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DISCLAIMER: All film criticism is extremely subjective and there is no such thing as the definitive list of the Greatest (English-language) Films. Great Films can't be measured scientifically because greatness is extremely subjective. Just because we like a film doesn't mean that you will like it as well. Please feel free to leave us a comment with the films that you think are the greatest which we have not included on our list.

Not only was 1978 a big year for movies but it was also a big year for actors making their film debuts and the deaths of some truly great talent. Here is a snap shot of the American film industry.

Making Their Film Debuts:

  • Karen Allen – National Lampoon’s Animal House
  • Pedro Almodóvar (director) – Folle…folle…fólleme Tim!
  • Kevin Bacon – National Lampoon’s Animal House
  • Jake Busey – Straight Time
  • Cheech & Chong – Up in Smoke
  • Billy Connolly – Absolution
  • Billy Crystal – Rabbit Test
  • Jamie Lee Curtis – Halloween
  • Lee Ermey – The Boys in Company C
  • Corey Feldman – Born Again
  • William Forsythe – Long Shot
  • Harry Hamlin – Movie Movie
  • Daryl Hannah – The Fury
  • Mark Harmon – Comes a Horseman
  • Ed Harris – Coma
  • Michael Keaton – Rabbit Test
  • John Malkovich – A Wedding
  • Laurie Metcalf – A Wedding
  • Liam Neeson – Pilgrim’s Progress
  • Michael O’Keefe – Gray Lady Down
  • Annie Potts – Corvette Summer
  • Christopher Reeve – Gray Lady Down
  • James Remar – On the Yard
  • Eric Roberts – King of the Gypsies
  • Diana Scarwid – Pretty Baby
  • James Spader – Team-Mates
  • Mary Steenburgen – Goin’ South
  • Peter Stormare – The Score
  • Alfre Woodard – Remember My Name
  • Robert Zemeckis (director) – I Wanna Hold Your Hand



Top-grossing Films

RankTitleStudioDom. gross
1.GreaseParamount Pictures$160M
2.SupermanWarner Bros.$134M
3.National Lampoon’s Animal HouseUniversal Pictures$120M
4.Every Which Way but LooseWarner Bros.$85M
5.Heaven Can WaitParamount Pictures$82M
6.HooperWarner Bros.$78M
7.Jaws 2Universal Pictures$78M
8.Revenge of the Pink PantherUnited Artists$50M
9.The Deer HunterUniversal Pictures$49M
10.HalloweenCompass International$47M


Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: The Deer Hunter – EMI Films/Cimino, Universal

Best Director: Michael CiminoThe Deer Hunter

Best Actor: Jon Voight – Coming Home

Best Actress: Jane Fonda – Coming Home

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher WalkenThe Deer Hunter

Best Supporting Actress: Maggie SmithCalifornia Suite


Among Those Who Died In 1978:

Month NameAgeNotable films
Jan5Sally Eilers69Bad Girl
    The Black Camel
 12Arthur Sheekman76Duck Soup
    Some Came Running
 23Jack Oakie74The Great Dictator
    Lover Come Back
 26Leo Genn72Quo Vadis
    The Longest Day
 27Oskar Homolka79Sabotage
    I Remember Mama
 29Tim McCoy86Texas Cyclone
    Two-Fisted Law
Feb2Wendy Barrie69The Hound of the Baskervilles
    The Private Life of Henry VIII
 14Claude Binyon72The Saxon Charm
 15Ilka Chase77Now, Voyager
    Ocean’s 11
 18Kathleen Lockhart83A Christmas Carol
 18Maggie McNamara48The Moon Is Blue
    Three Coins in the Fountain
 24Franco Arcalli48Last Tango in Paris
    Zabriskie Point
 28Philip Ahn72Never So Few
    Paradise, Hawaiian Style
Mar12John Cazale42The Godfather
    Dog Day Afternoon
 16Reb Russell72Range Warfare
    Border Vengeance
 18Peggy Wood86The Sound of Music
    The Story of Ruth
 24Leigh Brackett62The Big Sleep
    The Empire Strikes Back
 25Leslie Fenton76Boys Town
    Whispering Smith
 25Jack Hulbert85Bulldog Jack
    Jack Ahoy
 25Hanna Ralph92Faust
 31Astrid Allwyn72Follow the Fleet
    Love Affair
Apr1Lynne Roberts56Girls of the Big House
    Port Sinister
 9Michael Wilson63The Bridge on the River Kwai
    Lawrence of Arabia
 13Paul McGrath74A Face in the Crowd
    Advise & Consent
 22Will Geer76Winchester ’73
May6Loyal Griggs71White Christmas
 11Philip Ray79A Night to Remember
    Dracula: Prince of Darkness
 12Robert Coogan53Skippy
    Johnny Doughboy
 16Robert Florey78The Cocoanuts
    Murders in the Rue Morgue
June20Mark Robson64Peyton Place
    The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
 29Bob Crane49Gus
July3James Daly59Planet of the Apes
    The Big Bounce
 14Jack Woolgar64Death Line
 17Thayer David51Rocky
    The Eiger Sanction
 19Agnes Christine Johnston82Life Begins for Andy Hardy
    Black Beauty
Aug5Queenie Smith79Mississippi
    The Killers
 24Louis Prima67The Jungle Book
    Rose of Washington Square
 26Charles Boyer78Gaslight
 28Robert Shaw51Jaws
    The Sting
 31Lee Garmes80Detective Story
    A Big Hand for the Little Lady
Sep3Karin Molander89Halvblod
 9Jack L. Warner86My Fair Lady
 12Frank Ferguson71Rancho Notorious
    The Good Humor Man
 18Ann Shoemaker87Sunrise at Campobello
    Alice Adams
 24Ruth Etting80Roman Scandals
    Gift of Gab
 30Edgar Bergen75The Muppet Movie
    Fun and Fancy Free
Oct10Kathryn McGuire74Sherlock Jr.
    The Navigator
 16Dan Dailey62It’s Always Fair Weather
    There’s No Business Like Show Business
 19Gig Young64They Shoot Horses Don’t They
    That Touch of Mink
 30Brian Hayles47Warlords of Atlantis
    Arabian Adventure
Nov5Denis O’Dea73Esther and the King
 9Florence Marly59Sealed Verdict
    Tokyo Joe
 16Claude Dauphin75Barbarella
    Grand Prix
 20Robert Alan Aurthur56Grand Prix
    All That Jazz
 23June Martel69Fighting Youth
    Santa Fe Stampede
 26Ford Beebe90The Green Hornet
    Buck Rogers
 27Susan Shaw44Wide Boy
    Fire Maidens from Outer Space
 28André Morell69The Bridge on the River Kwai
    The Hound of the Baskervilles
Dec7I. Stanford Jolley78King of the Rocket Men
    I Killed Wild Bill Hickok
 10Ed Wood54Glen or Glenda
    Plan 9 from Outer Space
 12Fay Compton84Othello
    The Haunting
 15Chill Wills76The Alamo
 19Duncan Lamont60Frankenstein Created Woman
    Battle of Britain
 23Louis de Rochemont89Windjammer
    The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

The Greatest Films of 1978




Movie Poster for Animal House

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(National Lampoon’s) Animal House

D: John Landis

One of the most popular movie comedies of all time is also the film that made John Belushi a star. This raunchy, screwball comedy, directed with madcap zest by John Landis, offers a relentless spoof of 1960’s college life by following the hilarious adventures of the Delta fraternity. In addition to Belushi as “Bluto” Blutarsky, the outstanding cast includes Tim Matheson, Tom Hulce, Stephen “Flounder” Furst, Karen Allen, Donald Sutherland, Peter Riegert and Kevin Bacon, along with Otis Day and the Knights with their show-stopping performance of “Shout.”


Movie Poster for The Buddy Holly Story

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The Buddy Holly Story

D: Steve Rash

Gary Busey gives an electrifying, Oscar(r) nominated performance (Best Actor-1978) as Buddy Holly, the musical genius from Lubbock, Texas, who changed the tune of rock n’ roll history. With a groundbreaking combination of country music and rhythm & blues, Buddy Holly and the Crickets (Don Stroud, Charles Martin Smith) catapulted to national stardom in just three short years with such hits as “That’ll Be the Day,” “It’s So Easy,” and “Peggy Sue.” By the age of 22, Holly had it all: chart-topping singles, a beautiful wife, and international acclaim until tragedy ended a brilliant career but not his music. In an Academy Award(r) – winning score adaptation, Busey sings Holly’s greatest hits in this dynamic tribute to one of the most influential rock n’ rollers of all time and the legacy he left behind.


Movie Poster for Coming Home

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Coming Home

D: Hal Ashby

The wife of a Marine serving in Vietnam, Sally Hyde (Jane Fonda) decides to volunteer at a local veterans hospital to occupy her time. There she meets Luke Martin (Jon Voight), a frustrated wheelchair-bound vet who has become disillusioned with the war. Sally and Luke develop a friendship that soon turns into a romance, but when her husband, Bob (Bruce Dern), returns unexpectedly, she must decide between staying with him and pursuing her new love.


Movie Poster for Dawn of the Dead

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Dawn of the Dead

D: George A. Romero

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).


Mosvie Poster for Days of Heaven

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Days of Heaven

D: Terrence Malick

Director Terrence Malick’s second feature film was an original, lyrical and gorgeously-photographed work of art, by Oscar-winning cinematographer Nestor Almendros who provided rewarding visuals to tell the film’s story. It was about a complex love triangle among itinerant workers in Texas farm country in the early 20th century. The exquisite film of exceptional visual beauty was shot in the rolling plains of southern Alberta (Canada), not Texas. It has been universally acclaimed as a cinematographic masterpiece with grand pastoral vistas, endless field and sky shots and artfully composed scenes reminiscent of the Hudson River School landscape painters. Most of the film was shot during the “golden or magic hour” of sunset’s lingering dusk, giving it a dreamy warmth, romanticism and soft glow, although the time constraint limited shooting to only 25 minutes each day. The tragic, turn-of-the-century tale was about a hot-headed Chicago steel worker (Richard Gere) who fled 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 provided the film’s raw commentary). He took up itinerant work for the fall harvest with a wealthy and prosperous but terminally-ailing and lonely farmer (Sam Shepard). A crowded steam locomotive with farmhands atop them chugged through agricultural landscapes, and the anchoring farmhouse stood three stories tall as a lone fixture amidst immense, sensually-rippling fields of golden wheat. When an unusual love triangle developed, the farm-hand pretended that his girlfriend was his sister and encouraged her marriage to the farmer, hoping that they could escape from poverty. The ‘heavenly,’ golden-hued, contented, and idyllic days of the itinerant workers were soon shattered by revealed deceptions and a destructive locust plague and fire – the tragic consequences of greed and jealousy.


Poster for the movie "The Deer Hunter"

© 1978 Universal Pictures − All right reserved.

The Deer Hunter

D: Michael Cimino

Michael Cimino’s disturbing, emotionally powerful, Best Picture-winning film about three friends who were forever changed by imprisonment during the Vietnam War. Michael Vronsky (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken), and Steven (John Savage) were three close buddies from the steel mill town of Pittsburgh who hung out in bars and hunted deer. Steven was getting married while Michael and Nick competed over the affections of Linda (Meryl Streep). Their lives were turned upside down when they were drafted into the airborne infantry to fight in Vietnam, and were soon captured by the enemy. There, among other things, they were forced to endure a game of Russian Roulette in the P.O.W. camp. Michael and Steven managed to escape and return home, but each of their lives were forever changed by the experience. Linda’s life, already strained and grim with an abusive alcoholic father, found solace with Nick’s best friend Mike after his arrival home, when both grieved and struggled with the loss of his best friend and her lover.

Watch preview and see where you can stream online here.


Poster for the movie "Grease"

© 1978 Paramount − All right reserved.


D: Randal Kleiser

Grease is the one that you want! Go back to high school with Pink Lady Sandy (Olivia Newton-John), leader of the bad-boy T-Birds, Danny (John Travolta), and a rockin’ and rollin’ all-star cast.

Watch preview and see where you can stream online here.


Movie Poster for Halloween

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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.


Poster for the movie "Heaven Can Wait"

© 1978 Paramount − All right reserved.

Heaven Can Wait

 D: Warren Beatty, Buck Henry

Heaven Can Wait is a romantic fantasy about Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), a Los Angeles Rams quarterback who is accidentally summoned to Heaven by an overly zealous celestial escort. Pendleton is returned to earth in the body of another man, who is a corporate giant. While practicing to once again play for the Rams, Pendleton must escape attempts on his life while romantically pursuing a beautiful Englishwoman (Julie Christie) who protests the destruction caused to her village by one of his many corporations.

Watch preview and see where you can stream online here.


Movie Poster for The Last Waltz

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The Last Waltz

D: Martin Scorsese

On Thanksgiving Day, 1976, The Band gave its farewell concert at Winterland in San Francisco. On hand to help say goodbye to this influential rock group were some of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 1960s and ’70s. This film is not only a vibrant documentary of that historic evening, but also a commentary on the rock world at the time. Most of the picture is concert footage of The Band and their guest performers — highlighted by interviews with members of the group, who eloquently articulate their personal involvement in the history of rock and roll.


Poster for the movie "Midnight Express"

© 1978 Columbia Pictures − All right reserved.

Midnight Express

D: Alan Parker

Brad Davis (The Player, Chariots of Fire) and John Hurt (Contact, Alien) star in this riveting true story of a young American’s nightmarish experiences in a Turkish prison and his unforgettable journey to freedom. Busted for attempting to smuggle hashish out of Istanbul, American college student Billy Hayes (Davis) is thrown into the city’s most brutal jail. After suffering through four years of sadistic torture and inhuman conditions, Billy is about to be released when his parole is denied. Only his inner courage and the support of a fellow inmate (Hurt) give him the strength to catch the MIDNIGHT EXPRESS … and escape his living hell.

Watch preview and see where you can stream online here.


Poster for the movie "Superman"

© 1978 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

Superman The Movie

D: Richard Donner

Academy Award-winners Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman head an all-star cast in the fantastic, action-packed film that made Christopher Reeve an international star playing the greatest superhero of all time. From the doomed planet of Krypton, two parents launch a spaceship carrying their infant son to earth. Here he grows up to become Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for the Metropolis Daily Planet. But with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, he battles for truth and justice as Superman.

Watch preview and see where you can stream online here.


Movie Poster For An Unmarried Woman

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An Unmarried Woman

D: Paul Mazursky

An attractive and well-to-do New Yorker, Erica Benton (Jill Clayburgh), finds her comfortable existence upended when her husband, Martin (Michael Murphy), ends their marriage and takes up with a younger woman. Hurt and angered by her husband’s betrayal, Erica slowly begins to reevaluate her life and explore her newfound freedom. Eventually, she starts a relationship with an English artist named Saul (Alan Bates), but is wary of repeating past mistakes.


Movie Poster for Up in Smoke

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Up in Smoke

D: Lou Adler, Tommy Chong

Cheech and Chong make their film debut in this riotous rock’n’roll comedy, bringing with them the same madness, lifestyles and sketches that sold over 10 million records in the early ’70s. Cheech and Chong’s marijuana-laced humor keeps their spirits high and leads them to an outrageous finale in L.A.’s Roxy Theatre, where Cheech performs in a pink tutu and Chong dresses as a large red quaalude. It will make you feel very funny.


Movie Poster for Watership DownWatership Down (UK)

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).


Did your favorite make our list of the greatest films of 1978?

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