The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XXXVII)

I gave Colin a giant list of 500 movies, and he finished it. Of course I’m gonna come up with another list.

This one is for everyone, though. Not specifically for Colin. This is raw material for everybody, should they choose, to go out and see more movies. Not all of them are essential. Most of them are just awesome. I told Colin that once he finished this list, I’d give him another one that was more fun than work. Geared toward cool stuff that he’d enjoy.

I went through and found 1,000 more movies that I think either need to be seen (leftover “essential” films) or are just really great and would be enjoyed by most who see them. Here they are:



Sorcerer (1977)

If you’ve seen everything from the original list, then you already know this story. This is a William Friedkin directed remake of The Wages of Fear. It’s the same story, told very differently. But both versions are great. Wages of Fear has a rightful place among the greatest films ever made, but for some reason this one still feels underrated. Either way, see it. You know how engrossing this story is. It’s just as good as Wages of Fear.

An Unmarried Woman (1978)

Jill Clayburgh should have won Best Actress for this. She lost to Jane Fonda, who was also great, but Clayburgh was other level good in this movie. She’s a woman whose husband leaves her for a younger woman, and she has to deal with everything that comes with that. Trust me when I say this movie is really good. 1978 has some great movies in it, and I’d actually say this is a top ten for the year. (It’s also a Paul Mazursky movie, which means good things.)

The Boys from Brazil (1978)

Famous movie. Laurence Olivier is a Nazi hunter who discovers a crazy Nazi plot. If you don’t know what it is, I won’t spoil it for you. But it’s great. Gregory Peck plays Joseph Mengele. It’s a terrific film. See this.

The Brink’s Job (1978)

William Friedkin’s follow-up to Sorcerer. It’s a heist comedy with Peter Falk and Peter Boyle. They rob a Brink’s truck and realize that no one even knows it happened. So they plan to rob the actual Brink’s headquarters. It’s very funny and very underrated. Also stars Allen Garfield, one of the great character actors, Warren Oates, Paul Sorvino and Gena Rowlands.

California Suite (1978)

Neil Simon wrote this. A comedy version of Grand Hotel, essentially. Four stories of guests in the same hotel. All terrific. The first story is Jane Fonda and Alan Alda. They’re divorced. Their daughter ran away from home to be with him, and she’s come to get her. And now they have to deal with what the living situation is going to be and the tension that still exists between them. The second story is Maggie Smith and Michael Caine. She’s a high-strung actress nominated for an Oscar, and he’s her (gay) husband. And she freaks out about everything leading up to the awards. She won an Oscar for this part, ironically. The third story is Walter Matthau. He’s a businessman who wakes up with a hooker passed out in his bed. Problem is, his wife shows up. So he has to hide the hooker and keep her from finding out about all of this. It’s very screwball. And the last story is Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. Two doctors are on vacation with their wives, and they end up in a tennis match, which gets increasingly competitive as times goes on. It’s a really funny movie. Some stories are better than others, but it’s still really good. You can never go wrong with Neil Simon.

The Cheap Detective (1978)

And speaking of Neil Simon. If you saw Murder by Death, this is basically him doing that again. Though, instead of spoofing all the famous literary detectives, he’s spoofing The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca (and Chinatown and To Have and Have Not). It’s really funny. Not as good as Murder by Death, but definitely worth seeing. Also stars Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Louise Fletcher, Ann-Margret, Eileen Brennan, Stockard Channing, Sid Caesar, Marsha Mason, John Housemaan, Abe Vigoda, James Coco, James Cromwell, Paul Williams and Scatman Crothers. Again, if you liked Murder by Death, you’ll like this. It’s Peter Falk doing a parody of Bogart movies written by Neil Simon. Please tell me how you can go wrong.

Coming Home (1978)

This and Deer Hunter were the big films of 1978. They won pretty much all of the Oscars. Jane Fonda and Jon Voight both won for this. She’s a military wife married to Bruce Dern (also nominated). She’s working as a nurse while Dern is overseas and begins a relationship with Jon Voight, who came back home without the use of his legs. Meanwhile, Dern comes back completely shell shocked — it’s really good. Consider this essential.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Unofficial (and indirect) sequel to Night of the Living Dead. You’ve probably seen the Zack Snyder remake of the movie. Which is fine, but it’s not the same as this. This is a movie that makes statements about consumerism, which the Snyder movie does not. This is an all-time classic horror movie and should be viewed as essential.

The Driver (1978)

Yeah. This movie. Ryan O’Neal stars as The Driver. That’s his name. If you’ve seen Drive — it’s the same concept. That’s what he does. Drives people away from robberies. And he’s never been caught. And the movie is about him and the detective (named The Detective) whose only goal is to catch him. Bruce Dern is the detective. Isabelle Adjani and Ronee Blakley also star. Great 70s movie. Great car chases.

The End (1978)

Burt Reynolds directed this movie. And it’s pretty weird. Burt Reynolds is a guy who finds out he has a rare disease and is gonna die, so he spends the entire movie trying to kill himself. And every attempt goes horribly wrong. Dom DeLuise costars as a mental patient who agrees to help him kill himself. Sally Field plays his girlfriend. Myrna Loy (!!!) plays his mother. Joanne Woodward plays his ex-wife. Strother Martin is also in this, Carl Reiner. It’s a weird movie. It’s a screwball comedy about suicide. Check it out. It’s actually funny, in a black comedy sort of way.

Heaven Can Wait (1978)

You know this story. Because it was made three times. First as Here Comes Mr. Jordan, and then after this as Down to Earth with Chris Rock. This is my preferred version of the story. Warren Beatty directs and stars. He’s a quarterback who’s about to play in the Super Bowl, when he dies in a freak accident. And then when he gets up to heaven, he says there’s no way it’s his time. And they realize a mistake was made. He actually wasn’t supposed to die. Only they can’t put him back in his body because he’s been buried. So they put him in a temporary body until they can find him a permanent one. I’ve explained this a bunch, and there’s no way you haven’t seen one of the versions of this story. Just see it. It’s essential, and it’s great. Jack Warden, Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Buck Henry, Vincent Gardenia — great movie.

The Last Waltz (1978)

Concert film. Martin Scorsese directs the final concert of The Band. A great viewing experience. Features appearances by Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Star and Van Morrison. This was made during Scorsese’s cocaine days. Neil Young did so much cocaine during this concert that there was actually a huge glob on his nose that they had to edit out in post. Which is fun. And also the music is great.

Straight Time (1978)

Great crime film. Hidden gem from the 70s. Based on the experiences of Edward Bunker (who people know as Mr. Blue from Reservoir Dogs. And I’m sure people who did what most people do when they get into movies and look into all the trivia and stuff, they likely have heard of this movie through that connection). Stars Dustin Hoffman who is a thief trying to make it straight. But he can never get a break no matter how much he tries. Also features M. Emmet Walsh, Harry Dean Stanton, Gary Busey and a young Kathy Bates. Very underrated movie.

The Wiz (1978)

An all-black version of The Wizard of Oz. Classic musical. Sidney Lumet directs. Diana Ross is Dorothy and Michael Jackson is Scarecrow. Richard Pryor is the Wizard! Great movie. You need to see this.

…And Justice for All (1979)

Trial movie. Al Pacino. Norman Jewison directs. Sneaky great supporting performance by Jeffrey Tambor that no one remembers. Jack Warden, Lee Strasberg, Craig T. Nelson and John Forsythe are also in this. Pacino is a lawyer who has to defend a judge who he hates (and is also guilty). Just see it. Trial movies are always good.

Breaking Away (1979)

GREAT movie. Sports movie. About cyclists. Yeah, yeah, I know. But trust me on this. It’s terrific. The final race is thrilling. Peter Yates was nominated for Best Director for this, and it stars Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley. Must-see. Seriously trust me on this one.

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Prison break movie. Love me some prison break movies. Put these up there with trial movies in that they’re always watchable. This is Clint Eastwood, and it’s one of the greatest prison break movies of all time. It’s about the only people to ever break out of Alcatraz. It’s a really incredible movie. Somehow underrated. I feel like everyone knows it, but I’m surprised by how many people haven’t heard of this one. I grew up with it. I used to watch it all the time on TV. Everyone needs to see this movie.

Going in Style (1979)

Love this movie. Martin Brest directed this. He’d go on to direct WarGames, and Midnight Run, and Scent of a Woman, and Meet Joe Black… and Gigli, and then never work again. It’s actually kind of sad how that went. Anyway — this movie is about three retirees who aren’t getting enough money from their pensions so they decide to rob a bank. Great comedy. George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg star. This is supposedly being remade with Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Alda. Which should be fun.

The Great Santini (1979)

One of the great Robert Duvall performances. One of those “good enough to win” performances that just happened to go up against someone he couldn’t beat. (He lost to De Niro in Raging Bull.) He’s a marine pilot who constantly clashes with his son. Duvall is just a force of nature in this movie. The movie is more about Michael O’Keefe (Danny Noonan from Caddyshack) as his son, but Duvall is clearly the focus of the movie. He’s great here. A lot of great character work and a really good movie.

The In-Laws (1979)

Serpentine! This is one of the all-time great comedies. Peter Falk and Alan Arkin. A perfect movie. Essential. Just see this movie and don’t think twice.

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