In deference to the following cool blog I saw on DiggIt, and after having just seen the original Beverly Hills Cop at Los Angeles'
Arclight theater last night (the best thing in L.A. for an '80s movie fan is that, in the past month, you
could see Caddyshack, The Untouchables, All the Right Moves and
the aforementioned Cop on the big screen, all in less than a 10 mile radius. Thank the Movie Gods
for the Arclight Cinemas and the
Anyway, about '80s movies (which, if you can't tell already from some of my blog posts, is my favorite decade in
all of cinemadom, and of course, makes perfect sense since I was of that all-impressionable age of 7 - 17),
I liked this list that was compiled by hecklerspray, and have been inspired to compile my own list which --
a little different from theirs (based on the awesome genre known as "fantasy adventure," although
guys, what about The Neverending Story?) -- has nothing to do with genre,
but is rather a list of my all-time favorite cult CULT movies of the 1980s...meaning, you most likely
haven't seen most of them, but if you have seen them, you love them and they are indelibly imprinted on your
brain never to be forgotten ever, ever again.
So pull out the top-loading VCR from storage, grab your local video store card (some stores still have tapes, and
they may have to in order to rent some of these should-be classics, which haven't quite made it to DVD, let
alone Blu-ray), and kneel before the almighty altar that is '80s cinema...onto the list...
1. The Hidden
This is, if we may borrow the phrase, a totally rad
sci-fi-horror-action-thriller from 1987. If you liked Aliens, Invasion of the Body
Snatchers or any movie where Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger pulled out a bazooka
and said "Make My Millenium" or something to that effect, then this movie is for you.
Or if you dig David Lynch's Twin Peaks, then here is where Kyle MacLachlan came up with that whole
bizzaro but fairly dependable detective persona. Here, he's weird for a reason, because he's really an
extra-terrestrial policeman sent to Earth to take down a heavy-metal-loving, spaghetti-tentacled creature
who keeps morphing from human host to host and randomly committing all kinds of felonies in L.A. It co-stars
'80s icon Michael Nouri, who's most famous for starring in that totally awesome '80s guilty pleasure, Flashdance.
2. Miracle Mile
The world will end in 90 minutes when the nukes take out L.A., Kansas and every other American property
housing a missile silo or a professional sports franchise. What do you do? Run for the hills (or a polar ice
cap). If you're Anthony Edwards, smack dab between his days as the cool UCLA frat guy in The Sure
Thing and his later years as the balding doc on E.R., this is your finest hour. Before taking
the last helicopter outta town, Edwards will stop at nothing to go wake up and rescue the girl of his
dreams, who he just met the day before. Bad timing, sure, but it makes for one helluva tense '80s
3. Joe vs. the Volcano
I take crap about this one from my co-workers all the time. But I will state and state again that this movie
is vastly underrated. No less a critic than Roger Ebert gave this movie a sparkling 3.5 star review when it
was originally released. And if that's not enough, search the Internet for Joe fans, quotable lines
and all kinds of marvelous philosophizing on what it all means. All of life's answers can be found in
Joe vs. Volcano, the best pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan on celluloid (Sleepless?,
Schleepless). Symbolism, laughs, Meg Ryan as three different characters, Abe Vigoda from Barney
Miller (still alive, by the way), Tom Hanks jumping into a volcano, and lots of Islanders sucking down
orange soda (I'm Samoan, so I love that part)...what more could be had from an '80s -- or any other era's --
4. Permanent Record
He takes a lot of heat, much of it justifiably so because you have to put him in the right kind of role, but
once upon a time -- specifically the years between 1986 and 1989 -- a lad named Keanu Reeves was in the zone
(that zone being River's Edge, Bill & Ted's, and Parenthood). Here, he still
played the carefree stoner dude, but he also showed genuine dramatic depth in a weeper about teen suicide.
Keanu plays the best friend of a popular kid who kills himself. He then runs through a whole gauntlet of
feelings, all of which are credible. Watch this and ponder what might have been had Reeves not become a
mega-star most of us prefer moving around and shooting things than speaking actual dialogue (although he
does look cooler than most action heroes in Speed, Point Break and The
Matrix...Jimmy Kimmel video aside, would you have gone to see Ben Affleck as Neo?)
5. Never on Tuesday
Alright, here's an '80s pop quiz. What movie featured Charlie Sheen, Nicolas Cage, Cary Elwes, Emilio
Estevez and Judd Nelson? It's this hee-larious comedy about two dimwits who, fighting over a comb while
careening across the highway at 55 mph, crash into a red-hot VW bug driven by red-hot lesbian babe Claudia
Christian. They spend the next 90 movie minutes getting to know each other, and meeting all sorts of Brat
Packers in the desert. It sounds like a typical '80s B-list (or D-list) sex comedy. But it's actually really
funny, and not nearly as crass as my synopsis makes it sound.
6. Midnight Run
The great thing about Beverly Hills Cop is that it was 100% pure movie fun. Equally great was
this summer flick from 1988, which has been unjustly overlooked in the intervening decades. Cop
director Martin Brest lets Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin -- as an odd couple bounty hunter and (sorta)
mild-mannered accountant -- rip it up onscreen. Danny Elfman throws in an uptempo, zany score, and the
result is action-comedy bliss. De Niro's "Here's two words for you" rebuttal to Grodin is priceless.
The Hecklerspray list had The Goonies high on their list, but I'll cite the other Corey in
Lucas, and I'll defer once more to Ebert, who called Lucas one of the very best films of 1986. This
isn't just a good '80s teen movie, it's one of the best teen movies period. Nowadays, Haim may be
taking ads out in the trades to find work, but back in '86, he played one of the most fully realized,
brainy, all-together complicated kids around. And surprise, suprise jock Sheen wasn't actually a bad guy,
and Goonies hottie Kerri Green actually cares about little Luc. The cheesy synth score's here, too
(it wouldn't be the '80s without it), but this movie's as timeless as it was when the Thompson Twins
were in vogue.
8. War Party
Alright, most critics aren't into this one. But I'll go on record as being a super fan. I and my friends loved
this movie for one reason (or one actor) only, and he still has a huge cult following. Remember The Lost
Boys? Which Lost Boy specifically was your favorite? Ah, see, some of you didn't pick Kiefer. What's
interesting to note for super-discerning Lost Boys fans is, watch it again and look how
carefully director Joel Schumacher frames his gang of vamps. There's always a certain Lost dude that's standing right
next to our favorite 24 star (although he probably has the least lines in the movie). And he's the
lead in War Party: the cool-looking, long-haired warrior guy Billy Wirth. In Party, he and
future Entourage star Kevin Dillon are Indians who take on the local rednecks after a war
re-enactment becomes a little too real. It's not a great movie, but the Wirth fight scenes are awesome. Why he
never became a Depp-Reeves-ian type action hero, we'll never know.
9. The Secret of NIMH
Rats and rabbits. Ask me which cartoon characters I remember as a kid and that's what I'd say. NIMH
is my favorite '80s cartoon feature (Watership Down would be my favorite late '70s cartoon, hence
the rabbits part). I had to read the NIMH book as an elementary school kid, and was forced to watch the
movie. But something about both tales of survival holds up, and for once, neither movie lists Disney or Pixar
before the title. Down in particular can be kinda scary for younger tykes, but having watched them
both at an early age, I heartily recommend them to any children over 7 and
everyone else who's ready for first-rate animation that isn't too cutesy or condescending.
Watch Birdy and you'll never look at Nicolas Cage (or Ghost Rider) the same way again.
Back in the 1980s, it wasn't always escapist fun and games.
This war flick from The Commitments director Alan Parker is as heavy as heavy gets, and as good,
too. Matthew Modine (kicking *** in the '80s as Joker in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket) plays
a Vietnam vet who's incommunicado after his war experiences. Cage plays a broken vet, too, brought in to
help his childhood buddy. Pretty grim, but also a reminder that the Brat Packer could hold his own in an
A-list drama that beat the pants off anything he's starred in post-2000. Of course, we're not immune to
the pleasures of Cage's '80s teen comedy Valley Girl either, or Raising Arizona.
Now Your Turn: What are your all-time, must-see, can't-be-missed cult classics from the '80s?
Real Genius, Xanadu, They Live, Dreamscape? Something with Lea Thompson?
Weigh In here.
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