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Today in Movie History: December 14

It was a good day for epics, starting with Edward Zwick’s classic Civil War tale Glory, which (among other things) gave Denzel Washington his first Oscar. You like your epics big, loud and featuring Charlton Heston? December 14 also saw the release of Anthony Mann’s minor classic El Cid back in 1961.

1984 saw three notable science fiction movies released today… well okay, two notable science fiction movies and Michael Crichton’s Runaway. David Lynch released is long-anticipated version of Dune, to the bafflement and dismay of many fans. The film has since developed a cult following, and while we acknowledge its flaws, we can’t help but admire its ambition. (Plus Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck; who doesn’t love that?) Far more successful — to the tune of an Oscar nomination for star Jeff Bridges — was Starman, John Carpenter’s marvelous move out of his horror movie comfort zone and into the realm of sci-fi romance.

But that’s not all! Carl Reiner’s The Jerk opened today in 1979: a film that really shouldn’t work but does thanks to its lead, Steve Martin. Martin scored another success nine years later with Frank Oz’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which remains one of his best films to date.

Finally, there’s Saturday Night Fever, John Badham’s ode to disco and working-class Brooklyn that made a star out of John Travolta. It turns 40 years old today — released in 1977 — and it’s a lot better than you might think.

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