YEAR OF FURIOUS FILMS: 1978
Year of Furious Films is our newest series on FC where we’ll be choosing our favorite films from each designated year. You may notice that we won’t be going in chronological order, it’ll be more random, but that’s really part of the fun. We’ll be covering a wide array of movies from various eras spanning from the 20th century to the modern age. We hope you enjoy these lists and that they’ll inspire you to give the movies a watch or even a rewatch if you’ve already seen them.
When his father and brother are killed by an evil General, young student San-Te (Gordon Liu) seeks revenge by entering a grueling martial arts training course created by Shaolin monks called “The 35 Chambers” which will make him a Master Killer. A highly entertaining, benchmark kung fu classic from the Golden Age of The Shaw Brothers Studios.
American Boy (Dir: Martin Scorsese)
In this engaging documentary, Steven Prince, the actor who played Easy Andy in Taxi Driver, recounts various events (both humorous and tragic) in his life spanning from his childhood to his time working as road manager for Neil Diamond. One of his riveting tales involves a heroin overdose and an adrenaline needle which was later used as the inspiration for a sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
Big Wednesday (Dir: John Milius)
The coming of age tale of three friends, Matt (Jan Michael Vincent) Leroy (Gary Busey) and Jack (William Katt) who ride the waves in Southern California from the early 60s through to the Vietnam War years. Writer-Director John Milius, who was a surfer, brought a deeply moving authenticity to the story which is semi-autobiographical. The surfing sequences are beautifully shot.
Three Detroit auto workers/friends (Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto, Richard Pryor) find themselves resorting to desperate measures due to low pay and neglect. Meanwhile, the Feds are spurning each of them to become informants to undo rampant corruption in their Union. A highly intense drama that had the stars and director at each others throats during filming. Schrader’s explosive directorial debut. Co-starring Lane Smith, Cliff DeYoung, George Memmoli.
Revenge of the Pink Panther (Dir: Blake Edwards)
In the hysterical sixth installment of the series Peter Sellers returns as idiotic French Inspector Clouseau. This time the hijinks involve drug kingpin Phillipe Douvier (Robert Webber) who decides to kill the meddling Clouseau although his attempt goes awry and the bumbling detective survives. Douvier continues with his underworld schemes while Clouseau tries to apprehend him. Co-starring Dyan Cannon, Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk, Robert Loggia and Sue Lloyd.
The Boys From Brazil (Dir: Franklin J. Schaffner )
Aging Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier) discovers that the infamous Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck) saved Hitler’s DNA and had surrogate mothers breed clones of the insane dictator in different parts of the world. A suspenseful, darkly funny fictional thriller. Based on the novel by Ira Levin.
Straight Time (Dir: Ulu Grossbard)
Dustin Hoffman stars as Max Dembo a career criminal who is newly released from prison. Max tries to stay on the straight and narrow but a sadistic parole officer (M. Emmett Walsh) sabotages his efforts and he’s put in jail again. After Max is released he goes back to a life as a professional robber on the run. A crime-character study masterpiece based on a book by Eddie Bunker. Co-starring Gary Busey, Kathy Bates, Theresa Russell and Harry Dean Stanton.
The Boys in Company C (Dir: Sidney J. Furie)
An emotionally arresting look at a group of young Marine recruits (played by Stan Shaw, Andrew Stevens, Michael Lembeck, Craig Wasson) who go from the hectic environment of boot camp to the hell of Vietnam in 1968. One of the first post ‘Nam movies to portray the brutally realistic experiences of the soldiers. Note: This movie also introduced R. Lee Ermey several years before his memorable role in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. See our list of Vietnam War movies.
The Buddy Holly Story (Dir: Steve Rash)
Gary Busey gives a knockout performance as the legendary rock n roll star who tragically died in a 1959 plane crash. Busey seems to be channeling Holly’s spirit in the film and even sings all the classic pop songs himself with precision and panache. Co-starring Don Stroud, Charles Martin Smith and Maria Richwine.
Coming Home (Dir: Hal Ashby)
A married woman (Jane Fonda) meets an old high school classmate (Jon Voight) who has become paralyzed due to injuries he sustained serving in the Vietnam War. As the two friends (who have an anti-war stance) get to know each other again a relationship starts to form. Co-starring Bruce Dern. This Academy Award winning drama was inspired by star Fonda’s friendship with Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic, the man who wrote the book Born on The Fourth of July which would later be turned into a film starring Tom Cruise. See our list of Vietnam Vet movies.
Superman (Dir: Richard Donner)
The legendary DC Comic Book hero explodes onto the silver screen in this epic origin story that takes us from his birth on Krypton to his arrival on Earth to his days working as a mild mannered reporter for The Daily Planet in Metropolis. Starring Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent/Superman and Gene Hackman as his arch nemesis Lex Luthor. TRIVIA: Reeve’s take on Clark was inspired by Cary Grant’s bumbling character in Bringing Up Baby. Co-starring Margot Kidder, Jackie Cooper, Ned Beatty and Marlon Brando as Jor-El.
Convoy (Dir: Sam Peckinpah)
Martin “Rubber Duck” Penwald (Kris Kristofferson) rallies his fellow truckers in a massive protest against corrupt law enforcement through Arizona and New Mexico. Sadly this was Peckinpah’s last good film but he sure went out with furious style. Co-starring Ali MacGraw, Ernest Borgnine, Burt Young, Franklyn Ajaye and Madge Sinclair.
Dawn of the Dead (Dir: George A. Romero)
The second part of Romero’s living dead saga follows a group of survivors holding up in a Pennsylvania mall as the undead hordes find ways to break through their barriers and wreak havoc inside. This horror metaphor for mass consumerism delivers plenty of action, humor and gore FX. Starring David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, Gaylen Ross. It was later remade by Zack Snyder in 2004.
An equally beautiful, haunting and tragic look at the effects war has on people’s lives. It’s very much about innocence lost as three Russian-American friends (Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, John Savage) from a small Pennsylvania factory town become forever changed by their experiences during and after The Vietnam War. Co-starring Meryl Streep, John Cazale, George Dzundza. See our list of Vietnam War movies or our List of Vietnam Vet movies.
THE DRIVER (Ryan O’Neal) is being pursued by THE DETECTIVE (Bruce Dern), a cop who will do anything to get the bad guy, even break the law by setting up a bank job so he can trap his prey who he often refers to as “Cowboy”. O’Neal and Dern have several face/offs in the movie and every one is intense and fun to watch. The breathtaking car chase sequences make it a highly furious experience.
Drunken Master (Dir: Yuen Woo-Ping)
Mischevous young martial arts student Wong Fei Hung (Jackie Chan) is sent to train with the old master So-Hi (Simon Yuen) who teaches him the secret Eight Drunken Styles of fighting. An early example of the kung fu-comedy genre that mixes amazing action/training sequences with sidesplitting screwball humor.
Jimmy “Fingers” Angelli (Harvey Keitel) is debt collector who works for his father (Michael Gazzo) a feared loanshark in NYC. Jimmy is good at his job but he has another ambition which is to become a professional piano player. An intriguing character study that mixes artistic elegance and criminal activities. James Toback’s directorial debut. Co-starring Tisa Farrow, Danny Aiello, Jim Brown.
The Fury (Dir: Brian DePalma)
Newly retired special government agent Peter Sandza’s (Kirk Douglas) teenage son Robin (Andrew Stevens) has special mental powers. It’s soon apparent after Sandza’s associate/friend Childress (John Cassavetes) sets up a hit on him so he can steal Robin for his own twisted purposes that he has something worth killing for. An suspenseful DePalma thriller classic that is often overlooked. Co-starring Amy Irving, Carrie Snodgress, Charles Durning, Dennis Franz, William Finley and Daryl Hannah.
Five Deadly Venoms (Dir: Chang Cheh)
The Five Venoms aka The Toad, The Lizard, The Scorpion, The Snake and The Centipede have trained for several years under the Poison Clan leader. In that time, they have become some of the most extraordinary kung fu artists ever to walk the Earth. When they hear that their old master is going to die, the group want to find where his secret treasure is hidden and the intriguing, action packed adventure begins. A Shaw Brothers kung fu classic. Starring Chiang Seng, Lu Feng, Philip Kwok, Sun Chien, Wei Pai and Lo Meng.
Go Tell The Spartans (Dir: Ted Post )
Burt Lancaster stars as Maj. Asa Barker who’s assigned to a military outpost in South Vietnam. There he must contend with a group of young inexperienced soldiers and fend off attacks by the Viet Cong. An often overlooked film that exposes the stupidity and irrelevance of America’s involvement in the war. Co-starring Craig Wasson, Marc Singer, James Hong, Dolph Sweet.
Halloween (Dir: John Carpenter)
In 1963, a young boy named Michael Myers kills his sister and is committed to a mental hospital. 25 years later he breaks out and heads back to his hometown of Haddonfield to wreak terror on the unsuspecting townspeople. Meanwhile, the local teens including Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) are getting ready for Halloween night, but this will be one they’ll never forget. Their only chance is Michael’s longtime psychologist Dr. Loomis (Donald Plesance) who aims to stop his reign of bloody havoc. Check out our list of horror movies.
A thrilling men on a mission adventure that follows an aging group of mercenaries led by Col. Allen Faulkner (Richard Burton) who are hired by a shady merchant banker named Sir Edward Matheson (Stewart Granger) to rescue Julius Limbani (Winston Ntshona) an imprisoned African leader who is set to be executed by a tribe known as the Simbas.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Dir: Philip Kaufman)
This fantastic remake of the 1954 classic moves the story to San Francisco where a health inspector (Donald Sutherland) and his friends (Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum) discover aliens are replicating humans and trying to form a new society. The paranoid sci-fi chiller features several notable cameos including Kevin McCarthy (star of the original) as a man screaming “They’re Here!” on the street, Don Siegel (director of the original) as a cab driver and Robert Duvall as a priest.
Jaws 2 (Dir: Jeannot Szwarc)
In this follow up to the 1975 blockbuster, another great white shark with a taste for tourists appears off Amity Island leaving Sheriff Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) to try to stop it from attacking his sons and their teenage friends who are out on a sailing excursion. No, it’s not as great as the original but an entertaining, suspenseful adventure nonetheless. Co-starring Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Keith Gordon.
The Last Waltz (Dir: Martin Scorsese)
One of the greatest concert documentaries celebrates rock group The Band’s final performance at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The grand farewell show features a lineup of amazing musician/friends of the group including Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Neil Young, Ronnie Hawkins, Eric Clapton, The Staple Singers and many more. Scorsese’s own love and appreciation of The Band’s music is beautifully captured through this once in a lifetime production.
Hooper (Dir: Hal Needham)
Burt Reynolds is Sonny Hooper aka “The Greatest Stuntman Alive”. The story follows the gregarious daredevil and his faithful friends through trials and tribulations on the set of a fictional movie called “The Spy Who Laughed At Danger”. This exciting action-comedy is an ultimate tribute to the stuntmen and women who often go unrecognized in the movie biz. Co-starring Sally Field, Jan Michael Vincent, James Best, Robert Klein and Brian Keith.
Magic (Dir: Richard Attenborough)
A disturbing, darkly funny psychological thriller about a talented yet tortured ventriloquist (Anthony Hopkins) whose wooden puppet “Fats” drives him to commit murder. Co-starring Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith.
The Eyes of Laura Mars (Dir: Irvin Kirschner)
In this atmospheric psychological thriller, fashion photographer Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) whose aesthetic is violence, possesses psychic powers and gets caught in the center of mysterious string of serial killings which she sees as they happen. Inspired heavily by the popular Italian giallo films of the 70s. Co-starring Tommy Lee Jones, Brad Dourif. Screenplay by John Carpenter.
Midnight Express (Dir: Alan Parker)
In 1970, an American student, Billy Hayes (Brad Davis) is arrested for attempting to smuggle hashish out of Turkey and thrown in prison where he meets a group of oddball inmates whom he befriends. The film vividly shows the brutal, nightmarish atmosphere Hayes had to live in and his numerous escape attempts during his confinement. Based on a true story. Co-starring Bo Hopkins, Randy Quaid, John Hurt. Screenplay by Oliver Stone.
A group of misfit college fraternity brothers, “The Deltas” lead a non stop party of boozing, carousing, peeping, pranking and all out destruction at their small town college. A cult comedy masterpiece starring John Belushi, Tim Matheson, James Widdoes, Peter Riegert, Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst, Mark Metcalf, John Vernon Karen Allen, Donald Sutherland and Verna Bloom.
Piranha (Dir: Joe Dante)
At the Lost River water park vacationers frolic not knowing that a strain of man-eating piranhas created during the Vietnam War have entered the area. Soon the entire place becomes a chaotic bloodfest as the ravenous fishies munch away on their human prey. This rip off of Jaws which substitutes fish for a giant shark is one of the best Eco-terror movies ever made. Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Steele and Dick Miller.
Cheech & Chong’s Up in Smoke (Dir: Lou Adler)
The legendary counterculture standup duo make their film debut in this hilarious cult comedy classic about two pothead musicians Pedro DePacas (Cheech) and Man (Chong) who meet up and go on a blazed out road trip together which culminates with them competing in a punk rock Battle of The Bands at the Roxy in LA. Co-starring Stacy Keach, Zane Buzby, Tom Skerritt.