Saturday Night Fever

Critics Consensus

Boasting a smart, poignant story, a classic soundtrack, and a starmaking performance from John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever ranks among the finest dramas of the 1970s.

85%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 47

72%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 179,232
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Movie Info

John Travolta graduated from minor celebrity to superstar with Saturday Night Fever. Travolta plays Tony Manero, a Brooklyn paint-store clerk who'd give anything to break out of his dead-end existence. In life, Tony is a peasant; on the disco dance floor, he's a king. As the soundtrack plays one Bee Gees hit after another (including "Stayin' Alive"), we watch white-suited Tony strut his stuff amidst flashing lights and sweaty, undulating bodies. Tony's class aspirations are mirrored in his relationship with his dance partner, Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney), a secretary eager to move into the glamorous world of Manhattan. Saturday Night Fever's huge success grew meteorically thanks to the towering popularity of its soundtrack; during the first half of 1978, when the movie's disco songs saturated the singles charts up to four at a time, it was no longer clear whether the hit movie was feeding the hit songs or the hit songs were feeding the hit movie. This crossover between music and movies set the pace for many movies to come, as it also marked the rise and fall of 1970s disco culture. Two versions of this film exist: the original R-rated version and a PG version, edited down to more "family-friendly" fare and fed to the public with the tagline, "Because we want everyone to see John Travolta's performance." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Saturday Night Fever

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (9)

Audience Reviews for Saturday Night Fever

  • Feb 28, 2013
    Tony Manero (John Travolta) is a young Italian American living with his parents in Brooklyn, New York City. The audience follow his daily life from working in a hardware store, to blowing his hard earned cash on a Saturday night at the 2001 Odyssey disco club. There he is "king of the dance floor" and this is what he lives for. When asked about Saturday Night Fever, images of John Travolta dancing in a white suit, above a lit up dance floor but beneath a shining disco ball, whilst the Bee Gees play are immediately conjured in your minds-eye. But beneath the illuminated surface imagery lies a much darker and dirtier movie altogether. Throughout the 118 minutes that the movie is on screen many negative topics are covered, touched upon or glanced over, including; drugs, all manner seedy sexual acts, jealousy, abortion, unrequited love, possession, lack of trust, gangs, brawling, brutal honesty, loss of faith, bad parenting, low self-worth and suicide/ accidental death. It's not really the best choice of movie to watch with the younger members of your family. Shakespeare is known for having a dark side to his storylines but I don't remember anything he produced to cover so many depraved and morally corrupt issues in one sitting. As much as Saturday Night Fever is about dancing at the discotheque, it is a study of negative and destructive emotions. It's quite a person centred movie and the audience watch as people are challenged and struggle with their own problems and are affected by the problems of others. Travolta gives perhaps his best screen performance to date. His acting is believable and he steps into the role of an Italian- American form New York with ease (probably because he is an Italian American from New York). Many of the best lines from the movie were unscripted but reactions that Travolta took in character, such as the "Ya know, I work on my hair a long time and you hit it" sequence at the dinner table. On another note, it's very much a dance movie, so let's talk about the dancing. To coin a popular phrase John Travolta certainly "throws some shapes." His skill in this particular movie is legendary. For me the one continuous shot of him dancing, where he takes over the dance floor, is mesmerising - I can't take my eyes off him. That's saying a lot for a man who has little to no interest in moving let alone dancing. What's more special about this movie is that we get to know Tony and then Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) as individuals before they come together to dance in the training room. From the first awkward date/ coffee together we get to know that the two characters aren't far apart on a basic level, but that their outlooks and flaws are very different. Stephanie is trying very hard to "better" herself - she wants to break away from her roots. Tony is more at ease with who he is and where he comes from and is acceptant of that. They are 2 very different people, who have 2 very different lifestyles and dance styles. When they come together for the first time they seem to create something new and different. She dominates the conversation when they speak, but Tony tells her to let him lead when they dance. In this regard it is quite sexual, not that it's an overly sexy scene, but it does mirror the act of sex through a different media. Although Travolta missed out on many awards including the BAFTA's, Academy Award's and Golden Globe's, he did receive a nomination from all of these and won the award for best actor from the National Board of Review. Saturday Night Fever was a huge commercial success. The film significantly helped to raise the popularity of disco music around the world and made John Travolta a star. Before he rose to such heights he was Carrie's Boyfriend and after he would play Danny Zuko in Grease and Bud in Urban Cowboy. By this point he was more than a house-hold name and an international superstar. After this he didn't play another "big" role for about 20 years when Quentin Tarantino resurected his career in 1994 with Pulp Fiction. In my opinion this was no favour but a great selection to play the part of Vincent Vaga due to the roles Travolta had played in the early part of his career and the years that followed Saturday Night Fever. Many actors could have played the role of Tony Manero, but no-one could have produced the character the way Travolta did. Whether you like the movie or not, there is no doubt that Saturday Night Fever is an iconic movie and I find it hard to believe that it would have had the status that it has today with anyone else in that role. I don't think that you can discuss the success of Saturday Night Fever without mentioning the soundtrack. As well as being one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time, the soundtracks single was used to promote the movie before it was released and the film popularised the entire album after its release. This was the first time cross media marketing had been used in this fashion. For me Saturday Night Fever is very much a Zeitgeist. It does depict a specific time and place, but also a culture and a mentality. As Tony says "f*** the future", they live for the now, work all week to finance Saturday night and the events leading up to that major event. An event where getting ready to go out isn't preparation but a ritual, what we now call clubbing is the religion and the club itself is the church. For whatever the film is or isn't, it has certainly left a lasting impression. It has been parodied from 1977 (the year of its release) on Saturday Night Live right through to an episode of Glee (TV series) entitled Saturday Night Glee-ver which aired in 2012. I must admit one of my favourites is Sesame Street Fever. In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant", I can see why.
    James C Super Reviewer
  • Sep 19, 2012
    Although some are inclined to file this film under horror rather than drama..and I have done so in a few video stores, there is a bit of edge that makes it not totally stuck in time. Unfortunately the dancing and the clothing are exactly that. It looks like another dimension when viewed today.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 02, 2012
    For better or worse Saturday Night Fever best defines the "groovy" music and fashion era of the 70s. It's also a great coming of age film with Travolta excellent dancing in ridiculous clothing makes for a good time. Saturday Night Fever is about a Brooklyn youth who feels his only chance to get somewhere in life is as the king of the disco floor. The movie does have it share of embarrassing moments, one including Travolta and his gang waiting for one of their pal to finish his "shag" (70s slang for sex). Another embarrassing moment involves Travolta having dinner with his family and he gets into an argument with his dad because "He hits my hair". The movie itself is filled with ridiculous lines like "Can I wipe your forehead?", "Four dollars? You know what four dollars buys today? It don't even buy three dollars!", and many more bad 70s slang where when you watch this. The strange part about Saturday Night Fever is that despite its goofiness in our era it provides great entertainment and is surprisingly deep with it drama. It really catches you off guard and makes you feel about what our characters are going through. While Saturday Night Fever was made in a time when disco was popular and terms like "Can you dig it?" where use commonly it's hard not enjoy when it captures its era so perfectly for your amusement. John Travolta does know how to "boogie" on the dance floor and this is easily one of his most enjoyable performances. The dance numbers are "far out" and "chill" (no more bad 70s slang from here on) with of course a funky soundtrack from the Bee Gees. You got to love Travolta great dance moves, I even named a dance move "The Travolta" because of his dance moves. Even the the ridiculous fashion from the era is capture well, though I will admit it does provide some unintentional laughs. The rest of the cast is are great themselves, though they are largely forgettable. There's really not much more I could say about Saturday Night Fever that hasn't already be said a million times. It's one of John Travolta most iconic roles and even more iconic for capturing the spirit of the 70s so well. Saturday Night Fever captures the spirit and fun of its era to make one great entertaining movie. So do yourself a favor and pick up Saturday Night Fever and loose yourself in a different era.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 15, 2012
    I was shocked. This film was way better than I expected. I was tempted to fast-forward the many dance sequences, but around them, John Travolta builds an interesting and compelling character with a performance worthy of its Academy Award nomination. His character, Tony Manero, has Rocky and Serpico posters on the bedroom wall in his parents' Brooklyn home, and he joins his idols as an Italian-American everyman on-screen, breaking free from a traditional family, and learning - when he meets Stephanie, who's leaving Brooklyn for Manhattan thanks to a job at an advertising agency - that his big-fish-in-a-small-pond days may be coming to an end. And though the film culminates in a dance competition, the movie's not about disco dancing at all; it's about class, and upbringing, and social status: a place to stand in the world... but yeah, fast-forward the dance sequences. There are some Bee-Gees songs that deserve to stand the test of time, but those used in this film, if not for this film, would have been otherwise forgettable.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer

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