1977 was a strange year for movies. It might not have had quite as many huge, classic releases as other years, but it did house at least one movie set long ago in a galaxy far, far away that can be considered one of the biggest and most important of all time. Maybe that drowned out other contenders at the box office, to some extent. Either way, there were still plenty of cult classics that saw release in 1977, and that aforementioned space opera is far from the only 1977 movie worth remembering.
In fact, all the following titles from 1977 either hold up as major (or minor) classics, or feel criminally overlooked to the point where it’s easy to label them as underrated. They’re all worthy of your time, should you find yourself in the mood for something a little older, and are ranked below in (roughly) ascending order, starting with the good and ending with the legendary.
10‘Saturday Night Fever’
The movie that’s famous for featuring “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees in its opening isn’t the 1983 movie called Staying Alive. That 1983 movie is the sequel to 1977’s Saturday Night Fever, which is the movie that’s well-known for featuring the endlessly catchy Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive.” Ah, ah, ah, ah, indeed.
Saturday Night Fever is best known for housing one of John Travolta’s most acclaimed and iconic performances, as he plays a young working-class man who spends much of his weekends drinking and dancing, and many of his weekdays clashing with his family and co-workers. It’s a surprisingly gritty and sometimes uncomfortable watch, but it largely works as an intense character study that’s also a celebration of sorts for 1970s music and aesthetics.
Just about every David Lynch movie could be classified as strange or weird, but few venture quite as deeply into bizarre territory as his debut feature film, Eraserhead. At its core, it follows a young man whose child ends up being very peculiar and inhuman, and shows all the ways he struggles to care for the child while keeping a shaky grip on his sanity.
Much of the movie plays out like a remarkably unpleasant dream, and given it gets more intense and unusual as it goes along, it ends up feeling like a nightmare by the end. This kind of surreal and unnervingly psychological horror movie probably isn’t for everyone, but those who like the genre at its most offbeat do need to check out Eraserhead, if they somehow haven’t already.
8‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’
There was room for more than one great sci-fi movie in 1977, as Close Encounters of the Third Kind demonstrates. It might not have kick-started a franchise or been part of a nine-movie saga, but then again, it’s also not that kind of science-fiction movie, and excels at telling a direct and entirely complete story within a single runtime.
The narrative here follows a man who becomes dangerously obsessed with UFOs after an encounter with one, and the way this causes tension within his family life. It’s a more grounded sort of sci-fi story than is usually seen in blockbusters, but it still delivers plenty of spectacle and tons of impressive imagery, and its slow-burn story is ultimately told and directed incredibly well by a (still surprisingly young) Steven Spielberg.
The less you worry about the exact plot in Suspiria, the better. This is a film that is unabashedly about style over substance, and when it looks and sounds as good as it does, you won’t really care about anything else. That it uses its technical aspects to be unnerving and at least a little scary at points also helps.
Technically, it’s about a young woman who finds out that there might be some sort of supernatural horror lurking at a prestigious dance school she’s just joined. The whole thing builds in intensity as she appears to get closer to the truth, and inevitably explodes by its simultaneously dark and colorful finale. Few movies feel the way Suspiria does, and it’s worth watching for those unique technical qualities alone.
Okay, for as strange as the aforementioned 1977 cult classic horror film Suspiria was to summarize, House is even more bizarre and incomprehensible (in the best way possible). It’s a combination of slapstick comedy, absurdism, and horror, and is all combined in a way that would have surely influenced a young Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, had they seen it before making any of the Evil Dead movies.
It’s about a group of young people in an isolated house, and the various supernatural entities that torment them once they’re there, as always seems to happen in horror movies. But that simple premise isn’t able to cover most of the truly bizarre and otherworldly things that happen, with House emerging as an assault on the sense that’s still funny, bewildering, and oddly charming to this very day.
3 Women is one of Robert Altman’s most acclaimed films, which is certainly saying something given his reputation and general creative consistency over a decades-long career. It follows two women who meet through their work, become housemates, and then have an odd relationship with each other where their personalities seem to begin merging.
It’s a psychological drama, albeit a very slow one, and a mystery film that’s more keen to ask questions rather than give answers. The result can be a confounding and sometimes plodding watch, but the visuals and the performances do make it captivating, and also give the film a quality that makes it feel unshakable in hindsight.
A rare remake that most would say at least equals the original, Sorcerer takes the 1953 French film The Wages of Fear and makes it considerably darker and a little more modern. Both films have the same core premise: several men find themselves needing money, and so they agree to take on a dangerous mission involving the transport of explosive material through rough terrain.
In the right hands, a thriller with such a straightforward premise can be made into something great, and here, the film was in the very capable hands of William Friedkin. Friedkin had mastered the art of getting viewers on edge by the late 1970s, as shown in movies like The French Connection and The Exorcist, with Sorcerer being another nail-biting (plus underrated) classic in his filmography.
Easily ranking among the greatest Russian-language movies of all time, The Ascent is a powerful, dark, and engrossing anti-war film. It takes place during World War Two, and follows two Soviet soldiers who undertake a dangerous mission to seek food, only to encounter German soldiers on the way, with a chaotic and tragic plot unfolding thereafter.
Few movies will make viewers feel quite as cold as The Ascent, as it arguably captures the harsh conditions its characters face in slightly too vivid detail. It’s also very downbeat and overall grim, as films about the reality of war should be, though that makes it an impactful and remarkable one for any viewers who don’t mind watching something that’ll send a chill down their spines in more ways than one.
Woody Allen is as prolific as he is problematic, and public opinion about him has soured in recent years, thanks to various allegations and scandals. It’s understandable that some wouldn’t want to revisit his earlier work with the knowledge of what happened later, though of his earliest films, Annie Hall is perhaps the one that holds up the best.
It felt groundbreaking at the time for having a fresh take on the romantic-comedy genre, and was awarded with several Oscars, including Best Picture. For the most part, this film is one that still holds up (unlike say 1979’s Manhattan, which is a less comfortable Woody Allen movie nowadays), and it was undeniably an important 1970s release.
As Radiohead might say (if one or more members were reading this), there are “no alarms and no surprises” with this #1, seeing as the original Star Wars is undeniably the best film of 1977. This was the world’s introduction to the Force, an eternal battle between good and evil, lightsabers, Luke, Han, and Leia, and all those initial iconic themes by John Williams.
Sequels have arguably surpassed 1977’s Star Wars in scope or maybe even quality, but they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for this film working as well as it did. It’s a self-contained story, sure, but it also implies further adventures could continue, and viewed either way, it’s remarkably satisfying. As it qualifies among the greatest films of the entire 20th century, calling it the best film of 1977 feels like a no-brainer .Reed more