The late sixties and seventies are rightfully acknowledged as Hollywood’s Second Golden Age. With the full collapse of the studio system, the rise of the counter-culture movement, Vietnam and Watergate – all served to unleash a new wave of filmmakers, films, stories and performances that haven’t yet been matched. The decade ended in 1979 with an amazing slate of films – some among the best-ever made and most of them standing the test of time. The loss of Hollywood’s old guard was really starting to be felt that year with the death of icon John Wayne – Hollywood’s premier star and most dependable actor – and other key players of the First Golden Age: Joan Blondell, Merle Oberon, Mary Pickford, Jack Haley (the Tin Man) and 20th Century-Fox executive Daryl Zanuck.
It was a year that saw the first cracks in the era of directors being given free reign with big budgets. Spielberg, after the significant one two punch of ‘Jaws’ (1975) and ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977) , stumbled badly with his expensive Second World War comedy ‘1941’. Robert Altman was already shooting ‘Popeye’ (1980) and Michael Cimino was mired in the filming of ‘Heaven’s Gate’ (1980), both destined to be among the biggest flops of the next decade. So, let us have a look at the list of top movies of 1979:
10. Kramer vs. Kramer
This is the one film on the list that just squeaks in. It’s a good film, it won the best picture Oscar that year and it was a major hit. It was the year’s critical darling and I’m not sure why. The attention and praise overshadow what is essentially a solid but very ordinary story of divorce and custody. Dustin Hoffman is good as the dad and he won an Oscar, but it’s not anywhere near the work he did in ‘Midnight Cowboy’ (1969) or ‘Tootsie’ (1982). Meryl Streep is also good as the mom – she does wonders with what is essentially a very superficial role (and she won her first Oscar). When I re-watch the movie, it feels like a really good TV movie from the era – but with an A list cast and a much bigger budget.
Read More: Best Movies of 1996
Director writer Blake Edwards had a significant dry spell following ‘The Party’ (1968). A combination of studio interference in his pet projects, ego and temperament helped sideline him through most of the next decade. He was able to gain some traction by resurrecting ‘The Pink Panther’ series, but ‘10’ was the comedy that pushed him back to the forefront. A smart and witty look at male midlife crisis, ‘10’ gave us a funny and thoughtful Dudley Moore in his first lead, introduced Bo Derek as the ultimate heterosexual male fantasy, and allowed Julie Andrews to shine as the voice of sanity to Dudley’s neuroses.It’s one of the best comedies of the decade.