100 Favorite Films To Recommend Part 7: The 1980s

Luis A. Mendez

Boricua. Floridian. Theist. Writer. Critic. Oscar Predictor. Godzilla Fanboy. Member Of The Critics Association Of Central Florida And The Puerto Rico Critics Association.

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23 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Here is what I did not like (at the time!) about Clue having 3 different endings.

    I knew that the three different endings were not all of equal quality. One of them was the “bad” one, one was the “good” one, and one was the one in the middle of those.

    What if I saw the one with the bad ending?

    Couldn’t risk it.

    (I liked how the video dealt with this. Just give them all three endings! “You might think it happened like this… or you might think it happened like that… but it really happened like this other thing!”)

    Even now, when I think about giving a movie three different endings, randomly, I recoil.

    Before 1989, we had two good superhero movies. That’s it. Just two of them. Superman and Superman 2. Batman, in 1989, made it 3.

    And everyone complained about how dark and violent it was. They interviewed Cesar Romero and he complained about how violent the Joker was. It’s almost comic now, thinking back. Makes you wonder what they’d think about the Nolan version in 1989.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Jaybird says:

      Throwing acid in a woman’s face was shocking then and is still shocking today. The scene with the anchors is still pretty shocking too. But unlike a lot of the violence that is in movies today, it had a purpose to it and a reason for it, which both makes it more justified and also less of a “just for shock value” thing.

      I prefer 1989 Batman to the Nolan ones.Report

  2. Trading Places and Coming to America are both very underrated.

    I can’t let a mention of Ferris Bueller go by without plugging my “sequel” to Ferris in which he gets his comeuppance, finally https://ordinary-times.com/2017/11/10/ferris-bueller-day-of-retribution/Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Kristin Devine says:

      One of the really interesting things about Trading Places is how it turns into a heist movie, but they do not explain the heist to the audience at all. Like, “okay, the bad guys thought the price was gonna go up but it didn’t, but…why does that mean they lost all their money? How did the heroes get all those contracts to sell in the first place?” And then your father, who works in investments, gets to spend a happy forty-five minutes explaining how futures trading works and pointing out that this movie was actually responsible for getting SEC regulations created so people couldn’t do what the guys in the movie did.

      Also, I think this movie was chiefly responsible for the onset of my puberty, because Jamie Lee Curtis takes off her shirt twice and her tits are phenomenal.Report

  3. Aaron David says:

    Excellent list! Well, I would cut Ferris Buller and put Blue Velvet in, but that is just me. One movie I would add would be A Passage to India. Sadly forgotten in this post David Lean era, but well worth picking up sometime.Report

  4. Michael Cain says:

    I have to admit that in Clue I was distracted by the engineering aspects of the question of how Leslie Ann Warren’s dress top stayed up.Report

  5. Slade the Leveller says:


    1980 – Caddyshack: one of the most quotable films ever made. Bill Murray’s greatest role.

    1981 – Agree with OP. Just an all around fun movie

    1982 – Diner: Great ensemble cast in an excellent period piece.

    1983 – The Big Chill: I was 20 and got to see what a mid-life crisis looks like. Unbelievable soundtrack.

    1984 – This Is Spinal Tap: ’nuff said.

    1985 – Brazil: Terry Gilliam’s prescient vision of 2020.

    1986 – Big Trouble in Little China: I’m a huge Kurt Russell fan, and this is the highlight of his career (except for, maybe, Escape from New York).

    1987 – Full Metal Jacket: Kubrik’s take on the absurdity of Vietnam.

    1988 – Bull Durham: Kevin Costner is very believable as an aging minor leaguer. Tim Robbins steals the show.

    1989: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: how could I not? It was the first date with the woman who would become my wife. Plus, it’s really funny.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

      Spinal Tap was probably the second best movie of the decade, but Amadeus was released the same year, so it can’t make my list.Report

      • Slade the Leveller in reply to Pinky says:

        It was a tough choice for sure.Report

        • Pinky in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

          They’re both stories of the tension between musical genius and flawed humanity. It doesn’t seem possible that Big Bottom or the Overture to The Magic Flute could be created by mortals, and yet the conflict between the eternal and the…oh, never mind. Spinal Tap is great but I don’t think it’d make sense to kids today. That guitar solo, though. I’ve never heard a theater crowd laugh that hard. It literally drowned out the movie.Report

          • Slade the Leveller in reply to Pinky says:

            I was really hoping Mozart’s Overture and Tufnel’s Lick My Love Pump were both written in the same key, but, alas…

            Tufnel ripping off Page in The Song Remains the Same is comic genius.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Slade the Leveller says:

      Honestly, I thought that “Used Cars” was some of the best Kurt Russell. It’s the same “romantic heel who does a face turn at the beginning of the third act”, which is a role he’s actually really good in, but without the suuuuper creepy setup of “Overboard”.Report

  6. Kolohe says:

    Weirdly enough, just happened to watch Clue two nights ago because it came up on Amazon prime recommended. They had all three endings, with a silent movie style title card between them.

    I can see why it didn’t get big play at the time – the front half is a lot less over the top than the back half and so muddles thru a bit before everyone really starts chewing the scenery.Report

  7. Bolo602 says:

    There’s a 10 minute video on YouTube “The Shining, Spatial Awareness and Set Design”. It goes a long way towards explaining what Kubrick did to make his film so uncomfortable to watch.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Bolo602 says:

      I was just reading about this film. King disliked it and wrote the miniseries adaptation to ignore Kubrick’s changes and be faithful to the book. King’s sequel novel (Doctor Sleep) also contradicts the movie.

      Then the poor guy who wrote the Doctor Sleep screenplay had to adapt the book to be consistent with the film version of The Shining (*) without pissing off King too badly.

      * Because that’s what the average moviegoer would see it as a sequel to.Report

  8. DensityDuck says:

    I can see why you left Ghostbusters off, because honestly, everybody has seen Ghostbusters.

    Which gives me an excuse to repost more Kontextmaschine…

    You know what my favorite piece of reactionary media is?


    Hear me out, I’ve mentioned this before, but forever ago. It’s a movie about a bunch of guys who, in the go-go ’80s, give up on academia to found a startup based on cutting-edge technology. They settle in gritty New York City, specifically taking on the burden of rehabilitating decaying public-safety infrastructure, and their job description is literally “drive around town with the siren on, protecting once-glorious locations by imprisoning vandalous spooks”.
    They clean the city up and create jobs for black- and white-ethnic working class, but face resistance from pointy-headed bureaucrats. (The dickless EPA guy manages to represent both “overregulation” and “safety-threatening prisoner releases” with admirable efficiency.) Ultimately though, the meddlers have to relent in the face of our heroes’ success at making the city safe for innocents, represented here by yuppie singles in their 30s.
    (Ghostbusters II is about the guys making the city a safe place for those yuppies to raise kids by cleansing cultural institutions of evil European influence using the power of American patriotism, while the judiciary and mayor come to accept that whatever the law or political elites might say, these guys are both necessary and popular.)

    Meanwhile, it’s fucking Ghostbusters.

    What’s even better about Ghostbusters is that you can write something similarly convincing about how progressive Ghostbusters is. When Ray, Pete, and Egon stand before Gozer the Gozerian they are scientists of no discernible religious disposition standing against a god (Winston is a Black Baptist Christian but he’s also just an employee) and they’ve come to defeat that god with science. Ghostbusters, fundamentally, stripped to its core, is a movie about science versus superstition – the ascendant technological ingenuity of man (and not even “special” ingenuity that only genius scientists can use, the Ghostbusters have already refined their tech into a democratized user-friendly form; Venkman isn’t especially technologically gifted, and there’s a bit where Winston, a working-class meathead, is shown that operating the stuff is a matter of plugging it into the wall and pushing a button) versus the ancient powers of literal gods. And since nearly all modern stories about humanity’s struggles with ancient or fictional gods are subtextually “about” the relation of said story’s society of origin to its own currently-dominant spiritual belief systems…yeah, you see where this going: Ghostbusters is a science-vs-religion story where religion gets its ass handed to it.

    Yeah. That vision of intellectual progress and that vision of reactionary restoration ARE perfectly compatible, aren’t they?Report

  9. Pinky says:

    It’s interesting to me that you picked two of my top ten horror movies, and arguably the #1 on my least-favorite list.

    To me, horror has three elements. I could probably call them three stages, because they usually occur in sequence, but not always. Sometimes all three don’t appear at all. Dread is the first, that sense that there’s something unexplainable wrong. Stephen King is a master at this, or to put it another way, he doesn’t know how to write an ending. The Shining really is a Stephen King movie, even though he wouldn’t recognize it as such. Every frame tells you that something horrible is happening.

    Once we get some understanding of the situation, we get to suspense. Some specific bad thing is about to happen. I don’t think The Blair Witch Project ever gets to this point, but that doesn’t make it any less scary. The Thing is a classic in terms of suspense. The paranoia in that one scene – everyone knows which one – is as thick as in any movie ever made. The movie also nails the third element, which is the violence.

    I find the violence so cruel in Hellraiser that I can’t enjoy anything about the movie. The violence in The Thing is mind-boggling, both technically and in sheer insanity. Hellraiser was just genuinely shocking without being compelling. You mentioned Aliens, which I’m not really a fan of, but if you’re looking for violence without suspense, the most famous example is in the first movie in the series. There’s something odd happening, but it’s gone now, so let’s all relax OH MY GOD.Report