A couple of weeks ago I did my Top 10 Movies Of The 1970’s. Well this is the next part in that particular Top 10 series, where I (predictably) take a look at the 1980s and the best films that particular decade had to offer.
My 1970’s list got a bit of criticism as I included a lot of “safe” choices which would have been the films that influenced a generation rather than my own personal choices. So this time round I have tried to include my personal favourite movies from the 80’s, however looking down this list a lot of them fall into the former category also. Anyway, without further ado let’s dive right in…
10: Die Hard (1988)
Bruce Willis exploded onto the action genre with his first outing as New York policeman John McClane which made him a household name. This film is a classic example of “the right way” to do an action film. Willis did the vast majority of his stunts himself, and a lot of the action sequences look as good today as they ever did. This film is full of memorable quotes, and Alan Rickman’s performance as East German terrorist Hans Gruber (an Englishman playing a German villain, something which was later repeated in Die Hard With A Vengeance when Jeremy Irons played Gruber’s brother).
9: A View To A Kill (1985)
My all-time favourite Bond film, despite being heavily criticised by not only the media, but hardcore Bond-fans and even Roger Moore himself. However, never mind Bond. For me, this film is all about the villains; the calculating Max Zorin (Played by Christopher Walken) and his cold-blooded assistant Mayday (Grace Jones). This film was the last to feature Roger Moore as James Bond and it was his increasingly apparent age which was the source of Moore’s criticism of the picture as a whole. Nevertheless, I liked it. And it contains some great action scenes; the whole escape from a burning office block followed by the fire truck chase, and of course the opening sequence in Paris. And Grace Jones in a catsuit is always a plus.
8: Amadeus (1984)
An adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s stage play directed by the brilliant Milos Forman, this biographical tale of the relationship between the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his mentor Antonio Salieri is both touching and also incredibly dark in parts. The film centres around Salieri’s struggle with his own spirituality, his growing resent toward his own god having devoted his life to piety and remained celibate in return for his musical knowledge and prowess, yet how despite his sacrifice, god has mocked him through Mozart’s childhood genius thus banishing his own music into the doldrums of mediocrity. This is a film with an intense atmosphere about it, which hangs over the film like a storm cloud all the way through.
7: The Goonies (1985)
This just had to make an appearance somewhere. Featuring a who’s who of child actors of the era: Sean Astin who went on to play Samways Gamgee in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Corey Feldman of The Lost Boys fame amongst other things, and Ke Huy Quan who had already appeared in Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom as Jones’ sidekick Short Round. This film is quirky and entertaining throughout. A cult classic that should never be forgotten.
6: See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)
Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder at thier very best. This is the charming and hilariously funny story of two unlikely friends who suddenly find themselves wanted for a murder they didn’t commit. Blind Wally Carew (Pryor) and his deaf employer-turned-friend David Lyons (Wilder) may not always see eye to eye (no pun intended), but they’re forced to work together to overcome a series of challenging situations and outwit the entire county police force, all the while avoiding a criminal syndicate who are on the lookout for a rare gold coin that Carew unknowingly has in his possession. Hilarity from start to finish, this film cements Pryor and Wilder’s place as my favourite comedy duo of all time, despite the fact that they only ever made two other films. Apparently, there was a rumour that the two actors did not get on very well off-screen, but the chemistry they have in all of thier films but particularly here is amazing and would have you believe otherwise.
5: Scarface (1983)
Say hello to my little friend!! Al Pacino’s immortal line is just one of the high points of this epic drama detailing the rise and fall of Cuban mobster Tony Montana, from his struggle as a refugee and involvement in small-time crime right to his rise as one of Miami’s most prolific gangsters. His infamous “That’s the bad guy” speech is a truly iconic moment and the film never fails to disappoint, even when tackling Tony’s eventual and unavoidable downfall which is akin to that of a Greek tragedy.
4: Back To The Future (1985)
I don’t even need to say much about this one. We’re all familiar with the story: Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) accidentally travels back in time to 1955 and after inadvertedly interfering with his parents’ first meeting, has to get them back together and find a way back to 1985 to save his friend Dr. Emmet Brown (Christopher Lloyd). But what does it for me in this film is it’s timeless nature; you can watch it again and again and it never gets boring. Director Robert Zemeckis really captures the feel of 1955 in the quaint fictional town of Hill Valley and there are just so many scenes that make this a classic, from the diner scenes to Marty’s shredding at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance. This is one heavy film.
3: Withnail And I (1987)
I’ll admit it, I used to hate Richard E. Grant until I saw this film. Just something about his smug demeanour and the annoying way he’d always pop up on shows like “Room 101” throughout the 90’s without a young Raven ever really knowing what he was famous for. But my opinion of him changed somewhat when I was forced to sit through Withnail & I by an ex. I say forced, I was ill at the time and she stuck it on. She’d already explained the story of it to me a bit, and I was glad of it because I needed something to help me sleep. 20 minutes in, however, I was fighting to stay awake. Basically Withnail (Grant) and “I” (Paul McGann – referred to as “Marwood” in the screenplay but credited simply as “I”), are two alcoholic out of work actors sharing a flat in Camden and waiting for roles to come in. They decide they need a break away from London and Withnail manages to land the keys to his uncle’s country cottage, so they head there to take stock of things and generally recuperate. I won’t give much else away, but I’d definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it. Another cult classic.
2: This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
This is so, so, so much more than a film. And I’m not even talking about the side projects such as the numerous in-character gigs the actors have played over the years or even thier 1992 album “Break Like The Wind”. Spinal Tap is more than a motion picture, it is an institution. Again, this is a film with a massive cult following and full of quotes which are referenced throughout popular culture to this very day. This is certainly a film which has stood the test of time. One of the first hugely successful “mockumentary” style films, this film takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the real face of the rock and roll lifestyle as it follows fictional aging rock band Spinal Tap on the day-to-day aspects of thier North American tour to promote thier album “Smell the glove”. Christopher Guest is brilliant as Nigel Tufnel who was also one of the writers for the original film. The question is; how much more good could this film possibly be, and the answer is none. None more good. This film certainly goes up to 11.
1: The Shining (1980)
For Numero Uno, I had to go with Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel. The casting for this movie is spot on; Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of writer-slash-caretaker (with added slash) is top notch as we see the gradual decline of his sanity triggered by numerous sinister encounters and episodes with other people at the supposedly deserted Overlook Hotel, which Torrance has the job of maintaining over the winter season when the hotel is closed to the public. The encounters are left up to the reader to decide whether they are ghosts or simply hallucinations. Jack’s wife Wendy, played by Shelly Duvall, is another fine choice as her pale, gaunt expression in some scenes is as haunting as anything else you will see in this film. In one scene, perfectionist director Kubrick demanded over 120 takes from Duvall. I first saw this late one night when I was about 7 years old, and if I’m honest it’s probably the film that got me into the whole psychological horror genre. To this day it has remained one of my favourite films of all time, and The Jack’s performance is nothing short of brilliant from start to finish. (Well, what did you expect?? It’s Jack Nicholson!!)
So that concludes my Top 10 movies of the 1980s. There was comedy, drama, action and a touch of horror. Again, there are countless films I’ve left out here: E.T., Indiana Jones, Rambo, Ghostbusters, Top Gun… too many to name. This list was difficult having to choose just 10 films. I know I’ll get stick for not including the two Star Wars follow ups, but I thought I’d leave them out as they were the kind of films that everyone seems to like rather than standing out for me as personal favourites. Besides, I’d already mentioned Star Wars in my 70’s rundown, the same reason I left out Rocky 4 which is by far my favourite Rocky film. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading this and hope you’ll look forward to the next part of my Top 10 films series where I take a look at the best of the 1990s. Please feel free to leave comments as always, and let me know which ones I’ve missed out.