Saturday Night Fever (1977)

saturday night fever poster 1977 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking, fun music, flashback movie, John Travolta

Script is kind of weak, tries too hard

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Saturday Night Fever

Studio:  RSO Records

Genre(s):  Drama/Musical

Release Date(s):  December 14, 1977

MPAA Rating:  R

saturday night fever tony manero john travolta stayin alive walk

A song cue and a walk…and a star is born!

Tony Manero (John Travolta) might not have the best life.  He’s nineteen, lives at home with his mother and father (Julie Bovasso and Val Bisoglio) in the shadow of his priest brother Frank (Martin Shakar), and works at a paint store…despite the setbacks, on the weekend Tony becomes a god on the dance floor of the 2001 Odyssey disco.  Hanging out with his friends Gus (Bruce Ornstein), Double J (Paul Pape), Joey (Joseph Cali), and Bobby C. (Barry Miller), Tony feels like a king.  As a new dance contest approaches, Tony’s got to get a dance partner and has to choose between the clingy Annette (Donna Pescow) or a new girl named Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney) who works in Manhattan.  When Tony picks Stephanie, Stephanie opens up a whole new world to Tony that might make him reconsider his world and his future.

saturday night fever tony manero disco john travolta

I’m the king of the dance floor!

Directed by John Badham, Saturday Night Fever is a musical drama.  The story is based on the Nik Cohn article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” which was published in New York (June 1976) though Cohn later admits he fabricated the research for the story.  The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (Travolta) and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2010.

I was born into Saturday Night Fever and the film was already a cultural phenomenon.  It exploded the disco scene and made television star John Travolta a movie star.  The movie also propelled the Bee Gees to new levels and created one of the bestselling soundtracks of all time.  As a result, the Bee Gees were all over the radio as a child and John Travolta was a household name from as early as I can remember.  I didn’t see the actual movie until high school and remember thinking what a weird and odd film it was.

saturday night fever contest tony stephanie john travolta karen lynn gorney

You’re kind of a ______ Stephanie

Saturday Night Fever has a lot of energy.  The movie always has a soundtrack pumping and the soundtrack doesn’t just include the Bee Gees, but does focus heavily on them.  The movies shooting style feels like a real precursor to MTV videos and is very stylized with some innovative and memorable shots (who can forget John Travolta walking down the street to “Stayin’ Alive” during the opening credits?)  The music and the visuals come together to form a great combination that has given the film staying power despite immediately dating it.

The other credit has to go to John Travolta.  I’m not always the biggest John Travolta fan but he does work in this movie as the rather dense Tony who feels very grounded in the world and time he lives.  “He hits my hair” is such a great line, and he actually delivers it when an earnestness that makes the ridiculous work (plus, he does have a smoothness to his dancing that some of other actors cannot pull off).  He also plays great off of the other cast including the perfectly snooty Stephanie who is constantly trying to put on airs that she is superior simply because she works in the sophisticated city (while being just as self-conscious) and the desperately depraved Annette who is treated so poorly.

saturday night fever subway john travolta

….Tony Montana stole my look

I’m not the biggest fan of the story of Saturday Night Fever which tries way too hard to be deep.  If they had toned it back a bit and didn’t present everything that Tony and his friends and family do as life or death situations, it would have felt a bit more realistic.  I just wished it had been crafted better, and that some of the key scenes and themes (including the bridge scene near the end) were reworked in a better way.

Saturday Night Fever is a great example of a modern “period piece”.  It takes you back to a completely different time period instantly.  It is pretty vulgar and there is nudity and sexually explicit situations.  An attempt to cash in on the craze and make it more family friendly ended up with the creation of a PG version in 1978…so make sure you don’t see that.  You can pop in the soundtrack after you finish and dance away.  Saturday Night Fever was followed by Staying Alive in 1983.

Related Links:

Staying Alive (1983)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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