Best Movies of the 80s (and a couple from the 70s)

So this should be relatively straightforward, OGR has now had over 500 film reviews posted spanning 5 decades written over the last couple years. I think that is a sufficient case size to enable the extraction of some information to start ranking things…

As I can’t recall any pre-70s films and there are only a few films from my ‘toddlerhood’ in the 70s I will cheat a little and list the few 70s flicks first. There’s just not enough that resonate with me to fill out a Top 10 – actually I think if I did that I would consider that cheating – like all those 1,000 Best Songs of the 2000s where 850 are interchangable spam.

Best Films of the 70s

Not much to report here really, I was too young to really get into movies in any case. Even if I was this was pre-VHS and for me pre-teen, so visits to the cinemas didn’t exist. The few films here were discovered over the decades since.

Note: I haven’t given up or ignored the 70s, indeed I must’ve watched dozens in the last couple decades. In the words of my Mum for the most part “they just don’t do anything for me”. (Always happy to be proved wrong: feel free to hit me up with your suggestions.)

Now these films did something for me…

Star Wars If it is a choice between Trekking and Wars-ing there is no choice at all, but believe it or not I am not a Star Wars junkie. I don’t remember where I was when I first watched it, it didn’t really impact my youth in any significant way nor do I list my religion as Jedi on census forms.

I remember having an Empire Strikes Back shirt with the hard plastic decal on the front that started fading and cracking within weeks of the first wash. I also remember I had Return of the Jedi stickers, that’s about it.

What Star Wars was though is incredibly fucking entertaining then, and now 30+ years on it remains that way.

The Exorcist I’ve mentioned The Exorcist in my Top 10 Horror Films from  a couple years back. Nothing’s changed, it’s still scary and makes me uneasy in all the right ways.

I discovered The Exorcist a lot later in life, yet it still managed to influence me more than Star Wars did when I was younger (and supposed to at my most impressionable-est).

In the last 20 years or so I have watched thousands of movies, many hundreds of them in the horror genre, precious few have the quality and impact of the tale of young Regan MacNeil and her dealings with the other side.

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Well that’s the 70s done quick smart. No surprises there I’m sure. In fact the bigger surprises would be if I didn’t list them.  I’m yet to review both films on this site though, something that has much to do with both films being universally recognised and lauded, I just can’t see any angle or new way for me to say ‘THESE FILMS ARE AMAZING!”

Now that I’ve said that I feel better, suffice to say once again that these films are amazing. (I will eventually get to them…)

Best Films of the 80s

First up a couple of honourable mentions: Sorry Red Heat and The Thing, you are both incredible (and rewatchable), in the end I couldn’t justify you over the next ten flicks.

I recently was blessed with some feedback in the form of a comment from someone with the mysterious handle of Young Cobra who informed me that Die Hard, The Blues Brothers, Major League and Drunken Master 2 are the “4 worst movies ever made, starting with The Blues Brothers”. Thanks Junior Snake for your honest opinion, but the fact remains that as three are on this list and the remaining title will be on a future 90s list I think there is a fundamental disconnect between our respective cinematic tastes. Suffice to say that while I value your feedback you might want to skip this list if you ever decide to revisit this site, you probably won’t like it much, and I’d hate to have you come back here spitting venom and such…

For the most part where I’ve already reviewed the film I’ll let the link do the work for me.

Die Hard

The quintessential action film and the film that launched Bruce Willis’s career (though Pulp Fiction gave it a bit of a relaunch a few years later. The story of ordinary off duty cop John McClane trapped in a high rise taken over by a group of German terrorists has been name-checked and copied for the better part of two and a half decades.

Though both star Bruce Willis and director John McTiernan have done good stuff since – especially Willis – the fact that even now almost every action flick is described as ‘Die Hard on a boat’ or ‘Die Hard on a plane’ shows just how intrinsically linked it is to action as a genre.

While many flicks of the era now seem a little slow and dated Die Hard still singes the retinas and gets the blood pumping through the body. The quality of the cast doesn’t hurt, Hans Gruber has ensured cinematic immortality for Alan Rickman as a high water mark for bad guys (more on this another day), and his scene with the company owner Takagi is still tense even when we all know what happens (let’s just say Takagi wasn’t in the sequel), even Ellis the smarmy git who McClane’s wife Holly’s co-worker is just right.

Carefully plotted and plausible down to the most minute detail, and with visceral action scenes that provide genuine tension and thrills Die Hard is the rare ‘older’ film that would be seen as an instant classic even if was released now.

Kids, watch and learn. I envy you your discovery.

The Blues Brothers

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

“Hit it.”

By all means. Please proceed.

For anyone who says that 1/ SNL movies all suck and 2/ musicals are ‘gay’ I’ve got two words for you:

You are a stupid head. (And SNL movies only suck around 90% of the time.)

Full Review here.

Aliens

If you thought Sigourney Weaver was tough in Avatar you ain’t seen shit. Tough as nails, smart as a whip and handier than a tomato sauce bottle with the nozzle at the bottom, Ellen Ripley is THE female action hero, putting many so-called tough-guys back in their box.

She hates but three things; stuff shirt bureaucrats, synthetic humans (the PC term for androids) and slimy, scaly 9 foot tall killing machines with acid for blood and a propensity for using humans as cocoons. You’d have to ask her in which order.

James Cameron shows how sci-fi action  is done. Again. It’s only a damn shame that he let his love for big doomed boats and friendly aliens stop him from making more films like this.

Full Review here.

Coming to America

For those that think Eddie Murphy was never funny let me stand for the defense.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you ‘Exhibit A’.

Murphy and Arsenio Hall prove that allowing two genius comedians to riff in scenes filled with quality actors playing it straight is actually a good idea – and far more creative and original that standing back while Will Ferrell thinks of his latest inane non-sequiter in the name of ‘improvisation’.

The funniest in-film ads before Tropic Thunder and maybe the Grindhouse fake trailers, a great premise and joke after joke.

Let’s not leave without acknowledging the under-rated directing career of one John Landis, a man with two films on this list and an honourable mention in An American Werewolf in London.

Full Review here.

Armour of God

I’ll keep this brief. There may be 200 people on the planet who could do all the death defying stunts and gravity defying martial arts moves that Jackie Chan performs in this film. Maybe 10 of them could also complete intricately choreographed sequences and fight scenes featured in the film.

Only one was willing and able. Be happy we were blessed to have him for a couple decades.

Jackie Chan risks life and limb yet again just to make us say “wow” 54 times in 90 minutes (and to get my Dad to look up from his book and call him a “crazy dickhead” a similar number of times – by the way that’s gushing praise from my old man. He’s seen 20 odd Jackie films, they’re perhaps the only ones he’s guaranteed to sit through).

Full Review here.

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn

You’re responsible for the highest grossing independent straight horror film of all time, how to follow it up? Easy, make the same film again, but make it funny.

Bruce Campbell takes much abuse from longtime friend and director Sam Raimi in the name of blood, and comedic horror. You’ve seen 20 films with the same plot churned out year after year ‘bunch of teens go to haunted house and are picked off one by one. But at the same time you’ve seen nothing like this.

Scary, gross, funny as shit and insanely clever and innovative, Sam Raimi might have gone on to get the kudos and Spiderman bucks, but it is Bruce Campbell as Ash who will remain immortal for centuries to come.

Full Review here.

Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones is now such a part of the cinematic landscape that merely the image of a hat and whip conjure up thoughts of action, bad guys to be bypassed or beaten (rarely killed), damsels to be rescued and adventures to be had.

Had Tom Selleck taken the role perhaps he could have made it his own, after all remember all the immortal characters he ended up portraying in big films? There was… umm… did they make a Magnum P.I. movie?

Indiana not only must take on the Nazis, naughty rival treasure hunters and any number of corrupt and money hungry men the afore-mentioned can buy, he also had to deal with centuries old traps and puzzles. Oh and only the sort of spirits unleashed when you manage to crack the Ark of the Covenant (something no-one would have heard of were it not for this film by the way).

Anyway the role fell to Harrison Ford who had just the right mix of toughness, logic, street-smarts and ingenuity – as well as a little charisma and bare chest action to keep the ladies in their seats – to get the job done.

Three times to be exact. After all it was a trilogy.

THERE IS NO FOUR!

Full Review here.

Major League

Before Charlie Sheen lost the plot he was an actor in films (fancy that?).

While he might appear on the cover of Major League make no mistake this is an ensemble film, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, Chelcie Ross, Rene Russo, Wesley Snipes and the incredible James Gammon (RIP) as manager Lou Brown make the film one of the best comedies of all time.

Sure the story is the same as a million others: a bunch of misfits and no-hopers are thrown together with no chance of winning, only along the way they develop chemistry and bond to form a formidable unit that just might go all the way. Hey everyone knew Rambo was gonna win too, it was how he got there that kept us interested.

In the case of Major League they got there funny, and damned if the final 15 minutes don’t get the hairs on my neck standing at attention EVERY time.

Charlie Sheen is an F18 hornet fueled by Tiger Blood with the ability to spin tin cans into gold. On the strength of Major League alone I suggest you:

Pay him.

Full Review here.

Police Story 2

Remember what I said about Jackie before?

This one is just as good, and he may have placed himself in even more danger while filming this bad boy. (Jumping through glass panes AFTER playing Frogger with real traffic isn’t a smart long-term career move, but it sure as shit looks cool.)

In this flick Jackie/Kevin/Ka Kui – depending on which version you plump for – must stop a ring of extortionists who are not above blowing up shopping centres if it helps them get paid. This film more than any other helped define the classic ‘Jackie against the world’ character who must fight insurmountable odds or face failure.

Jackie Chan doesn’t do failure… at least until The Spy Next Door.

There seems to be a thought process that says you can’t have two films featuring the same guy in a list, but fuck axing one of these all time classics for something inferior.

Full Review here.

The Terminator

Arnold wasn’t always a huge mega-star, there was a time when he was a 6 foot plus physical behemoth with limited range and a thick accent striving to forge a niche in the film industry. Then James Cameron put two and two together and thought ‘big robot assassin’. The rest… used to govern California badly…

But lost among the bulging pecs and clumsy catchphrases is a sneaky clever script that is both intricate and lends itself well to kick-ass action sequences. Two representatives of future warring sides are able to be sent back in time to battle over the life of a woman whose only child will prove to be the key to the future of the human race. The big robot guy wants him dead, the good human guy Reese disagrees – and all the while innocent little waitress Sarah Connor just wants all the shooting and car chases to stop.

(Don’t worry she toughens up quite a lot in the sequel, providing inspiration for a 50 year old Madonna to get all crazy-gross ripped.)

I am positive if given the chance James Cameron could spin hammered shit into an Oscar, after all here’s a man who turned a romance aboard a doomed ship into the biggest grossing film of all time, then beat it with his clumsy ‘be nice to Earth’ parable starring 9 foot naked smurfs.

Full Review here.

There you have it. A decade of goodness, some 20 hours of excellence.

Look ’em up. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Until next decade.

OGR

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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