Apocalypse Now

Weekend Roundtable: Favorite Movie of 1979 (Not ‘Alien’)

Even as amazing as it was, the original ‘Alien’ was not the only great movie released in 1979. Our Roundtable this week looks at some other notable titles that hit theater screens that year.

As a refresher, Wikipedia has a list of movies released in 1979.

Shannon Nutt

I was too young in 1979 to see ‘Alien’ in theaters, but I wasn’t too young to see ‘Rocky II‘, the first ‘Rocky’ movie I ever watched, and still one of my favorites in the series.

Only 9 at the time, I remember feeling that the fight at the end was actually happening live as I watched it. I also remember myself, along with a few hundred adults, screaming at the screen for Rocky to get up in that last round.

The movie was a hit, but it’s never been particularly beloved by critics. Despite that, I think it contains one of the most powerful moments in all of movie history – when Rocky runs and has the children of Philadelphia running with him. I don’t know if it was Stallone or someone else who thought of that, if it was in the original script or thought up on set, but it’s a hugely powerful moment that never fails to move me.

I love the character of Rocky Balboa, and I love ‘Rocky II’.

Brian Hoss

The end of ‘Spartacus’ is cinema gold, the kind that is intertwined with the culture and politics of its era with a near timeless subtlety. When the prisoners’ selfless cry of identity is satirized in ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian‘, it really is no less brilliant. (“I’m Brian, and so’s my wife.”) That’s just one of the reasons why the ‘Life of Brian’ is both an amazing feat and an enduring hilarious classic.

M. Enois Duarte

With so many options to choose from, I’m picking Werner Herzog’s ‘Nosferatu the Vampyre‘ as my favorite film of 1979. It’s a highly-stylized interpretation of F.W. Murnau’s influential 1922 classic, successfully synthesizing traditional horror tropes with the poetic craftsmanship of a skilled master. The arthouse film is continuously immersed in a thick, ominous and atmospheric layer of gloom and death, making it one of the most beautiful and elegant horror features ever created.

With Klaus Kinski’s unearthly performance as Count Dracula, Herzog and cinematographer Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein’s camerawork is simply phenomenal, leaving audiences with eerie images and evocative visuals that continue to haunt me to this day.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

There are so many films from 1979 that mean far more to me, but upon hearing that year mentioned, no movie springs to mind so immediately as ‘The Amityville Horror‘. I share my parents’ lifelong love of horror cinema. For the longest time, my mother semi-jokingly insisted that it was because she watched ‘The Amityville Horror’ while I was still in utero. It was the most terrifying movie she’d ever experienced, and she theorized that her fear and adrenaline somehow filtered its way through her body and into me, leaving me hopelessly addicted to the genre.

I think I was in high school when I finally mustered up the nerve to subject myself to the unspeakable nightmares of ‘The Amityville Horror’ that had been built up in my mind for so many years. I quickly discovered two things. First, ‘The Amityville Horror’ is excruciatingly dull. Essentially nothing happens throughout the entirety of the film. The biggest scare comes in the form of two little red dots meant to signify a demonic pig’s eyes. Second, the copyright date was 1979, so it turns out that I was 8 months old by the time ‘The Amityville Horror’ first roared into theaters. This story my mother had told me for so many years had absolutely no basis in reality! Her memories of this were so vivid that she refused to believe that this is, in fact, a 1979 release.

Josh Zyber

To the best of my memory, the first movie I ever saw at a theater happened in 1979. Unfortunately, Disney’s ‘The Black Hole’ wasn’t exactly a film for the ages. I can’t bring myself to watch it as an adult, but I have no doubt it’s awful.

1979 was a pretty terrific year for movies overall. No disrespect to Oscar’s choice for Best Picture, the emotionally powerful divorce drama ‘Kramer vs. Kramer‘, but Francis Coppola’s amazing ‘Apocalypse Now‘ was in my opinion the greatest work of cinematic art that year. (The other nominees – ‘All That Jazz‘, ‘Norma Rae‘, and ‘Breaking Away‘ – were no slouches either.)

Although it didn’t make Oscar’s Best Picture shortlist, ‘Manhattan‘ remains one of Woody Allen’s best films.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘ burned up the box office charts as sci-fi fans lined up to see their favorite TV show turned into a big-budget movie. While many left disappointed and still dismiss it, I maintain that it’s the franchise’s most underrated entry.

James Bond also went to outer space with the goofy ‘Moonraker‘. It’s not a good movie (typically rated at or near the bottom of the franchise’s ranks), but it has a lot of camp appeal if you look at it as an example of 1970s cheese.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention ‘The Muppet Movie‘. It’s not easy being green.

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What other noteworthy movies from 1979 have we missed? Tell us your favorites in the Comments.

17 comments

  1. I don’t know about favorite, but not mentioned above:

    1941 (1979)
    Dracula (1979)
    Life of Brian (1979)
    Mad Max (1979)
    Murder by Decree (1979)
    Phantasm (1979)
    Tess (1979)
    Time After Time (1979)
    Warriors, The (1979)
    Wise Blood (1979)

  2. JEFFERY T NEVES

    You folks forgot to mention Ursula Le Guinn’s classic (1979) The Lathe of Heaven. I have it on DVD

  3. EM

    Star Trek: The Motion Picture is flawed (Mad Magazine’s parody called it “the birth of a brand new Motion Picture ART Form, where the SPECIAL EFFECTS are ten times MORE INTERESTING than the people, the plot and the dialogue!”), but it is indeed underrated. Despite its antiseptic look, it’s an adventure about people and the human condition—regardless of species affiliation—in the best Star Trek tradition.

    • That film was a snooze. I remember waiting in line for over an hour to see that film and during the last act (when the Enterprise is moving…slowly, oh so slowly…through the V’ger cloud), some guy in our theater yelled out “This is about as much fun as sitting in rush hour traffic!” 🙁

      • EM

        When I’m in traffic, the point is to get somewhere else…maybe to a movie. When I’m at a movie, the point is to enjoy the movie. While some of those SFX sequences are a little overwrought, I enjoy this movie. Heck, if I were stuck in a traffic jam for a couple of hours, I’d be happy to watch the movie while I wait!

  4. photogdave

    Wow, 1979 was an amazing year for movies! The ones that made the most impact on me (aside from the previous mentions):
    All That Jazz: hate it/love it
    The Black Stallion: still looks amazing
    Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Erin Gray! Saw it on a double-bill with STTMP. What an awesome Saturday!
    The Champ: major tear-jerker
    Escape From Alcatraz: don’t drop the soap!
    Meatballs: summer camp was a letdown in real life…
    The Onion Field: memorably graphic murder scene
    Phantasm…
    Rock n Roll High School: The Ramones!
    Lots of other good ones too. I’m also a big fan of Breaking Away and Mad Max.

  5. Thulsadoom

    I’ll have to go with equal billing to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Life of Brian, with Mad Max coming a close second. 🙂

  6. charles contreras

    Dracula was a great movie, along with Nosferatu, I actually run both as a double feature every Halloween. Time After Time is also a favorite, and Meatballs also gets played toward the end of summer, too.

    • EM

      I’d forgotten those versions of Dracula and Nosferatu were both from 1979. So was the silly Love at First Bite. What, had a copyright just expired?

      John Williams’ lovely score for the ’79 Dracula is on my Halloween audio rotation.

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