10 out-of-this-world movies from 1977
#10 – Sorcerer
Directed by William Friedkin. Starring Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer & Francisco Rabal.
William Friedkin, the director behind The French Connection and The Exorcist, is also responsible for this incredible film.
Sorcerer follows four outcasts from various backgrounds who are assigned to transport cargoes of unstable dynamite through the South American jungle. It’s just as dangerous as it sounds.
This film, uniquely chaptered into three parts, four vignettes and an epilogue, initially received overwhelmingly negative reviews and failed to recoup its costs at the box office. But since, critics have hailed it as an overlooked masterpiece and perhaps one of Friedkin’s best.
The filming for this movie was a massive undertaking, with the cast and crew travelling to Paris, Jerusalem, New Jersey, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and New Mexico.
#9 – Eraserhead
Directed by David Lynch. Starring Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart & Allen Joseph.
I’ve gotta be honest, sometimes I think David Lynch isn’t quite right in the head. This movie is a big reason why.
Eraserhead tells the story of a man who is left to care for his grossly deformed child in a dystopian industrial world. It’s a legendary body horror film, so expect to be disgusted.
Initially opening to little interest, this film soon gained a lot of traction as a sleeper classic. Its sound design, surrealist imagery and sexual undertones have been analysed by film critics in the 43 years since. From tiny audiences to an icon of cinema history, it is now preserved in the National Film Registry.
Eraserhead is actually inspired by Lynch’s history animating his own paintings as an art student.
#8 – Smokey and the Bandit
Directed by Hal Needham. Starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field & Jerry Reed.
Ah, Burt Reynolds, we miss you. This is one of his greatest ever roles.
Smokey and the Bandit follows two bootleggers who attempt to drive from Atlanta to Texarkana to pick up 400 cases of beer and transport it back to Atlanta in less than 28 hours. Beer was illegal east of the Mississippi at the time.
This was the second-highest-grossing film of 1977, finishing only behind our number one, which should be obvious to anyone who knows their cinema release dates. Reynolds was a huge drawcard in the 1970s, and in this role, he nails it. The result is a load of infectious fun. It’s hilarious and action-packed.
The cultural impact of this film is not to be understated, inspiring commercials, an annual road trip and even a popular sandwich.
#7 – The Spy Who Loved Me
Directed by Lewis Gilbert. Starring Roger Moore, Barbara Bach & Curd Jurgens.
James Bond can be very hit-or-miss, but The Spy Who Loved Me was one of the best, and certainly Roger Moore’s strongest.
The Spy Who Loved Me is based on the tenth book in Ian Fleming’s novel series, following a reclusive megalomaniac who plans to destroy the world and create a new civilisation under the sea. Lucky Bond has that iconic Lotus Esprit.
This film was nominated for three Academy Awards, which is quite the haul for a Bond flick, and it proved to be a pivotal film for the franchise. The previous instalment, The Man with the Golden Gun, had been both a commercial and critical failure, so this film revived not only Moore’s career but the James Bond film franchise as a whole.
That famous submarine Lotus ended up being sold for over $1.1 million at an auction to one Elon Musk.
#6 – The Rescuers
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery & Art Stevens. Starring Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor & Michelle Stacy.
Disney finally hit back after a few commercial failures with this one. It’s a sleeper Disney classic!
The Rescuers is about the Rescue Aid Society, an international mouse organisation dedicated to helping abduction victims around the world. Two of these mice, Bernard and Bianca, set out to rescue the orphan Penny, who is being held prisoner by a treasure huntress.
Its success was a massive turnaround for Disney, and, as a result, it became the first Disney animated film to have a sequel when The Rescuers Down Under was released in 1990. The cast of Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Michelle Stacy and Geraldine Page makes for a Disney film with all the usual charm that probably gets overlooked too often.
The Rescuers also marked a significant improvement in animation technology, with xerography animation gaining softer outlines and more detailed frames.
#5 – Annie Hall
Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton & Tony Roberts.
Woody Allen really nailed down a comic style in the 1970s that transformed Hollywood comedy.
Annie Hall follows Alvy Singer, who tries to work out the reasons for the failure of his relationship. It’s charming, fun and even the trailer has a magnetic feel to it. Diane Keaton is wonderful in a role written specifically for her.
This film’s screenplay was voted as the funniest ever written by the Writers Guild of America, and they weren’t wrong. It’s a daring film that feels almost like a cartoon, while simultaneously having more depth in its characters and narrative than arguably any other Allen film.
This film is cited today as one that uses both therapy and analysis for comic effect. It identifies the audience’s psychological problems and analyses them, and ends up being funny because it’s relatable! Genius!
#4 – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Directed by John Lounsbery & Wolfgang Reitherman. Starring Sterling Holloway, John Fiedler & Junius Matthews.
Let’s go back to a time when Disney introduced us to some of their most iconic characters.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is the animated anthology of A.A. Milne’s brilliant children’s characters, telling a variety of short stories based on Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends.
Featuring some of the most well-remembered stories, including The Honey Tree, The Blustery Day and Tigger Too, and of course all of your favourite characters including Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore, there’s no question that this collection film is a true Disney great.
This film is one of a few to remain with a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
#3 – Saturday Night Fever
Directed by John Badham. Starring John Travolta, Karen Gorney & Barry Miller.
John Travolta is a disco icon because of this groovy film!
Saturday Night Fever follows Tony Manero, a working-class man who spends his weekends dancing and drinking at a Brooklyn discotheque. It’s a story that encapsulates the entire American zeitgeist of the time, exploring class divide, family life, racial tensions and the restlessness of a younger generation in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
The true winner of this film is, of course, the soundtrack, featuring plenty of The Bee Gees, KC and the Sunshine Band, The Trammps and many more. It was so resoundingly popular that the studio put together a PG-rated version to widen their audience to include younger viewers.
An interesting, albeit slightly sexist fact from the film’s production: Donna Pescow was considered “too pretty” for her role as Annette and corrected the matter by putting on nearly 20kg and relearning her native Brooklyn accent. Misogynistic Hollywood manifest, but kudos to Pescow for the dedication.
#2 – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr & Melinda Dillon.
You know, if this had been released literally any other year, it would have been the defining science-fiction classic of the era. It’s still pretty influential regardless.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of Steven Spielberg’s quintessential classics. Fresh off the tremendous success of Jaws, Spielberg tried his hand at science-fiction, telling the story of a blue-collar worker in Indiana who has an encounter with a UFO.
In my personal opinion, it’s a dark horse for Spielberg’s best. It’s gripping. It’s incredible. I cannot put into words how much I wanted to convince myself to put this at number one, but I couldn’t justify it. It’s one of the greatest blockbuster films of all time, incredibly made on a budget of less than $20 million. And it’s so underappreciated.
Go out now. Go to the library or the DVD shop or Foxtel Go and watch it. It’s one of this film student’s favourites of all time.
#1 – Star Wars
Directed by George Lucas. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford & Carrie Fisher.
Do I even need to say anything here?
Spawning a franchise that has grossed over $10 billion and counting, Star Wars is indisputably one of the most landmark film releases in history. It marked another change in the Hollywood landscape. What Spielberg began with Jaws, Lucas turned into a multi-billion dollar industry and a cultural phenomenon in 1977.
The original film grossed an incredible $775 million from an $11 million budget, won seven Academy Awards, and was immediately hailed as one of the greatest films of all time. Adjusted for inflation today, it has accumulated over $2.5 billion worldwide, making it the most successful franchise film of all time.
There was never any contest. The countdown for 1977 was over before it began. You might say that the Force was with Star Wars.