In 1980 I was five years old, and in 1984 I was nine. My memory of the early 1980s is far from perfect, but I do remember those five years with a certain amount of nostalgia.
I hope I will be excused for giving the dramas of 1980-1984 short shrift. I was just a little kid after all, and I wouldn't have been able to sit through Coal Miner's Daughter, On Golden Pond, or any other films of that nature.
Most Popular Movies of 1980: The Empire Strikes Back, 9 to 5, Stir Crazy, Airplane!, Any Which Way You Can, Private Benjamin, Coal Miner's Daughter, Smokey and the Bandit 2, The Blue Lagoon, The Blues Brothers
The Empire Strikes Back was HUGE. I was only five years old at the time, and even I remember how huge that movie was. Do you remember the toys? Every time I see this movie I think about all of the action figures and playsets I had.
Of the other movies listed above, The Blues Brothers has to be my second favorite. Carrie Fisher, who was (of course) Princess Leia in Empire, also appears in this film as John Belushi's crazy ex-girlfriend.
My memories of the other films are dim, but I do remember that Burt Reynold's "Smokey and the Bandit" series was quite popular. I've probably seen them. I just can't remember.
Honorable Mention(s): Raging Bull, Kagemusha, Altered States, Cannibal Holocaust, Caddyshack, Flash Gordon, The Shining
Hard to believe, but Raging Bull wasn't in the top ten that year. It won awards, but it didn't make a lot of money.
Kagemusha is one of Akira Kurosawa's best pictures.
Altered States is a truly weird film and worth seeing.
Cannibal Holocaust is an Italian horror movie, is still banned in several countries, and is also very good.
Who hasn't seen Caddyshack at least 20 times?
Flash Gordon was an average film, but has one of the best soundtracks ever. "Flash! Aaaaaahhh! He's a miracle!"
The Shining was another classic from Stanley Kubrick, and remains one of the best horror films ever made. In my opinion it is much, much scarier than the book.
Most Popular Movies of 1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond, Superman 2, Arthur, Stripes, The Cannonball Run, Chariots of Fire, For Your Eyes Only, The Four Seasons, Time Bandits
Raiders, man. Raiders. I still love that movie. During Christmas of that year my dad (unwisely) gave us a pair of bullwhips. In case you didn't know, it's really easy to hurt yourself (or your brother) with a bullwhip.
Superman 2 was also great. Terrence Stamp made a great General Zod. After this one, the Superman films became decidedly silly.
Like Caddyshack, who hasn't seen Stripes at least 20 times?
How many people actually remember what Chariots of Fire was about? I'm not sure if I do, but that soundtrack has certainly lived a life of its own.
I can remember seeing Time Bandits at the Aurora Village Theater when I was six years old. I didn't really understand the film at the time, but I grew to appreciate it later.
Honorable Mention(s): An American Werewolf in London,
Clash of the Titans, Escape from New York, The Evil Dead, Excalibur,
Nice Dreams, Polyester, Scanners
Also a great year for horror, with An American Werewolf in London, The Evil Dead, and Scanners coming out the same year. Of these three, the original Evil Dead is probably my favorite.
I'm guessing that other men in my age group have seen their share of the original Clash of the Titans. This was made back in the days before CGI, when they had to animate models of all the monsters.
Kurt Russell is super bad ass in Escape from New York, and this was probably the beginning of John Carpenter's "golden age."
Excalibur is a wonderfully trippy film. Very British. I know people who find it boring, but I really enjoy it.
Nice Dreams is my favorite Cheech and Chong movie. I have seen it more times than I can remember.
Polyester is, in my opinion, the last of John Waters' really good movies. I nearly have the dialog from it committed to memory. "Dexter, dinner's ready!"
(Dis)Honorable Mention(s): Mommie Dearest
This movie might be a train wreck, but it is one of the most watchable bad films ever made.
Most Popular Movies of 1982: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Tootsie, An Officer and a Gentleman, Rocky 3, Porky's, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, 48 Hrs., Poltergeist, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Annie
Spielberg had earlier hits with other movies, but in my opinion E.T. was the film that really broke him into the mainstream. That movie was everywhere, and even Michael Jackson was going mental over it.
I always thought that Tootsie was an immensely overrated movie. Its premise was hard to buy into, and it tried too hard to make a point.
Rocky 3 featured Stallone vs. Mr. T. Rocky hype would reach its pinnacle with Rocky 4, but this movie was also an event. Not sure if this was before or after Mr. T. starred in the A-team TV show.
I still think Star Trek 2 is the best Star Trek film. That whole dynamic between Kirk and Khan was epic. I love it when Kirk yells "Khaaaannnnn!" into the communicator.
Poltergeist has to be the most overwrought horror film ever. I'll admit that it sort of scared me when I was seven, but watching it as an adult I am constantly struck by the ridiculous amount of overacting present in that film.
Honorable Mention(s): Twilight Zone: The Movie, Gandhi, Conan the Barbarian, Blade Runner, The Thing, Tron
The Twilight Zone movie really creeped me out at the time. I can remember watching it late at night on HBO, back when cable television first appeared.
The Thing is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, and remains the best film that John Carpenter ever directed. I saw this again recently, and it's still awesome.
Gandhi is a classic movie. Definitely one of the first historical epics to grab my attention.
Blade Runner is a great science fiction movie, and has had a lasting effect on cinema. The look of this film influenced a lot of later directors.
My brother and I thought Conan the Barbarian was just about the best thing ever when it came out. We had this LP that told the story of the movie (remember those?), and we listened to it almost every day. The soundtrack for this one is also great.
Like Conan, Tron also had a lasting effect on my consciousness. This was one of the first films to feature CGI, and Walter/Wendy Carlos' soundtrack rivaled Conan's soundtrack for coolness. I only wish Tron: Legacy, the much-delayed sequel, hadn't been so lame.
Most Popular Movies of 1983: Return of the Jedi, Terms of Endearment, Flashdance, Trading Places, War Games, Octopussy, Sudden Impact, Staying Alive, Mr. Mom, Risky Business
I was only eight at the time, and even I recognized the fact that Return of the Jedi was more of an excuse for a toy line. It's a good movie, however.
I've seen Trading Places many, many times. Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy were excellent together.
War Games, Mr. Mom, and Risky Business are probably my favorite of the above movies. In War Games Matthew Broderick faces off against a sentient computer. In Mr. Mom Micheal Keaton learns how to be a stay-at-home dad. In Risky Business Tom Cruise learns how to be a pimp (!). When I think of the 80s, I usually think of these three movies first.
Honorable Mention(s): Christine, The Dead Zone, Krull, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, National Lampoon's Vacation, Scarface, Star 80, Strange Brew, Superman 3, The Survivors, Videodrome
Christine, The Dead Zone, and Videodrome were/are some excellent horror movies. Videodrome is crying out for a remake.
Krull was NOT a good movie, but I loved it when I was eight and it spawned one of my favorite arcade games.
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, National Lampoon's Vacation, Strange Brew, and The Survivors are all good comedies. The Survivors isn't all that funny, but I used to watch in on HBO so I have some memories there. Strange Brew makes me wish that those two guys had made other movies that good. I defy you not to get the theme song from "Vacation" stuck in your head.
Scarface and Star 80 are two movies that have aged extremely well. Scarface is one of those guy movies that will never die, and Eric Roberts is amazing in Star 80. The recent Lovelace bore a strong resemblance to Star 80.
Most Popular Movies of 1984: Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Police Academy, Footloose, Romancing the Stone, Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock, Splash
I never understood what the big deal about Beverly Hills Cop was. I thought it was just OK.
Being nine years old at the time, I was in the target audience for Ghostbusters, Temple of Doom, Gremlins, and The Karate Kid. I still think that all of these movies are great with the exception of Gremlins. That scene in Temple of Doom where the guy gets his heart ripped out really freaked a lot of us out when we were kids. And it wasn't even rated R!
I had forgotten how big those Police Academy movies were. Steve Guttenberg, where are you now?
Footloose: another great soundtrack, and the beginning of Kenny Loggins' return to fame. Or was Top Gun earlier? I'm not sure. Every kid in my elementary school had the cassette tape of Top Gun and Footloose handy.
I can remember seeing Star Trek 3 in the theater, and being unimpressed. Then again, anything that came after Star Trek 2 would have been disappointing.
Honorable Mention(s): Amadeus, The Killing Fields, Bachelor Party, The Bounty, C.H.U.D., Dune, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Once Upon a Time in America, The Razor's Edge, Revenge of the Nerds, Starman, The Terminator, This is Spinal Tap
Amadeus is a great movie. It is sadly forgotten by most. The Killing Fields and The Bounty have also largely been forgotten.
Once Upon a Time in America seems to have remained in the popular consciousness, perhaps because of the films Sergio Leone did with Clint Eastwood.
The Razor's Edge was never a big film, but it proved that Bill Murray could do a drama. It is also much better than the original novel.
C.H.U.D. is so bad it's good, and if you look really hard you can just make out John Goodman as a policeman. Bachelor Party is also so bad it's good, and that woman Tom Hanks spends the movie fantasizing over was super hot.
Dune is classic. A lot of people consider this a dud, but as a fan of Frank Herbert I would have to say that it was an artistic success. Don't watch the Director's Cut though. It will put you to sleep.
Gotta mention Revenge of the Nerds. Just gotta. That movie was the quintessential 80s comedy.
Starman is another classic from John Carpenter, though it is by no means a horror film. Vangelis did the soundtrack. Remember Vangelis?
Many people forget that The Terminator was almost an underground film at the time. It was made on a (relatively) low budget, and both James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger were still on their way to fame and fortune.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I would have to give This is Spinal Tap an 11. That movie is timeless.