"Breaking Away" was named the best motion picture of 1979 by members of the National Society of Film Critics at the groups' annual awards meeting yesterday in New York.

The runner-up was "Kramer vs. Kramer," which had won best-film citations from the New York Film Critics and Los Angeles Film Critics. In addition, the National Society's award for best screenplay went to Steve Tesich for "Breaking Away."

Dustin Hoffman was chosen best actor for his performances in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Agatha," while Meryl Streep won best supporting actress for her work in "Kramer," "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" and "Manhattan."

The balloting for best direction ended in a tie between Robert Benton for "Kramer" and Woody Allen for "Manhattan." Sally Field was chosen best actress for "Norma Rae" and Frederic Forrest for best supporting actor for both "Apocalypse Now" and "The Rose." The cinematography award went to Caleb Deschanel for "The Black Stallion" and "Being There." A third Deschanel credit, "More American Graffiti," was not cited by the critics' group, composed of about three dozen reviewers representing major periodicals and metropolitan newspapers.

"Breaking Away," a dramatic comedy about the conflicts between undergraduates and townies in the university community of Bloomington, Ind., was trailed closely in the balloting by "Kramer" and "Manhattan." At the New York Film Critics' meeting, "Kramer" had edged "Breaking Away" by a single vote, with "Manhattan" also a close third.

Peter Sellers in "Being There" and Nick Nolte in "North Dallas Forty" were the runners-up to Hoffman, while Field was trailed by German actress Hanna Schygulla in "The Marriage of Maria Braun" and Bette Midler in "The Rose."

In the supporting categories, Forrest outpolled Melvyn Douglas in both "Being There" and "Joe Tynan" and Paul Dooley in "Breaking Away." Streep's closest competition came from co-star Barbara Harris in "Joe Tynan," Barbara Barrie in "Breaking Away" and co-star Jane Alexander in "Kramer."

Peter Yates of "Breaking Away" took third place in the directing category. Allen's script for "Manhattan" and Benton's for "Kramer" were the runners-up as bets screenplay. Deschanel won over Vittorio Storaro for both "Apocalypse Now" and "Agatha" and Nestor Almesdros for "Kramer." f