The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XL)

I gave Colin a giant list of 500 movies, and he finished it. Of course I’m gonna come up with another list.

This one is for everyone, though. Not specifically for Colin. This is raw material for everybody, should they choose, to go out and see more movies. Not all of them are essential. Most of them are just awesome. I told Colin that once he finished this list, I’d give him another one that was more fun than work. Geared toward cool stuff that he’d enjoy.

I went through and found 1,000 more movies that I think either need to be seen (leftover “essential” films) or are just really great and would be enjoyed by most who see them. Here they are:

1980-1984

To Be or Not to Be (1983)

A remake of the 1942 movie, except starring Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. Mel Brooks is so good here. I actually prefer this version to the original, which might be sacrilege to say. You also get Jose Ferrer and Christopher Lloyd here, and an Oscar-nominated Charles Durning, who is great as always. Absolutely hilarious movie, and you should never turn down a chance to see Mel Brooks.

Vacation (1983)

This spawned a franchise. I’m younger than this franchise, so I grew up with Vegas Vacation instead of this one or Christmas Vacation. And that, coupled with my major movie gaps being mostly between 1980 and 1995, actually meant that I hadn’t seen this film until just a couple of months ago. (Which is not entirely true. I’d seen sections of this film when my parents had it on as I was growing up, but I’d never watched the entire film start to finish until about four months ago.) It’s a comedy classic. It needs to be on this list. Some parts don’t hold up as well after thirty years, but that’s comedy. It’s essential in terms of comedy movies.

WarGames (1983)

This was one of those movies that always felt essential to me just because of how often I saw it and heard about it while growing up. Simple premise — high school hacker accidentally hacks into a NORAD program and accidentally starts a real life and death simulation with World War III potentially hanging in the balance. One of those movies that could only exist in the 80s.

Blood Simple (1984)

The Coen brothers’ first film. Neo-noir. Simple premise: a husband hires a hitman to kill his cheating wife. That’s all you need to know. It’s really good. It ends up falling to the back of the pack for me, in terms of Coen brothers films, but that’s like saying something is your fifteenth favorite Billy Wilder movie. That’s still better than most directors’ #1 movies. Don’t skip out on a Coen brothers movie.

Footloose (1984)

80s classic. If we’re going by decade, this is essential

The Killing Fields (1984)

Very important movie during the 80s. Sam Waterston and Haing S. Ngor are journalists stuck in Cambodia during the ethnic cleansing. Powerful film.

Micki + Maude (1984)

Blake Edwards, Dudley Moore, Amy Irving, Amy Reinking. Screwball. He’s a reporter who starts seeing another woman on the side. And then she gets pregnant. So he plans on asking his wife for a divorce. Only she then says she’s pregnant too. So he becomes married to both. Hilarity obviously ensues.

Moscow on the Hudson (1984)

I had no idea what this was and was blown away by it. Paul Mazursky directed this, which should have been a hint. Robin Williams plays a Russian musician who, on a trip to New York with his fellow musicians, gets away and defects. And then he has to get used to living in America. It’s a really underrated movie. One of Williams’ most overlooked performances. Highly recommended.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Miyazaki made 11 movies in his career. The first, Lupin the Third (The Castle of Cagliostro), isn’t what we’d consider a true Ghibli movie, and because of that isn’t as essential as the others. (It’s Miyazaki, though, so at that point, just see it.) The rest, though, are films that everyone should see. They’re gorgeous, and some of the most beautiful (and beautifully animated) films ever made. This is the first. All of those movies (specifically the five that were not on the original list and came out before 2000, as the list stops at 1999) will appear on here. Because you should see them all.

This one is post-apocalyptic. And beautiful. War has destroyed most of the earth, and humans live in the few areas that aren’t toxic. The different factions are fighting, and it’s up to our main character, (insert title here), to keep everyone from destroying each other. Miyazaki is big on environmental messages, and this movie, along with his next one, are probably the biggest examples of that. You owe it to yourself to see everything the man has made. He’s a one-man Disney Renaissance.

Police Academy (1984)

What a classic. This movie is famous on name alone, and mots people know of it, but haven’t seen it. When I saw it, I had definite expectations for it, and it exceeded all of them. This movie is hilarious. A bunch of misfits join the police force. It’s basically Stripes but with the police force. Very funny, deserves to be seen.

The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984)

Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts. They are cousins, and it’s one of those typical movie friendships — Mickey Rourke is the smart one trying to get by, and Roberts is the dumber of the two, always having some sort of scheme that goes wrong, and Rourke has to look out for him and go along with whatever trouble he gets them into. This includes a robbery they both decide to commit, which gets them in some pretty big trouble.

Purple Rain (1984)

It’s Purple Rain.

Sixteen Candles (1984)

John Hughes. Molly Ringwald. Apparently the way this movie came about was that Hughes was writing it, and randomly put up a headshot of Molly Ringwald up above his desk, and wrote about this girl and what she was going through, deciding he wanted to know more about her. And that’s how the script came to be what it was. It’s about a girl’s sixteenth birthday quickly spiraling into the worst day of her life. It’s good. You can’t go wrong with John Hughes.

A Soldier’s Story (1984)

Great movie. Nominated for Best Picture. A black soldier is murdered in the South, and a black officer is sent to investigate. And we watch his investigation as he figures out what happened. One of Denzel Washington’s first roles. Features loads of black actors, and also — the performance to look out for — Adolphe Caesar. That man is so good in this movie that he deserved to win Supporting Actor this year. He’s the soldier who is killed, who was a real asshole to everyone. And he plays it perfectly. A good film, but it’s Caesar’s performance that makes everything work.

Starman (1984)

John Carpenter. Jeff Bridges was nominated for Best Actor for this. The first time an actor was nominated for playing a non-human character. The idea is — an alien lands out on a farm and takes the form of a woman’s dead husband. And he (it, I guess) asks her to drive him somewhere. And she agrees. Only the government tries to stop them. It’s a good movie. Bridges is great, and Karen Allen is great too. I find John Carpenter movies very hit and miss, but this is one of his better ones.

Stop Making Sense (1984)

One of the great concert films. The Talking Heads. This is one of those movies — even if you have no idea who the Talking Heads are or like their music — you’re gonna have a great time no matter what.

After Hours (1985)

After The King of Comedy fails at the box office, Scorsese realized that the industry was changing. It wasn’t the 70s, and things were getting more studio-based. So he reinvented himself and stripped everything away. He made this movie for no money in a small area of New York. It’s a nightmare comedy, essentially. Definitely one of his “forgotten” movies, along with Age of Innocence, Kundun and Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. (And Bringing Out the Dead!) This is Martin Scorsese doing comedy. You’ll notice pretty early on — this isn’t a comedy. It’s a very strange movie. But you shouldn’t turn down the opportunity to see any Scorsese movie.

Clue (1985)

Assuming you live in a vacuum and haven’t seen a lot of movies and are doing my suggested lists in order, you’ll have already seen Murder by Death and will now see this. Most people (meaning 95% of people) will have seen this movie first. I imagine most people see this movie at some point in their lives before they get into movies. I grew up with this movie on Comedy Central all the time. I had to have seen it a couple dozen times before college. I feel like people just come across this. So, because of that, you should probably see it if you haven’t.

If you need empirical reasons to see it — Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan (also in Murder by Death), Martin Mull, Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren. It’s also really funny. It’s one of those classic comedies. And they released it in theaters with different endings! Which means nothing now, since the movie routinely shows all three endings in a row, but that was a pretty cool thing to do. Either way, you should see this.

Cocoon (1985)

This movie gets referenced a bunch, culturally. And if it isn’t, it should be. Ron Howard directed this. It’s about a bunch of alien cocoons that end up in a pool at a nursing home. And all the elderly residents start swimming in the water and find they have all this youthful energy. It’s great. All these older actors getting a chance to be on screen again. Don Ameche (who won an Oscar for this), Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Jack Gilford, Maureen Stapleton, Brian Denehy, Steve Gutenberg. It’s really great. One of those movies that just makes you smile.

The Goonies (1985)

My big takeaway from this movie is that Goonies must have a really hard time saying things in German.

This movie has a big reputation. Maybe I grew up in the wrong generation, or maybe I saw this too late (I think I saw it at 23 for the first time), but I don’t quite get it. It’s fine, and has a lot of famous people in it (Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Short Round, Josh Brolin, Martha Plimpton, Anne Ramsey, Joe Pantoliano, Robert Davi), and is culturally one of those movies that you almost have to see. It’s also really weird. One of those Amblin movies of the 80s. Kids going on adventures, people trying to kill them. So 80s.

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