Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ten Favorite Movies of the 1980s

10. The Terminator (1984)Wow, back when James Cameron made short films. Well, he only made one, this one, and it's a doozy.

9. Witness (1985)One of those movies that has a little bit of everything: suspense, fish-out-of-water, romance, humor, star power. And it's all tied together by Peter Weir's exquisite visuals.

8. Trading Places (1983)One of the great social-commentary comedies. Everything I know about our financial system I know from this movie.

7. Blue Velvet (1986)A murder mystery as a bad dream. Seeing this in the theater was both horribly disturbing and one of the signature moments of my movie-going life.

6. Married to the Mob (1988)A movie that has grown on me over the years. Dean Stockwell turns in a truly astounding performance, and Michelle Pfeiffer is at her best.

5. Withnail and I (1987)Boozy theater students. That pretty much summarizes this movie. Oh, and they go on holiday by mistake.

4. Body Heat (1981)Lawrence Kasdan, fresh off of writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, directs this Double Indemnity remake/homage. It's brilliant neo-noir, both pastiche and something new altogether, as a bad man meets a much badder woman.

3. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)Woody Allen's best mix of drama and comedy. An entire family is fleshed out and every emotion, including existential angst, is explored.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)Yes, it's cheating to pair these up but let me explain. Spielberg and Lucas recreate the adventure serial with the perfection that is Raiders, then, as a sequel (sorry, prequel), they throw everything out the window and make a screwball action film mixed with the Kali cults from Gunga Din. I love them both individually, but the fact that they both exist side-by-side makes them even greater. And if someone were about to press a hot poker against my cheek, I'd have to tell the truth and say that I slightly prefer Temple these days.

1. Local Hero (1983)The reason this is number one is because it's at once the saddest and most comforting movie I know. An understated comic gem that manages to get more mysterious the more you watch it.

runners up: Aliens, An American Werewolf in London, Blood Simple, Die Hard, The Empire Strikes Back, Mona Lisa, A Room With a View, The Sure Thing


  1. I know all of these lists are difficult-but was this one particularly difficult? I mean look at that list of runners-up.

    That being said, "Withnail and I" still stands as one of the most overrated "comedies" of our time.

  2. Kevin, Have you SEEN Withnail and I? Come on, its brilliant!
    Peter, WHAT? Witness is #9? It's way better than Blue Velvet. Married to the Mob is robbed at #6 - it's Michelle Pfieffer blows my mind and Alec Baldwin is so good.

  3. Yeah, Kevin, don't expect to be invited to all the cool Withnail and I parties of the future. You'll have to give me your cool friend Lee's phone number.

  4. Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn't admit I've never heard of withnail and I. And this list makes me feel super old. I didn't really realize how long ago witness and raiders of the ark came out. yeeks.