1978 Movies

1978 was marked by an outpouring of creativity and innovation in the film industry, resulting in movies that continue to captivate audiences to this day. Whether you're drawn to gripping dramas, lighthearted comedies, or suspenseful thrillers, the diverse offerings of 1978 are sure to satisfy your cinematic cravings.
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The Best Movies of 1978

The Deer Hunter

Among the films that made an indelible mark in 1978 is 'The Deer Hunter.' This cinematic masterwork is not merely a war film; it extends far beyond this classification. Centered around a group of close-knit friends employed at a steel mill in a small, blue-collar town, this film explores the harrowing implications of the Vietnam War on individuals and communities.

When these friends are deployed to Vietnam, they encounter atrocities that drastically reshape their lives. Some never return home, while those who do are irrevocably changed. Classified as an anti-war film, 'The Deer Hunter' opts to shine a light on the ramifications of war rather than the conflict itself.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Another notable entry in 1978's film roster is 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.' This iconic science fiction classic trails the exploits of health inspector Matthew Bennell, portrayed by Donald Sutherland. Bennell uncovers an eerie reality - an alien race is abducting the residents of San Francisco and impersonating them. Bennell, with a small group of comrades, embarks on a mission to thwart this invasion before it's too late.

The film, the second adaptation of the renowned science-fiction novel, has had an enormous impact on popular culture. Its influence is apparent in various forms of media, ranging from 'SpongeBob SquarePants' to 'The Simpsons.'

Dawn of the Dead

In 1978, George A. Romero presented audiences with 'Dawn of the Dead,' an enthralling film that left an everlasting imprint on the zombie genre. As a ghastly zombie outbreak engulfs the Earth, four survivors take refuge in a deserted shopping mall. They face isolation and desolation as they strive to safeguard their temporary haven from external threats.

Romero, a pioneer in the zombie genre, utilized the film as a medium to comment on consumerism's societal implications. This film showcased Romero at the pinnacle of his artistry and is widely recognized as one of the finest zombie films ever created.


John Carpenter's 'Halloween' also emerged in 1978. This film follows the chilling tale of convicted murderer Michael Myers, who escapes custody and embarks on a killing spree in his hometown of Haddonfield on Halloween night. Jamie Lee Curtis plays Laurie Strode, a babysitter who encounters Myers and must fight for her survival.

'Halloween' remains an essential contribution to the slasher genre. Although not the first of its kind, it played a significant role in popularizing common genre tropes such as masked killers and teenage victims. This classic film continues to captivate audiences, regardless of their affinity for the horror genre.

Days of Heaven

'Days of Heaven' narrates the story of Bill, portrayed by Richard Gere, and Abby, portrayed by Brooke Adams. Bill and Abby, posing as siblings, find employment with a wealthy farmer. Upon learning of the farmer's terminal prognosis, Bill convinces Abby to marry him, setting in motion a dramatic sequence of events.

Midnight Express

Consider the tale of Billy Hayes, an American student apprehended for drug trafficking overseas. He is condemned to a four-year term in a Turkish prison. As he eagerly awaits his release, the news reaches him that his sentence has been extended to 30 years. Consequently, he becomes desperate to flee this horrifying confinement.


On the other side of the cinematic landscape, we have Grease. Our main characters, Danny and Sandy, enjoy a fleeting romance over the summer. As fate would have it, Sandy moves to Danny's high school, and they reunite. They must navigate their blossoming love story amidst their contrasting social circles.

The 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Let's switch gears to a martial arts masterpiece, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. The story follows a young man named Liu, who witnesses a massacre perpetrated by the brutal Manchu government. In response, he retreats to the Shaolin temple, where he dedicates his life to mastering kung fu.

Watership Down

Transitioning to the realm of animation, we have Watership Down. This tale unfolds from the perspective of a group of rabbits fleeing their home after one has a vision of their impending doom. The ensuing journey is fraught with peril, from ferocious predators to the inhumanity of man.


Finally, we turn to the quintessential adaptation of a legendary character, Superman. Following the destruction of his home planet, Kal-El finds refuge on Earth and is adopted by a kind family. They raise him to become Superman, a symbol of justice who utilizes his extraordinary abilities to guard his newfound home.

1978 Movies & Industry Highlights

Highest Grossing Films (U.S.)

The year 1978 saw the release of several films that went on to make a significant impact at the box office. Here are the top ten films that recorded the highest grosses in the U.S. and Canada:

  • "Grease": The musical romance film Grease, which featured John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, recorded the highest gross of $159.9M.
  • "Superman": Superman, the superhero film from Warner Bros., was another box office success, pulling in $134.2M.
  • "National Lampoon's Animal House": The comedy film National Lampoon's Animal House by Universal followed closely, netting $120M.
  • "Every Which Way but Loose": Warner Bros. Every Which Way but Loose made $85.1M, securing the fourth position in the list.
  • "Heaven Can Wait": Another Paramount release, Heaven Can Wait, grossed $81.6M, securing the fifth position.
  • "Hooper": The action comedy Hooper from Warner Bros. came sixth with earnings of $78M.
  • "Jaws 2": The horror thriller Jaws 2 by Universal took in $77.7M.
  • "Revenge of the Pink Panther": Revenge of the Pink Panther by United Artists earned $49.5M.
  • "The Deer Hunter": Universal's The Deer Hunter made $48.9M.
  • "Halloween": Rounding out the top ten list was Halloween from Compass International Pictures, which grossed $47M.

Significant Events of 1978

A number of remarkable events took place in the film industry in 1978. Some of these noteworthy occurrences include:

  • February 6 – David Begelman Resignation: David Begelman resigned as president of Columbia Pictures in February, creating a significant shift in the industry's leadership.
  • March – The Charlie Chaplin Casket Incident: Charlie Chaplin's coffin was stolen from a Swiss cemetery three months after burial. The casket was recovered weeks later and sealed in a concrete vault prior to reburial.
  • March – Leigh Brackett and The Empire Strikes Back: In the same month, Leigh Brackett completed the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, but unfortunately, she passed away just two weeks later.
  • June – The David Begelman Scandal and Aftermath: In June, Daniel Melnick assumed the position of head of Columbia Pictures after the David Begelman scandal.
  • July 20 – Alan Hirschfield Fired: Alan Hirschfield was relieved of his duties as president and CEO of Columbia Pictures. He was replaced by Francis T. Vincent.
  • August – Star Trek: The Motion Picture Begins Production: Production on Star Trek: The Motion Picture commenced in August, marking a significant development in the film industry.
  • September – The Acquisition of Bulltail Ranch: George Lucas acquired Bulltail Ranch for the development of Skywalker Ranch. This acquisition of Lucas Valley Road marks a significant investment in future film productions.
  • October 25 – The Release of Halloween: The iconic horror film Halloween was released on this date, marking a significant moment in film history.
  • November 17 – Star Wars Holiday Special: Star Wars Holiday Special aired on CBS. Despite the special receiving negative reviews upon airing, it gave fans their first glimpse of Boba Fett, a character from the upcoming sequel.
  • December 10 – Superman Premieres: Superman premiered at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, D.C. and had a European Royal Charity Premiere at the Empire, Leicester Square in London three days later in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew.