Earlier we posted an article about revisiting 70’s films and we enjoyed that one so much that we wanted to do the exact same thing for 80’s films. In some ways, even more than the 70’s films, some really great 80’s films are starting to slide into anonymity. So we take a look at some of our favorites.
I saw a lot more 80’s films than any other decade. It was prime movie viewing for me and with the advent of VCRs and cable movie stations like HBO and Cinemax, it was so very easy. There are a lot of crappy and dated 80’s films. Thinking about these films, I remembered how fun a lot of them are and honestly probably could have easily listed 20. If you haven’t seen these films, search them out and let me know what you think.
- A Soldier’s Story (1984): A racially charged murder mystery and career performances by Adolph Caesar and Howard E. Rollins Jr., hell yes. Also some Denzel!
- Sea of Love (1989): Al Pacino’s comeback film is dark with a twist of noir.
- Biloxi Blues (1988): A Neil Simon comedy during training camp. Matthew Broderick plays the recruit and Christopher Walken shines as the sergeant.
- Angel Heart (1987): An awesome and controversial film. Mickey Rourke shows his potential. This is the film Bill Cosby was outraged about because of Lisa Bonet’s sex scene. Really Bill?
- 48 Hours (1982): Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte actually have chemistry, it’s funny and it’s the film that started Murphy’s film career ended later on by Pluto Nash.
- No Way Out (1987): The way thrillers used to be done, this is Kevin Costner peak and another great performance by Gene Hackman. I rewatch this one often.
- Just One of the Guys (1985): There were a ton of teen comedies in the 80’s, this one often gets overlooked, it’s pretty good and has some social commentary with it. Billy Zabka, of course, shows up as a villain.
- Romancing the Stone (1984): Adventure movies aren’t this fun anymore. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas have great chemistry.
- Brubaker (1980): Robert Redford cleans up a prison. A typical Redford film of the time and the supporting cast is awesome – think Yaphet Kotto and Morgan Freeman.
- Body Double (1984): Another Brian Depalma channeling Hitchcock film ala Dressed to Kill.
MG: You put together a good list. People credit Glory for Denzel’s breakout, but I first noticed him in A Soldier’s Story. I can’t understand why tight thrillers like No Way Out are not made anymore. I recently saw Brubaker again and it still holds up. The prison film was like a sub-genre in the 70’s and 80’s, but now you hardly ever see that setting anymore – a reflection of our society’s brutally cold-hearted view of the modern prison population.
All through the 80’s, I lived to see movies in the theater. During the summer, I’d rather be in the dark confines of the theater than almost anywhere else, including the beach or the pool. One could knock 80’s cinema as a step back in quality from the great works of the 70’s, but I think there was an adequate mix of crowd-pleasing movies and director/story driven films. I discount the true low-quality stuff that spread like a virus with the rise of the VCR and corner video store. Here are some memorable ones for me that people may forget:
- Taps (1981): Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton lead a group of kids trying to defend their military school and honor from 80’s greed. Featuring Ronny Cox and George C. Scott in great supporting roles, and Tom Cruise’s film debut.
- The Year of Living Dangerously (1982): The political thriller set in a 3rd world country is another 80’s sub-genre we don’t see anymore. Alongside a young Mel Gibson & Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hunt was the first actor to win an Oscar for playing someone of the opposite sex.
- Dreamscape (1984): Dennis Quaid in one of the first PG-13 films. Going back to our last post, this story of gifted psychics that can enter people’s dreams would make a good TV series – even if this concept was already used for Inception.
- Enemy Mine (1985): Bombing at the box office, it found a deserved audience on VHS. Starring Dennis Quaid, again, and Louis Gosset Jr.
- Witness (1985): This is my favorite acting performance by Harrison Ford. Although this is my second Peter Weir film listed, I still wish he was more prolific back then.
- The Emerald Forest (1985): Obviously ’85 was a good year for dramas. I did not realize until now this was based on a true story. This is ripe for a remake.
- Salvador (1986): James Woods was intense in Oliver Stone’s first major drama. I know Woods is a bit off his rocker now, but he used to go all-in for his roles.
- Matewan (1987): This film will remind you why unions came about in a time when people suffered under unchecked corporate greed in company towns.
- A Fish Called Wanda (1988): This might be my favorite comedy of the decade. Kevin Kline won Best Supporting Actor – a rare feat for a comedy film.
- Dead Calm (1989): I love films that have only 2 or 3 actors. This is one of the most intense thrillers I’ve seen. Nicole Kidman in a breakout role and Billy Zane at his creepiest.
DJ: A pretty strong list as well. Dennis Quaid was money in the 80’s, I even loved him in Innerspace. The Emerald Forest was great and John Boorman’s other great 80’s film Excalibur should also be on our lists. A Fish Called Wanda is defintely one of the best comedies of that decade. Believe it or not I still need to see some of these.