Sunday, August 18, 2013

Weekly Top Ten-Ten Favorite Films from the 1980's

Weekly Top Ten-#18

Celebration of the Decades-#3

My Top Ten of the 1980's
We've come to it at last, my favorite films of the 1980's. Usually, when people my age point to their childhood films, they most notably point to films from the 1990's and 1980's. The 1980's marked the first use of home video, which may seem silly today, but was groundbreaking during the time. The 1980's also housed some of the most popular and memorable film franchises in the history of the medium.

There are just a few things I need to mention before getting into the list. First of all, I hope you all know upfront how difficult this list was to make. I thought I'd be able to pad the list out, sure I knew the placings of each movie. For my 2000's and 1990's lists, the rankings were pretty clear-cut, to me at least. I thought the same for this decade and I was wrong. This was the decade of the Brat Pack, Indiana Jones, the duel, crazy sci/fi, time travel, and legendary comedy. I give more credit to the 1980's in retrospect than I did previously. Second of all, I need people to understand just how many babies were killed in the process of making this list. Like I said, this decade marks certain childhood nostalgia. A lot of my favorite comfort movies exist in this decade. As much I love those types of movies, usually to be the best in my book you got to offer more than just pretty pictures. I dig such movies as "Back To The Future," "The Temple of Doom," "The Last Crusade," "Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn," "Robocop," "The Terminator," "The Goonies," "Monster Squad," "Gremlins," "Return of the Jedi," "The Last Starfighter," "Batman," "Die Hard," and "Lethal Weapon." All of those movies classics in my book, all of them worth your time and attention. Yet, all of those movies did not make the list. I will miss those films on the countdown, but it comes down to listening to your inner-voice when making lists like these. I feel the ten films I have chosen today really defined the decade for me. I am sure you will agree that these were some of the decades top gems.

10. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Now I know I mentioned Star Wars above, but you must think I am crazy to not mentioned it at all. Empire easily takes the cake as the best overall Star Wars film ever created. Yes, this is the very definition of the comfort movie, but the story, characters and theme do much more than comfort. This chapter features the best overall storytelling, the best character arcs and the most memorable battle sequences. Oh, and it features the best and most popular line in the entire saga, in my book at least. When I look back at Star Wars, nearly all my memories are from Empire, and that is part of the reason it sits on this list.

9. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
There were a lot of great teen comedies to hit theaters in the 1980's, however this is the one which makes come back on a regular basis. Sure, in real life it would be highly unlikely for any teenager to get away with half the stuff Bueller does, but I every time I watch it, I can't help but get wrapped up in it. It is a very fun and hilarious movie. Not only that, but I feel the movie pulls off the best overall look at being a teenager. Specifically, a teenager in the midst of going to college, the threat of missing friends, girlfriends and the tension that brings is very real. This movie hit me hardest when I was a senior in high school, and blends all of this perfectly into a great-looking movie.

8. Scarface (1983)
Al Pacino is a crazy monster in this movie. His performance is so iconic, so rowdy, so demented that it is hard for me not to mention this movie. I can't point to too many other performances from the 1980's that really rattled my insides, (we'll get to some more crazy performances in just a bit.) but Pacino does. Not only is Pacino memorable, but the movie overall is a great thrill-ride. A powerful update of the old 1930's gangster classic, and something that is worth your time and attention.

7. Do The Right Thing (1989)
I know I have said some pretty controversial stuff on my blog regarding Spike Lee. But I got to give credit when it is due. I believe he is capable of visual thunder at times. He can make a potent piece of storytelling and the result is unforgettable. This movie really captures Lee true talent and his skill as a storyteller. I always find it to be a marvel when a movie is able to blend humor with harsh reality. It's something I never knew Lee had in him, but we sure are richer for it.

6. E.T. (1982)
Pure magic, that is what this movie is. Not the average alien movie, but that is okay and overall what we as an American audience truly needed. I never thought an alien the touches the heart of a family could ever be molded into a good idea. But leave it to Spielberg to outdo everyone's expectations. 

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Yes, still to this day, no matter when I watch this, it still feels like 15 minutes. As a rabid movie addict, how can you not fall for something that blends the best of adventure, romance, action and horror...yes horror into one awesome package. Even as the movie packs in real adventure, we even get to know our characters, and listen to them share dialogue with each other. There maybe some memorable sequences that feel like lightening in a bottle, but the development of characters is just as superb. Just another example of pushing the comfort movie to the next level.

4. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
This movie was featured in my second edition of The Essentials, and I think that really shows just how powerful a piece it really is. There was a vessel-full of great Woody Allen films I could have picked for this list, however this movie punches me in the gut every time I watch it. It could not have been easy to mesh comedy with such ideas as faith, philosophy and religion, and sometimes it blows my mind that Allen was the guy to do it. For a director that makes a new movie every year, it is always hard being consistant. But I will stand by that this movie was always and will always be his Magnum Opus.

3. Raging Bull (1980)
Biopics are usually hard on me, but there is no doubt how great "Raging Bull" really is. Martin Scorsese proved once and for all, just how poetic his eye is and that he can do a lot more than just gangster movies. The boxing is all well-shot, but what makes "Raging Bull" so profound is the compelling story between two brothers, and also how this boxer loses everything due to ego and malice. It's a truly harrowing story created by a master storyteller.

2. Blue Velvet (1986)
If you were to look at the whole cinematic legacy of the 1980's, I do not think you could find a more bizarre story than "Blue Velvet." I have written about David Lynch before, and he's an artist with a warped, twisted mind. But there is no doubt that, love him or hate him, his movies get under your skin. Some may pass this movie off as empty shock, but I wholeheartedly disagree. There is a great story underneath all of the relentless imagery, about how we can get lost in our own obsessions, about how crippling absolute power can be, about the horrors of being someone's slave and how unpleasant small town life could be. I am also pretty fond of the stuff that makes absolutely zero sense. Have I mentioned Dennis Hopper yet, because if not, dear God he's a rabid animal in this movie. As great as Pacino was in "Scarface," Hopper nearly has him beat in overall performance of the 1980's. If you love your mysteries dark and twisted, you need to check this out promptly.

1. Ghostbusters (1984)
You may think this is an odd choice for the top spot, but I can say with honest feelings and a full heart that "Ghostbusters" is not only the best film of the 1980's but also one of the best films of all time, in my book.

I have had a very personal history with "Ghostbusters," which is why it is so essential to me. This was one of the very first films I remember loving, it is one of the first films I remember watching at a near manic level. It is a movie that has only grown on me since childhood. This movie opened me up to the wide world of film in a huge way. Not only that, but when I used to visit my Grandma Hoelscher when I was young, it became our tradition to watch this movie together. It wasn't a trip to Grandma's if we did not watch "Ghostbusters." I loved that movie so much that she gave me her copy to keep forever, it is a beat-up VHS in a truly retro case, and I still have it today. My Grandma died last summer, and her memory is still very strong with me and my entire family. I still honor her memory with this movie. This is why "Ghostbusters" will always mean something as I grow old, it will always matter to me.

Honorable Mentions
-Das Boot
-The Breakfast Club
- Brazil
-Blade Runner
-Hannah and her Sisters
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles
-The Shining
- The Right Stuff
-Field of Dreams
-Born of the Fourth of July
-Christmas Vacation
-A Christmas Story

These movies, as well as the many movies mentioned above are absolutely worth your time and attention. Thank you for reading.


  1. Excellent choice with Crimes and Misdemeanors.

    Annie Hall will alway be my favorite Woody Allen movie, but Crimes and Misdemeanors maybe his greatest social commentary on our world.

    Match Point just seemed to only capture a shade of what this film accomplished.

    The final scenes make you reexamine your own world views. Also Hannah and Her Sisters is another strong Woody Allen 80's film that examines the role of religion in our lives.

  2. I love both "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors" very much. I did consider "Hannah.." but "Crimes.." is much more dear to my heart.