40 Movies For 40 Years: 1979

1979 was the year that I turned 2 years old. My dad was transferred from Ft. Walton Beach, Florida to Columbus, Mississippi. And less than a week before Christmas my little brother was born.

The box office was pretty active as well. 007 was back again with Moonraker, Francis Ford Coppola had another hit on his hands with Apocalypse Now, and Sigorney Weaver was running from Xenomorphs in Alien.

I’ve had to do a lot of thinking over this year. I had to really dig down deep and be honest with myself over a couple of films in order to find what takes this spot on my list. This is the year that Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released. If you know anything about me then you know that I am a Star Trek fan. I don’t mean that I kind of like the show a little bit. I mean that I had a couple of years in high school where I didn’t read a bit of literature that wasn’t a Star Trek novel. I watched The Next Generation every evening at 9:00pm even if I had seen the episode 12 times.

So, I sat down today to write this blog entry with every intent on writing about that film. But, just to be sure, I pulled up the Wikipedia page that showed all of the movies that came out that year. Remember that when I started this project I was going to talk about my favorite movies from every year that I’ve been alive. I don’t want to write about the movies that made the most money. I don’t even want to write about the movies that I think are the most well made. There are things that may end up on my list that I actually think are not as good as others that came out that year…but this is about the movies that impacted me the most. And for 1979…Star Trek: The Motion Picture is not my favorite.

My favorite film of 1979 is Rocky II.

I’m not a sports guy. I never played a sport in high school. I was the last one picked to play anything in gym. I don’t even understand the rules of football enough to carry on a conversation with a true fan. So, for me to say that I love a franchise of sports movies is really saying something. But I am a huge fan of all of the Rocky films. The only reason the original isn’t on my list is because it came out a year before I was born. And I was a grown man before I finally sat down and watched it. But after I did I felt the need to consume the entire series. I love each and every one of those films. Even the fourth one that was basically made of montages…and the fifth one in which Rocky didn’t even get in the ring. And I was more excited when Creed came out a couple of years ago than most of my friends thought was necessary.

Rocky II is an example of a perfect sequel. It brought all of the main players back to the stage. It stars Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, Talia Shire as Adrian, Burt Young as Paulie, Burgess Meredith as Mickey, and Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed. They felt genuine. They felt like they were the same people as before. One thing that I always find irritating about sequels is that they can be so by the numbers and wink at the audience with in jokes and references to the original piece. This felt like a true continuation of the first film.

Apollo Creed beat Rocky in the original by a split decision. Rocky II finds him obsessed with the thought that America thinks that Rocky could have beaten him. He challenges him to a rematch. Meanwhile, Rocky is dealing with the new fame that has found him and tries to build a life with Adrian.

What I like about the Rocky series is not so much the boxing…it’s the heart. The character that Stallone plays feels like a real man. He is not the brightest bulb on the tree, but he has so much courage and integrity that it is hard not to feel as if he’s someone that you know. In a way, he is someone that you know. He’s the guy that we all secretly want to be. He’s a guy that started out with nothing; living in a hole in the wall apartment and making ends meet by boxing for a few bucks in a church basement. He’s such a nice guy that he can’t even do his job as an enforcer for a loan shark correctly because he doesn’t like to hurt people.

The second time around Rocky is finished with boxing. He has money to burn after his famous near-win in a championship fight. But Creed wants a rematch so bad that he launches a smear campaign to force Rocky back into the ring. Rocky obliges in order to clear his name. I won’t spoil the ending in case there are some that haven’t seen it.

I can’t say enough good things about this whole series, but this one in particular is probably on my top ten movies of all time. And it is definitely my favorite sports movie ever. The first movie is about a guy that had nothing in the world and created a name for himself. This one is about a man who didn’t let fame and fortune stand in the way of his principles and created an empire.

So, yes, my favorite TV franchise of all time launched a film in 1979. And while Star Trek had the special effects and the starships and the phasers and all of that…I don’t feel that it can beat Rocky in the story department. There are only a few movies that have characters with as much heart and depth as the Rocky films, and lucky for me the second of the series was good enough to make my list.

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