Thursday, January 31, 2008

Were There Any Good, Non-Quirky, 80s Films?

I keep track of every movie I've ever seen, keeping it in a list by year.

As I've develved further back and tried to develop my movie pallet, my 1980s list are simply depressing.

You see the problem is, that once I delve past favorites like The Breakfast Club and Back To The Future, I realize that I've yet to see many films that were released in the 1980s that I think of as great timeless films.

In fact, most 80s films are so quirky they might as well be instantly considered period pieces, even if at the time they had every intention of being contemporary or non-script in their portrayl of time. From the horrible costumes, the irritating music, and the bizarre overly narrated screenplays, 80s films seem like the type of movies you are overly fond of, or simply disregard.

I recently watched The Accidental Tourist, a 1988 Lawrence Kasdan that in addition to winning Geena Davis an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress was also nominated for best picture, best adapted screenplay, and best original score (John Williams).

How did this film get nominated for best picture?

Similarly that same year Tom Hanks got nominated for best actor academy award for Big. I enjoyed Big, but best actor nominee (and also best original screenplay?) Maybe it was a creative "what if" type of movie at the time...but it just doesn't seem like "that type of film."

Maybe I shouldn't be critical like this, but when I saw The Sting (1973) for the first time this past year I thought, "Wow, what a great movie. Everyone should watch this, it's great." Similarly I had the same thought with Battle of Algiers when I saw it earlier this month.

Yet how come I would dread the thought of developing a top 10 list of my favorite non-quirky 80s films?

When I was a kid I didn't see The Goonies (1985), but later watched it as an adult. Having missed it in childhood, I found it to be one of the lamest movies ever. Yet people who saw it in the 80s loved it. I feel like that this might be part of the quirky nature of many 1980s films. (Think Trading Places, Spies Like Us, Clue, Flight of The Navigator, Three Amigos, Twins).

What movies from the 1980s are still watchable?

I'm willing to give 80s films I shot this year, but I need some help on some recommendations. I don't want to completly right off an entire decade of cinema.


Matt Maul said...

Offhand I'd say "1984" starring John Hurt and Richard Burton.

Very gutsy and faithful adaption of Orwell's novel.

Anonymous said...

I really dislike '80s films as a group, but I'm sure I can pick a few out that I'd consider great...

Hannah and Her Sisters (Allen)
Au revoir, les enfants (Malle)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (Allen)
Ran (Kurosawa)
The Untouchables (DePalma)
Rain Man (Levinson)
Do the Right Thing (Lee)
Grave of the Fireflies (I forget; I suck at remembering anime directors who aren't Miyazaki)
Henry V (Branagh)
Brazil (Gilliam)

I'd also say Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride, but those might fall into your "quirky" category.

Fox said...

This is a fun post!

First thing that comes to mind when I think of the 80's is Spielberg, and - to me - that means forever loving E.T., The Color Purple, and Empire of the Sun. much to say, but to keep from making a long list I will just recommend...


Dressed to Kill (1980)
Blow Out (1981)
Scarface (1983)
Body Double (1984)
The Untouchables (1987)
Casualties of War (1989)



Melvin and Howard (1980)
Who Am I This Time? (1983)
Swing Shift (1984)
Stop Making Sense (1984)
Something Wild (1986)
Married to the Mob (1988)

Darrell said...

A lot of things come to mind. Most of Scorsese's 80's films are masterful. Not all, but most. Of course, Spielberg made a number of great films in the '80's. I get the sense, though, that you're looking for a great film that "feels like" the 1980's. To that end, I enthusiastically recommend At Close Range. That movie is very "80's" ... it isn't remotely quirky ... and it's unmistakably a great movie. An overlooked gem.

Anonymous said...

I like this post. When I sit down and think about it, I think most movies from the 80's that I enjoy are of the quirky or "pop corn" varieties. Goonies, Red Dawn, War Games, Rocky 3 & 4, Indiana Jones & Star Wars, Three Amigos, are among some of my favorite rewatchers, but wouldn't be considered high cinema (with the exception of The Empire Strikes Back).

But when I think of "important" movies, I can't come up with anything I've seen that was made in the 80's. I've seen a lot of the "important" movies from the 70's (Godfather, Chinatown, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Conversation, Star Wars, etc.) and prior, but the 80's do seem to be a void in my catalog also.

I wonder if it has to do with our age? I'm guessing we're about the same age (I'm 30) and I didn't really become an avid movie watcher until well into my 20's.

Glenn Dunks said...

Goonies 4 LIFE!!!

Terence Towles Canote said...

I saw The Goonies when I was young. I didn't like it. I saw it when I was older. I still didn't like it. I still don't understand how it has achieved cult status.

AK said...

Have you seen Chariots of Fire (1981)? I also really like Hoosiers (1986), The Natural (1984), and The Untouchables.I know we don't always agree on movies, so you may hate these, but I thought I would throw them out there.

Will said...

RC, on the surface I'd say you're exactly right about 80s film. The 80s were pretty much a downer of a decade in every artistic respect (my opinion, of course!).

However, here are some 80s films that I've discovered over time that I do think are really valuable (I know I'll repeat some that others have listed):
Airplane (80, Zucker & Abraham)
The Elephant Man (80, Lynch)
The Last Metro (80, Truffaut)
Raging Bull (80, Scorcese)
The Shining (80, Kubrick)
Stardust Memories (80, Allen)
Chariots of Fire (81, Hudson)
Gallipoli (81, Weir)
Ragtime (81, Forman)
Time Bandits (81, Gilliam)
Blade Runner (81, R Scott)
Sophie's Choice (81, Pakula)
Tootsie (81, Pollack)
Blood Simple (82, Coen)
To Be or Not To Be (83, Brooks)
Zelig (83, Allen)
1984 (84, Radford)
Element of Crime (84, von Trier)
The Killing Fields (84, Joffe)
Once Upon a Time in America (84, Leone)
A Passage to India (84, Lean)
This is Spinal Tap (84, Reiner)
Back to the Future (85, Zemeckis)
Brazil (85, Gilliam)
The Color Purple (85, Spielberg)
Out of Africa (85, Pollack)
Prizzi's Honor (85, Huston)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (85, Allen)
Ran (85, Kurosawa)
Witness (85, Weir)
Blue Velvet (86, Lynch)
Hannah and Her Sisters (86, Allen)
Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring (86, Berri)
The Mission (86, Joffe)
A Room with a View (86, Ivory)
Stand by Me (86, Reiner)
Au revoir, les enfants (87, Malle)
Babette's Feast (87, Axel)
Empire of the Sun (87, Spielberg)
Fatal Attraction (87, Lynne)
[Full Metal Jacket (87, Kubrick) - not one of my favorites, though]
Good Morning, Vietnam (87, Levinson)
Hope and Glory (87, Boorman)
Ironweed (87, Babenco)
The Last Emperor (87, Bertolucci)
Pelle the Conqueror (87, August)
The Princess Bride (87, Reiner)
Raising Arizona (87, Coen)
Wall Street (87, Stone)
Wings of Desire (87, Wenders)
Withnail and I (87, Robinson)
Dekalog (88, Kieslowski)
A Fish Called Wanda (88, Crichton)
Salaam Bombay! (88, Nair)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (88, Kaufman)
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (88, Almodovar)
Working Girl (88, Nichols - dated, but interesting)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (89, Gilliam)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (89, Allen)
Dead Poets Society (89, Weir)
Do the Right Thing (89, Lee)
Driving Miss Daisy (89, Beresford)
Henry V (89, Branagh)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (89, Spielberg)
Leningrad Cowboys Go America (89, Kaurismaki)
My Left Foot (89, Sheridan)
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (89, Tornatore)
Sex, lies & videotape (89, Soderbergh)
Steel Magnolias (89, Ross)
When Harry Met Sally... (89, Reiner)

I know it's a long list, but since I struggle through the same 'Can anything good come out of the 80s?' stage, I thought I'd pass along what I've found.

crackers and cheese said...

Three of my favorite films came out of the 80's, but I don't know if they were non-quirky: The Princess Bride, Say Anything, and When Harry Met Sally. While there may not be as many immediate standout movies, I think the 80's were an influential decade for film that set the stage for where we are now. Audiences were blown away by the special effects of Star Wars (ok, that started in the late 70's, but continued through the 80's). Speilberg reigned supreme at the box office. Pretty Woman, When Harry Met Sally, and others set the stage for modern romantic comedies. The Coen brothers got their start with Raising Arizona. While there were several high-grossing pre-1980 movies, I think the this was the first strong blockbuster decade, with many films grossing in the hundreds of millions.

Beside those already listed by other commentors, I recommend Ordinary People (but maybe I'm biased since I've worked in grief therapy) and Amadeus. If you haven't seen it, please watch Say Anything. Yes, it's a quirky, sometimes melodramatic John Cusack teen romance, but it had many memorable moments, and I found their romance to be more natural and realistic than how romances are typically portrayed onscreen.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Oh you were looking for NON quirky... sorry

Anonymous said...

Raging Bull - 1980
The Empire Strikes Back - 1980
My Dinner with Andre - 1981
Gates of Heaven - 1981
Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1981
Sophie's Choice - 1982
E.T. - 1982
Fitzcarraldo - 1982
Das Boot - 1982
El Norte - 1983
Amadeus - 1984
This is Spinal Tap - 1984
The Color Purple - 1985
Blood Simple - 1985
Platoon - 1986
Hannah and Her Sisters - 1986
Mississippi Burning - 1988
Wings of Desire - 1988
Do the Right Thing - 1989
Drugstore Cowboy - 1989
My Left Foot - 1989
Born on the Fourth of July - 1989
Roger & Me - 1989
Crimes and Misdemeanors - 1989
Driving Miss Daisy - 1989

jasdye said...

i'd definitely agree with the main sentiment here, it's hard to find a genuinely artistic, time-tested hollywood movie from that era. many of the best ones (the dekalogue, ran, stop making sense) were either international or foreign.

some of the great classics of genres - comedy (airplane, princess bride) action/adventure (rambo, indiana jones series), sci-fi (brazil, blade runner, empire strikes back), buddy cops [which mixed comedy, action-adventure, and some rom-coms situations] lethal weapons, beverly hills cop - did, however rise out of the mire that was rambo ii-iii, temple of doom, etc.

pea thrower said...

Three of my top five films are from the 80s:

Amy Heckerling's FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982.) Seminal teen comedy that paved the way for John Hughes and later Judd Apatow.

Woody Allen's BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984.) One of his more underrated comedies, this is a gem.

Martin Scorsese's KING OF COMEDY (1983.) Not usually mentioned as one of Marty's best, this was way ahead of its time in it's searing portrait of celebrity and the quest for fame.

Anonymous said...

'Kiss of the Spider Woman'
(Hector Babenco 1985)
it feature one of the best duo of actor's (W.Hurt & the late GREAT R.Julia) performences EVER & it's aging very well.

kat said...

"Gallipoli", "Raising Arizona", "A Fish Called Wanda" and "The Natural" have all been mentioned; those three all rank very highly on my all-time personal favorites list.

For more 80s films, I would strongly recommend "Running on Empty"--River Phoenix at his best.

"Cinema Paradiso" is also an 80s favorite, though I believe you have caught up with that one by now.

Jeremy said...

I'm a big fan of "Witness". Hey remember when Harrison Ford was like the biggest movie star ever? Just look at the classic movies he did back then. Of course there is the Indiana Jones and Star Wars films but there's also "Blade Runner", "The Mosquito Coast", "Frantic", and "Working Girl". All of those may not be classics but they were of a time when big stars took big risks.

general125 said...

There have already been a lot of good movie suggestions posted in the comments. Some I would reemphasize are Tootsie, Wall Street, The Untouchables, Amadeus, (on my all-time top 10), and Blade Runner. Then again, those may be a bit quirky, but come on the entire 80's was quirky. Hell, we just got out of the 70's, give us a break!

Jeff, Howard the Duck, good call :)

general125 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

I'll just list a couple of phenomenal movies that haven't already been listed:

Luc Besson's "The Big Blue" (1988


James Cameron's "The Abyss" (1989

I have to echo the recommendations for Hoosiers, The Natural, Stand By Me, Dead Poets Society, and Amadeus.

I look forward to hearing what you end up thinking of the eighties after seeing some of the recommendations.

general125 said...

The Big Blue, great call!!

Don't get the directors cut. It was about 30 min too long.

Sam Brooks said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say Mommie Dearest. Just for Dunaway's apocalyptic performance.

RC said...

@everyone, obviously as you'd assume...i've seen many of these, but certainly not all.

Thank you for the recommendations...i will following up on some of these recommendations very shortly!

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite 80s flicks is Ordinary People - it won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1980, along with Mary Tyler Moore for Best Actress & Timothy Hutton for Best Supporting Actor. You should check it out. I'll even watch it with you :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying this is Oscar worthy by any means...but I'm about to rent Griswold's European Vacation. I'll never forget it.