Mike’s Top Ten of 1984
We’re approaching peak 80s. The thing about this list is that you can look at most of them and go, “That’s an 80s movie.” It just feels like the decade. Also… it’s a great list. It’s just, boom, boom, boom, one after another.
The one thing I note about this year is that it has a proliferation of mainstream movies. All the best stuff are things that were not nominated for awards. In fact, this Oscar crop is one of the weakest of all time, in my mind. It shows that occasional disconnect where all the best stuff is ignored by the voting body in favor of the stodgy “Oscar” kind of movie.
I don’t have a whole lot to add about the year other than that. HOWEVER… there is a historical piece of information to relay about this one that makes it different from other 80s years. This is the year where the PG-13 rating was introduced. And we can thank Temple of Doom for that. And also Gremlins. These were movies with content above that young kids could handle that otherwise weren’t extreme enough for an R rating. So Spielberg suggested a rating in between, and then the PG-13 was introduced. Red Dawn was the first film to officially get the rating.
Mike’s Top Ten of 1984
Beverly Hills Cop
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Once Upon a Time in America
11-20: The Karate Kid, The Killing Fields, Micki & Maude, Moscow on the Hudson, Paris Texas, Places in the Heart, Purple Rain, Sixteen Candles, Stop Making Sense, This Is Spinal Tap
Tier two: 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Bachelor Party, Beat Street, Broadway Danny Rose, The Cotton Club, Footloose, Gremlins, Greystoke The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes, Love Streams, The NeverEnding Story, A Passage to India, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Purple Rain, Red Dawn, Revenge of the Nerds, Romancing the Stone, A Soldier’s Story, Starman, Top Secret!, Under the Volcano
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“Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not.”
This movie is perfect.
This movie saves what I think is one of the the weakest Oscar years of all time. You overlook it because this is such a great choice for Best Picture. You could have so many movies here at the top of your top ten list, and most of them are gonna be populating the rest of this list. But this, to me, is the best film of 1984. It’s so good.
It’s a biopic of Mozart, focusing on his relationship with Antonio Salieri, a contemporary who is talented, but not as talented as Mozart. It’s a beautiful film because you have a guy who is the most respected musician in Vienna, and then here comes this kid who puts no effort into his music and comes up with the most beautiful compositions you’ve ever heard. And he can’t stand the fact that this kid does in minutes what he needs weeks to do, and does it better than him.
It’s so good. F. Murray Abraham won a well-deserved Oscar as Salieri, and Tom Hulce delivers the performance of his career as Mozart (he was also nominated and lost to Abraham). This is Milos Forman’s best film, and he won a well-deserved second Best Director Oscar for it.
This is one of those movies… everyone needs to see it. I saw it for the first time in seventh grade in a music class. That should be the case for everyone. It’s not film essential, it’s life essential.
“Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here.”
“They caused an explosion!”
“Is this true?”
“Yes it’s true. This man has no dick.”
It’s Ghostbusters. You know it, you’ve seen it, it’s great.
Another movie developed by Dan Aykroyd that could have ended so badly and yet somehow became a classic. He originally envisioned it as him and Belushi traveling through time to fight ghosts. Then Ivan Reitman said there’s no way that could work, so the two of them hammered out a screenplay in three weeks while staying at a bomb shelter. And then they pretty much just made up all the scenes as they went along anyway.
The famous story about this movie, as is the case with most Bill Murray movies, is that they offered him the part and he was iffy about taking it and they had no idea whether or not he was gonna show up until like, the day before shooting. And then he showed up (apparently having taken the part only if the studio would finance a Razor’s Edge remake he wanted to do, which also came out this year), and clearly did not give a fuck. He ad-libbed almost all his lines and clearly is on his own wavelength, which actually somehow helps the film.
Also, this movie gave us one of the greatest theme songs of all time with one of the greatest (and scarily rape-y) music videos of all time.
3. Once Upon a Time in America
“Been waiting long?”
“All my life.”
Sergio Leone’s final film. After making five great westerns (two of which are some of the greatest films ever made), he turns his attention to the gangster genre. And he makes one of the greatest gangster movies of all time.
There are two edits of this film… the pared-down U.S. release, which is only 140 minutes, and the European release, which is just under four hours. THAT’S the one you want to see. The American release was completely cut down for distributors and removes the essence of what the movie is. The full version is the proper epic in its full glory.
Robert De Niro stars, with James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Jennifer Connelly, Treat Williams, Tuesday Weld, Burt Young, Joe Pesci, Danny Aiello and William Forsythe. Ennio Morricone did the score, which is incredible. It’s just a masterpiece. Most people prefer the westerns (and rightly so, they’re awesome), but this movie is legitimately great.
4. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
“Mola Ram! Prepare to meet Kali… in Hell!”
This one is dark. And also really over-the-top when it’s not dark. It’s a really interesting film. Lucas admitted that he wrote the movie while going through a divorce, which is what led to some of the darker moments. But still, it’s memorable. Plus, as far as the serials they’re emulating go, this is the kind of plot you’d definitely see out of them, so it makes sense.
I like that the movie starts with a James Bond sequence, I like some of the set pieces. The climactic cart chase is fun. I like some of the dialogue exchanges. I think it drags at times, and I think some of the parts are just wildly over the top, and I’m not a huge fan of the choice of female lead. It’s definitely the weakest of the original three films. But to have this as the weakest shows you how strong the three are.
Also, Spielberg stars the movie with a Busby Berkeley-inspired musical sequence, which is always the quickest way to my heart.
Well… second quickest.
5. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
“It’s so beautiful. It’s hard to believe these spores could kill me.”
This is the first Studio Ghbili film and the first proper Miyazaki film. He did Castle of Cagliostro in 1979, but that film has a noticeably different style than everything he made after it. From here on out, all his films have that very identifiable visual stamp that immediately marks them as a Miyazaki/Ghibli film.
This is a post-apocalyptic film where there’s a vast toxic wasteland full of giant mutated insects that separates the dwindling pockets of humans. Nausicaa is a princess in one of the human societies, and she can communicate with the insects. Which, clearly a nice twist on the Disney princess trope. The humans are finding a way to get rid of the insects, while Nausicaa sees a way for humans and insects to peacefully live together. It’s great.
Miyazaki is one of the most unique voices in animation, and starts his legendary career with this one. All of his movies are essential, and everyone should see them to see what proper animation is all about.
6. Beverly Hills Cop
Eddie Murphy already had one of the best cop movies of the 80s, and he doubled down with an even better one. This movie launched Martin Brest’s career. He had a nice debut with Going in Style, and then this was his big calling card, leading to him directing Midnight Run, Scent of a Woman and Meet Joe Black (before being sidelined forever with Gigli). It also further cemented Murphy as one of the biggest movie stars of the 80s. Think about this… three of Eddie Murphy’s first four movies are 48 Hours, Trading Places and this. Insane, right?
Murphy plays a Detroit cop obsessed with catching the guy who killed his friend (who was visiting him from LA). He is told to take a vacation and cool off before returning to duty. So he goes to LA, under the guise of vacation, but really to investigate the murder and catch the guy who did it. So you get the fish out of water comedy of him being in LA and dealing with that whole culture, and then you get the comedy of him clearly skirting his department’s wishes and lying to the local police, all of which leads to some great situations.
It’s great. One of the great movies of the 80s, period. Murphy shows how great he is on screen, and he’s bolstered by a terrific script (which was nominated for an Oscar) and great direction by Brest. They never quite struck the right tone with any of the sequels. They’re fun, but they never quite reach the heights that this one does.
7. The Natural
“I coulda been better. I coulda broke every record in the book.”
“And then? And then when I walked down the street people would’ve looked and they would’ve said there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.”
One of the great sports movies of all time, and one of the greatest baseball movies of all time. Barry Levinson directs, his first film after Diner. Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, who carves a baseball bat out of a tree felled by lightning. He becomes a young pitching prospect who has dynamite stuff. But a sudden tragedy sidelines his career, and he disappears for about fifteen years. He comes back to play at an age when most players would have been retired, and suddenly becomes a sensation.
It’s a wonderful movie. Fantastic cast, too. Glenn Close plays Redford’s childhood sweetheart, who seems to bring him good luck whenever she’s around. The cast also includes Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Barbara Hershey, Robert Prosky, Richard Farnsworth, Joe Don Baker, Darren McGavin, Michael Madsen and Mike Starr.
The final fifteen minutes of this film has become the prototype for the baseball movie. Plus, there’s that memorable score, too. Which everyone can spot.
Best thing about that? Randy Newman scored it.
8. The Terminator
“I’ll be back!”
One of the five most influential sci fi movies of the past forty years. James Cameron made a masterpiece. One he later topped (in a different way), and one that has been enduring since it came out, and never topped when he’s not at the helm. I know multiple people who think this is the actual greatest action movie ever made. I’d disagree with that, but I also wouldn’t argue hard against it, either.
Everyone knows this story… or should know this story. In a dystopian future, an A.I. network called Skynet has become self-aware and nuked the world. There are cyborgs called Terminators that roam the land, killing the last of the remaining humans. The leader of the humans is John Connor. Skynet, trying to win the war, sends a Terminator back in time to kill John Connor’s mother, Sarah Connor, to prevent him from ever being born. And the humans send Kyle Reese, a soldier, back in time to protect her. And that’s the film. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator, and Linda Hamilton is Sarah Connor. He’s chasing her down and trying to kill her. Michael Biehn is Reese.
The whole movie just works. The only knock against it is that it didn’t have the kind of budget to give the story the scale it deserves. Especially when you see what Cameron accomplished with a full budget on T2. But it’s really good. The whole thing is perfectly structured, it has so many iconic moments, and it’s just one of those movies that’s universally known. And for good reason.
9. Blood Simple
“I got a job for you.”
“Uh, well, if the pay’s right, and it’s legal, I’ll do it.”
“It’s not strictly legal.”
“Well, if the pay’s right, I’ll do it.”
The Coen brothers. Their first film. I remember, early on in my days of getting into movies, I read that because of this film, they earned final cut. Which I thought was nuts, to straight up get it off of one movie. But also, if there’s anyone who deserves final cut, they’re at the top of the list.
This film is a straight up noir. Frances McDormand plays a woman who is unhappy in her marriage and has taken a lover. Her husband, Dan Hedaya, meanwhile, has hired M. Emmet Walsh, a P.I., to follow her. And then when his suspicions are confirmed, he then hires him to kill the two. And, of course… things get out of hand.
It’s a really good movie. One of the most impressive debuts you’ll see. They’ve outdone themselves five times over, but this movie is still really, really good.
10. Police Academy
We continue with the trend of 80s #10 films that are a surprise to me as much as they are to you. I honestly did not see this one coming until we got here.
This is one of the great comedies of the 80s. It worked so well it spawned a franchise of seven films (all of which were released between 1984 and 1994, so they cranked ’em out). And, as long as we’re being honest… it’s fun as shit.
This is a police variation of the Stripes formula — a bunch of misfits sign up and have to make it through training. The film focuses on their clashes with their stern superior and all the hijinks they get themselves into. It’s awesome.
Don’t sleep on this franchise. I know most people assume it’s just nonsense and garbage compared to the classier stuff below. But trust me, it’s worth it. It’s very fun, and fun is often underrated when rating the quality of a film. I’m glad this made it on the top ten.
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The Karate Kid — It’s a classic. “Wax on, wax off,” the crane kick, Mr. Miyagi. Everyone knows this movie. It’s about a kid who moves across the country to California and starts getting bullied by the local kids. The handyman in his building says he will teach him karate so he can defend himself. And that’s all you need. Because you should have seen it by now, and it’s great. John G. Avildsen directs, giving him two great films in the sports realm. Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi was so instantly iconic that he was nominated for an Oscar for the role!
The Killing Fields — This is part of the “Americans abroad in foreign war zones” subgenre of the 80s. It stars Sam Waterston as a journalist in Cambodia during Pol Pot’s genocide. The main storyline of the film is with Haing S. Ngor, who plays an interpreter who works with Waterston. His storyline is based (somewhat) on his real experiences in a Cambodian prison camp, and it’s the heart of the movie. (The real story is so fucked up. He was, in real life, a doctor, who could not save his wife as she died giving birth, because if they found out he was educated, they would have killed all three of them on the spot.) The film is really strong, with great performances all around, and it’s one of those movies of the 80s that everyone should see, even if it’s only to get a sense of the historical elements of the story.
Micki & Maude — Really fun screwball comedy. Dudley Moore stars as a reporter married to Ann Reinking. She’s on the verge of becoming a judge and doesn’t have time for a family, despite him wanting children. On assignment, Moore meets Amy Irvin, a musician, and starts a relationship with her. Though she soon becomes pregnant, which complicates things. He decides he’s gonna marry her. However, when he goes to tell his wife about the whole thing… she says she’s pregnant. So he ends up married to both of them, and trying to deal with two pregnancies at once. And if you thought the movie would end with both women going into labor at the same time in the same hospital, you’d be right! I think the movie’s hilarious. I think any movie that tries to pull off screwball, and does so mostly successfully, with a really interesting take on it, will always end up highly rated for me. I think this is one of the unsung comedies of the 80s. Oh, and did I mention that Blake Edwards also directed this?
Moscow on the Hudson — I watched this movie quite randomly like six or seven years ago as I was writing up my initial foray into the top ten lists. I had no idea what it was, but I saw that Robin Williams starred in it so I went, “Okay.” And then within thirty minutes, I had fallen completely in love with the movie. Directed by Paul Mazursky (which should provide some of you with justification, though sadly too many people don’t even know who Mazursky is anymore), Williams plays a Russian musician who is in New York to play a concert. His friend says he’s going to defect. Williams has some doubts. When the moment arrives, his friend chickens out and Williams decides, “I’m doing this.” So he runs away from the rest of the group (in Bloomingdale’s, no less), and stays behind in America. And the film is about him adjusting to American life. And it’s really good. Very 80s, but really good. It goes from an interesting culture clash to a film about the immigrant experience. I really like it a lot and think it’s one of the real hidden gems of the 80s.
Paris, Texas — I avoided this movie for years. For some reason my brain equated this with all those overly pretentious art films that film people love that I just can’t stand and was trying to get away from. But in reality, this is almost the most unpretentious film out there. It’s so simple and beautiful. Written by Sam Shepard and Kit Carson, it stars Harry Dean Stanton delivering the performance of his career. He plays a man who has been missing for years, aimlessly drifting the country, who washes back up in his hometown and has to reconnect with both his family and the daughter he left behind (who is not aware he’s her father). It is beautiful. This went from something I was avoiding to something I had no opinion on and “had to” see to something that just barely missed the top ten for me in this year. It is a must see for anyone who loves film.
Places in the Heart — This is the film for which Sally Field proclaimed, when she won her Oscar, “You really like me.” The film… I always say the same thing about it every time. I think this is 2/3 a great film, and another third is just completely out of place and slows down the movie. But, for the most part, it’s very good. Field plays a woman whose husband is killed suddenly, putting their farm in jeopardy. She has to grow a successful cotton harvest by the end of the season or else the bank will take her home. So, with the help of Danny Glover, a runaway slave, and John Malkovich, a blind man, they set out to prove everyone wrong and do just that. And you know what? I love that part of the movie. There’s a subplot with Ed Harris where he cheats on his wife with I think Sally Field’s sister or cousin… that part, I’m not a huge fan of. Still, this is a very good movie that sort of spawned the “save the farm” subgenre of films that fill up the 80s, and it’s very good.
Purple Rain — Purple Rain is Prince. One of the great albums, turned into an awesome movie. The plot is, as you can figure, insane. But that’s it’s charm. Fun fact: This movie won an Oscar (for Original Song Score, the last film to win that Oscar before the category was dropped). Everyone should see this movie, if only for the greatness that is Prince’s music. I mean, come on:
Sixteen Candles — This movie launched John Hughes. He wrote Vacation and then went on to write and direct this. His first of eight films, and one of those iconic 80s movies for which he’s known. It stars Molly Ringwald (an unknown before this movie) as a girl whose sixteenth birthday is an absolute nightmare. Her entire family has forgotten about it, all sorts of embarrassing things happen to her… it’s great. Everyone has their preference for Hughes films. I put this below Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink… but when you’re in that company (and this film is in that company), it doesn’t really matter where you rank them, does it?
Stop Making Sense — One of the three greatest concert films of all time. It’s this, The Last Waltz and Woodstock. (Everything else has to settle for top five or top ten.) Jonathan Demme directs the Talking Heads. And if you think you don’t know or don’t like the Talking Heads… watch this movie. My school did this running thing where they would show this movie once a year on their film series, and without fail, every time it was shown, the entire theater became a dance party because the movie and the music is so infectious. Everyone needs to see this movie because it’s not only just a great film, but truly, it shows you how you can shoot a concert to make it work for everyone who sees it. Tell me that after watching this opening that you don’t wanna see the rest of the movie:
This Is Spinal Tap — One of the all-time comedies. This is a movie that you need to see just to get the references. This movie is so pervasive in popular culture, you probably know a bunch of the references even without seeing the movie. It’s a mockumentary (co-written by Christopher Guest, who would make a career out of these types of movies) about a British heavy metal band. Rob Reiner directs and plays the documentarian, and the band includes Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. This is one of the great music movies of all time, and one of the great comedies of all time. And all people into film need to see it for that. And also to answer the practical question of whether or not we’re doing “Stonehenge tonight.”
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- 2010: The Year We Make Contact
- Bachelor Party
- Beat Street
- Broadway Danny Rose
- The Cotton Club
- Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
- Love Streams
- The NeverEnding Story
- A Passage to India
- The Pope of Greenwich Village
- Purple Rain
- Red Dawn
- Revenge of the Nerds
- Romancing the Stone
- A Soldier’s Story
- Top Secret!
- Under the Volcano
Footloose is an 80s classic. Kevin Bacon, man. He saves a town through dance.
A Soldier’s Story is a really solid film. Based on a play, directed by Norman Jewison, and a Best Picture nominee for this year. It’s about a black army officer during World War II who is given a weekend to investigate the murder of a black sergeant. Everyone assumes the KKK did it, but the officer starts interviewing the men in the sergeant’s unit and starts to realize how despised the man was, and how all of his men seemingly had motive to murder him. It features a great supporting performance by Adolph Caesar as the murdered officer and has an early Denzel performance too. Romancing the Stone is Indiana Jones as a romance. Robert Zemeckis directs, and it stars Kathleen Turner as a romance novelist who gets swept up in the kind of stories she writes about. Her sister gets kidnapped and taken to Colombia, and she goes there with a treasure map to get her back. There, she encounters Michael Douglas, a smuggler, who helps her get her sister back, find treasure, and all that good stuff. It’s fun. If you accept the fact that it’s gonna be compared to Raiders, you can overcome that and enjoy it for the fun time it is. Top Secret! is a ZAZ (Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker) film, coming between Airplane! and The Naked Gun. This one’s a Cold War spy spoof about an American rock singer involved in a plot to rescue a captured scientist. You know what their kind of movies are. And this one is right in that wheelhouse. It’s fun. They’re all fun.
Starman is John Carpenter doing… almost Steven Spielberg, maybe? It feels very unlike him. The film is about an alien who lands on Earth and takes the form of a widow’s husband. She encounters him and, after first being terrified, agrees to drive him across the country to a particular place he needs to go. Naturally, the government tries to stop them along the way. It’s… they kinda used the same general plot for Midnight Special. So if you saw that, then you’ll get the general progression of this one. Though there, it was a father-son story. This one’s more of a romance of sorts. Karen Allen stars, and Jeff Bridges plays the titular alien. He was nominated for an Oscar for his work, marking the only time (unless I’m forgetting someone) someone has been nominated for an Oscar for playing a non-human character. It’s a really solid film, and one of the great sci-fi films of the 80s. Beat Street is one of the 80s breakdancing films. And if you don’t believe that’s a subgenre, google it. It’s a thing. And I enjoy the shit out of it. Forget the plot — it’s the kinda movie that Dope was modeled after. That style. Breakdancing, being a DJ, rapping, graffiti… all that stuff. I remember being like, 9, and watching the breakdance battle a bunch whenever it was on. I feel like my friends and I had a VHS of it that we’d go back and watch from time to time. It’s such an 80s movie, and the soundtrack, not surprisingly, is awesome.
Red Dawn is such a classic 80s movie. They’ve made this story a bunch, like with Edge of Darkness/The North Star from World War II, but this is the one that’s resonated the most, as it’s the one with the most current conflict with the most recent “villain” for Americans. The premise is — during the Cold War, Russia decides to invade America. It’s World War III. They’ve set up camp in this small town and are rounding up and/or killing most of the residents. Some teenagers hide out in the woods and decide to band together and defend their town. It’s awesome. John Milius directs, and it stars Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, Powers Boothe, Ben Johnson and Harry Dean Stanton. 2010: The Year We Make Contact is a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not as good, clearly, but also not unworthy. Most people would assume this is gonna be terrible and not worth seeing because how could it possibly compare to the original. But if you watch the movie on its own terms, it’s fine. It’s a direct sequel, with another ship being sent out to figure out what happened to the ship from the first movie. Roy Scheider stars with Bob Balaban, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, and you get Keir Dullea coming back. I like it. I think it’s a perfectly good movie.
Broadway Danny Rose is Woody Allen. One of the ones I’m cool with. And one of the few he was nominated for Best Director for. It’s shot entirely in black and white, and structured as a sort of comedians’ in-joke. A bunch of comedians sit around, telling stories. And they recount this one — about Allen as a low-rent talent agent who gets involved with the mob as he tries to get one of his acts back together with his mistress. And her ex, a gangster, thinks he’s her new boyfriend. So naturally comedy ensues. It’s solid. And it’s one of the Allen movies I’m kind of in favor of, which is not that often an occurrence. The NeverEnding Story is one of the classic fantasy films of the 80s that is mostly for kids but also really adult and fucked up and scarred you for life if you saw it under the age of 8, as most of us did. (That scene with the unicorn, though.) It’s about a bullied kid who escapes into a bookstore and ends up being transported into a book, where he has to help save the book’s world from a powerful evil. It’s awesome. Trippy as fuck. Also directed by Wolfgang Petersen, which must have been a great conversation at the studio, as they tried to get the guy who made Das Boot for this kids movie. Love Streams is a John Cassavetes movie that stars him and Gena Rowlands. Which is awesome. They play siblings reunited after many years while both are in the middle of pretty terrible personal situations. Mostly I like seeing the two act together. The film is not as good as the best Cassavetes films, but it’s solid.
Gremlins is a classic 80s film. Pure Amblin. Directed by Joe Dante, written by Chris Columbus. It’s about a kid that gets a mysterious creature as a pet. It’s cute and adorable, but he is told three rules (which everyone should know, even if you haven’t seen the movie): 1) no bright lights, 2) don’t get them wet, 3) never, ever feed them after midnight. Naturally, all three happen, and chaos ensues. This is a rite of passage film for all people. I feel like everyone should see this before the age of 10. It’s just one of those movies! Bachelor Party is another 80s sex comedy. These are so amusing to me. I love seeing them. I think it’s just the idea of watching the era and how it handled comedy and culture and topical humor. This one, on top of that, stars Tom Hanks! He’s a guy about to get married, and his friends throw a (insert title here) for him, and naturally everything spirals out of hand, chaos ensues, and it’s just a night of mayhem where his relationship almost falls apart, but everything works out in the end. It’s fun as hell. And while we’re on the subject of 80s sex comedies… Revenge of the Nerds. Not so much a sex comedy, but it’s kind of in that mold. A bunch of nerds band together to start their own fraternity to get revenge at the asshole jocks who make their lives hell. So much fun. It’s a classic. Not quite a sex comedy, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes is Tarzan. That’s it. The pure Tarzan story. Shipwrecked orphan raised by apes, later found by humans and sent back to England. It works. The three definitive Tarzan movies are the Johnny Weissmuller one from 1932, this and the Disney one. All worthwhile in their own way.
The Cotton Club is Francis Ford Coppola making a film about the famous Harlem nightclub of the 30s. It’s an ensemble about all the different sorts of people who inhabited it. Pure ensemble, with some crime elements. The cast is insane: Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Allen Garfield, Fred Gwynne, Gwen Verdon, Tom Waits, Jennifer Grey, and Woody Strode! This is part of Coppola’s hidden gem set — the films he made in his “dark” period that most people don’t know about that’s actually quite solid. The Pope of Greenwich Village is a sort of male romance film. Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts are cousins trying to make something of themselves. Rourke is the more put-together of the two, but never fails to look out for Roberts, even as he fucks up constantly. The two get involved in a robbery that goes wrong, which eventually puts them in trouble with the mob. It’s… the performances of Rourke and Roberts are the highlight of the film. It’s a really good movie. Daryl Hannah also stars, along with m. Emmet Walsh and Burt Young. This film is notable for Geraldine Page earning a Best Supporting Actress nomination, despite her only appearing in two scenes of the film!
A Nightmare on Elm Street… I view the major three slasher films of this era as a progression of how genre filmmaking works. Start with Halloween — the genre in the purest sense. “Monster” comes and kills innocent people without reason or purpose, seemingly. It’s terrifying. Then you have Friday the 13th — exploiting the genre. Take the “Monster” killing people, then add a bunch of sex to it and sell it to young people. Now you have this. Turn the “Monster” into an actual monster and make it supernatural, and go beyond the realm of reality. Now, you may think that’s me denigrating this film, but I’m just pointing out how I see it. I think this movie is great (why else would it be on this list?). It’s about a killer who haunts the dreams of teenagers. Whenever they fall asleep, he enters their dreams and murders them. This is the movie that gave us Freddy Krueger, one of the most iconic horror villains of all time. It’s a classic of the genre. Under the Volcano is a John Huston film starring Albert Finny, for which Finney was nominated for Best Actor. Finney plays an alcoholic in Mexico for the Day of the Dead. It’s an extraordinary performance by Finney, and it’s a really solid film. One of those little gems for people to uncover. A Passage to India is David Lean’s final film. Based on the E.M. Forster novel that’s mainly about class differences and Colonialism and all that good stuff that comes up when you have a novel with British people in India pre-World War II. Judy Davis comes to India to marry a dude, and while there befriends an Indian doctor. Clearly the two have more chemistry than her and her fiancée, but the cultural differences and a rape accusation kind of put a damper on that. Great performance here by Judy Davis (for which she was nominated), an Oscar-winning performance by Peggy Ashcroft, and Alec Guinness playing an Indian dude. This movie has it all!
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