I’ve deliberated long and hard over what movies to put on this list, well for all of half an hour anyway, and I’ve narrowed the list down from twenty to six. Please bear in my mind that this list is not definitive, I have not seen every film from the 80′s and the only criteria I have set is that I must have watched any of the movies mentioned at least twice.
There are some movies that others would have no doubt put on this list as defining movies of the decade, but please remember that these are merely my favourite films from the 80′s, nothing more and nothing less.
Starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker, with Tim Burton directing, Batman was a bona fide blockbuster. More comic book in nature that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, with none of the political overtones. Burton directed one of the best films of the 80′s and, in my mind at least, one of the best superhero movies of all time.
The suit, the car, the gothic glow of Gotham City, Jack Nicholson’s OTT portrayal of The Joker all combined to give us a Batman movie we had simply never seen before. Up until then, all we had ever seen of Batman was the utter camp-fest of the 1966 movie and it’s follow up TV show. So to get a movie like this, with a large budget and all-star cast, it was like a geeks dream come true.
To a younger audience the ’89 Batman may look dated and silly, but to anyone who grew up with these films (the first two at least) they were the height of superhero movies and had no equal. It took Joel Schumacher and Arnold Schwarzenegger to kill of the franchise with 1997′s Batman & Robin. It was eight long years before we saw another Batman movie on the big screen.
Robocop is a special movie for me, in that every time I watch it, it gets better. It works on so many levels, as an action movie and as a great piece of science fiction. It also works as a political satire and points the finger at big businesses and their desire to control everything. It’s even been said by the director, Paul Verhoeven, that Robocop is a Jesus metaphor, he even makes Robocop walk on water in one of the final scenes.
Of course, all those layers and undertones would mean nothing if the movie wasn’t bloody entertaining. There’s action galore, highly quotable dialogue, a brilliant bad guy (who almost wins) and a huge central performance from Peter Weller as Alex Murphy/Robocop.
There is a remake due for release next year, whether it will be any good remains to be seen, but if it’s half as good as the original we are in for a treat.
Aliens is not just one of my favourite films of the 80′s but probably also one of my favourite films of all time. It takes the world already established in Alien (1979) and completely turns it on its head. Going from a stalk and slash horror movie in space, to a full on action blockbuster with the help of James Cameron and some tough as nails Colonial Marines.
In lesser hands this could have become a simple run and gun style action movie, a bit like the recent video game adaptation, but Cameron builds a set of characters who really stick in your mind long after you’ve watched the movie. From Ellen Ripley’s strong female lead, to Carter Burke’s seedy company man, the android Bishop to all the Marines and their endless supply of catchy dialogue. This film has it all.
Prometheus tried to relaunch the Alien franchise in 2012, but despite all its attempts at wonder, it felt too lost in it’s own devices and had an ending that left many scratching their heads. If there is to be a Prometheus sequel, then it needs to address these issues, and maybe look for a simpler story.
Top Gun (1986)
Tom Cruise, Tony Scott and an amazing (if you’re that way inclined) soundtrack came together to make one of the defining films of the 80’s. Packed full of testosterone, some great action scenes and some, possible, homoerotic undertones (but we can ignore those for now).
Some people say this is a guilty pleasure movie, but I’ve never understood why. It’s a thrilling blockbuster, with some of the most memorable dialogue from the decade. Also, who can forget Tom Cruise on his motorcycle at the start of the film while Kenny Loggins “Highway To The Danger Zone” plays in the background, or the moment his character finds out what really happened to his late father?
Say what you will about this movie, I have no doubt it still stands up to this day and will do for many more decades to come.
Yes Die Hard was the action movie that defined the 80’s and influenced so many other films after it, but Predator, for me, is the film I watch more often. That’s not to say I don’t like Die Hard, because I do, but Predator has more replay value.
As so often happens, the magic of the first film has never been quite replicated. Predator 2 was nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe, while Predators was a very accomplished action movie but I felt there was more to come from it and sadly we have had no news on any Predator 4 yet.
Another film that is highly quotable, see a theme here? The setting and the story are unique and the payoff is well worth the wait.
Of course Ghostbusters was going to be on the list, any regular readers of my blog will know this is my favourite movie ever. It’s also the best sci-fi comedy ever, and has had a major influence on the cinematic landscape. The likes of the Men In Black franchise, Evolution and even Hellboy can thank Ghostbusters for helping to bring the supernatural and weird to our screens.
You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen or heard of Ghostbusters and even harder pressed to find someone who doesn’t like it. Sure, they’re people who won’t love it as much as I do, but I bet not many people watch it and think “that was rubbish”
I even featured Ghostbusters in another feature I did the other day regarding my favourite songs in movies. This movie has had a profound effect on me, and I still watch it around 2-3 times each year. It takes me back to when I was a child, and I still laugh at the same jokes every time and I even manage to find new bits whenever I sit down to watch it. A true classic.
Honourable mentions: Die Hard, Gremlins, Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Terminator, Big, The Burbs, The Goonies.