The eighties is when I did the bulk of my movie watching, so its going to get harder, as I go, to just choose one movie, and in some cases, some movies are going to have to share the spotlight with others.
The eighties also saw the invention of the VCR, for wide spread home use, and my family got our first one in 1983 or 1984. Yes, I saw more than a few of these movies with my Mom, but there’s less of a nostalgia factor involved, and more of an appreciation for good filmmaking in my choices. This is sometimes less about which movies influenced me, and more about which ones I could appreciate as a noobie film-wonk.
At about the mid-eighties, I started babysitting my nieces and nephews, and some of my Aunts had cable. So I watched a lot of these movies on HBO, (along with lots of MTV). I watched a helluva lot of Horror movies, in the eighties too, so this list is going to contain quite a few of those. I think my Mom and I tried to see every Horror movie made between 1980 and 1988, at which time I headed off to college, and wilder film adventures.
1981 – American Werewolf in London/The Howling
I couldn’t choose between the two hallmark werewolf movies of the 80s. At the time American Werewolf was released, it was considered the total shit, but I didn’t care because I was stuck on The Howling, and as far as I was concerned, nothing surpassed it. Until I realized what everyone was talking about. An American Werewolf in London is, indeed, a most excellent movie.
I love both movies for different reasons, though. By any measure, American Werewolf is the deeper film, with its themes of survivor’s guilt, and cultural displacement. That, along with the special effects, make it worth the hype. The Howling is pure, grade B horror film-making, with its cheap melodrama, and mordant sense of humor, and something in my fourteen year old soul (my age when I saw it) just loved it.
1982 – Bladerunner/ The Thing
When I first saw the trailer for Bladerunner at age 12, I knew that was my movie, and we were destined to be together. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it until several years after its release, and only on TV. I’ve been a Ridley Scott fan ever since. I am obviously going to have to do a review of this movie, and share my love, even if there’s nothing new to be said about it.
I distinctly remember watching this trailer on TV, and thinking I wanted to see this movie.
I could not choose between Bladerunner and what is quite possibly one of the most perfect horror movies ever made, The Thing. This is how you do a remake. I’d argue that the eighties was the decade of the great remake. Starting in the late 70s with Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, the 80s saw the remakes of The Fly, Scarface, The Blob, The Thing, The Little Shop of Horrors, and Cat People.
Most people looking back on this particular year, often choose E.T. because it was the most popular. Well, I’m not an E.T. fan. I don’t care about it, have no warm feelings for it, and almost never think of it, and at twelve years old, I’d be the perfect age to love it. I didn’t.
The Thing is another movie I didn’t see at its release. In fact, this didn’t register on my radar until several years after, when people began praising it in various magazines. I have no memory of watching the trailers for it, although I must have seen them. I really didn’t know anything about it until a few years after its release.
There was also a movie released this year called Xtro, which was one of the grossest scifi/horror mashups I’d ever seen, and was surpassed only by another horror movie, released in 1987, called Street Trash.
1983 -The Right Stuff
I have been a total NASA stan, ever since I fell in love with Star Trek as a child, so for me this movie felt like a behind the scenes look at one of my favorite organizations. This was the first time I’d ever watched Ed Harris in anything and I totally fell in love with him, and Scott Glenn, but I was also in love with everybody when I was fifteen, apparently.
Yeah, okay, I’m still in love with Ed Harris, solely on the basis of him starring in this movie.
1984 – The Terminator
I didn’t see this movie until 1986. I remember this so well, because at the time it was released I had longed to see it, but didn’t have any money to go to the theater. I saw it in 1986, on tape, at my neighbor’s house. I remember because our neighbors, two brothers who lived across the street from us, had just bought a new VCR, and invited our family over for movies and popcorn.
I remember their house was a total mess and I was more than a little dubious about staying, but after a while I was so engrossed in the movie, I completely forgot my surroundings. It was the first time I’d ever seen a James Cameron movie, and my introduction to Bill Paxton and Arnold Schwarzeneggar. This is another of those movies where I just wandered off, home, while slowly trying to readjust to reality.
1985 – Fright Night
See my review:
Return of the Living Dead gets an honorable mention:
1986 – 3 Films
I could not pick just one movie for this year. Three of my top favorite films were released this year: Aliens, The Fly, and Children of a Lesser God. Each of these movies is the perfect example of its genre for this year. But, if I absolutely had to pick one of them, to watch on a desert island, or something, I’d pick Aliens, since I never get tired of watching it.
1987 – 4 Films
This is another year where too many of my favorite films were released, so I can’t pick just one of them.
I saw both Evil Dead 2, and Robocop on a double bill at the local theater. To this day, I can count this as the best spent three hours of my entire life. Just me, some popcorn, and a quiet movie theater, all to myself.
Lost Boys is on this list because I distinctly remember gushing about this movie to one of my classmates about how the guys in the movie were so cute. So, this makes the list more out of nostalgia, than that its a great movie, although, its still pretty good, by today’s standards.
I didn’t see Near Dark until many years after its release, but I do hereby acknowledge it as one of the best, most underrated, vampire movies of the 80s.
1988 – Akira
Dangerous Liaisons, Beetlejuice, and Young Guns, were all released this year, but really there was no other choice for me to make. This year belongs to Akira, although I didn’t watch it until 1992, while I was in college.
Not only is it the best movie made that year, its one of my all-time favorite Anime. Its also the very first time, I’d ever seen Anime on the big screen. When I walked into that theater, I had no idea what I was in for, since my roommate refused to tell me anything about it. She just kept saying I would like it. There are a handful of movies, that have such an effect on you, that you have to seriously readjust to being back in the world, when you walk out of the theater, and end up contemplating them for months after you see them. Akira is one of these films.
Incidentally, I had a bad falling out with the roommate who introduced me to this movie, a few years later, and while I have mixed feelings about her, I have never faulted her taste in movies. Whenever she said I would like something, she was NEVER wrong. Raising Arizona, Tremors, Near Dark, Seven Samurai, and Akira are movies I probably would never have watched without her influence.
1989 – The Little Mermaid
Batman, The Abyss, and Casualties of War, were also released in 1989, but I have to pick The Little Mermaid as my favorite. Ursula’s song, Poor Unfortunate Souls, is the meanest, snarkiest shit I ‘d ever heard in a Disney film, and I absolutely love that character. Of course now I know, she was modeled after the Drag Queen, Divine.
This was one of the first Disney films that ever made me cry, and I’ve been crying at these movies ever since.
1990 – Goodfellas
Tremors and Dances with Wolves was released in 1990, and I saw all three of these movies in the theater, where they probably should first be seen. I wasn’t unaffected by those movies, but Goodfellas is a movie made by a director, Scorcese, who was at the top of his game at the time, and he has never made a better movie since, in my opinion.
This one of my favorite scenes in a wealth of favorite scenes. Personally, though I don’t find the “Do you think I’m funny?” scene, to be especially funny. Yeah, its iconic, but its not my favorite.
The 1990s, though, was when I really started, not just to develop my own tastes, but began to pin down just what attracted me to certain films. I began to really think critically about what I was watching, and Why I was watching it. I began reading the opinions of others about the films I liked, and this taught me how to approach film criticism. I started to trust certain critics over others, began reading books on film theory, and audience theory, and reading the filmmakers ideas about what they were trying to accomplish.
So, as the 90s progress, you’ll start to see a change in the kinds of films I enjoy, although SciFi and Fantasy will still make up the bulk of my viewing habits.