- February 11 - Louis J M Beel, Dutch premier (1946-1948, 1958-1959).
- July 2 - Vladimir Nabokov, writer
- September 12 - South African activist Stephen Biko dies in police custody.
- October 14 - Bing Crosby, American singer and actor
- January 1 - First woman Episcopal priest ordained
- January 18 - Scientists identify a previously unknown bacterium as the cause of the mysterious "legionnaire's disease."
- Jimmy Carter succeeds Gerald R. Ford as President of the United States of America
- January 21 - President Jimmy Carter pardons Vietnam War draft evaders.
- February 11 - A 20.2-kg lobster is caught off Nova Scotia (heaviest known crustacean).
- May 23 - Scientists report using bacteria in lab to make insulin.
- June 20 - The United States Supreme Court rules that states are not required to spend Medicaid funds on elective abortions.
- July 22 - the purged Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping is restored to power as the "Gang of Four" is expelled from the Communist Party.
- September 7 - The Panama Canal treaties are signed.
- September 11 - The last "wild" infection of smallpox is reported in Somalia.
- A collection of work by JRR Tolkien, The Silmarillion, is published posthumously by his son Christopher.
- September 21 - Nuclear-proliferation pact, curbing spread of nuclear weapons, is signed by 15 countries including the U.S. and U.S.S.R.
- Swedish music group ABBA passes The Beatles as having most records sold.
- The science fiction saga, Star Wars, later renamed to Star Wars: Episode IV - [A New Hope], makes its first outing to the cinema and makes George Lucas and the team at LucasArts a staggering $461 million.
- John Travolta discoed in Saturday Night Fever
- In the Academy Awards, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight win Best Actor and Actress and Supporting Actress awards for Network.
- Rocky picks up a Best Picture and All The President's Men wins Jason Robards the Supporting Actor and an Art Direction for George Jenkins and George Gaines.
- July 22 - Elvis Costello releases his first album, My aim is true, in the UK.
- August 16 - Elvis Presley dies.
- Fleetwood Mac's album Rumour's hits #1 and becomes one of the all-time best selling albums (it was the best selling album until 1983, when Michael Jackson's Thriller would top it).
- Baseball - New York Yankees defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is the World Series in which Reggie Jackson becomes known as Mr. October.
- NASCAR Championship - Cale Yarborough wins this years event, beating Richard Petty into second place with a very respectable 386 point lead.
- January 9 - Super Bowl XI Oakland Raiders (32) def. Minnesota Vikings (14)
- PhysicsPhilip Warren Anderson, Sir Nevill Francis Mott, John Hasbrouck van Vleck
- Chemistry - Ilya Prigogine
- Medicine - Roger Guillemin, Andrew V Schally, Rosalyn Yalow
- Literature - Vicente Aleixandre
- Peace - Amnesty International
- Economics - Bertil Ohlin, James Meade