no debate whatsoever is that this movie belongs to John Belushi. His wacky antics and full bellied personality are easily the biggest laughs in this fraternity.

It’s silly, has little to no plot, it arguably advocates collegiate drinking, but the party never stops in this 1978 romp, thus we choose to overlook the lack of a strong narrative to carry the film. It is absolutely haywire to see the amount of comedy going on. Endlessly quotable, and you can pick out a favorite piece easily. I happen to laugh relentlessly at the horse scene. “There were BLANKS in that gun!”

And though years later we lost a John Belushi, we gained a Kevin Bacon. Making his debut as the stiff shirt Chip Diller alongside Mark Metcalf as Doug Neidermeyer, they both threaten to ruin the party for our protagonists. And what better way to top off a college film than having John Vernon as the no-nonsense Dean, who serves a magnificent antithesis for the the wild inhibitions of the Deltas. All in all, Animal House has all the makings of a comedy classic that you can love with a passion for its sole purpose being to make you laugh.  

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2. Halloween

22 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke and Anthony Estrada at No. 1

Anthony Estrada: Halloween night, 1963 – a six-year old boy in a clown costume murders his teenage sister.  Why?  No reason.  The boy is placed in a mental hospital where he remains for fifteen years.  He doesn’t speak a word that entire time.

Halloween Eve, 1978 – a twenty-one year old man escapes from a mental hospital and returns to his hometown.  Why?   No reason.

This person’s name is Michael Myers and there’s no explanation for his actions.  There’s no sympathy or understanding.  He was this way from birth – society didn’t do it to him.  No one wronged or mistreated him.  Freddy was burned to death by angry parents. Jason drowned due to teenage negligence.  They were motivated by revenge.  Michael Myers is motivated by nothing.  And that’s why he’s one of the greatest movie villains ever.

But this was a two-man show and Myers wouldn’t be half as scary if it wasn’t for his hype man, Dr. Sam Loomis.

“I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up.”

Disturbing, right?  And Loomis says shit like this all the time!  He can’t NOT creep people out, with his bug-eyed stare and quivering voice.  The fact is that Myers is off-screen nearly the entire movie but his presence hangs over every scene. That’s because Loomis is running through town telling everyone that the greatest evil imaginable is on its way to kill them all.  Literally, that’s what he’s telling them.  When he’s dismissed as a kook we understand why, we would dismiss that nut too, but we also tense up because we know he’s telling the truth.

And there’s also this.

 

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1. Superman

39 points, ranked by 9 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Aaron George, Greg Phillips, Andrew Riche, Russell Sellers, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 1

Russell Sellers: With a tag line like “You will believe a man can fly,” Richard Donner’s seminal classic sets its own bar somewhere in outer space…and then leaps it in a single bound.

This is the movie that defined the Man of Steel for generations of movie viewers and comic book readers. Christopher Reeve, virtually unknown at the time of his casting, brought Superman to life in a way fans of the character never thought they’d see. He brought all of the charm and hapless wit along with a million-megawatt smile to put the icing on the super-powered special effects cake. And the natural chemistry with Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane is electric.

But what’s a hero without a villain? Gene Hackman’s take on Lex Luthor is, considered by many, the definitive version of the character. While his plan is a bit silly, it’s how smug and confident he is in it that sells it, unapologetically, to the audience. It’s hard not to buy into it as viable. And let’s not forget the ever-quotable Otis, played perfectly by Ned Beatty.

Director Donner was no slouch in this case, either. His unabashed willingness to embrace the cheesiness of the concept and also taking the character seriously created a balance of fun and highly emotional drama that made the comic page come alive for millions. It stands as, arguably, his best cinematic achievement.

But probably the biggest star of the film (sorry Marlon Brando) was John Williams’ masterpiece of a score. There are so many great moments where the music is as much a character as the actors on screen. And if that opening theme doesn’t send chills up your spine every time you hear it, you should probably be checked for a pulse…and possibly a soul.

That does it for 1978. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see the staff’s top 5 movies of 1979!

Author: Place to Be Nation Staff

Place to Be Nation Staff pieces feature any number of our contributors who are multifaceted when it comes to Pop Culture expertise.