Top Grossing Movies of 1978
Before we examine the top grossing movies of 1978, let’s take a look at some of the other interesting events that went down around the globe in that year. Since this is a movie blog, I’ll concentrate on events that either directly involved the film industry or later inspired big-screen adaptations.
- After pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl , director Roman Polanski flees to France.
- Serial killer Ted Bundy is captured.
- The comic strip Garfield debuts.
- Porn publisher Larry Flynt is shot and paralyzed.
- Annie Hall wins Best Picture at the 50th Academy Awards.
- The remains of Charlie Chaplin are stolen and later recovered.
- Serial killer David Berkowitz, aka The Son of Sam, receives a prison sentence of 365 years.
- George Lucas purchases the property that would later become Skywalker Ranch.
- Jim Jones leads over 900 of his followers in a mass murder-suicide ritual in Guyana.
- Harvey Milk is assassinated in San Francisco.
- A Lufthansa cargo facility at JFK Airport is robbed by six men. Over $5 million in cash is stolen, along with $875,000 in jewels.
- Serial killer John Wayne Gacy is arrested.
Births in 1978
- James Franco
- Katie Holmes
- Rachel McAdams
- Bill Hader
- Topher Grace
- Katherine Heigl
- Danielle Harris
- Josh Hartnett
- Zoe Saldana
Now that our impromptu history lesson is out of the way, let’s take a look at the top grossing movies of 1978. You may immediately notice that the numbers for the top 10 films are significantly lower than their modern counterparts. The #10 film of 1978, Foul Play, grossed $27,500,000. By way of comparison, the tenth highest grossing film of 2009, Sherlock Holmes, grossed over $200 million in the U.S. and $462,411,216 worldwide.
Grease ($96,300,000) – Singing, dancing, and John Travolta! He and Olivia Newton-John star in this musical about two teens who meet and fall for one another over the summer, only to later find themselves enrolled in the same high school. Their ensuing courtship is framed by such memorable songs as “Grease,” and “Summer Nights.”
Superman ($82,800,000) – The late Christopher Reeve starred and Richard Donner directed this first film in the long-running superhero franchise. While moonlighting as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, Superman must foil the nefarious schemes of arch-villain Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). He also finds time to romance fellow reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and rap with holographic projections of his father, Jor-El (Marlon Brando). If you enjoy today’s modern superhero movies, thank this film for getting the whole phenomenon started.
An Unmarried Woman ($70,826,000) – Jill Clayburgh stars as Erica, an affluent New Yorker who must face life alone after her husband ditches her for a younger woman. Nominated for three Oscars, the supporting cast includes Alan Bates, Kelly Bishop and Cliff Gorman.
Jaws 2 ($61,900,000) – Another great white shark pays Amity Island a visit, and it’s once again up to Police Chief Martin Brody to keep the beaches safe. But this time around, he’ll have to do so without the help of Quint or Hooper. Jaws 2 isn’t as good as the original, but it’s a damn sight better than what followed. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…
Heaven Can Wait ($50,432,000) – Warren Beatty directs and stars in this remake of the 1941 classic, Here Comes Mr. Jordan. This time around, Beatty plays Joe Pendleton, a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams who’s involved in a car crash and prematurely sent to heaven by an inexperienced guardian angel (Buck Henry). He protests his death and is allowed to return to Earth in the body of a just-murdered millionaire. This surprises his killers (Dyan Cannon and Charles Grodin) to no end, and Joe wastes no time in buying the Rams and announcing himself the starting quarterback. Besides getting into game shape, he must also contend with a new love interest (Julie Christie) and the continued schemes of his would-be killers (his wife and personal secretary).
Coming Home ($49,400,000) – Jane Fonda stars as Sally Hyde, a woman whose husband (Bruce Dern) has been sent to fight in Vietnam. While volunteering at a veteran’s hospital, Sally reconnects with Luke Martin (Jon Voight), an old friend who’s returned from Vietnam in a wheelchair. The character of Luke was based on paralyzed vet Ron Kovic, whose story would later be told in Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July. Both Fonda and Voight would receive an Oscar for their performance.
Hooper ($34,900,000) – Intended as a tribute to stuntmen (the director, Hal Needham, used to be one), the film stars Burt Reynolds as Sonny Hooper, the greatest stuntman alive. But the years of abuse are catching up with his body, and the addiction to painkillers isn’t exactly helping. That’s when he meets a young stuntman named Delmore “Ski” Shidski (Jan-Michael Vincent). The two develop a friendly rivalry, but their planned jump across a gorge in a rocket car could leave Hooper permanently paralyzed. The film would inspire TV’s The Fall Guy, and actor James Best would parlay his role into that of Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in The Dukes of Hazzard. Co-starring Sally Field, Brian Keith, Robert Klein, Terry Bradshaw and Adam West.
California Suite ($28,386,000) – Adapted from the hilarious Neil Simon play, California Suite is broken into four distinct stories, each detailing the events transpiring within a single room at an upscale hotel. The all-star cast includes Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, Bill Cosby, Walter Matthau, Richard Pryor, Maggie Smith, Elaine May and Michael Caine. Maggie Smith (yes, the woman from the Harry Potter series) would win an Oscar for her portrayal of a nervous Academy Award nominee.
Every Which Way But Loose ($28,300,000) – Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood) is a truck driver and bare-knuckle fighter with a pet orangutan named Clyde. As he tries to make ends meet and searches for true love, he has to contend with a gang of inept bikers known as The Black Widows. Geoffrey Lewis is Philo’s best pal, Orville Boggs, and Ruth Gordon is a scream as the shotgun-wielding Ma Boggs. This was during Eastwood’s Sandra Locke phase, so you can expect to see more of her than you’d like. The sequel, Any Which Way You Can, would hit theaters two years later.
Foul Play ($27,500,000) – Goldie Hawn plays a librarian pursued by a murderous albino, and Chevy Chase is the skeptical San Francisco cop who eventually falls for her. Mixing elements of the comedy and thriller genres, the story includes film hidden in a pack of cigarettes, a radical group opposed to organized religion, and a plot to kill the Pope during an opera performance. The strong supporting cast includes Burgess Meredith, Dudley Moore and Brian Dennehy.
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