It wouldn't be until years later that I understood what a great story this is. It's a coming of age movie. It's a modern day tragedy. It's a love story.
The first thing that people think about when they hear Saturday Night Fever is disco and bell bottoms, but the story is timeless. Travolta plays Tony Manero, a loser in a nowhere job who only feels alive when he is on the dance floor at the local disco. There he is adored by his friends, by women and by strangers. There he is king. Everywhere else he is nobody. Even at home.
Tony becomes infatuated with a woman named Stephanie. On the surface Stephanie appears to be much better off than Tony. For the most part Stephanie is a big talker, but Tony is bothered by her observations.
"Let me guess. You work all week long at some dead end job and then you go and blow it at all at 2001 (the disco) on the weekends. You're a cliché. You're no one, going nowhere." As much as Tony is upset by her words he can't argue with them. Soon Tony becomes frustrated with his "station in life" and tells Stephanie he wants out (of Brooklyn).
What makes Saturday Night Fever work so much for me is Tony is very typical of a lot of males who would rather have a good time and party now than build something toward the future. Bars are full of guys like Tony. Guys who are super stars in their local drinking establishments, but have no life outside of the night life.
And of course there's the superb dance scenes that most people remember Saturday Night Fever for. The soundtrack is also one of the best out there.
For whatever reason, Saturday Night Fever also has my favorite closing shot of all time. It's really nothing special, but I get choked up every time I see it.
Saturday Night Fever is also a snapshot of a period in recent American history. The movie took place in 1977. The country was a mess after the Vitenam war ended and before Reagan stormed Washington and once again instilled a sense of pride in Americans. There was no longer a war to protest, but the average American didn't have much faith in our country. I think Saturday Night Fever does an excellent job of capturing what was probably a common attitude among young adults during the late 70's. Live for the moment because the future is pretty bleak.