Gosh, I wish I could say Manhattan, because it is one of his best efforts, at least to that point, but for me it is between two very different films. Alien, which I saw twice in the theatre that year, or The Life of Brian which I vividly remember being literally on my knees on the floor between the seat rows laughing until I couldn't breathe during the Biggus Dickus scene. Oh heck, sorry Ridley, Brian it ia!
I voted for Best Boy, I guess to honor the way the joy of film broke wide open for me just about this time. Of the two big hits offered in the poll, I'd go with Alien by a whisker. They're so different!
Sooo many movies from this year have stuck with me. A personal list:
Best first half of a movie: Black Stallion
Scenes that have haunted me for 40 years: China Syndrome, Mad Max
Underrated comedy: The In-Laws
Soundtrack on repeat: Rock 'n' Roll High School
Someday I *will* catch up with this one: Real Life
I read the book and never saw the movie! Being There
Sounds like the year I discovered foreign films: The Marriage of Maria Braun, My Brilliant Career, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears
Thanks for the memory-provoking poll.
I really wanted to vote for Alien over Apocalypse Now but when a sequel (Aliens) is better than the original it discounts the vote. I love it but I prefer Coppola’s labor of jungle love.
I’ve always appreciated Monty Python and Life of Brian does an amazing job of seeming to send up religion while actually supporting it through is criticisms of those using religion for their own purposes. But I finally saw Being There six months ago and wow! I can’t believe this movie has existed for most of my life without me being able to appreciate it over and over again. Sellers is nothing short of brilliant. And in today’s atmosphere the movie is as relevant as ever.
Warriors! Come out to play!
In my not so humble opinion. Being Thereis one of the most significant films of 1979 and is in my top ten greatest. First, it is Peter Sellers greatest role (another overlooked actors). It is a film that I watch every election year, just to remind myself what it is all about. It is such a fantastic look at human thought, everyone seeing and hearing what they want to see and hear. It is a great political satire and a wonderful novel. As you can see I love this movie, it has great depth.
This is a hard one. When people ask me which my favorite film is I usually answer Apocalypse Now. At least up until a few years ago. Now it was a maybe ten years ago or more that I watched Apocalypse Now so it is not as vivid in my memory as before. What I do know is that it has my favorite opening oof a amovie and at the same time, in the same scene, the best us of a song in a movie ("The End").
Alien on the other hand I watched not so long at a special screening of both Alien and Aliens, and Alien was as fantastic as I remebered it. So good, and so good with at using limited resources, showing the monster just enough. And the everyday atmosphere of the ship and among its crew (which makes the film even more scary and tense). And Ripley.
But I voted for Apocalypse Now. The feeling going up that river is magical and crazy. Note! I vote for the original theatrical version, not the bloated Redx cut.
I can’t believe that you left out the (per Wikipedia) Oscar-winning, top-grossing film “Kramer vs. Kramer”.
But that’s not what I’m voting for. How can you not include the fantastic “All That Jazz”?
Of the two listed, I definitely prefer ALIEN, but... no love for ALL THAT JAZZ? I must say, I'm surprised, especially given Adam's love for that film.
The two named films are solid examples from the era, but The Great Santini has always held a place in my heart. I was probably early teens when I saw it, and the performance by Robert Duvall blew my tiny mind. One of the best actors of the generation got to play no-holds-barred, and Michael O'Keefe was there to take the blows (literally). A powerful piece of work.
40 comments so far and there doesnt appear to be any mention of Camera Buff. As we know 'artists reflecting upon life through their art' is pretty much Kempenaar catnip so surely this has to be up for consideration.
I'm firmly with Alison on this. Life of Brian was the first 'grown up' comedy I was aware of and it totally gave me my love of comedy. It's a perfect mix of satire silliness and surrealism.
Maybe this win for Alien will finally push it into the Pantheon, seeing as both Josh and Adam said it should be there last episode. What's the hold up!
1979 (I was five) was the first year I remember really seeing a lot of films in the theatre and boy, I saw a lot of them. Many others I saw on cable the following year. This was such a banner year for some of my favorite films growing up like The Jerk, The Warriors, Being There, Star Trek, Breaking Away, The Black Stallion and Star Trek, just to name a few, but when I think back to the one that first showed me that movies could do so much more than excite me, they could make me appreciate irony, subtlety, the mistakes that people who are trying their best can’t help but make, Kramer vs. Kramer comes out on top.
It was such a powerful picture that showed me just how difficult and heartbreaking being a parent could be. The scene that really stuck with me throughout the years (aside from seeing JoBeth Williams completely nude - a first for me) was when Ted wakes up after Joanna has left and he has to explain to Billy where his mom is, make his breakfast, and get him to school all in just about an hour or so. Ted tries his best to make Billy think they’re just two men who are getting to hang out and do fun stuff while the woman of the house is away, but he can’t hold it together. Making french toast, he attempts to put on a show for Billy, but forgets that the handle to the cast iron pan he’s using his hot, that is until he grabs it and exclaims, “Goddamn her!” a Freudian slip whose effects are visible on young Billy’s face. Sitting in the theatre next to my parents when I was five years-old, I shuddered, as did the whole theatre (or so it seemed).
After seeing this film, I couldn’t wait to see more serious flicks like this one, and thanks to our new cable subscription, I could. Kramer vs. Kramer gets my vote.
My head says All That Jazz, my heart says Stalker, but my soul/knee-jerk reaction says Alien, so that's what I voted for. Ask me another day and my respective reactions will jumble themselves up again.
I've seen Alien at the cinema 3 times now and it blows me away every time.
Please don't think that the love and respect for Alien is anything to do with its sequels which are all very very different. This lovely beautiful stunning horror film deserves to stand on its own. I can see the approaching planets in front of me at the BFI now
I turned 12 in 1979. So my thoughts on 79 are informed by looking back as an adult along with my memories as a kid. I love Alien and Apocalypse Now, but I could not properly appreciate their greatness until years later.
But in 1979, I was into Mad Max and The Warriors. My early HBO viewing was dominated by those two flicks. In the end, I voted other and The Jerk. It is an underrated classic, and so much smarter than it gets credit for being. Every year, for years, I would celebrate the new phone book being delivered to my doorstep the same way he does in the movie. “I’m somebody!!!”
I had to go with Manhattan, but need to add The In-Laws as an honorable mention as I have heard several comedians list it as their favorite movie. Manhattan is one of Allen's best films and has a poignancy that seeps in to one's soul, perhaps because of the Gershwin music and its black-and-white simplicity.
Had to go with All That Jazz, but Breaking Away may be the best coming of age film of all time. Love Alien as well. Apocalypse Now! ? Yes, it has amazing scenes, but overall is kind of a mess. Still, hard to beat, "You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks."
While Alien and Apocalypse Now are considered iconic for good reason, I think there's only one movie from 1979 that truly stands above the rest: The Muppet Movie. You wouldn't believe a banjo-strumming frog puppet would make grown adults tear up in a movie theater, even today, but anything is possible when Jim Henson is at hand. Henson knew how to make puppets come to life and brought so much humor and heart to every minute. The songs are great. The story is simple yet so earnest. One minute you're laughing, and the next, your heart strings are being played by Miss Piggy. There's a good reason why these lovable characters have stuck around for 40 years, and this movie has everything to do with it.
It's Apocalypse Now.
Ripley don't surf!
No love for Moonraker? That was my favorite movie when I was 11 myself, same year as Thomas.
Seriously, I think 1) Apocalypse Now, 2) Alien. I want to pick Stalker for its sheer audacity -- to make a brilliant sci-fi film without a budget or a discernible plot is crazy cool, but I just can't bring myself to love it more than the others. What a packed year; I never realized how many great films there are from 1979! Adam, I am not including "All That Jazz" in that statement, btw. I watched it recently, and what a stinkfest that thing was!
Alien is probably about as close as we're going to come to a flawless movie. Every shot, every moment, does exactly what it's trying to do. Apocalypse Now, on the other hand, feel messy and undisciplined, and I think it's all the better for it. In fact, it's this very messiness that keeps me coming back to it, again and again, trying to unravel more of its mysteries, while I haven't revisited Alien in some time. Whether or not it's actually the better movie, or the best of '79, Apocalypse Now gets my vote.
So many great films, but Being There was so different. I had never seen anything like it. I haven't seen it since '79, but I remember it like yesterday. (A revisit is due)
Both of these films left me dazed and confused(another great film)and shaking but gotta go with Alien - I love that kitty's reaction to the alien! By the way, this was my year of graduation, 79 rules!
Never mind about Killer of Sheep. My notes are imperfect. IMDb changed the release year from 1979 to 1978 at some point.
Some other write-in options worth considering:
Vengeance Is Mine
Chilly Scenes of Winter
The Battle of Chile
The Marriage of Maria Braun
Nosferatu the Vampyre
Killer of Sheep
I wanted so much to vote for Life of Brian but Alien is the better film.
Has to be Stalker. Awesome premise, with exquisite camera work and lighting. The sound is tremendous and I can still hear the heaviness of footsteps months later. The two provided choices are great and happen to be my 2nd (Alien) and 3rd (Apocalypse Now) films of 1979.
that said, I voted for Apocalypse Now, cuz it's just awesome.
Life of Brian should be up there. Not only is it one of the funniest (and therefore best) comedies ever made, but also one of the wittiest, cleverest and most profound dissections of dogma and religion.
There's a lot of fantastic groundwork in 1979, even if the films aren't the greatest. Primarily Herzog's Nosferatu, Mad Max, the Brood, and the Warriors.
Alien was my first R-rated movie, my first step into the larger world of film appreciation, and still a film I think it's safe to say I'm obsessed with. Watching Apocalypse Now is still one of the most singularly mind blowing experiences of my filmic life, I remember turning to my dad as Kurtz's compound exploded and being totally unable to form words.
That being said, I'm voting for neither of them because right up there on my personal favorites list with them is Don Coscarelli's Phantasm and I feel like I'm possibly the only member of Filmspotting Nation who would bring it up, so I vote Other just so it can be included in the discussion.
You guys are so serious! Once again comedy is not getting a fair shake - just one line sums up why I chose Life of Brian as the best of 79 ... “He’s not the Messiah- he’s a naughty boy!” Adding that much joy to the world deserves recognition (and whistling of course!)
You know those polls that make you feel as though you should turn in your Filmspotting member card? Like when you vote for the not-so-subtle manipulation of Love, Actually over the pretentiousness of Tree of Life? (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) Here I see that Apocalypse Now is loosing a poll to... anything?! Willard’s journey up the river is our beautiful entry into the madness of war. Apocalypse is one of cinema’s greatest accomplishments. So if it looses this poll, who should be turning in their Filmspotting card now? Reassess, people!
In West Lafayette, IN
I don't know if "Breaking Away" is the best film of 1979, but it's certainly my favorite. It's a quintessential film in the coming-of-age genre and it also works as an underdog sports movie. There are early standout performances from Jackie Earle Haley (his short-tempered Moocher has shades of Rorschach, which I love) and Dennis Quaid. The male friendships are nuanced and believable; I bet Richard Linklater is fond of this film. Also good cycling movies are hard to come by, too, and this is one of the best.
Both of the choices are great, but for me, Monty Python's Life of Brian takes the prize. I keep returning to this film over and over, and somehow enjoy it even more every time.
I LOVE both of the choices provided, but there's only one film I go back to religiously each year (pun definitely intended); Monty Python's Life of Brian. Aside from everything that has already been written and said about the genius of this comedy classic, personally it is a real 'line-in-the-sand' movie for me; a way to determine who are the good people in this world, & who are the SPLITTERS! So as penance for leaving "Brian" out of your choices, get yourself a hot bag of otter's noses, bless your cheesemaker & write a million times on the Filmspotting website; "Long live the People's Front of Judea!"
I'm surprised Adam didn't require "All That Jazz" to be one of the choices. I'm not sure this needed to be a death match, though I'd agree that those two would likely be the top two choices. I'm going with "The Black Stallion." Magical.
As much as I'd like to yell about not including Stalker, my "Other" vote didn't even go to Tarkovsky, but for one of the best comedies of all time: Monty Python's Life of Brian.
The obvious 2 choices are my #2 and #3, but call me a sucker for beautiful written and performed manipulation, but Kramer vs Kramer easily takes the #1 spot for me. That said, I’ve liked Alien more and more every time I’ve rewatched it - this episode could inspire another rewatch and maybe I’ll change my vote in a few days!
I’m voting what Adam would if that pesky pantheon would let him, All That Jazz.
So I was born in 1979! May 8th to be exact! So thanks for picking my month for the 79 anniversary. My pick is the Muppet Movie. It’s the movie that I grew up with. Jim Henson is my hero.
1979 was a good year for enjoyable popcorn flicks but you are right on the money to single out "Alien" and "Apocalypse Now" as the front runners.. My vote must go to that crazy Joseph Conrad / anti-war hybrid simply because it is a film that I can return to time and time again, composed of memorable set piece after set piece, featuring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando going all the way in their dance to the edge of sanity. And to see Laurence Fishburne (billed as "Larry Fishburne") at the tender age of 16 acting all grown up and to hear Robert Duvall speak of the smell of napalm in the morning...the hits never stop. And to think that it also inspired a wonderful 1980 short film parody "Porklips Now" by Ernie Fosselius and left a shadow that would fall on every Vietnam film to follow... It's just gotta be "Apocalypse Now" for now.
Kansas City, MO
The best film of 1979 is the best movie musical of all time - All That Jazz. Apocalypse Now and Alien are both fine choices, as they round out my top 3. Honorable mentions to the great Fassbinder film The Marriage of Maria Braun and Roman Polanski’s gorgeous literary adaptation Tess (which might be considered a 1980 film, but it’s still worth mentioning)
Of the two choices, I picked Alien. But, for me, 1979 is chock full of great films almost to rival the famed 1939.
Here is my list of some of the best, in order as I thought of them...
Time After Time
The Muppet Movie
Escape from Alcatraz
Going in Style
Kramer vs Kramer
I will also admit to liking the following films in 1979 when I was eleven:
Love at First Bite
The Main Event
The Frisco Kid
and in the years since '79 I have discovered these great films:
The China Syndrome
The Black Stallion
All That Jazz
I was to choose My Favorite / The Best from that year, it might be the above mentioned Alien (a strong, well directed film), possibly Kramer vs. Kramer (hard hitting emotionally, for a kid of divorce), but, most likely, the one to come out on top would be Time After Time. Romance, Adventure, Jack the Ripper and HG Wells, time travel, Mary Steenburgen who could ask for more?
I'm going to give deadly aliens and Vietnam chaos a pass and go for Monty Python's hilarious and witty Life of Brian. Who can resist Eric Idle's sage musical number "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"?? Not me.
Nothing can beat Being There for social commentary. It happened to be on as I was channel surfing and my son walked in the room. I explained the premise and he was intrigued. But my sentimental favorite is definitely Time After Time. It is a master class in time traveling romance, assuming one needs a master class in the genre.
Alien by a county mile.
I am surprised there was no mention in the newsletter of Stalker, Tarkovsky's masterpiece that is referenced as often for its length and pace as its philosophical content. Is it wrong to call 1979 a down year for films due to the lack of choices? Or is that a silly take on it, given how monumental and lasting the choices we have are?
I saw Alien in 1980 and it was great. Apocalypse now I appreciated then and appreciate now. The Black Stallion was the best in-theater experience of that year for me (freshman in college) because while I loved the books growing up, the film version was a revelation in the art of adaptation and cinematography.