A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1983 – Flashdance
This was one of the last three years I had to choose for this list. 1983 was really difficult for me. Because the biggest film of the year was Return of the Jedi. And we already talked Star Wars. Then you have Terms of Endearment, which is a great weepy, but didn’t feel like a slam-dunk choice for the year. Then there’s Scarface, which is culturally big, and does represent the 80s in a lot of ways, but felt like too easy a choice. Plus it was more a film that got rediscovered later. Then I thought maybe A Christmas Story, but that doesn’t feel like the right choice either. So I left it alone for a while and went back to it at the very last minute, when I wanted to have everything finalized.
Finally, I went back and looked, and discovered two films that instantly became the two finalists for this year, that represented what was popular in film in the 80s, what was going on culturally in the 80s, and still holds up as something that represents where film was at in 1983. And those two were Flashdance and Risky Business.
Now, both have very iconic images and moments, and very memorable soundtracks. So it was tough to narrow down. I had Risky Business as the choice for a while. But then I looked at what the biggest music hits of 1983 were, and this movie had two of them. “Flashdance… What a Feeling” and “Maniac” are two of the staple hits of the 80s. They felt present, as opposed to the throwback song of Risky Business. Plus, this was the third-highest grossing movie of the year, whereas Risky Business was 10th. So this was an overall bigger hit, and won an Oscar for Original Song. It felt like all around the best choice.
The other reason I wanted to go with Flashdance was because of the fact that it’s about a woman and not a dude. To me, Cruise in Risky Business represents all the worst qualities of the 80s yuppie culture. Tom Cruise in that movie represents all the people who would go on to become Gordon Gekko. So on that alone, I’ll take Flashdance.
Plus, Flashdance is so much fun. It’s so vibrant, and really feels like the 80s. With the scenes of people dancing on the street, and those random moments, like her dancing around with the cop… sure, some of it is a bit campy and over the top… but that’s the 80s! This movie has a woman crying because she loves dancing so much.
This is a movie about empowerment. (I mean… you know. Joe Ezsterhas wrote it. So that only goes so far.) There are a lot of these kinds of movies in the 80s. Basically take this movie and Flashdance and you have Dirty Dancing. The best thing about this movie, though, is the idea that she’s both an exotic dancer and a welder and wants to be a ballet dancer. In absolutely no other decade could you get that movie. Eszterhas tried it a decade later, and we got Showgirls. Only in the 80s could you get these kinds of movies.
This movie is so awesome. It’s really the only choice. Just listen to the title song and you’ll know exactly why this is the only choice for 1983. (And don’t worry. Tom Cruise will get his due soon enough.)