31 Great 80s Movies!

This list is from the Old Stuff Archive. Per my post from the other day, I’m going through the archive and re-posting a bunch of old items that didn’t make the cut when I migrated this site from FrontPage to WordPress back in 2007. Enjoy!

The following is a list of some of my favorite 80s films. It’s not a “best of” list. I originally got the idea for this from talking to a much younger friend of mine who’d only seen a couple of films on this list. And while it’s not a “best of” list, the films are listed in rough order of preference.

Also, keep in mind that this is a list of “80s films” and not a list of “films made in the 80s”. There were plenty of great films from that time that have nothing to do with 80s culture, like Amadeus and Chariots of Fire. This list isn’t about them. It’s about movies that capture what life was like – directly or indirectly – in the 1980s.

The links are to the IMDB page for each film.

#31 Videodrome (1983) – Videodrome stars James Woods as Max Renn, the sleazy owner of a soft-core porn channel in New York City. Renn is always on the lookout for new material that’s both “cheap” and “edgy”, so when his chief engineer Harlan (Peter Dvorsky) finds a new program called Videodrome from Malaysia on the station’s pirate satellite dish, he’s excited. The program is simple: women are brought into a room, tied up, and are beaten until they die. There’s just something about the show that Renn cannot resist. He watches every second of it and comes in every morning begging Harlan for more.

Little does Renn know what’s really going on: an evil corporation called Spectacular Optical produces Videodrome, and embedded within the show’s transmission signal is another signal which causes brain damage in every person that watches it. This damage – which causes massive hallucinations – can then be manipulated by the company to get any person to do anything they wish. Spectacular Optical’s president, Barry Convex, and Harlan (who was working for Convex the whole time) “program” Max to kill his partners and give the company control over CIVIC-TV, Max’s station. Which Max does. After this, Max is “re-programmed” by Bianca O’blivion, the daughter of Brian O’Bilvion, a “nutcase” (or is he?) that only communicates through television itself. Max then takes on the leaders of Spectacular Optical with a single hand grenade, then later kills himself.

Videodrome

I initially watched this movie for Renn’s crazy hallucinations and the “trippiness” of the whole story. I recently saw it again and realized just how dated the “hallucinations” look now.

However, watching it again also made me think of what director David Cronenberg was trying to say. Is TV evil? Or do corporations have too much power over our lives? Or both? Are there really people in the government that would be willing to look the other way if a similar technology were used by a private company? These are the questions the film raises. New Wave fans will enjoy Debbie Harry, who stars as Nikki Brand, Renn’s masochistic lover. If you’re a fan of Skinny Puppy, Front 242, Ministry, or any of the “Wax Trax” bands, you should see this film immediately, as every single one of those acts sampled this movie in at least one of their songs!

#30 Athens, GA.: Inside/Out (1987) – As you probably know, Athens, Georgia was a hotbed of musical creativity in the 1980s. From internationally-popular bands like The B-52s, Pylon and R.E.M. to lesser known acts like Guadalcanal Diary, Dreams So Real and The Flat Duo Jets, the number of bands that came out of this small Southern town – sometimes called “the Liverpool of the South” – is simply staggering. This film is all about the Athens scene, and it includes interviews with the bands and local celebrities (including Walter, then-owner of “Walter’s Barbeque”, a famous Athens hangout, and Howard Finster, a famous Georgia folk artist whose fame rose meteorically in the 80s). It also includes specially-recorded performances, most notably acoustic versions of “Swan Sawn H” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, two longtime R.E.M. fan faves.

Thankfully, this film was finally released on DVD a few years ago, so now everyone can get in on the fun! I don’t recommend the disc as a “buy” unless you really like the Athens scene; it is absolutely worthy of a rent though, so check it out when you can!

#29 Bachelor Party (1984) – Back before Tom Hanks became a “serious” actor, he was mostly known for his comedy work in the series Bosom Buddies and this film, where he plays Rick Gassko, a young man about to be married. His friends decide to throw him a bachelor party – which ends up turning into one of the wildest nights you can imagine… and includes a pill-popping, coke-snorting donkey! Rick’s friends include the blue-collar mechanic who’s only interested in beer and boobs, the photographer friend who claims to be “serious” and “mature” but isn’t, a stereotypically Jewish ticket broker who couldn’t get laid in a whorehouse and a deeply depressed friend… who, at one point, tries to slash his wrists with a electric razor! But it’s not all fun and games for Rick and company. His future in-laws and his fiancée’s ex-boyfriend hate Rick and will try just about anything to break up the impending marriage. As you might guess, all of their plans backfire on them, and in this movie it backfires in the funniest way! Tawny Kitaen is at the peak of her 80s hotness in the film too, so if big-haired girls are your thing you’ve come to the right place.

#28 Suburbia (1984) – Written and directed by Penelope Spheeris (we’ll see more of her later), this film is about suburban California kids who run away from home to live communally in abandoned houses. Spheeris had a small budget for the film, and it shows. She also made the conscious decision to use real kids from L.A. in the film instead of actors. On the one hand, this gives Suburbia a genuine feel to it; on the other hand, the acting is downright painful in parts. This is not helped by a weak script that boils down to “kids unite against stupid rednecks”. One is haunted by what this film could have been. But still, the movie is important in that it was one of the first 80s films to show the punk subculture in a “real” light, as opposed to what some Hollywood costumer thought a punk “should” look like. Bonus points if you recognize Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the film. In my opinion, this film is a rental at best… even better, it’s one to look for on the DVR. Having said all that, it’s still a good movie if you want to learn about (or relive your time in) punk culture.

Suburbia

#27 Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) – You didn’t think I’d do a list of 80s movies and not include Desperately Seeking Susan, did you? Rosanna Arquette stars as Roberta Glass, a typical 80s New Jersey housewife. She’s bored with life, and one of the few things she has to ease her boredom is following the exploits of free-spirit Susan (Madonna). Susan’s friends communicate with her via ads in classifieds. Roberta’s interest in Susan is piqued one day when she reads an ad entitled “Desperately Seeking Susan”. She goes to Battery Park to catch a glimpse of Susan and follows her to a consignment store. There Susan sells her jacket. Roberta immediately buys it, only to find a locker key in one of the pockets. Roberta places an ad in the paper for Susan so that she can return the key. Unfortunately for Roberta, she gets hit on the head just before the meeting is to take place and gets amnesia as a result.

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Susan’s boyfriend Jim sent his friend Dez (Aidan Quinn) to the park for the meeting and Dez, having never met Susan, assumes that Roberta is Susan. Hilarity ensues when Roberta and Dez figure out that the mob is after Susan for some stolen earrings (hey, they’re nice earrings!) and now that everyone thinks that Roberta is Susan the mob is coming after her now. Roberta does some soul searching once the amnesia goes away. Should she stay with her uncaring husband in their huge New Jersey home? Or should she stay with Dez, to whom she is totally attracted but who comes from a different world?

Yes, the plot is silly. But still, the movie’s a lot of fun, and it kicked off a string of movies where Madonna acts decently enough if she’s playing herself. Here’s some trivia for you: most of the dance club scenes were filmed at Danceteria, the real-life nightclub where Madonna got her start.

Oh, and an unholy catfight that emerged between Arquette and Madonna because of the film. Arquette was supposed to have top billing in the film (and does in movie posters, the number of scenes, the total amount of screen time, etc.). But the poor girl was somehow under the impression that she was the “star” of the film. Madonna was, of course, the hottest pop star in the world when this film came out. So, to most film reviewers, the rest of the media, and to the general public, Susan was “the Madonna movie with Rosanna someone or the other in it” instead of “the Rosanna Arquette movie with supporting actress Madonna”. Arquette got mad. And winning a “best supporting actress” BAFTA award for the role in which she was (allegedly) the top star didn’t help much, either.

#26 National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) – OK, just about everyone has seen this movie. Chevy Chase stars as the lovable goof Clark W. Griswold, who’s bound and determined to drive his family cross-country to Walley World, a thinly-disguised spoof of Disney World. Various disasters happen along the way, including a hilarious side trip to see his sister-in-law’s white trash family. Although Chase is star of the film, Randy Quaid as Cousin Eddie almost steals the show. Beverly D’Angelo also stars as Ellen, Clark’s MILF-tastic wife, Anthony Michael Hall plays Clark’s son Rusty and you might recognize a very young Jane Krakowski (Ally McBeal and 30 Rock) as Cousin Vicky.

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The film was written by 80s teen movie giant John Hughes, and is based on a semi-autobiographical short story he wrote for National Lampoon magazine entitled “Vacation ’58” (read it here). Although there isn’t a lot of foul language or other “objectionable” content in this film, it’s still best to catch it on DVD or on one of the premium movie channels. If you haven’t seen it in a while, you’ve probably forgotten how much was cut out of the TV version!

#25 Back To School (1986) – Comedian Rodney Dangerfield made a career out of playing the schlub, the kind of classless everyman that people identify with, yet are repelled by at the same time. Although Dangerfield made several movies in the 1980s, Back To School is universally regarded as the funniest one, except for perhaps the ensemble comedy Caddyshack.

In the film, Dangerfield plays Thornton Melon, a man who dropped out of school at an early age to work and eventually created an empire of “big and tall” men’s clothing stores. And when his son Jason gets in trouble in college, Thorton decides to help out… by going to college himself. Thorton’s money immediately makes popular on campus, as it allows him to buy textbooks for everyone, throw lavish parties, etc. But Thorton’s plebian ways offend some in the university, who have their sights set on getting him kicked out of school. Will Thorton survive? And just what is a “Triple Lindy”, anyway? Lastly, Robert Downey Jr. is hilarious as Jason’s roommate and New Wave band Oingo Boingo play at a party scene!

#24 At Close Range (1986) – Christopher Walken headlines as Brad Whitewood, Sr. in this film about organized crime and how it affect the family. Sean Penn plays Brad Jr., Walken’s son, and he becomes involved with his father’s criminal activities, so much so that he forms his own gang with his brother Tommy (played by Penn’s real-life brother Chris). The young gang get themselves arrested, which causes a problem for Walken, who is afraid that his sons will squeal on him. So he does the only logical thing – he rapes Brad Jr.’s girlfriend! Of course, this has the opposite effect, and Penn begins talking to the police to get revenge on his dad. So Walken retaliates… and I won’t spoil it for you any more. The theme song to this film – “Live To Tell”, sung by Penn’s wife at the time, Madonna – was a huge hit back in the day!

#23 Less Than Zero (1987) – A guy goes off to college. His ex-girlfriend calls him and asks him to come home for the holidays. He does, and finds that his best friend has turned into a coke fiend willing to do just about anything to get his next score. And so the guy tries to help him out. That’s the core of the film, which has precious little to do with the novel upon which it’s based. It stars Andrew McCarthy as Clay, Jamie Gertz as ex-girlfriend Blair and (surprise, surprise!) Robert Downey Jr. as Julian, the friend with the coke problem. If you’ve read the book, you’ll be highly disappointed by the movie. If you haven’t, you’ll probably enjoy this look at the lives of young, 80s-era Beverly Hills idle rich. You just can’t miss the anti-drug message of the film, but if you look closely you just might see Brad Pitt as an extra in one of his first film roles!

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#22 Slam Dance (1987) – An erotic thriller based in California in the late 1980s. Tom Hulce (of Amadeus fame) plays C.C. Drood, a cartoonist who has an affair with Yolanda Caldwell (a very hot Virginia Madsen). When Caldwell winds up murdered in a fountain, it’s up to Drood to figure out what happened to her. He quickly finds out – the hard way – that Caldwell was having affairs with high-ranking government types… who are now launching a cover-up that just might get Drood killed. 80s pop star Adam Ant stars as Drood’s best friend Jim, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio plays Drood’s ex-wife. Although not the greatest thriller ever made, Slam Dance is still two hours of solid entertainment and also has a kick-ass soundtrack too! Just so’s ya know, the film has nothing whatsoever to do with moshing.

#21 Risky Business (1983) – The movie that made Tom Cruise the star he is today. In it, Cruise plays Joel Goodsen, an uptight kid in the Chicago suburbs who’s more interested in getting in to Princeton than just about anything else. His friends know this, so when Joel’s parents go out of town one of them (Miles, played by Curtis Armstrong) calls a hooker for Joel to get him to “lighten up”. Unfortunately, the hooker turns out to be a big black transvestite. Joel isn’t interested, but the hooker does give him the number of Lana (Rebecca De Mornay), who is “what every white boy on the lake wants”. Joel calls her one night and the two start a fast and furious relationship. Fast because they seem to fall in love, furious because Joel gets into it with Lana’s pimp, Guido (Joe Pantoliano). All this would be bad enough, but one night Joel, Lana and some friends go out to get high. Joel and Lana get into an argument while sitting on Joel’s dad’s beloved Porsche at a nearly park, and Lana accidentally takes the car out of gear, and it ends up in the lake. So now Joel not only has to deal with Guido, he has to come up with megabucks to fix the car before his dad gets home. Lana offers a solution: Joel can throw a party. He can invite his rich friends, and she can invite her working girls, and Joel can make a mint in a hurry. And that’s exactly what happens. But things don’t exactly turn out the way Joel had hoped. In the end though, almost everything turns out OK for Joel. Almost. This film screams 80s, and the scene where Joel lipsynchs in his underpants to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” is shown in almost every “80s movie montage” you’ll ever see. The soundtrack is great too, from Prince to Muddy Waters to the excellent electronic sounds of Tangerine Dream.

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#20 9 1/2 Weeks (1986) – This erotic thriller created quite a stir when it was released in February 1986. Kim Basinger plays Elizabeth McGraw, the owner of an art gallery; Mickey Rourke plays John Grey, a Wall Street investor. The two develop a sadomasochistic relationship; much of the movie is spent exploring the sometimes violent world of their own urges. Two scenes in particular – Basinger’s striptease to Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and a scene in which the couple have sex in a rainy brick alley – stand out as icons of 80s sexuality. In any case, McGraw isn’t cut from the same cloth as Grey, so much of the second half of the movie centers on Elizabeth’s impending breakdown due to John’s manipulation. Although this film hasn’t aged as well as others, it’s still a decent flick, especially if you see it with someone you love (wink, wink). Interesting trivia about the film: 1) most of what you think is a naked Kim Basinger is actually a body double; 2) there is a scene where John and Elizabeth are buying a bed in a department store. If you listen closely, you can hear a page for a “Mr. Jerry Bruckheimer” over the store’s PA system; 3) porn star Ron Jeremy is listed in the film’s credits as a “consultant”; no, I don’t know why.

#19 Wall Street (1987) – The 80s are sometimes called the “Decade of Greed”, mostly due to corporate excess of the time. Few embodied this more than “corporate raiders”, people with vast sums of money who would buy a company and break it down into parts that would be sold off individually for more money than the raider paid for the whole company. If you think this sounds a lot like a “chop shop” – where criminals buy stolen cars for a few hundred bucks and sell the individual parts for thousands… well, you’re not too far off. Michael Douglas stars as Gordon Gekko, one of those corporate raiders. Charlie Sheen plays Bud Fox, a small-time trader with big dreams that’ll do just about anything to make it big. When Bud finally manages to get a meeting with Gekko, he gives him some lame stock tips, but Gekko turns around and gives him some invaluable advice: get some inside information and then get back to him. Fox does, and Gekko makes a mint. He then takes Fox under his wing, and the Oliver Stone film is all about the quick rise and fall of young Bud. This is perhaps Douglas’s most famous role, and back in the day I knew several guys who had memorized Gekko’s famous “Greed is Good” speech. Some even put it on their answering machines. That’s how good it was.

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#18 Brimstone & Treacle (1982) – If you’re under the age 30, you might have a hard time believing that Sting was once considered “cool”. But cool he was, and in 1982 he was one of the hottest rock stars on the planet. He had parts in the Sex Pistols’ Great Rock and Roll Swindle and The Who’s Quadrophenia films, but Brimstone and Treacle was his first starring role. And what a movie it was! Sting plays Martin Taylor, a con man and thief. In the opening scene, Taylor “accidentally” slips and falls in front of Tom Bates (the venerable Denholm Elliott) so that he can steal Bates’ wallet. By asking a series of leading questions, Sting leads Bates to believe that he knows Bates’ daughter Patricia, who was recently in a horrible automobile accident that’s left her in a nearly vegetative state. Sensing a big score in the making, Sting later returns Bates’ wallet to him at his home. Before our eyes, Taylor is transformed from a street con into the perfect choirboy, and Mrs. Bates (Joan Plowright) eats it all up. Before you know it, Sting is living with the Bates family – even doing chores and running errands for them. All the while he’s developing a strange crush on Patricia, who is strapped to her bed and barely cognizant of the world around her. Mr. Bates eventually becomes suspicious of Taylor, and it all comes to a head one terrible night… when he finds Taylor raping his daughter! However, after Bates pulls Taylor off Patricia, Martin escapes by running through a window. Patricia also miraculously comes out of her stupor… and we all learn the terrible secret behind her tragic accident. So did the angels or the devil send Taylor to the Bates’ home? Watch the movie and find out!

#17 Trading Places (1983) – If you have a hard time imagining Sting as “cool”, you might have an even harder time imagining Eddie Murphy as “funny”, given his long string of box offices bombs. But just as Sting was the epitome of cool back then, so Eddie Murphy was the “funniest man on earth”. Many folks didn’t care much for his overly dark debut film (48 Hours); the “lovable” Eddie was born in this film, which is a loose adaptation of Mark Twain’s “The Prince And The Pauper”. In short, two wealthy brothers – Mortimer and Randolph Duke – cannot decide whether people are formed by “nature” or “nurture”. They decide to take one member of high society (their own employee, Louis Winthorpe III, played by Dan Ackroyd) and ruin him, while at the same time taking a street hustler (Billy Ray Valentine, played by Murphy) and grooming him into an upper class gentleman. Both Winthrope and Valentine experience the expected emotions. Winthorpe, an elitist man now penniless, softens his heart when a “hooker with a heart of gold” (Jaime Lee Curtis) takes him in. At the same time, Valentine invites his friends over to his new (Winthorpe’s old) house. At first, he parties like the rest of them, but when things start to get out of control and people start breaking things, Valentine orders all of his old friends out of his house. Eventually Winthorpe and Valentine figure out that they’ve been had, so they work up a scheme to get even with the Duke brothers. This plan involves futures trading, and is so complicated that there used to be a special section of the movie’s Wikipedia page dedicated to it (it was deleted after this article was originally published). In any case, I’m skipping over much of the film, and although not much of it sounds funny so far, trust me – it is.

#16 Real Genius (1985) – After his smash debut in 1984’s Top Secret, Val Kilmer absolutely stole this film, which is set at the fictitious “Pacific Tech University”. Kilmer plays Chris Knight, a genius slacker who is working on a chemical laser project. Knight is paired with young prodigy Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarret). Knight sees a lot of himself in Taylor: a young, nervous go-getter who has no idea of how to relax. Knight decides to take Taylor under his wing, teaching him how to relax and have fun during his first year in college. Unbeknownst to Knight and Taylor, their professor (Jerry Hathaway, played by William Atherton) has a secret contract with the Air Force to turn the laser into a powerful weapon. They eventually get even with Hathaway by hacking into the Air Force computer that’s testing their laser. They reset the coordinates of the test to Hathaway’s home, which they have filled with a huge amount of uncooked popcorn kernels. The laser is fired and Hathaway’s house is filled with freshly-popped popcorn – a food he totally hates. That’s the gist of the story, but I’ve skipped over many of the funniest parts. For instance, Professor Hathaway has a snitch named Kent (Robert Prescott) on the laser team; Kent finds Knight leading Taylor astray by taking him to a party, and he tattles on the two of them. In retaliation, Knight and Taylor disassemble Kent’s car and put it back together again… in his dorm room. There are other geeky setups like that, and the scene where Knight and Taylor have Kent thinking that he’s talking to God will keep you in stitches! Michelle Meyrink plays Jordan in the film, Taylor’s love interest and was one of the first (of many) “geek girl” crushes for me. Bonus points if you can spot 80s porn star Ginger Lynn in a party scene!

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#15 The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) – The sole documentary in this list, Decline tells the story of 1979-80 West Coast punk through the mouths of the bands themselves as well as their fans. The film is jam-packed with performances by punk legends such as Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Catholic Discipline, Fear, The Germs, and X. What’s amazing about that particular time and place is how much so many of the people didn’t seem to care about either fame or fortune. They’re not out there to get a big record contract or get their faces on music magazines. They were doing it for the art, or for their politics, or whatever reason compelled them to become musicians in the first place. It’s so refreshing to see interviews with musicians who don’t have publicists, or care what outfit they’re wearing, or who desperately try keep up with other “stars”. These guys were just out doing their thing and having fun doing it.

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The film (directed by Penelope Spheeris, who claims that it was financed by two businessmen originally looking to get into making porn movies!) is shot in both gritty color and black and white. Rather than making a “production” of the live performances, Spheeris uses portable cameras to really give the viewer the feeling of really being there in the crowd. And Spheeris even chose to add the song lyrics as subtitles for the film, so even if you can’t understand the words, you can’t miss the message. But perhaps the best part of this film are the interviews with the fans; it would almost bring a tear to my eye to see those jokers today. I say almost because this film is really hard to find. It’s not yet on DVD (it’s been “coming soon!” for at least 8 years now) and has been out-of-print in VHS for ages. If you have any interest in 80s films or culture and have the chance to see this film, don’t miss it!

#14 Sid and Nancy (1986) – And hey… speaking of punk rock, you can’t have any kind of discussion about punk rock without mentioning the Sex Pistols or their notorious bassist, Sid Vicious. This movie (written and directed by Alex Cox) tells the tragic real-life story of Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. The couple, known in some circles as “Punk’s Romeo and Juliet” met in the mid 1970s. Sid fell in love with her almost immediately and she finally ended up falling for him. But the two were horrible influences on each other, and much of the film focuses on their drug-induced death spiral.

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But before that, we get a great look at what it was like to be a Sex Pistol, how the band worked together, how they were manipulated by manager Malcolm McLaren and all the fun they must have had back when they were the “band of the moment”. The “live” numbers in the film are great, especially the one that took place on a ferry in the Thames on the Queen’s Birthday (where, in reality, almost everyone on the boat was arrested for disturbing the peace). Soon after meeting Nancy, Sid develops a nasty heroin problem and he quickly falls apart. It’s so sad to see someone love someone else so much when the other person is there holding a needle, waiting to shoot you up. So yes, there’s no way around it – the last half of this movie is just about the most depressing thing put to film ever.

But stick with it though, because it’s worth it, especially to see Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious. Oldman nails the part, in part because he apparently ate only steamed fish and melon for months in order to lose enough weight to resemble the emaciated Vicious. The movie is mostly accurate too; most “movie mistake” websites list a dozen or so mistakes, most of which were not “mistakes” per se but specific casting or directorial decisions (for example, Sid’s famous “swastika shirt” is switch to a “hammer and sickle shirt” for the film). And last but not least… see if you can spot the teeny tiny part that Courtney Love has in the film… it’s eerie that her future would mirror Nancy’s so closely!

#13 The Lost Boys (1987) – It seems like every generation has their own vampire movie, from the campy vampires of the 50s and 60s to current vampire fad today. The 80s were no exception, of course, and The Lost Boys is that film. The movie stars Dianne Wiest as Lucy Emerson, a divorced mother of two who moves her children Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim) to the small California town of Santa Carla. Older son Michael quickly falls in with a motorcycle gang, mainly because he’s attracted to Star (Jami Gertz), the gang’s “token chick”. Meanwhile, Sam meets two brothers, Edgar and Alan Frog, at a comic book store and starts a friendship with them. The two brothers sound like conspiracy nuts, because they constantly talk about vampires that they feel are all around them. It really starts to hit home with Sam when his brother begins acting strangely. And he’s acting strangely because the motorcycle gang is also a gang of vampires. Their leader (David, played by the film’s true star, Keifer Sutherland) takes a shine to Michael and initiates him by making him drink blood disguised as wine. Michael slowly shows signs of being converted to vampirism, until one fateful night when he’s taken on a “hunt” by the gang. This somehow snaps Michael out of his “vampire daze”, and he takes Star, a vampire child named Laddie and Sam on a crusade to end the curse by killing the head vampire. The only twist is that the head vampire isn’t who you think he is. This film was loved by pretty much everyone between 12 and 25 back when it was released, and it’s one of those movies that sucks you in if you happen to catch it on cable on a rainy Sunday. The movie has lots of comedic relief, and isn’t so much scary as it is “freaky”. We figure out very early on who (most) of the vampires are, and there’s not much that’ll make you scream or jump out of your seat. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie. Trust me, it is!

#12 St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) – This ensemble film features the entire “Brat Pack” galaxy of 80s stars: Kirby Keger (Emilio Estevez), Alec Newbary (Judd Nelson), Kevin Dolenz (Andrew McCarthy), Billy Hicks (Rob Lowe), Jules Jacoby (Demi Moore), Leslie Hunter (Ally Sheedy) and Wendy Beamish (Mare Winningham). The group of friends have just graduated from Georgetown University in Washington DC, and the film is about the group’s growing pains as they head into adulthood. Alec, for instance, is a young Republican who will do almost anything to get started in politics. He’s been dating Leslie for years, and can’t wait to get her to the altar. In fact, he just can’t wait to have the wife, 2.1 children and white picket fence. Kevin is a lonely writer and appears to be deeply depressed about something. Kevin lives with Kirby, who thinks he wants to be a lawyer, but isn’t totally sure. Jules and Billy are the “party people” of the bunch, but both appear to live very different lives. Billy seems to be either unable or unwilling to keep a regular job, preferring instead to play the sax at the group’s favorite bar. Jules, on the other hand, has the flashy job and flashy apartment, but there are signs that all is not well. And Wendy… well, she’s the “boring” one of the group. She’s the “good girl” who goes around helping others and rarely thinks about what she wants

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So what’s the actual plot of the film? Well, given all these characters, it’s hard to sum it up in just a sentence or two. I’ll just say that the gang’s favorite watering hole – St. Elmo’s Bar – is central to the film. The gang meet there, discuss their lives, go off and live that life, then meet back at the bar a couple of days later. All the while they’re interacting with each other, and past relationships come into play throughout the movie. It’s a good film – one of the first “adult” movies many of the Brat Pack had ever done – and it’s actually held up pretty well with time, perhaps because most of us can relate to the characters and what they’re going through, even if we didn’t go to Georgetown and even if our friends weren’t like this group at all.

#11 Valley Girl (1983) – Julie Richman (Deborah Foreman) is a girl from California’s San Fernando Valley; Randy (Nicolas Cage) is a punk rocker from Hollywood. Julie is rich, pretty, goes to a good school, and even has a handsome boyfriend. Randy has… almost nothing. But Julie isn’t happy with her boyfriend. He’s a jerk who disrespects her. Randy and his friend Fred decide to crash a party in the valley one night, and there he meets Julie. Because they had been thrown out of the party earlier, Randy and Fred want to leave, and they talk Julie and her friend into going to a club in Hollywood with them. At the club, Randy and Julie kiss and a relationship is born.

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Unfortunately, Julie’s friends don’t like Randy at all, because he’s not “one of them”. Julie is torn about what to do, so she asks her father, an aging hippie, what she should do. Her father says that she should follow her heart… but that’s easier said than done. Bowing to peer pressure, Julie dumps Randy and takes old boyfriend Tommy back. Randy’s really down about being dumped, and he ends up getting odd jobs in the valley just so he can (maybe) get glimpse of Julie every now and then. Fred eventually hatches a plan whereby he and Randy will crash Julie’s prom. Randy and Tommy get into a fight backstage, and when the curtain comes up on the “king and queen” of prom, the school is treated instead to Tommy and Randy fighting. Randy eventually wins, but the couple are blocked on their way out by Tommy at the refreshment table. Julie decides that she’s through with Tommy for good, and smacks him across the face with a platter of guacamole. Randy and Julie then ride off into the sunset.

So – in a nutshell – that’s the movie. Just your average romantic comedy, right? Well yes… but Valley Girl was perhaps the first “mainstream” New Wave film. It may be hard to believe today, but there were once legions of girls across America who mimicked Julie in every possible way. And Nicholas Cage’s character started the grand trend of Hollywood getting punk “wrong” every chance it got. This film is a bit dated today – and wasn’t the highest quality production even back then – but the the film is cute and sweet and soundtrack is awesome! In fact, it was so good that when the “official version” went out of print at least two record stores in Atlanta offered to sell “bootleg” versions of the soundtrack on cassette tape.

#10 Sixteen Candles (1984) – This film was the first of writer\director John Hughes’ “blockbuster quadrilogy” of 80s teen films. Molly Ringwald stars as Samantha (“Sam”) Baker, a high school teen who has a huge crush on Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling), one of the most popular boys at school. In a theme that would be revisited in many Hughes films, Jake is actually interested in Sam, but feels compelled by peer pressure to date Caroline, the bubbly, popular blonde prom queen. The movie’s conflict comes from the fact that Sam’s older sister Ginny is getting married on Sam’s sixteenth birthday. In all the hubbub surrounding the wedding, everyone seems to forget Sam’s birthday.

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Comedy relief is provided on multiple fronts, from Sam’s clueless grandparents, to foreign exchange student Long Duc Dong, to geeky Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), an underclassman nerd who has a huge (unrequited) crush on Sam. In fact, it’s Ted’s storyline that provides most of the laughs here. He bets his friends – which include a very young John Cusak – that he’ll sleep with Sam. So his friends challenge him to bring back her panties. Ted and Sam then have a heartfelt run-in, and Sam gives Ted her underwear to help him out. There’s a hilarious scene where Ted charges his friends $1 each to view the underwear in a school bathroom. Ted and his friends then crash a “seniors-only” party in which the Jake’s house is almost destroyed. Jake and Ted are the two last people at the party, and they end up bonding. Jake then lends Ted his dad’s Rolls Royce as well as his completely drunk girlfriend. More goofy stuff happens, and Jake and Sam end up together by the end of the movie, in one of the most iconic scenes in 80s cinema (and no, I haven’t spoiled anything for you – you know Sam and Jake will end up together 5 minutes into the movie). One thing that’s amusing about this film today is the stereotypical Asian character Long Duc Dong; although “funny” by 80s standards, one wonders how the character would be handled if the film was renamed today. Would a “safe” (i.e. white) stereotype be acceptable? Would a German exchange student in lederhosen be OK?

#9 Say Anything (1989) – There’s not a lot of “plot” to this movie. John Cusak plays Lloyd Dobler, an underachieving high school student and kickboxing aficionado who falls in love with valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye). As in most 80s teen romance films, Lloyd and Diane’s relationship has many obstacles: peer pressure, disapproving parents, and uncertain (though certainly very different) futures. The most memorable scene in the film – one that’ll stick with you forever – features Lloyd, standing next to his car, parked outside of Diane’s house. He has a huge boombox, which he raises over his head to serenade Diane with Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”. It’s so touching – few girls can watch it without going “awwwww!” It’s also perhaps the most parodied scene from 80s cinema, with various takeoffs appearing in South Park, American Dad, Family Guy, Arrested Development, A Night At The Roxbury, Drawn Together, and Date Movie. What makes this film so likeable, though, is that what happens to Lloyd and Diane is believable. Unlike a lot of 80s movies, the couple aren’t brought together by some miraculous event. Nor is everything perfect for them. The two have fears and doubts, just like the rest of us do. And that’s why this film ranks so highly in my book. But don’t take just my word for it: the film ranks as #11 on Entertainment Weekly’s list of the “50 Best High School Movies” and was also named “Greatest Modern Romance” by the same magazine in 2002.

#8 Repo Man (1984) – The second Alex Cox film on this list, Repo Man stars Emilio Estevez as Otto, a young punk rocker in 80s Los Angeles. Otto gets fired from his job at a grocery store for talking back to his boss, then finds out that his parents have sent all of his savings account to a skeezy televangelist. Otto needs a job badly, and almost by accident he gets hired on at the “Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation”, a small repossession agency. The boss (Bud, played by Harry Dean Stanton) takes Otto under his wing and shows him all the ropes of the repo business. And Otto finds that he likes repo work – he’s not tied to a desk, he has a lot of freedom in how he does things, he likes the camaraderie and competition with other repo men and feels like every day is an adventure.

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Then one day an order comes in to repossess a 1964 Chevy Malibu, a car which has been valued at the mysteriously high price of $20,000. Otto, every other repo man in Los Angeles, and even the FBI immediately start scouring the city for the car. Little does Otto know that there’s something “powerful” and “mysterious” in the trunk, something that changes people once they gaze upon it. I won’t spoil any more for you, but I will say this: this film has it all: action, adventure, drama and lots of comedy (especially long-running gags). The movie features punk rockers, ruthless repo men, crooked televangelists, federal agents, UFO enthusiasts, aliens… what more do you need? Sadly, this film never seemed to reach above “cult” status, which is a shame. It’s a great movie (in many respects) and should be on everyone’s “must see” list.

#7 Weird Science (1985) – Written by John Hughes (of Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink fame), Weird Science is about two geeks – Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith). These two are completely clueless about women and are so geeky that the “popular kids” at school dump drinks on their heads at the mall food court… and everyone thinks it’s hilarious! Their geekiness is not to last, however. One night Gary and Wyatt hack into a government supercomputer and use its power to create the “perfect woman”: a sexpot with Einstein’s IQ, David Lee Roth’s attitude and unexplained supernatural powers.

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The girl – Lisa, played by 80s uberbabe Kelly LeBrock – changes Gary and Wyatt’s lives forever. She gives them confidence, a sense of style and (perhaps most importantly) two cool cars. The kids at school see Gary and Wyatt hanging out with a knockout and start to hang out with them too, especially when Gary and Wyatt hold a massive party. Alas, Gary and Wyatt’s time with Lisa isn’t to last. They eventually find “real” girls to date and Lisa has to go away… but not before more hilarious hijinks than you can stake a stick at! Bill Paxon is a complete cut-up as Chet, Wyatt’s gun totin’, overbearing brother, and Robert Downey, Jr. is also funny as one of the “cool kids” who is now sucking up to Gary and Wyatt. No matter how many times I’ve seen this movie, the scene where Gary, Wyatt and Lisa are telling Gary’s parents about the party always cracks me up: “Oh Gary! You said you were combing you hair!”

#6 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – My mom always said that I was Ferris Bueller, and as much as I’d like to agree with that, Ferris Bueller was the Michael Jordan of skipping school! Matthew Broderick stars as Ferris, along with Mia Sara (as Sloane Peterson) and Alan Ruck (as Cameron Frye). Ferris decides he needs the day off from high school. He manages to not only convince his parents that he’s ill enough to stay home (but not sick enough for the doctor), he also manages to get his catatonic friend Cameron to skip with him. Ferris is so smooth that he even manages to talk Cameron into taking his Dad’s prized Ferrari out for the day! The two then, using some clever phone tricks, convince the school to let Sloane out for the day too.

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The gang then head to downtown Chicago, where they engage in about two day’s worth of fun in just a few hours: they take in a Cubs game, go to the observation deck of the Sears Tower, check out the Art Institute of Chicago, eat lunch in a “snooty” restaurant… and even take an active part in a parade! But hey, it’s not all fun: Ferris and friends have to duck Ferris’ dad and sister, as well as Ed Rooney, the principal of Ferris’ school. Rooney (played by “pre-kiddie porn” Jeffrey Jones), is absolutely gunning for Ferris, and it’s only Ferris’ Rube Goldberg-style gadgets that keep Rooney from finding out that Ferris is not only not sick, but is catching foul balls at Wrigley Field! Aside from the “skipping school” element, this movie remains fine entertainment for the whole family, as best I can remember, there’s nothing really offensive, even for smaller children (although they might not “get” why someone would want to skip school in the first place). In any event, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is still a great film that’s aged really well… even if Mia Sara hasn’t!

#5 Better Off Dead (1985) – This hilarious dark comedy didn’t make too much at the box office at the time, but it remains a cult classic that gave John Cusack the push he needed to become a star. Set in the fictional California town of Greendale, Cusack plays Lane Meyer, a teenager recently dumped by his girlfriend Beth (Amanda Wyss). He just can’t seem to deal with life after the breakup, so he tries to kill himself… sadly (for him), each attempt fails with hilarious results. Lane continues to try and to kill himself, but at school one day he meets Monique, a French exchange student. He develops feelings for her; she seems happy to oblige, since her host family is so annoying that she pretends that she cannot speak English around them. Her host mom even tries to set Monique up with her son Ricky, who’s not only grossly overweight, he’s a complete nerd too.

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Rounding out the cast is a list of assorted oddballs including a very persistent paperboy who demands payment, the teachers at Lane’s high school as well as his family (including his mother, who is the worst cook in the entire world and his genius brother who builds laser guns and loves trashy women). Lane’s friends, include his best friend Charles De Mar, who tries to get high off whipped cream and snow, amongst other things. Oh – and how could I forget the two drag racing Japanese brothers! One of them learned to speak English by listening to Howard Cosell, and now apes the legendary announcer every time he opens his mouth! In any case, aside from Lane killing himself, much of the film is about him trying to win Beth back by challenging her new boyfriend (Roy Stalin, played by Aaron Dozier), while at the same time he develops feelings for Monique as she helps him rebuild his 1967 Camero. Ironically, by the time Lane and Roy have their ultimate showdown, it’s no longer about Lane and Beth, but really more about the “cool people” versus the “nerds”. Do the nerds win? What happens to poor Ricky? Do Lane and Monique ride off into the sunset? Watch the film and find out! And since this DVD can be had for less than $10, I say BUY IT!

#4 Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) – This film was initially marketed as “just another teen comedy flick”, but it has a serious streak, too. It’s also amazing just how many young stars got their starts in this movie: Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates, Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards, Forest Whitaker, and Judge Reinhold all appear in the film, which also made a star of writer Cameron Crowe (who would go on to direct Say Anything…, Jerry McGuire, and Almost Famous). The film follows the lives of several teenagers in the early 1980s.

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Stacey Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a shy young freshman who works in a pizza joint at the local mall with Linda (Phoebe Cates). Stacy has her eye on Mark Ratner (Brian Backer), who works as an usher at the movie theatre across from the pizza place. Stacy and Mark’s friends are both “older and wiser” and both give their respective friends tips on how to approach the other. It’s so cute, in a high school kind of way. We come into the film just as the new school year is starting, and we see Stacy’s brother Brad (Reinhold), who has been working in fast food and saving his money for a car, as well as surfer\stoner Jeff Spicoli (Penn), who gets high before school in his VW van. As luck would have it, Mark and Stacy have a class together, and at the urging of Mark’s friend Mike (Robert Romanus), Mark asks Stacy out. At around the same time, Spicoli starts going ’round and ’round with his history teacher (Ray Walston), who’s is so uptight that he’s convinced that all of his students are smoking marijuana. A little while later, Spicoli wrecks star of the football team’s car, which he later blames on kids from a rival high school, and Brad loses his job at the burger joint because a customer complained about his breakfast.

In the next scenes, Mark and Mike walk in on Stacy and Linda sunbathing in the back yard. Brad comes home from his new job at the fish place and so, dressed as a pirate, he sees Phoebe Cates in a red swimsuit and has a fantasy of Linda taking off her bathing suit top. Folks, if you haven’t seen this movie… well, let’s just say that one scene was important enough for me “toothpick” the cable box when I was 12 or 13. Anyway, about the same time that Brad starts masturbating to his fantasy, Mike and Stacy have sex in the cabana. Stacy ends up pregnant and when Mike doesn’t show up to drive her to the abortion clinic, she asks Brad to take her to the bowling alley (which is near the clinic). Brad sees her walk into the abortion clinic and when she comes out he demands to know who got her pregnant. She refuses to say. Mike and Mark then have a falling out at school, only to become friends again at a school dance. Meanwhile, Brad has gotten a new job at a convenience store. Spicoli comes in and asks to use the bathroom; Brad says “OK”, but while Spicoli is in the bathroom a robber comes in and threatens Brad. Spicoli emerges from the bathroom to ask Brad for some paper towels, which diverts the robber’s attention and gives Brad enough time to throw hot coffee in the robber’s face. Brad then takes the robber’s gun and not only becomes a hero, but is awarded managership of the store. Spicoli later saves Brooke Shields and is given a reward, which he uses to hire Van Halen for his birthday party…

And it goes on and on. It’s funny how until only recently I thought of this movie solely in terms of Spicoli smoking weed and Phobe Cates taking off her top. It’s definitely a teen comedy, but it really deals with some serious issues as well. It’s a little dated… but it’s still absolutely worth seeing… even buying!

#3 Pretty in Pink (1986) – The third of John Hughes’ “blockbuster quadrilogy”, this film stars Molly Ringwald as Andie Walsh, a lower-class girl who is literally from the wrong side of the tracks. John Cryer plays Phil “Duckie” Dale, Andie’s best friend, who has had an overwhelming secret crush on her since well… forever. Too bad that Andie’s totally in love with rich kid Blane McDonnagh (Andrew McCarthy).

Like most of Hughes’ films, this one centers on themes of peer pressure and how people from opposite worlds interact with each other. You see, Blane’s best friend Steff is also very rich and has always had a “thing” for Andie. She refuses his advances, so he hides his pain in scorn and ridicule for her. Which works out well for Steff, since his rich friends get a good laugh any time he mentions Andie’s crappy car or her thrift store clothes. Blane’s not like that though. He’s a nice guy who’s genuinely sweet to Andie. But eventually the peer pressure gets to be too much, and Andie and Blane break up. But wait – the prom is coming up – will they get back together?

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Although you can probably figure it out for yourself, it’s still worth watching the movie to find out. Unlike most Hughes’ films, this one stands out in that the “adults” aren’t necessarily buffoons. Andie’s kooky boss Iona (Annie Potts) is silly, but frequently gives Andie good advice. At one point, Duckie goes to talk to Andie’s father Jack (Harry Dean Stanton), who although in an unemployed daze since his wife left him, nevertheless gives Duckie good advice too. If you look closely, you might see glimpses of some future “stars” in this film: Andrew Dice Clay plays a wise-cracking bouncer, Gina Gershon plays a girl in Andie’s gym class, Dweezil Zappa plays a guy named Simon, Maggie Roswell (who does many of the female voices on The Simpsons) plays Mrs. Dietz and Kristy Swanson appears in a non-speaking role at the very end of the film (she’s credited only as “Duckette”). And I also can’t talk about Pretty in Pink without mentioning two things: the soundtrack and one of my favorite pieces of movie trivia. Yes, the soundtrack is awesome. It features New Order, INXS, The Smiths, OMD, Suzanne Vega, Belouis Some, Echo & The Bunnymen and (of course) the Psychedelic Furs. The soundtrack is also interesting in that two of the biggest hits from it (New Order’s “Shellshock” and OMD’s “If You Leave”) were written especially for the movie. “If You Leave” would prove to be OMD’s biggest hit in the US, just as Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me” (recorded just for The Breakfast Club soundtrack) would be their biggest American hit too. And of course, the Psychedelic Furs’ re-recorded version of “Pretty In Pink” would be hit a couple of years after the original version was released on Talk Talk Talk. And lastly… the trivia I promised. Test audiences hated the original ending of the film, so Hughes’ rewrote it and called the actors back for reshoots. The only problem was that by then Andrew McCarthy had lost a significant amount of weight and shaved his head to play an army officer in a play. To compensate, the costumers added some padding to his clothing and put a wig on him. Although I didn’t notice the wig the first 900 times I saw this movie, once I read about it on a movie trivia website it’s been painfully obvious ever since. See if you can tell the difference!

#2 Bright Lights Big City (1988) – One of my very favorite films of the 80s! Michael J. Fox plays Jamie Conway, a young man a couple of years out of college who apparently has everything going his way. Originally from New York state, he was sent to Kansas City for his first job out of school. There he meets Amanda (Phoebe Cates), a beautiful girl desperate to get out of her trailer park existence. Amanda and Jamie fall in love and move to New York City once Jamie is offered a job as a fact checker at a prestigious magazine. Amanda is constantly being told that she “could be a model”, so she walks in to a modeling agency and is instantly offered a job. Jamie and Amanda are then invited to all the “right parties” where they meet all the “right people”. Things seem to be going well for Jamie… but then it all falls apart.

Amanda goes away to Paris for a modeling job, then calls Jamie hours before her flight is due to leave to tell him that she’s not coming home and that “things have changed”. And this is where we enter the story: Jamie is barely clinging to his job, primarily because he’s spending every night sorting coke with his best friend Tad Allagash (Keifer Sutherland) in NYC nightclubs. Jamie is routinely late (if he shows up at all) and is sloppy with his work. Although his coworkers are trying to help him out as best they can, it’s just not working any more. And to make matters worse, Jamie’s not only torn up about Amanda leaving him, he’s bitter because he thought he’d be a writer by now. He’s also haunted by the death of his mother. The only thing that takes the pain away is more booze and more blow. And even though Jamie knows he’s in trouble, he’s unable to do anything about it. Tad is very persuasive, and given Jamie’s depression it’s not hard to convince him to go looking for “sneeze and squeeze” instead of staying in for the evening.

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Jamie ends up getting fired from the magazine, and things are starting to look quite bleak when he’s offered a lifeline: a blind date with Vicky (Tracy Pollan, Fox’s real-life wife). Vicky is Tad’s cousin and is in town for something, and instead of escorting her around the city, Tad decides to pawn it off on Jamie, sweetening the deal with a “chunk of Bolivia’s gross domestic product”. Jamie and Vicky hit it off, but Jamie has to slide a little more before he can turn himself around. He’s heard that Amanda is in town, and he tracks her down at a fashion show. He accosts her as she walks down the runway, and is thrown out by the bouncers. Later, he finds out that Amanda is at a party. He goes there to ask her why she left him, but he takes a step back and realizes how phony and pretentious everyone at the party is and begins laughing. This sets off a colossal nosebleed, and Jamie goes to the bathroom to try to stop the bleeding. There he spies a telephone, so he calls Vicky and tells her that he needs help. She promises to call him later and the movie ends with Jamie walking home in the cruel daylight.

This movie was somewhat shocking when it first came out, mainly because people just couldn’t picture squeaky-clean Michael J. Fox snorting cocaine every five minutes. But what I like best about the film is that all of the narration and almost all of the dialog comes directly from the Jay McInerney novel upon which the movie is based. And the book is one of the very few in the English language that’s written entirely in second person:

“The train shudders and pitches toward Fourteenth Street, stopping twice for breathers in the tunnel. You are reading about Liz Taylor’s new boyfriend when a sooty hand taps your shoulder. You do not have to look up to know you are facing a casualty, one of the city’s MIAs. You are than willing to lay some silver on the physically handicapped, but folks with the long-distance eyes give you the heebie-jeebies. The second time he taps your shoulder you look up. His clothes and hair are fairly neat, as if he had only recently let go of social convention, but his eyes are out-to-lunch and his mouth is working furiously.”

It’s a great book – an excellent look at life in the 1980s NYC fast lane, as well as how pointless and empty such a life is. Not only will I recommend this movie as a “buy”, I’ll recommend the book too!

#1 The Breakfast Club (1985) – Oh come on! Don’t look so shocked! You knew #1 was going to be The Breakfast Club, didn’t you? As if it would be anything else! This film is the second and by far the most popular of the fabled John Hughes’ quadrilogy. And it’s easy to see why. The Breakfast Club has very little plot (it’s about a bunch of kids in Saturday detention) and the actual characters themselves aren’t that important. It’s the high school cliques that they represent that make them important. Molly Ringwald plays Claire Standish, who represents the rich and popular people. Emilio Estevez plays Andrew Clark, who represents the jocks. Anthony Michael Hall pays Brian Johnson, who represents the nerds. Judd Nelson plays John Bender, who represents the juvenile delinquent crowd. And lastly, Ally Sheedy plays Allison Reynolds, who represents the freaks and weirdos.

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The day begins with the five of them as mortal enemies that only unite when Principal Vernon (played by the late, great character actor Paul Gleason) comes around. As the day passes though, they realize that they have more in common than they might think. All of them have parents who have disappointed them. All of them have had some kind of peer pressure to deal with. And all of them have the pressure of living up to their friends and family’s expectations, whether those expectations are on the wrestling mat or AP classes. They all begin to bond – especially when Bender sneaks out of the library to get his stash of weed. By the time the day ends, they have all grown up a bit. Even if they don’t become friends in school, they will at least understand and respect each other as they pass each other in the hallways. And some of them just might fall in love.

If you weren’t a teenager when this film came out, I just can’t explain what a huge deal it was at the time. Sure, there had been “teen movies” before. But this was one of the first where teen cliques were taken on directly, as opposed to indirectly (as in Fast Times At Ridgemont High or Valley Girl). And unlike a lot of earlier films, The Breakfast Club didn’t take sides: although Bender is initially a jerk to just about everyone, we find out later that he’s the victim of child abuse, so we feel empathy for him. At the same time, the other kids have good parents and every privilege you can think of, yet have their own petty issues. No one in this film is “better” than any other.

And this film set off a veritable tidal wave of catch phrases and imitators. Kids back then used phrases from the movie amongst their friends (“I’m being honest, asshole”) as well as for giving smart-ass answers to adults (“Could you describe the ruckus, sir?”). The number of movies and TV shows that have stolen from (or “paid tribute” to, depending on your point of view) to this film are legion: Dawson’s Creek, Degrassi: The Next Generation, ER, Lizzie McGuire, The Outer Limits, One Tree Hill, Family Guy, Not Another Teen Movie, Friends, Along Came Polly, That 80s Show… even the movie poster for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 mimics the poster for The Breakfast Club. There was even an issue of the Ultimate Spider Man comic book (#65 to be exact) that apes the plot of The Breakfast Club, where Peter Parker plays the nerd, Mary Jane plays the freak, Flash Thompson plays the troublemaker, Liz Allan plays the rich girl and Kong McFarlane plays the jock! THAT’S how big this movie was, folks. And if, by some bizarre chance, you haven’t seen this movie yet, run – do not walk – to the video store and rent it… TODAY!

 

14 Replies to “31 Great 80s Movies!”

  1. First off-great list Jim. John Hughes representin’ But, no love for Spielberg? No Raiders-E.T. Aliens? Blade Runner? The Princess Bride? Raising Arizona, The Killing Fields, Do the Right Thing. Jim, we need to talk.

  2. Did you read the intro to the list? I wanted to make a list of “80s movies”, not a list of “movies made in the 80s”. Raiders, Alien(s), and Blade Runner are great, but they don’t have anything to do with “80s culture” as it were. And I thought that “Do the Right Thing” was made in 1990 for some reason (brain fart, I suppose). I guess I need to make a list of “great movies that were made in the 80s but don’t reflect 80s life” or something.

  3. Nope, sorry. I just scanned the list and read a couple of the reviews. I see where you were going-for example a movie like Trading Places or Wall Street-yuppies/the 80’s decade of greed. Do the Right Thing was 89.

  4. Oh… one more thing: the list is from 2007. I’m going through some old posts that didn’t make the cut from website 1.0 to 2.0 and editing them just a little bit.

  5. Jim. Great list ! Good memories. Trying to find a movie I believe was made in the 80’s. About a punk pool boy that had a old car . About all I can remember is that he would say deploy hit a button and speakers would come out the top of the car. Not much I know but any ideas? Thanks

  6. Chris! I suspect you are thinking of a movie titled Dangerously Close (1986). I too had been trying to remember the title of that movie for years and couldn’t recall much more than you mentioned in your comment here. The pool cleaner was the main character, and his friend Krooger had the car with the rooftop speakers and said “DEPLOY!”. Unable to figure out the title by googling, I resorted to reviewing the Wikipedia lists of “American films made in…” 1989, 1988, 1987, and finally, 1986 ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_films_of_1986 ).

    Jim Cofer: I’m not suggesting you add this movie to any list. Except, perhaps, a list of movies you won’t regret missing.

  7. I’m trying to find this movie where the groom has friends ,who don’t want him to marry this girl. They crash the wedding but before they do, a guy dancing in the balcony starts dancing and the soloist gets turned on and states while singing that she’s not wearing any underwear. Can someone please help me out.

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