When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1978, it gave its Best Picture award to The Deer Hunter. It's in my list too, but not at the top spot:
1. Gates of Heaven Directed by Errol Morris
"Death is for the living and not for the dead."
2. Dawn of the Dead Written and directed by George Romero
Everyone knows the zombies are a Metaphor For Mindless Consumption. What complicates that, and makes the film even more delightful, is that the shopping mall itself is depicted as a virtual utopia, at least until the undead hordes break in. There must be a dozen different ways to read that.
3. Blue Collar Directed by Paul Schrader Written by Schrader and Leonard Schrader
Ebert says: "The movie could have copped out in its last thirty minutes, and given us a nice, safe Hollywood ending. Instead, it makes criticisms of mass production that social critics like Harvey Swados and Paul Goodman might have agreed with. This isn't a liberal movie but a radical one, and one I suspect a lot of assembly-line workers might see with a shock of recognition."
4. The Deer Hunter Directed by Michael Cimino Written by Deric Washburn, from a story by Cimino, Washburn, Louis Garfinkle, and Quinn K. Redeker
The scenes in America offer closely observed realism, the scenes in Asia are a paranoid fever dream, and the contrast between the two magnifies the film's power.
5. The Last Waltz Directed by Martin Scorsese
The Band, R.I.P. For a while.
6. Days of Heaven Written and directed by Terrence Malick
The plot is the stuff of hard-boiled crime fiction, but the movie is something very different: more a pastoral mood piece than anything else.
7. A Walk Through H: The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist Written and directed by Peter Greenaway
The Tibetan Book of the Dead meets The Field Guide to Birds.
8. Powers of Ten Directed by Charles and Ray Eames
A quick guide to the universe, from the largest possible point of view to the smallest. If Olaf Stapledon made a classroom film, it would look like this.
9. Mongoloid Directed by Bruce Conner
Yes, it's a music video. I can include music videos if I want to, dammit. The song is by Devo.
10. The Driver Written and directed by Walter Hill
The car-chase movie as existential noir.
N.B.: Sources differ as to whether Powers of Ten was first screened in 1977 or 1978. Since I left it out of my '77 list last year, I'll include it in this one.