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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

Rank Title Studio Dom. gross
1. Grease Paramount Pictures $160M
2. Superman Warner Bros. $134M
3. National Lampoon’s Animal House Universal Pictures $120M
4. Every Which Way but Loose Warner Bros. $85M
5. Heaven Can Wait Paramount Pictures $82M
6. Hooper Warner Bros. $78M
7. Jaws 2 Universal Pictures $78M
8. Revenge of the Pink Panther United Artists $50M
9. The Deer Hunter Universal Pictures $49M
10. Halloween Compass 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   Name Age Notable films
Jan 5 Sally Eilers 69 Bad Girl
        The Black Camel
  12 Arthur Sheekman 76 Duck Soup
        Some Came Running
  23 Jack Oakie 74 The Great Dictator
        Lover Come Back
  26 Leo Genn 72 Quo Vadis
        The Longest Day
  27 Oskar Homolka 79 Sabotage
        I Remember Mama
  29 Tim McCoy 86 Texas Cyclone
        Two-Fisted Law
Feb 2 Wendy Barrie 69 The Hound of the Baskervilles
        The Private Life of Henry VIII
  14 Claude Binyon 72 The Saxon Charm
  15 Ilka Chase 77 Now, Voyager
        Ocean’s 11
  18 Kathleen Lockhart 83 A Christmas Carol
  18 Maggie McNamara 48 The Moon Is Blue
        Three Coins in the Fountain
  24 Franco Arcalli 48 Last Tango in Paris
        Zabriskie Point
  28 Philip Ahn 72 Never So Few
        Paradise, Hawaiian Style
Mar 12 John Cazale 42 The Godfather
        Dog Day Afternoon
  16 Reb Russell 72 Range Warfare
        Border Vengeance
  18 Peggy Wood 86 The Sound of Music
        The Story of Ruth
  24 Leigh Brackett 62 The Big Sleep
        The Empire Strikes Back
  25 Leslie Fenton 76 Boys Town
        Whispering Smith
  25 Jack Hulbert 85 Bulldog Jack
        Jack Ahoy
  25 Hanna Ralph 92 Faust
  31 Astrid Allwyn 72 Follow the Fleet
        Love Affair
Apr 1 Lynne Roberts 56 Girls of the Big House
        Port Sinister
  9 Michael Wilson 63 The Bridge on the River Kwai
        Lawrence of Arabia
  13 Paul McGrath 74 A Face in the Crowd
        Advise & Consent
  22 Will Geer 76 Winchester ’73
May 6 Loyal Griggs 71 White Christmas
  11 Philip Ray 79 A Night to Remember
        Dracula: Prince of Darkness
  12 Robert Coogan 53 Skippy
        Johnny Doughboy
  16 Robert Florey 78 The Cocoanuts
        Murders in the Rue Morgue
June 20 Mark Robson 64 Peyton Place
        The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
  29 Bob Crane 49 Gus
July 3 James Daly 59 Planet of the Apes
        The Big Bounce
  14 Jack Woolgar 64 Death Line
  17 Thayer David 51 Rocky
        The Eiger Sanction
  19 Agnes Christine Johnston 82 Life Begins for Andy Hardy
        Black Beauty
Aug 5 Queenie Smith 79 Mississippi
        The Killers
  24 Louis Prima 67 The Jungle Book
        Rose of Washington Square
  26 Charles Boyer 78 Gaslight
  28 Robert Shaw 51 Jaws
        The Sting
  31 Lee Garmes 80 Detective Story
        A Big Hand for the Little Lady
Sep 3 Karin Molander 89 Halvblod
  9 Jack L. Warner 86 My Fair Lady
  12 Frank Ferguson 71 Rancho Notorious
        The Good Humor Man
  18 Ann Shoemaker 87 Sunrise at Campobello
        Alice Adams
  24 Ruth Etting 80 Roman Scandals
        Gift of Gab
  30 Edgar Bergen 75 The Muppet Movie
        Fun and Fancy Free
Oct 10 Kathryn McGuire 74 Sherlock Jr.
        The Navigator
  16 Dan Dailey 62 It’s Always Fair Weather
        There’s No Business Like Show Business
  19 Gig Young 64 They Shoot Horses Don’t They
        That Touch of Mink
  30 Brian Hayles 47 Warlords of Atlantis
        Arabian Adventure
Nov 5 Denis O’Dea 73 Esther and the King
  9 Florence Marly 59 Sealed Verdict
        Tokyo Joe
  16 Claude Dauphin 75 Barbarella
        Grand Prix
  20 Robert Alan Aurthur 56 Grand Prix
        All That Jazz
  23 June Martel 69 Fighting Youth
        Santa Fe Stampede
  26 Ford Beebe 90 The Green Hornet
        Buck Rogers
  27 Susan Shaw 44 Wide Boy
        Fire Maidens from Outer Space
  28 André Morell 69 The Bridge on the River Kwai
        The Hound of the Baskervilles
Dec 7 I. Stanford Jolley 78 King of the Rocket Men
        I Killed Wild Bill Hickok
  10 Ed Wood 54 Glen or Glenda
        Plan 9 from Outer Space
  12 Fay Compton 84 Othello
        The Haunting
  15 Chill Wills 76 The Alamo
  19 Duncan Lamont 60 Frankenstein Created Woman
        Battle of Britain
  23 Louis de Rochemont 89 Windjammer
        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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