Something that I just read online reminded me of the cultural movements over the past 50 years or so. We had one in the 60’s and again in the 80’s. It was during those times that we had some presidents who weren’t exactly the most popular, Nixon and Reagan. It seems that when we have times like these, there are some cultural shifts. I believe that there is another one coming. What was a part of it was the Music. The Music was incredible and mind-blowing during those times (not so much under Obama for the most) and it captured our hearts and minds. Who among us doesn’t love themselves some Beatles? Or what about the Sex Pistols? No one saw that one coming did they? Punk Rock was a part of the 80’s and it turned the world upside down…
For what it’s worth, there are some pretty remarkable and wonderful films that came out during the 80’s as well, specifically 1982. Coincidentally, that’s the year I graduated HS, left Detroit and headed to California as I had joined the Marines. Oh to be young and full of hope and glory again. But I digress. Arguably, the movies that came out over that year were some of the greatest and influential films ever made. They were inspirational and made their way into the American lexicon for generations to come.
Here is a list (by no means complete but nevertheless a marvelous collection) of the films that I’ve seen and really enjoyed, in alphabetical order:
48 Hours (Directed by Walter Hill) Nick Nolte, Eddie Murphy (This is the one that put Murphy on the map. It was fast, gritty, humorous and it fell into the action comedy genre. Or the Cop/Buddy Film genre. This led to others such as Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon and Rush Hour)
Airplane 2: The Sequel (Ken Finkleman) Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Lloyd Bridges, William Shatner (Ok, so this one isn’t as good as the first one but it did have its moments. It was the whole theatre of the absurd film that was a fun time and had sight gags, one-liners, puns etc. It led to others films such as the Police Academy films and The Naked Gun which have several sequels too.)
The Beastmaster (Don Coscarelli) Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, John Amos, Rip Torn (This had a few things going for it. Two words, Tanya Roberts. In loincloth. Ok, so it’s 4 words, sue me. It had Swords and Sorcery which is a very popular genre. Think Game of Thrones, only there’s hardly any heads getting lopped off; But it did have animals that communicated telepathically with Singer. While it didn’t clean up at the box office, it did spawn two sequels and a syndicated TV series both on TBS and HBO.)
Blade Runner (Ridley Scott) Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Daryl Hannah, Joanna Cassidy (Where do I start? There’s so much to draw upon; from the script based on the short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Phillip K. Dick to the actor’s performances to the astonishing visual effects. In my Top 5 fav movies of all time. Without Blade Runner, there would have been no “cyberpunk” and all the movies that came after it. Hence “Total Recall” “Minority Report” “A Scanner Darkly” which were all based on Phillip K. Dick adaptations too. Films like “The Matrix” trilogy “Brazil” “Strange Days” “The Fifth Element” “Twelve Monkeys” “Dark City” as well as Japanese Anime all were influenced by BR.)
Conan the Barbarian (John Milius) Arnold Schwarzeneggar, James Earl Jones (The one that put Ah-nold on the map and it was just 2 years before The Terminator. Oh yeah, James Earl Jones was coming into his own as well.)
Creepshow (George A. Romero) Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Ted Danson, Leslie Neilsen (Another list of stellar actors who made this a classic or perhaps a cult film. And who better to direct than the one man who started the who cult craze of zombies than Romero?)
The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson, Frank Oz) While this is considered a children’s film, it’s still one of the more beloved films from Henson and company. It inspired others and created a whole new industry in Hollywood.
E.T. the Extraterrestrial (Steven Spielberg) Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Drew Barrymore (Again, while it’s considered a children’s film, it also was nominated for NINE Oscars. And it packed the theatres across the world as well as becoming part of pop culture.)
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling) Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh (Yet another film featuring a great cast and written by Cameron Crowe whose other films include “Jerry McGuire” and “Almost Famous.” This was a coming of age comedy that had a huge impact on later films.)
First Blood (Ted Kotcheff) Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, David Caruso (The franchise that made Stallone an even bigger star in Hollywood but was also a bellwether for the 80’s as it helped define the decade of ultra Americanism and machismo that helped drive the Reagan years.)
Megaforce (Hal Needham) Barry Bostwick, Persis Khambatt, Michael Beck (This was undoubtedly not a huge film nor that influential but it didn’t take itself so seriously. Besides, it has one of the greatest if not wackiest moments in film history… I kid you not, a FLYING FUCKING MOTORCYCLE
Night Shift (Ron Howard) Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, Shelley Long (One of Ron Howard’s first films that has some funny moments. Not the most endearing of comedies but the guy’s a legend. Besides, he did so many other great films it gets a pass in my book.)
An Officer and a Gentleman (Taylor Hackford) Rochard Gere, Louis Gosset Jr. Debra Winger (When my Mom told me that I had to see this film, I had to go and I’m glad I did. It’s a Drama which is unusual for this list, although there were a LOT of drama’s in 1982 that had an impact. And Gossett picked up the Oscar for his portrayal of the hard-nosed Marine DI who made Gere into a Naval Officer. Several critics said it was the best film of ’82. And it made $130 Million on a $6 Million budget.)
Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper) Craig T. Nelson, Jo Beth Williams (Hooper made another film before this “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” so this film came out of nowhere to become a standard bearer for the horror genre. It’s about an all American family who were sold a piece of the American Dream (nightmare would be a better word.) It also spawned several sequels but nothing topped the first. And did I mention it sacred the bejesus out of everyone?)
Porky’s (Bob Clark) Kim Cattrall, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight (Long before American Pie and other teen film genre movies, this was a trend setter. A raunchy and “seminal” comedy about HS kids trying to get laid. Yes, it was sophomoric and juvenile. But that’s what makes it so great because we can all lighten up, act like we’re back in High School again and forget that the Moral Majority was taking such a regressive view of sexuality during the 80’s. It was also the fifth highest grossing film in 1982.
Rocky III (Sylvester Stallone) Carl Weathers, Talia Shire, Burgess Meredith (The franchise formula at its best? Not sure if that’s the best way to describe it. It was all downhill after the first one and I’ve heard there’s rumors of yet another sequel. Ugh! Yeah, so much for creativity being king in Hollywood. But hey, Hulk Hogan AND Mr. T in the same film? That’s totally worth it.)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer) William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban (This has probably the greatest space battle scene of all time with the two starships playing cat and mouse in a Nebula. And it gave us all some great movies lines to repeat: “…from Hell’s heart I spit at thee” which is originally from Melville’s “Moby Dick.” And of course, Captain Kirk’s immmortal…”KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!”
Swamp Thing (Wes Craven) Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jourdan (This was the pre-cursor to the whole Super Hero genre that we’re currently experiencing based on the comic book in the DC universe. And it was before Craven hit gold with “Nightmare on Elm Street” and almost a decade before his other huge franchise “Scream.” It was campy and had some funny lines. I’d still love to get the rights and do a remake. Make it much darker and shoot the whole thing at night. “Saga of the Swamp Thing.” Who’s with me?
The Thing (John Carpenter) Kurt Russell, Keith David, WIlford Brimley (Based on the novel “Who Goes There?” and loosely adapted from the original “The Thing from Another World” made back in the 50’s starring James Arness as some kind of alien super carrot that crashed landed on Earth and was super pissed off. I happened to be stationed in Alaska when I saw this for the very time on VHS so it kinda freaked me out a bit. Geez, VHS? I’m really showing my age now. So this was a pretty intense and powerful film and it is now considered to be one of the *greatest* horror films ever made.)
Tron (Steven Lisberger) Jeff Bridges, David Warner, Bruce Boxleitner (Greetings Programs! The story arc was totally implausible but hey, if you’re going to get blasted into a Computer, why not have a cool suit to wear and ride motorcycle powered by light. Wait, wasn’t that the Sequel? Actually the sequel was a really fun film too; but I fell in love with both Tron and Tron: Legacy because they have such amazing visual effects. Back then the VFX were pretty cutting edge as is the sequel. With both Bridges and Boxlietner in the original and sequel, it was a Disney film and made bank.
Vice Squad (Gary Sherman) Season Hubly, Wings Hauser, Fred Berry (This was a gritty, low budget, thriller about Hollywood and the vice squad who was tasked with dealing with the dregs of society on a nightly basis. But it had a compelling storyline and really made you feel like you were there on the streets with them. Plus, Wings Hauser sings the theme song “Neon Slime” so there’s that…
Again, I’m sure that this isn’t a comprehensive list by a long shot. However, it’s a highly influential and dramatic list that showcases the artistic endeavor, energy and enthusiasm that the 1980’s are so renowned for…
(sources: Wikipedia, IMDB)