Movies We Still Care About – 1977

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Star Wars
  • Annie Hall

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Annie Hall (Winner)
  • The Goodbye Girl
  • Julia
  • Star Wars
  • The Turning Point

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Star Wars
  2. Smokey and the Bandit
  3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  4. Saturday Night Fever
  5. The Goodbye Girl
  6. The Rescuers
  7. Oh, God!
  8. A Bridge Too Far
  9. The Deep
  10. The Spy Who Loved Me

Other Notable Films

  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Movies We Still Care About

Star Wars

This is going to be the longest entry on this list, because there’s the most to say about it.

In terms of the development of cinema as an medium, art form, and industry, Star Wars is certainly one of the most important movies that has ever been made.  It’s the reason the modern era of film starts in 1977.  If we judge a movie’s quality by how much people care about it, (which is what I am doing in this series of posts) then Star Wars is by far the greatest movie of all time.  It also happens to be my personal favorite.

I could talk about the plethora of fans, the toys, books, comics, conventions, fan clubs, prequels, sequels, TV shows, video games, artwork, lunch boxes, rip-offs, etc.  Any other movie that had inspired so much derivative art and commerce would certainly be worthy of being included on this list for that alone.

But Star Wars is bigger than that. I believe that at their highest level, movies rise beyond art to become mythology.  They are a part of our culture.  Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Obi Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca, R2D2, C3PO, Darth Vader, The Emperor, The Death Star, Millennium Falcon, X-Wings – these are all part of our shared cultural experience.  I can mention them and you know exactly what I mean.

And by being such an important part of our culture, they have become part of our identity.  These figures are as much a part of our experience as Zeus and Hercules were to ancient Greeks.  Sure, nobody’s making a sacrifice to Luke Skywalker to ensure a good harvest.  But when Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire, everyone knew exactly what he meant, and he was able to use that to conjure up the emotional reaction he was seeking.

To get an idea of our emotional tie to Star Wars, look at the reaction we had to the prequels.  Think back to 1999 and how huge of a deal Phantom Menace was.  I was a junior in college at the time, and I remember just before the movie started, my roommate leaned over to me and said “Our whole lives have led up to this.”  It was a tongue-in-cheek comment, but he was only half joking.

After seeing Episode 1 and the huge drop in quality compared to the original series, there came denial, disappointment, and finally, anger and hatred. Why was there so much hatred for a movie that failed to live up to exceedingly high expectations?  I’m not going to claim Phantom Menace was a great movie, but there are plenty of movies that are much worse which don’t attract remotely as much ire.  For example, look at the Matrix sequels.  People were expecting the sequels to live up to the brilliance of the original.  But when they turned out to be god-awful, we collectively said “Well, that sucked,” and moved on with our lives.  Nobody ranted about their hatred of the Wachowski Brothers.  Nobody made a documentary entitled “The People vs. The Wachowskis.” They were derided as bad movies, and that was the end of it.

But Star Wars is different.  A mediocre Star Wars movie felt like an attack on our culture.  An attack on our souls.  It was an insult on a deep and personal level, savaging the values we hold dear. A mediocre movie was only able to have that much power over us because of just how deeply the original Star Wars had touched us.

Annie Hall

This is a difficult entry for me to write, because personally I don’t care for Woody Allen movies.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with his fans or with him as a filmmaker.  (And his personal life is outside the scope of this article.)  He is highly skilled, and his movies generally achieve what wants them to do.  It just that what he succeeds at doing doesn’t match my personal taste.  I was bored by Annie Hall.

But despite my own opinion, I can’t deny that there are plenty of Woody Allen fans.  In a long career of beloved movies, Annie Hall is widely considered to be his best.  Many people will call it the gold-standard for romantic comedies.  So it deserves to be on this list.

Other Notable Films

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Certainly this is a movie that most people are familiar with.  If you’re like me, as soon as you read the title you heard those famous five notes and could visualize the multi-colored lights of the alien ship cresting the mountain.

So if just reading the title can conjure up such visceral images, why doesn’t this belong in the list of movies we care about?  Because all of that comes from the last 10 minutes of the movie.  The bulk of the film is taken up with Richard Dreyfuss’s slow decent into madness and the collapse of his marriage.  Nobody remembers that because, well, it’s not very memorable.  So despite the compelling ending, I don’t think Close Encounters quite makes the list.

– – – – –

Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.

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6 thoughts on “Movies We Still Care About – 1977”

  1. I’m not sure if you’re looking for feedback on your thoughts for why titles should be considered memorable, on the composition of the post, or on other movies that are still relevant.

    Regarding #1I wouldn’t argue with you over why you felt something would be memorable, especially if I’ve heard of it, and heard things suggesting it might be classic/iconic, so I’m with you on those. I’m also a TL;DR type of guy and tend to just read headlines. For example, I’m already sold on Star Wars being memorable. While you note some things I wasn’t aware of, I was expecting (hoping for) a couple quick bullet points on each “memorable” movie, perhaps a few more honorable mention and why they didn’t make the final cut. The depth of the discussion on Star Wars could very easily be another blog post in itself, and structuring it that way could help generate further discussion focused on that particular topic, while another post about Annie Hall could focus discussions on that as well, etc.

    As for other memorable movies, I looked at the IMDB Top 100 for the year and a couple jumped out:
    #15 on IMDB’s list of 1977 movies is Kentucky Fried Movie. I never really thought it was that awesome, but it seems like the premier skit-comedy movie with a big high school/college following (not sure if that persists).

    #74 is Race for Your Life Charlie Brown. This is the one Peanuts movie I remember despite the popularity of the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas ones. Like the annual Twilight Zone marathon on KCAL (later SyFy), Race for Your Life just always seemed to get TV play every year. I’m not sure if that was at the same time every year, but short of Twilight Zone, it’s the dominant show/movie I remember recurring on TV over the years.

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  2. Nate – I thought about including Kentucky Fried Movie. That’s one of those movies that I watched over and over again as a kid.

    (Now that I think about that, it’s kind of weird that my parents were okay with that. It’s full of graphic nudity, violence, profanity, and racism. But my parents never censored what I could watch. It’s also weird that I watched it so much considering the centerpiece of the film was a spoof of Enter the Dragon, which I didn’t see until I was an adult.)

    But I decided not to include it because I felt that while it was a movie that I personally watched a lot and still remember, I don’t think it has so much general appeal. I doubt there’s a wide audience that still looks back on it with such affection.

    It’s notable for launching the careers of Zucker-Abrams-Zucker. Without Kentucky Fried Movie, there wouldn’t have been Airplane or The Naked Gun, which are two movies that will be showing up on this list when I reach their respective years. But I don’t think KFM itself really fits into the category of movies that a lot of people still care about.

    On the other hand, I don’t have perfect knowledge of what’s going on in other people’s heads, so perhaps I’m wrong about this. That’s why I appreciate comments to these posts. My perspective isn’t the only one.

    Thanks for your feedback.

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  3. Regarding Race For Your Life Charlie Brown, I don’t know if I’ve seen it. I have a dim memory of a Charlie Brown movie where the gang is on a raft and ends up in a sluice for a water-wheel. I vaguely think that might have been as part of a race, so perhaps that’s from Race for Your Life. But since I only sort-of remember one scene and I’m not even sure it’s from the right movie, it’s hard for me to include it.

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  4. The Spy who Loved Me was the best James Bond movie of the stupid, goofy spy movie genre. So many things about it, from the underwater car, Jaws, and Agent XXX are unforgettable.

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  5. The Rankin/Bass animated version of The Hobbit also came out in 1977, as did Slap Shot. The former was most likely the earliest introduction to Tolkien and/or epic fantasy for most of us, which I think is worth something, and the latter is still one of the most eminently watchable sports films of all time.

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