Turning 40 can be terrifying for some people, while others claim to feel their best at that point in life. But one thing is certain: several movies that turned 40 this year remain some of the best around. 1978 was an epic year when it came to the cinema. Some releases became absolute classics, and with good reason. Check out our list below to see just how spectacular moviemaking was 40 short years ago.
This movie introduced Christopher Reeve to the world, and he has arguably been the most well-known Superman since. But we also can’t forget that we got to enjoy performances by Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando in this epic film. Margot Kidder rounds it out and we get dynamic chemistry between Lois Lane and Clark Kent. While this wasn’t the first Superman (nor the last), it is potentially the most memorable. (Plus several Supermen since have taken cues from our pal, Reeve.)
Who doesn’t love a movie where John Travolta gets to do a dance sequence (or several)? Nearly every song from this film is burned into our collective memory. (I dare you to hear “Grease” or “You’re the One That I Want” and not sing along.) And we can’t look past the number of actors in the stellar cast who went on to have lucrative careers: Travolta (of course), Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, and Didi Conn. Plus we all secretly wanted to be in the crew with Danny and Sandy.
5. National Lampoon’s Animal House
Watching this acts as a huge reminder of the incredible loss of John Belushi. His brand of comedy was unique and side-splitting. Interestingly, this was his first feature-film, since he had made a career for himself on television. But whether or not Animal House was actually indicative of what frat life was actually like at the time, it was arguably one of the funniest films ever made.
4. Heaven Can Wait
With this, we get Warren Beatty in both a leading role and as co-director. It was nominated for an incredible nine Academy Awards and offered a blend of solid comedy and strong moviemaking. While it told the age-old story of a man taken from Earth too soon, its fun story of getting him out of heaven and back into a body again is very entertaining.
3. Jaws 2
The first Jaws was a better movie, partly because it shocked us all and scared the bejeezus out of anyone who ever considered vacationing at the beach. But the sequel was pretty solid and worthy of a spot on this list. The things that made the original a thriller came back the second time around, as we were all jumping out of our seats once again.
Can you even remember a time when the name Michael Myers wasn’t frightening? This movie gave us Jamie Lee Curtis at her horror film best, and that terrifying freaking mask. Plus there’s no arguing that Halloween changed the way slasher films are made and had an incredible amount of influence on future scary movies. John Carpenter made this one on a tiny budget (about $325,000) and it made incredible returns.
1. The Deer Hunter
First, we have an epic cast featuring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep. Next, we have a heartbreaking (albeit looong) script. And while the setting in Vietnam was probably more relevant when the film was released, the filmmaking is one for the books, as it earned a whopping five Academy Awards (nine nominations in all). The movie has the ability to be both violent and stylized — something that is hard to achieve while maintaining balance.