The Top Ten Movies of 1977
Last time we looked at 1927, the year that sound cinema took Hollywood by storm and changed moviemaking forever. 1977 is just about as big a watershed, as the blockbuster era presaged by Jaws was confirmed by the advent of Star Wars. I use messianic language purposefully, as Star Wars brought the Chosen One monomyth firmly back into the center of our cultural consciousness, and it’s never really left since.
Star Wars wasn’t the only thing happening in 1977; though George Lucas’s space opera rightfully swept the technical Academy Awards, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall was the big winner in the major award categories, rewarding his shift from pure comedy to a more serious and thoughtful mode that would dominate much of the rest of his career. Flickchart’s eclectic list honors these two monumental achievements, but also has room for surrealism, sports comedy, foreign arthouse, intense thrillers, first contact, baroque horror, and whatever the hell Hausu is. If you’re looking for an excellent and varied watchlist, you can do worse than this batch of 1977 films.
In Luis Buñuel‘s final film, the act of storytelling is manifested on screen in a very literal manner, allowing for a maturity and depth that some of his other surrealist provocations lack. “That woman is the foulest woman who ever lived,” begins Mathieu (Fernando Rey), as he recounts the demise of his relationship with an eighteen-year-old girl to an attentive audience of fellow first class passengers aboard a train en route to Paris. Portrayed on screen interchangeably by two actresses (Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina), Mathieu’s former lover Conchita is revealed to be a girl from a humble background. Struggling to reign her in, Mathieu begins attempting to seduce her with his wealth, but Conchita isn’t the kind of girl who will be easily reeled in for Mathieu’s personal pleasure.
That Obscure Object of Desire manages to balance the past and the present in a lively manner while dealing with themes as disparate as erotic desire and the often comical diminishing appeal of the bourgeoisie’s “charm.” Elaborate camera movements and in-camera tricks for scene transitions aide in presenting the events on screen as a visual stream of consciousness. Sublimely disrupting the film’s flow on a few occasions, terrorist attacks (which are typical of Buñuel’s late French period) serve as cinematic devices for real-world surrealism and sprinkle the narrative with bursts of unexpected violence – The Revolutionary Army of The Infant Jesus can attack at any moment! The attention paid to terrorism and the manner in which it is spoken of is quite prophetic in regard to the post-9/11 present, which is particularly striking. There’s much that can be gleaned from Buñuel’s films, and even though this is the last film he made, it’s a rewarding place to begin delving into his extensive body of work. – Grant Douglas Bromley
Global Ranking #847
Ranked 7879 times by 442 users
Wins 51% of its matchups
Nobuhiko Obayashi was primarily an ad man before his debut film, Hausu, launched his still-running career as a feature film director. The rawness of a debut effort makes or breaks Hausu for some viewers. Its genre falls somewhere between horror, comedy, satire, and avant-garde filmmaking. The premise is plain enough – six high school girls go on a summer trip to an aunt’s haunted home in the country – but the execution is an exercise in absurdity. An early scene involves a man getting stuck in a bucket and falling down stairs in stop-motion photography, for example, while a late scene depicts a paper cutout of one of the cast members’ limbs flying out of a hell portal to kick a painting of a cat.
Hausu exists in layers; on the surface is an absolute absurdist avant-garde comedy. Its motifs are referenced in everything from The Legend of Zelda to My Chemical Romance songs. The kinetic energy compares to little before or afterward. It’s so cheery, the music is so dopey, and it conveys so much enthusiasm for existing. Underneath that comedy is a sense of genuine despair, though, at the roles women may choose between in Japanese culture. The witch-aunt has a backstory that gives new flavor to a common narrative, and the high schoolers (literally named for their dominant traits, e.g. “Gorgeous,” “Kung Fu,” “Melody”) represent tropes for young women in Japanese television, light novels, and anime. Some of the later sequences, through some really wonderful and trippy visuals, speak to a real sadness and horror that affects me more than many more serious horror films. Maybe that melancholy won’t come across to most viewers, but hopefully they’ll have as much fun as I did with horror-comedy scenes like the man-eating piano. – Alex Lovendahl
Global Ranking #757
Ranked 16381 by 838 users
Wins 54% of its matchups
William Friedkin is a director whose genius is defined by its sadism. He makes art arise from showing us the excruciations of actors and characters in the course of telling unblinkingly improbable stories. Sorcerer will be remembered as one of the greatest feats of filmmaking, right up there with Fitzcarraldo, but where the latter (could be said to have) failed to transcend “artistic stunt” due to its pacing and unrelatable characters, in Sorcerer the palpable danger to cast and crew is used to fuel the white-hot intensity of the characters, and our feelings about them.
The plot is ludicrously simple to explain and to dismiss as typical far-fetched Hollywood popcorn-fodder: four sketchy expatriates must truck unstable nitroglycerin through the South American jungle to stop an oil fire. It sounds like a joke movie starring Rainier Wolfcastle. It should be too stupid to work on the screen. But the patience with which we watch each character acknowledge the ridiculousness of the task, and then push past it driven by their desperation, allows us to make that journey into sincerity along with them. It is that same sadistic Friedkinian patience that wears down our nerves as we watch strong men piss themselves with fear for hours on end. And as our minds and theirs bleed raw from the tension, Tangerine Dream’s score gets weirder and spacier and louder, until the actual resolution of the plot becomes secondary to a kind of hallucinatory tensiongasm, which is simultaneously a very ’70s answer to the problem and also the only possible way to craft an ending to this piece.
Sorcerer is often lauded/mourned as the end of New Hollywood in the face of the coming onslaught of the Blockbuster Era, and it is useful to observe the balance which it strikes between brick-simple storytelling and emotional heat and complexity. It stands as an apotheosis of the “artistic Hollywood film” before such things became an academic curiosities. – Doug Van Hollen
Global Ranking #725
Ranked 8432 times by 388 users
Wins 56% of its matchups
7. 3 Women
When you’ve seen MASH and Nashville and The Player on the one hand and McCabe and Mrs Miller and The Long Goodbye on the other hand, you may think you have a pretty good handle on Robert Altman: egalitarian ensemble casts, usually delving into the idea of “America” in some way, lovingly pastiching earlier film tropes while also subverting them. Yeah, that about covers it. Then you watch 3 Women and you realize you have to reassess everything you knew about everything.
This film is a fever dream of shifting identity, none of it totally clear and all of it rather creepy and definitely awkward (Altman has even said that he got the idea from it in a dream, and I believe it). Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek, both in full weird mode, are the main two of the three women of the title, and they have a Persona-like relationship that shifts from mentor-mentee to idolized/idolator to co-dependent roommates to an almost vampiric symbiosis as they feed on each other emotionally. The third woman initially seems like a grounding influence, but that would be too easy. This is not an easy movie, but it is an unforgettable one. – Jandy Hardesty
Global Ranking #632
Ranked 14975 times by 546 users
Wins 54% of its matchups
6. Slap Shot
Permanently ensconced in the pantheon of legendary sports movies but for none of the usual reasons, Slap Shot is better viewed as a comic satire than any kind of legitimate celebration of the sport of hockey. The scenes on the ice are well executed and filmed, and the verisimilitude of men (Paul Newman included) who seem to have lived their lives on skates is beautifully rendered. But the film isn’t really *about* hockey. It’s “about” hockey the way that The Deer Hunter is “about” Vietnam, or the way that the 2016 US election was “about” Donald Trump. Really it’s just a big ballsy metaphor/lightning rod/McGuffin to talk about the Rust Belt collectively dealing with the emotions surrounding the (perceived) decline of the American Dream.
Yet the structure and “meaning” of the film, though easily explained (or explained away), do not capture the magic that is undeniably on the screen, and 70% of that magic pours through Paul Newman’s sexy blue eyes. His genius throughout his career has been in nailing down precisely how intelligent his characters are and then never violating that reality. Here we get to see him play a guy who is shrewd but neither booksmart nor soul-smart. The simplicity of his earnestness and joy in the game carry us along with him to his bizarre (even to him) conclusion that it’s not hockey per se but *brawling* that will bring him the spiritual “win” that he needs at this late point in his (and America’s) life and career.
Slap Shot is a movie whose logic doesn’t quite come from our world, but what do we know, anyway. We’ve never *really* worked a day in our lives, and we have no idea what *winning* used to mean to our parents and grandparents. – Doug
Global Ranking #501
Ranked 36357 times by 2853 users
Wins 51% of its matchups
David Lynch’s reputation as the leading modern surrealist director is well established by now. His movies defy logic and explanation offering only powerful emotional nuggets for your to grasp and attempt to understand. The film that started it all is Eraserhead, a film constructed over a period of years when Lynch had the money, time, and space. Many viewers find Eraserhead a frustrating experience or simply too weird to do more than boggle at and decide to never view it again. I, however, love this movie.
While Mulholland Drive may be his strongest effort, Eraserhead is a close second. No other film in Lynch’s repertoire captures raw powerful emotion as truthfully as Eraserhead. Lynch’s dread of parenthood oozes from this film, even in the dancing turkey scene. The film’s starch black and white photography combined with Lynch’s eventual trademark ominous droning score make for a hellish experience. The world of Eraserhead is one of tall intimidating industrial buildings that present a harsh uncaring face to our “protagonist.” From there, Lynch fills the film out further with unforgettable imagery and truly bizarre performances.
The entire tone of the film feels off and leaves you with a sense of unease and dread. A monstrous mutant child cries endlessly grating into the eardrums of both the viewer and Jack Nance’s aloof character. Bizarre ladies live inside boilers. Universal collisions of cosmic rocks are this film’s version of intercourse. If this all sounds utterly insane and bonkers, it only scratches the surface. If you keep in mind the main thematic thesis – fear of fatherhood– you may find Eraserhead a perfect translation of an abstract emotion into film. – Connor Adamson
Global Ranking #497
Ranked 63475 times by 4597 users
Wins 48% of is matchups
Fifteen years ago, I gathered with several other Wyoming campers and watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind outside, at Devils Tower National Monument, under the shadow of that most iconic of igneous intrusions. If you’re neither a film nerd nor a national parks nerd, Devils Tower was the United States’ first “national monument” as well as the aliens’ rendezvous landmark at the climax of the film. It’s the thing Richard Dreyfus was carving in his mashed potatoes. (If you’re not a geology nerd, you’ll just have to look up “igneous intrusion” on your own.)
I had seen Close Encounters once before, in my early teens, but its wonder was overshadowed by its troubling theme of a father abandoning his family, surely traumatizing his children in the process. I still find it troubling, but many of my favorite films trouble me in some way. (And if you’re a Spielberg nerd like me – I’m many kinds of nerd, it seems – you’ll find the manner in which the director explores this theme important in the grand scheme of his entire body of work and his maturing views on fatherhood.) On this second viewing, however, the wonders of the film did the overshadowing, from John Williams’ wonderful music to those beautiful spaceships to the grandeur of Devils Tower itself. If you ever get the opportunity to watch an iconic film centered on a real iconic landmark with the silhouette of said landmark looming behind the screen, I highly recommend it. – Tom Kapr
Global Ranking #274
Ranked 367520 times by 37865 users
Wins 52% of its matchups
Dario Argento had long been tearing it up on the Italian film circuit with his slasher giallo films before he directed the acclaimed Suspiria. All of those bloody killer movies were all wind-ups for Argento defining who he would be as a horror director with this film. Set around a dance academy run by Satanists, this atmospheric horror is a blueprint for creating unease and nerve-racking tension. The plot is often criticized for being vague and difficult to follow, but this is by intention as Argento endeavors to pull you in and then leave you lost.
The film’s music comes courtesy of prog rock band Goblin, who create one of the most distinctive film scores in the horror genre and in general. Bright vibrant use of color combined with grandiose shots leave you in awe as all manner of oddities occur to our protagonist. Film is a multisensory experience, and Suspiria is the kind of horror that understands the medium in full. You can do nothing but sit back and experience the movie in all of its scream-inducing strangeness. – Connor
Global Ranking #264
Ranked 45225 times by 2697 users
Wins 54%o of its matchups
2. Annie Hall
Ask anyone what the greatest Woody Allen movies are and almost inevitably Annie Hall will make people’s lists. Allen has had his successes as both a comedic and a dramatic filmmaker since then, but back in 1977, Annie Hall served as a bridge between the two genres. While it has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments (the scene where Marshall McLuhan appears in our narrator’s fantasy to correct a pretentious know-it-all is especially delightful), it’s painted in much less broad strokes than Allen’s earlier slapsticks and satires. The humor comes out of everyday humanity, our fantasies, misunderstandings, and awkwardness, rather than style parodies or over-the-top situations. Honestly, the comedy is so organic to the story that I occasionally forget to even label it a comedy, though of course it is. For me, it’s the dramatic element that sets this movie apart: a gentle look at a relationship falling to pieces and being remembered not with bitterness or a sense of tragedy, but with a nostalgic fondness for how good things once were. That nostalgia at the movie’s core not only softens dialogue that would be overly acerbic in another film, but it has helped the film age gracefully. It still works a romantic comedy for cynical viewers, and a break-up movie for viewers who like happy endings. This movie has been in my personal chart’s top 10 for years, but it successfully tickles funny bones and warms hearts for a whole lot of other Flickchart users as well, thus ensuring it a high spot on the global 1977 chart. – Hannah Keefer
Global Ranking #126
Ranked 283552 times by 21514 users
Wins 57% of its matchups
1. Star Wars
Not only is Star Wars the Best Film of 1977, it is the #1 film of all time on Flickchart. While some may almost immediately dismiss this fact as pure fanboy fawning, it’s worth taking a moment to think about: Of over 63,000 titles in the Flickchart database, this is the one that users have chosen as THE BEST.
What can one say about Star Wars that hasn’t been said before? Probably nothing, but here’s the thing: if Jaws is the movie that created the blockbuster, Star Wars is the movie that defined it. Here are just a few of its object lessons that every tentpole is (or should be) aping to this day:
- A weathered, lived-in look adds legitimacy to even the most outlandish fantasy worlds.
- The right musical score can elevate anything if it pushes the right buttons.
- Having a villain worth fearing is half the battle.
- Women can kick butt, too.
- Here’s one that some blockbusters tend to forget lately: You can have deadly serious, literally world-shattering events, but don’t forget to have a little fun, too. (After Rogue One skewed a little too dark for my personal preference, I can only hope The Last Jedi remembers this one.)
Yes, Star Wars taught Hollywood everything about how to build a blockbuster, from creating realistic, mind-blowing visual effects (hello, Industrial Light & Magic) to how to package the movie (don’t forget the merchandising!) George Lucas may get a lot of flak from overzealous prequel-haters, but let’s never forget that he created one of the most perfect films in all of movie history. May the Force be with you, indeed. – Nigel Druitt
Global Ranking #1
Ranked 1086204 times by 90214 users
Wins 77% of its matchups