Decades
A quarterly report that looks back
on music and film from 10, 20, 30 years ago

Top 10 Movies of 1977

on December 27, 2017, 12:00am
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By 1977, everything was changing. Music was changing, the decadent hedonism of disco giving way to the anti-capitalist snarl of punk. Star Wars revolutionized the way that Hollywood made its movies forever, for better and worse. Led Zeppelin played its last concert, Elvis passed away, and Meatloaf released Bat Out of Hell. Jimmy Carter took over as President of the United States and began what would become one of the country’s more fraught periods in its history. And all the while, the movies continued forth, through one of their greatest decades in the history of the medium, in a year that saw classic after classic released. Even if, in at least a few cases, we didn’t yet know it at the time.

You’ve now arrived at the conclusion of our year-long Decades project, which we’re ringing out by taking a look at what we’d argue to be the 10 best films of 1977. We’re sure you have your own choices, but we’ve done our best to account for legacy, historical importance, and quality alongside one another to put our own list together. Happy holidays, and as always, we’ll see you at the movies, then and now and forever on.

–Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Film Editor

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10. Slap Shot

slapshot Top 10 Movies of 1977

Slap Shot introduced audiences to the enthralling subculture of 1970’s minor league hockey – an arena of aging legends, budding Bobby Orrs, and more O-positive on ice than a blood bank. Originally deemed better suited for the penalty box than the box office due to its locker room language and gratuitous violence, the Charlestown Chiefs and the goonish, childlike, spectacled Hanson brothers have come to be embraced over the years by hockey fans and lovers of sports movies alike. Beneath all the raunchiness, however, remains the relatable tale of an aging player/coach (Paul Newman) looking for one last taste of glory before he hangs up his skates and the rebellious thrill as a bunch of minor league misfits carry a whole down-and-out town on its pads during their bloody, toothless path to a championship. It’s a hilarious reminder that some of us were just born to win ugly or not at all. –Matt Melis

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09. The Spy Who Loved Me

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The Bond franchise is forever. Now how do you find the time to pick and choose the highlights? Easy. Just watch Goldfinger, Casino Royale, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and The Spy Who Loved Me. And in 1977, you wouldn’t have been too out of line if you agreed with Carly Simon: Nobody did it better than Roger Moore and director Lewis Gilbert. After 15 years on the job for “Cubby” Broccoli, James Bond felt fresher than he had during much of the ‘60s. Gilbert took Bond clichés – womanizing, mad villainy, gadget goofs – and arguably reinvented the series with a fresh, knowing, and disco-pop sensibility. The result was a megahit popcorn pleaser. Marvin Hamlisch brightened the sound with uptempo bass and synths atop the staid strings. The stunt work and set design was a class its own, with surreal underwater bases, a Lotus Esprit submarine, and that splendid gag with the Union Jack in the opening. OH, and Jaws was a helluva bad dude sidekick! And the theme song, too, wow! And most importantly, Moore hit his stride in his third outing, cracking wise, taking on Bond tropes, and presenting the character with a sense of disbelief that won out. –Blake Goble

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08. House

house Top 10 Movies of 1977

Nobuhiko Obayashi’s outlandish masterpiece is the sort of film that you watch once and spend the rest of your life demanding that other people see as well, just to confirm that it wasn’t in fact a fever-induced hallucination through which you suffered alone. The story of a series of doomed young women being taken in by a malevolent country home, Hausu starts with a fairly typical genre premise and eventually spirals into a fugue of madness. Like a Tim & Eric take on the haunted house subgenre, Obayashi’s film rattles along with the singsong cadence and soft-focus photography of a dreamy fairy tale, even as its surrealistic violence is as unsettling as you’ve seen in any horror film. It’s beautiful, revolting, hilarious, and virtually everything else you could ever want a horror film to be. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

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07. Saturday Night Fever

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“Disco sucks!” You know something, you suck. C’mon, there’s nothing lame about tight-as-hell Italian suits and wickedly talented musicians like The Bee Gees, The Trammps, Walter Murphy, or Kool and the Gang. Nothing. Forty years later, John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever is still as fun to watch as it is to listen to on, well, Saturday nights. Sure, John Travolta’s loser friends are annoying — and somewhat infuriating — but that’s the point, and they only embellish the boyish qualities of our former Look Who’s Talking star. His performance, his dance moves, and that smile is as tasty as the two stacks of pizza he eats during his Brooklyn strut. But what’s really great about this film is how innocent it all feels. Travolta’s relationship with Karen Gorney is so natural and real and offers one hell of a bridge into a glitzy subculture that continues to ooze with magic and mystery. –Michael Roffman

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06. That Obscure Object of Desire

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Mathieu (Fernando Rey) is an old fogey, seemingly obsessed with a beautiful, young woman named Conchita. The radiant Conchita is played by Carole Bouquet, while the Earthy Conchita is played by Ángela Molina. Why? Two reasons. One, That Obscure Object of Desire is an uncanny jest at the often self-centered, tentacle-like obsessions of men, let alone dirty, older men with means. It doesn’t matter who the woman is; these guys don’t see that crystaline when they’re thinking with their pecker. Reason two? Director Luis Buñuel got buzzed with his producer, Serge Silberman, one night and thought having two actresses play the same woman might be kinda funny. Less expensive on his movie overall, as well. The final film from that angel of the avant, That Obscure Object of Desire is bursting with desire, wit, and the kind of so-crazed-it-actually-works invention that Buñuel’s 50-year body of work became heralded in retrospect. Mannered surrealism and maddening man cravings, oh my. This is perhaps the easiest way to put Buñuel’s black comedy. It’s a fitting, aware, and haughty farewell from the art legend. –Blake Goble

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05. Suspiria

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Dario Argento’s supernatural riff on the Italian giallo was originally meant to feature a cast of pre-teen ballerinas, which, when one recalls the film’s buckets of blood, makes for a queasy proposition. When Argento was told that no one enjoys seeing children killed, he swapped in a college-aged ensemble without updating the script. Furthermore, he ensured the dancers still saw the world as children — the characters live on their tiptoes, reaching for precariously high doorknobs. The result is as otherworldly as the occult-centered plot, the fractured structure, and Argento’s garish, obscene color palette, which encompasses vivid pinks, blues, and greens. But Suspiria is defined by its reds, which evoke not the color of blood but a crimson that looks entirely unnatural splashed across the skin of its victims. It’s a living, screaming nightmare, a film that strains not for logic but for the disorientation of your worst nightmare. –Randall Colburn

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04. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

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Talk about an effervescent psalm on the seemingly ominous but honestly quite peaceful relationship between humankind and life from beyond our world; told with breathtaking and innovative effects shot in 70mm, regally triumphant five-note motifs from John Williams, and beautifully bright production design that captures the eye from Joe Alves, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is Spielbergian spectacle that’s out of this world. Or more bluntly, it’s the kind of Big Movie that was still leaving audiences screaming, “Holy macaroni!” just last Fall in 4K re-release. Even today, Close Encounters is real, one-of-a-kind entertainment. It’s a patient, opulent project that so few helmers ever see to fruition, and a no-shit, you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it tale of benevolent first contact. In the decades since, it would take many hands to count creature features with exploding critters and human-slashing creatures, but how many other films like this take the gentile approach to extraterrestrial life? E.T.? (Okay, so maybe this film’s a two-of-a-kind.) The point being, people still look to Close Encounters, in awe, with wide eyes and open hearts. –Blake Goble

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03. Eraserhead

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A few years after directing this one, David Lynch was being discussed as the potential director of a Star Wars movie. Go watch a few minutes of Eraserhead again, and then let that sink in for a moment. But then the movie inspired artists from Tom Waits to Mel Brooks to Stanley Kubrick and continues to be a touchstone for those who give sidelong looks at reality the world over. This is also peak Lynch, the artist on his own with only a small circle of close collaborators, unaffected by mass expectations or business demands — well, at least beyond those of the day jobs the cast and crew took to keep funding going. Much like the spermatozoic creature that floats out of Henry’s mouth at the beginning of the film, this project seems pulled out of the darkest recesses of Lynch’s mind, refusing to compromise or explain itself. It bears repeated viewings, only unfolding more and stranger thoughts, feelings, and analyses. –Adam Kivel

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02. Annie Hall

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Woody Allen’s Annie Hall remains the romantic comedy by which all others are measured. After a decade of farces, Allen took a more serious, if equally hilarious, approach as a filmmaker in his examination of the romantic falling out between neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), a small-town transplant still in search of herself. Alvy wonders where it all went wrong with Annie and spends the film hopping between past and present throughout his life and relationships and analyzing what he finds to both comedic and poignant effect. It’s ahead of its time in its non-linear narrative, Allen and Keaton are timelessly delightful as a mismatched onscreen pair, and the film ultimately sets its sights on an issue as salient as why we keep lining up to be in relationships when so many are doomed to failure. Well, we just need the eggs. –Matt Melis

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01. Star Wars

star wars 1977 Top 10 Movies of 1977

Look, what are we talking about here? It’s Star Wars. You’ve heard of that movie, right? The one that keeps coming out every December. The one that’s become a religion for some people? (No. Seriously.) That wild and zany space movie that made Harrison Ford one of the most bankable stars of all time? The one that changed Hollywood forever. Okay, maybe that’s not so much an accolade, seeing how blockbusters have taken over the medium and art doesn’t even ride shotgun, but is wedged in the trunk. Even so, there’s little disputing the fact that George Lucas’ popcorn classic is one of the most essential films of all time, right up there with the Godfathers, the Gone with the Winds, and the Casablancas. And in hindsight, there’s something charming about its rugged simplicity, you know, back when it was just about a bunch of shaggy idiots trying to save a princess. –Michael Roffman

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