Bear with me – this blogging malarkey is still new to me. And I fully appreciate that posting ‘top 10’ lists may be rather cliché, old-school, and not quite the done thing round these cyber-parts. But you’re just gonna have to suck it up, folks, cos here’s my Top 10 80s Movies!
10: Streets Of Fire
Streets Of Fire is a true gem, a Rock and Roll Fable. It’s an 80s movie, for sure, but it’s influenced by 50s cars and fashions, 21st century post-apocalyptic industrialisation, 80s neon signage, and just about the best hard-ridin’ soundtrack a movie could get.
The performances are strong enough to carry off the rather meagre plot, with Michael Pare as Tom Cody, the hard man called back home by his sister to face down the evil Bombers, a gang of leather-clad bikers led by Raven (a young Willem Dafoe). Raven has kidnapped Tom’s old sweetheart Ellen Aim (played by the sultry Diane Lane) and there’s a bounty to get her back. So our hero goes to get her, assisted by vagrant ex-soldier McCoy (Amy Madigan) and financed by Ellen’s manager and current boyfriend Billy Fish (Rick Moranis). All the way through to the final showdown, there’s action, bikes, guns, the best music from the likes of Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty and Ry Cooder, and stunning visuals.
Not a classic by any means, but unique and gripping.
9: Electric Dreams
An everyday love story between a boy, a girl, and a computer system that comes alive and determines to ruin the boys life and win the heart of the girl. I know – happens everyday…..
This movie is essentially 80s, in feel, fashion, technology, and music. Unlike Streets Of Fire, Electric Dreams could only have come from the decade that fashion forgot.
Lenny Von Dohlen is Miles, an architect and social misfit, who believes that the answer to his life’s troubles is… a computer. So he spends a fortune on the latest model (a full 64k of RAM, no less) and plugs it in. Actually he does more than that, he plugs it in to every appliance in his house, and never sees the danger ahead. As would be expected, the upstairs apartment is let to a beautiful woman (a young Virginia Madsen) and the shock of her accepting a date causes Miles to accidentally spill champagne over his computer. Inside, the circuits get all squiffy with the bubbles, and the computer comes to life….. When the computer (now called Edgar) spies Madeleine, he decides that she will be his, and starts messing with Miles’ head in more ways than one…..
Ladyhawke is my selected swords and sorcery entry in the list. There were loads, but this one scores on three main counts.
1. It has an original plot, with the historical and mystical twist on the star-crossed lovers theme. Rutger Hauer is a man by day and a wolf by night. Michelle Pfeiffer is a hawk by day, only turning to a woman when the sun goes down. It’s therefore left to the young Matthew Broderick to accompany Hauer on his quest to break the spell, and to protect Pfeiffer by night.
2. 1985 was the year that Michelle Pfeiffer was, for me, at her most beautiful. That year she made this film and another (Into The Night) where there was a real danger of my missing the plot, due to focussing on her so much. I was young and impressionable, and she made an impression…..
3. The music score is stunning. Actually, that’s a lie. The music score is diabolical. Late 70s prog-rock supergroup ballads do not make adequate background music for a man riding across countryside wastelands in thirteenth century France. Not then, not now, not ever. But it does make the whole thing memorable, and helps it onto the list.
7: The Wrath Of Kahn
It’s right what they say about Star Trek movies: odd numbers bad, even numbers good. This was the first even numbered one, after the pastel eyesore that was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In Khan, we had a return to strong primary colours, a strong plot, and a strong baddie in Ricardo Montalban’s Khan Noonien Singh.
There was even the brave decision to kill off a central character (albeit briefly) which allowed William Shatner to display the full range of his three emotional styles (they are: surprise, fascination, and – only in this one scene – sadness).
It’s really the contrast between this movie and the one before that sets it apart. Khan we all know from the old tv shows of course, but he’s back, and he’s mad – he’s also quite angry at Kirk, and the movie then becomes a race to get the incredible Genesis device, and then a race to stop Khan setting it off.
Old-school Movie Trek rarely got this good.
6: Die Hard
Had to put this one in. I could list loads of reasons, but these will say it all.
Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is the best baddie ever to appear in a film.
Bruce Willis could have been annoying, but he was an ‘everyman hero’ – he was scared, he got things wrong, he couldn’t prevent the baddies killing some people, and he showed it.
The film has many, many quotable lines, such as “Ten million terrorists in the world, I gotta kill one with feet smaller than my sister”, and “Mr Takagi will not be joining us for the rest of his life…”
It’s the action film that every action film since has been measured against, and in nearly 25 years, nothing else has come close.
5: Ferris Beuller’s Day Off
Had we the opportunity, we would all love the chance to be Ferris. The kid who plays by his own set of very personalised rules, who tries it on and gets away with it every single time, and who demands and get the adulation and loyalty of everyone – except his big sister and the school Principal, Ed Rooney.
Ferris wants a day off school, because it’s a nice day. So he fakes illness and swings it with his parents. But he doesn’t spend it relaxing, or in bed. He spends it on a day-trip to Chicago with his best friend Cameron and his girlfriend Sloane, in Cameron’s stepfather’s prized vintage Ferrari. They crash a restaurant, take over a carnival parade, basically live a whole life in one single day. But Principal Rooney’s on his trail.
Matthew Broderick’s career defining performance came as Ferris, and with Alan Ruck (Cameron), Mia Sara (Sloane), Jeffrey Jones (Rooney) and a host of other famous faces, we get to join him for that fateful, famous day off.
4: The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride is, as the strapline said, “not just your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill ho-hum fairy tale.”
It boasts heroes (the gallant and brave Westley, and the brilliant swordsman Inigo Montoya). It has giants (the aptly named Andre The Giant). It has wizards (like Miracle Max). It has villains galore, in Prince Humperdinck, Count Rugen, and Fezzick. Of course, it has true love. And this story within a story (the wrapper is the grandfather reading to his sick grandson) contains amazing sword fights, chases, Rodents of Unusual Size, the Cliffs of Insanity, torture, rescue, eels, and so much more.
3: The Secret Of My Success
Designed as a vehicle for Michael J Fox, this reworking of a sixties classic put Fox into the role previously played by Spencer Tracy. Big shoes to fill, but this role was made for Fox. He was the darling of Hollywood in the 80s, and movies like Back To The Future, Teen Wolf, and a main role on US television’s Family Ties, set him firmly as the high-school heart-throb. This film gave him a chance to cast his net a little wider, as he left home and journeyed to New York City to find his career. Not so simple, until he cashes in on some more family ties, and swings a job at his uncle’s firm. When he gets there, somehow he starts working his way to the top – but secretly, and alongside his day-job in the mail room. He’s a clever kid, and as you would expect, by the end he has the executive job, the girl, the money, everything he ever wanted.
It’s a fun film, with some implausible plot mechanisms and some running gags, and some great scenes worthy of a west end bed-hopping farce towards the end. But it’s all held together by Fox, and that’s all it needs.
2: The Sure Thing
John Cusack isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. His quick-fire sarcastic wit, his monologues, his occasional breaking of the fourth wall (that means – he sometimes looks at, and talks to, the viewing audience as if they are part of the story), make him a bit of a marmite character. As Walter ‘Gib’ Gibson, he’s funny, charming, resourceful, annoying, and driven by desire in this road-movie: desire to get to his pal Lance in California, where Lance has lined up a ‘sure thing’ – a beautiful, sexy, available girl who is waiting for him, no strings attached, no questions asked, no guilt involved. A Sure Thing.
He has no money though, so he signs up for a car-share across country. Also in the car are musical theatre fans Gary and Mary-Ann, and Alison. Alison is in Gib’s class, and despises him for trying to hit on her. She’s headed to see her boyfriend at the same College as Lance. between them, their bickering leads to their being kicked out of the car, and they have to hitch across country. Their hatred for each other grows into dependence and friendship, but this just brings confusion to Gib, who likes Alison, but is still fixated on the girl in California….
1: Some Kind Of Wonderful
John Hughes’ masterpiece (in my humble opinion) isn’t The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, or Sixteen Candles. It isn’t the manically hilarious Planes Trains and Automobiles. It isn’t the family-friendly Home Alone, nor it’s predecessor, the edgier, funnier, and more watchable Uncle Buck. Although you could easily make a case for any of these being in the Top 10.
Some Kind Of Wonderful has some generic themes – high school, boy-meets-girl, other-girl-loves-boy, final-revelation-of-feelings, that kind of stuff. But unlike most of the other movies of its kind, it doesn’t rely on laughs, or action, or angst, or rich kids, or politics, or tensions. It relies on good actors playing serious, down to earth roles extremely well, and each one being totally believable. There were kids like Keith, misfit artistic types who love from afar, overlook the love that is much closer, and get caught up in things that could so easily get out of control. There were girls like Amanda, somehow ending up in the wrong social clique, due in this case for being born too beautiful. There were girls like Watts – forcing down her feelings for her best friend simply because she needed him as her best friend. And the other characters were there as well – the over-caring and slightly awkward father, the annoying sisters, the shallow rich kids, the misunderstood hard-nuts. All are given the chance to show their true characters here, and all do so wonderfully. Everyone shines, the real slimeball gets his just desserts, and then life, such as it is, goes on.
All believable, all real, and, really, some kind of wonderful…..