The B+ Movie Guide: Part XXXV

In May of 2012, Colin said I should make a list of movies that need to be seen, because he felt there were huge gaps in what he’d seen, and wanted something to do. The idea was that I’d make up a list, as “homework” for him, and he’d use that as things to watch.

So we came up with a giant list of 500 movies that worked, and Colin went about finishing it. And now that it’s finished, we’re gonna write it up. Because you don’t watch a giant list of movies without documenting that you did it.

We’re going through the entire list, little by little, for posterity’s sake. And here’s the next set:


Days of Heaven (1978)


To me, this is Terrence Malick’s finest film. It’s gorgeous. This is one of the most beautiful looking movies of all time. This needs to be seen by all. (2)


This is a lot more beautiful than Badlands and a lot easier to watch, too. That’s all there really is to it, though — I wasn’t super drawn in by the story or the acting. It just looks really great. When things look that good, that’s good enough for me.


The Deer Hunter (1978)


This was one of the first movies I saw that really got me into movies. I saw this when I was… oh, maybe 13. I hadn’t really seen a lot of good movies at that point. That is to say, I wasn’t into movies yet. Hadn’t seen the early movies you see by that point. Pulp Fiction, The Godfather, Goodfellas. The early ones. Hadn’t seen them. I remember watching this with friends at someone’s house and actually having that moment of, “Wow. This is really incredible.” There’s something so great about this movie. Also a Best Picture winner. And Supporting Actor for Christopher Walken. Just amazing. The cast alone. This was Michael Cimino’s Almost Famous. He never was quite the same after this. (2)


This is a pretty good movie. The way I look at it is like — it’s Bambi, but from the other side.


Grease (1978)


Honestly, if you haven’t seen it by now, you might want to rethink how you’ve lived your life thus far. (1)


Another Travolta movie that sort of captures a demographic and a generation and uses music to deliver a spectacular package. This movie is a cultural institution at this point, isn’t it? Everyone knows the greaser look and the whole Greased Lightning thing. And Olivia Newton John as a sex symbol. I’m trying to think of an earlier film that did the whole good-girl-gone-bad thing, and I’m drawing a blank. When she comes out as a greaser girl, it’s pretty hot. Nothing wrong with American musicals.

Halloween - 16

Halloween (1978)


This is a perfect horror movie. It’s weird. There aren’t that many horror movies I out and out love. This is one of them. It’s really low budget, but that only seems to help it. Carpenter invents a whole different type of horror movie with this, by putting you in the POV of the killer, and really using silence and stillness (and score. Man that score is great) to scare the shit out of you. (2)


The only way you can describe this movie is “archetypal.” You know they got it from Psycho, and it then spawned about 826 other slasher movies featuring teenage girls. I love the way they set this up, with the urban legend about the kid and Donald Pleasence showing up as the boy’s psychiatrist who knows what’s wrong with him and what he’s capable of. Nothing freaks you out more than a mental health professional telling you that there’s cause for alarm. The POV of the killer, and how he murders all those people like it was Tuesday.

Actually, I checked, and in 1978, Halloween did indeed fall on a Tuesday.


Magic (1978)


Oh man. This movie. No one knows about this one. But this is one I make people see. It’s so good. Anthony Hopkins is a magician trying to make it. It doesn’t go well because he doesn’t have the personality to impress an audience. So he comes back as a ventriloquist. He has a dummy named Fats who is foul-mouthed and has all the personality he himself lacks. And that gets him his own TV show. The only problem is — he’s got some problems. He can’t control Fats. He thinks they’ll find out about it. Meanwhile, he hides out upstate at a motel run by a former girlfriend of his, who he still loves but is married. And the movie — it’s so good. We see him start to lose his shit as Fats slowly starts taking over. Trust me when I say this movie is incredible. The two scenes that are absolutely perfect are when Burgess Meredith tells Hopkins to prove that he can not say anything for an two minutes as Fats, and when Hopkins tries to do the magic trick with Ann-Margret. This is a perfect movie. (3)


Wow, was this messed up. I watched this after one of my “breaks” in the movie list, during which I’d veg out and do whatever, like watching Netflix and stuff. During that particular break, I had watched a bunch of the show Trailer Park Boys, which is pretty funny. On that show, Bubbles has this puppet named Conky who shows up like three times in eight seasons, and every time, he completely takes over and makes Bubbles do his bidding. At one point, you see and hear him talking while Bubbles is drinking a beer. But I had no idea until I saw this like a week later that they had gotten that plot device from Magic. And the movie is SO much more messed up than anything the Trailer Park Boys ever did. This movie makes you cherish your sanity and worry that you might one day begin to lose it. This guy knows that he’s a lost cause, for the most part, but he just can’t do anything about it and has to sit by as this ventriloquist dummy ruins his life. It’s shocking.

Midnight Express (1978)


Have you ever been in a Turkish prison? (3)


No, and I won’t every be in one cause I’m never going to Turkey, now that I’ve seen this movie. This movie was so successful in freaking people out about Turkish prisons and Turkey in general that the guy whose real-life experiences it’s based on eventually returned to the land of his hellish captivity to apologize for so badly smearing the Turkish people and their country. He was locked up in one of the most inhumane, terrifying places for years without any legal rights, and he ended up apologizing to THEM. That’s how messed up this movie is.

Now, I’ve read his apologies to the Turkish people and his admissions that the film should not prevent anyone from visiting the country, which he claims has a lot to offer. And after careful consideration, I’ve decided never to go anywhere near that country anyway.

Superman (1978)




What a whack superhero. Saw this as a kid, like twice. Don’t hate the movie, but I do hate the superhero. As I hate many superheros.

Alien - 37

Alien (1979)


This is the best Alien movie of the franchise. I don’t care what people say about the Cameron version. This is the one. This might also be Ridley Scott’s best movie. (2)


This movie is so much better than the others! It’s a psychological horror movie instead of a straight action movie. Normally, I’m going for the latter, but in this case it works perfectly for some reason. The cast is great, first of all. We don’t rely on a whole lot of explosions, secondly. There are a lot of classic horror kills without showing you too much. And there’s an evil android character, which is kind of a prerequisite for sci fi movies of this era. I don’t know if I call it Ridley Scott’s best, because that’s a whole different discussion, but this is by far the best of the franchise. And the xenomorph is magnificent. Since I don’t think we’re going to have another chance on this list, I’ll just say it here because I love this word: Predalien. 

All That Jazz (1979)


This is one of my five or six favorite movies of all time. It’s perfect. A lot of people prefer Cabaret, but I think this is Fosse’s masterpiece. This is such a perfect movie. It’s a musical by Bob Fosse about Bob Fosse. Essentially. He made a movie about how he’s killing himself. I’m not kidding. One of the greatest finales in the history of cinema.


Did you ever wonder what Bob Fosse thinks about how Bob Fosse Bob Fosses? I also prefer All That Jazz to Cabaret if only because… they could have just called it “Cry for Help.” He’s on drugs and stuff the whole movie, and it’s a movie about the guy making Lenny and putting on a musical at the same time. Do you understand how ballsy it is to make a movie in which the character playing you almost dies from overexertion from taking drugs and chainsmoking while having affairs and MAKING A MOVIE? You want to ask, “Oh, but I’m sure it was a totally different process with THIS movie that we’re watching RIGHT NOW, right?” The man had a high opinion of himself, and it was actually sorta justified.


Apocalypse Now (1979)


No gif. This movie is perfect. One of the greatest accomplishments in cinema history. (2)


Don’t you think there should be an all-cat version called “A-Paw-calypse Meow?”

Seriously, though, I saw the Redux edition in high school, and ever since then, I quote Chef every now and again when someone invites me to go somewhere.

“Oh, I’ll go with you… but on the boat!”

– – – – – – – – – –

Final Thoughts:


The only one you can say isn’t essential is Magic, but I’m telling you — see that movie. All the others should rightfully appear on a list of essential movies. And if you want to say no Superman — that movie is incredibly culturally essential. Essential movies are not all Kurosawa, you know?


See, he says that, but I’m betting we still have fewer Kurosawa on this list than… never mind. I can do my own Japanese list some other time. Today’s stuff is essential as HELL. That’s the thing about the 70s — there are so many movies that are now considered essential for film fans. And while they’re amazing, they’re heavier and less fun to just put on. Even as longer, serious movies go. Like, I am still in awe of Apocalypse Now a decade after I first saw it, but I would never just put it on and smile at it like I do with Lawrence of Arabia. I’ll watch it again in another two years or so, and then it’ll be tucked away for another five years after that. That’s how I feel about a lot of the 70s movies; they’re almost all movies that I needed to have seen, and almost none of them are movies I need to BE SEEING. It’s like in a car collection, you have the cars that are super fun to drive (Bringing Up Baby) and the cars that are a little too valuable to take out more than a few times a year (The Deer Hunter). You still love and respect it, perhaps more than the others, but you’re not going to take it out often for fear of wear and tear.

– – – – – – – – – – –

More movies tomorrow.

One response

  1. BlueFox94

    “Essential movies are not all Kurosawa, you know?”

    Okay, I get that outside of Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo, all the other Kurosawa films are not entirely essential.

    That being said…any Star Wars fanatic who has not seen The Hidden Fortress is doing something wrong.

    And personally, Kagemusha and Ran are emotionally crippling films (just as much as Ikiru, but three times as extravagant and with full-on Shakespearean tragedy).

    That’s before the fact that Kagemusha came about because the guys who made The Godfather and Star Wars wanted to help their struggling directing idol so much that they funded that film (when have moviemaking giants ever gone back to help their spiritual, probably lesser known mentors in their late-career films?) and that Ran was expensive as hell, that Kurosawa’s absence at the premiere caused the film to not be submitted for the Foreign Language Film Oscar (which goes to show why the Academy’s one nation-one film submission thing is flawed), and that it compelled Sidney Lumet to instigate a successful campaign to get Kurosawa a Best Director nomination instead (though Costume Design was a nice consolation prize for the film in the end).

    August 11, 2015 at 2:44 pm

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