Six years ago I posted a piece about the great and very good films of 1971 (“They Won’t Forget”). Before assembling it I’d never quite thought of ’71 as one of the truly legendary years in American cinema, but now I do — it was arguably as rich and bountiful as 1939, 1962 and 1999 were.

Now it’s time to add 1979 to the list of standout years. At least 27 films released that year were seriously top-tier, compared to the same number in ’71. The mythical ’70s, in short, were still going great guns in the decade’s final year.

Herewith are the top 27 along with (b) 21 that were fully admired and respected in their time and still are today but have perhaps lost a bit of steam here and there, plus (c) eight that I wouldn’t call stinkers but are certainly among the least enduring (most bothersome, hardest to-rewatch, most listless or underwhelming). And in these orders:

Top Ten:

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now
Hal Ashby’s Being There
Woody Allen’s Manhattan
Ridley Scott’s Alien
Peter Yates’ Breaking Away
Franc Roddam’s Quadrophenia
Paul Schrader’s Hardcore
James Bridges’ The China Syndrome
Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer
Carroll Blanchard’s The Black Stallion

11 to 27 (17):

Don Siegel’s Escape from Alcatraz
Lewis John Carlino’s The Great Santini
Stephen Frears’ Bloody Kids
George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead
Arthur Hiller’s The In-Laws
George Miller’s Mad Max
Martin Brest’s Going in Style
Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz
Gillian Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career
Ted Kotcheff’s North Dallas Forty
Martin Ritt’s Norma Rae
Terry Jones’ Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Albert Brooks’ Real Life
Richard Pryor: Live in Concert
Alan J. Pakula’s Starting Over
Alan Clarke‘s Scum
Jerry Schatzberg‘s The Seduction of Joe Tynan

Foreign Language Picks (5)

Andrei Konchalovsky‘s Siberiade
Shohei Imamura‘s Vengeance Is Mine
Volker Schlöndorff‘s The Tin Drum
Rainer Werner Fassbinder‘s The Marriage of Maria Braun
Andrei Tarkovsky‘s Stalker

Respectable Second Tier, Pretty Good, Holding On, Fading A Bit (21):

Peter Bodganovich’s Saint Jack
Harold Becker’s The Onion Field
Blake Edwards 10
Richard Lester’s Cuba
Nicholas Meyer’s Time After Time
Walter Hill‘s The Warriors
Douglas Hickox’s Zulu Dawn
Fred Walton’s When a Stranger Calls
Sydney Pollack’s The Electric Horseman
John Badham’s Dracula
Ivan Reitman’s Meatballs
Robert Aldrich’s The Frisco Kid
Milos Forman’s Hair
Robert Wise’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Carl Reiner’s The Jerk
William Richert’s Winter Kills
John Huston’s Wise Blood
Jonathan Demme’s Last Embrace
George Roy Hill A Little Romance
Peter Weir’s The Plumber
John Schlesinger’s Yanks

Oddball Standouts (3):

Stan Dragoti‘s Love at First Bite
Bill Norton’s More American Graffiti
Michael O;Donoghue’s Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (2)

Whiffs, Flunks (8)

Steven Spielberg’s 1941
Michael Apted’s Agatha
Larry Peerce‘s The Bell Jar
Bernardo Bertolucci‘s La Luna
John Frankenheimer‘s Prophecy
Robert Altman‘s A Perfect Couple
Mark Rydell‘s The Rose
Hal Needham’s The Villain (8)