Some Good Ones
1. Private Benjamin
Goldie Hawn stars as a woman who joins the military after the death of her husband. It has a lot to say about living life on your own terms, and about freeing yourself from destructive relationships.
2. Ordinary People
Robert Redford directed Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore in this story about a family trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. The cast is great, and that scene of Moore in her bedroom is some of the best acting ever. Redford deserved the Oscar he won that year.
3. Altered States (?)
I put a question mark next to this one because I'm still not sure if it's simply good, or so bad it's good. A lot of the dialogue is ridiculous, but that's a given in any Paddy Chayefsky film. William Hurt does a great mad scientist, and Blair Brown is his suitably overwrought wife.
4. Heaven's Gate
It's fashionable to hate on this movie, especially considering the fact that it's one of the biggest box office bombs of all time, but I think there's a lot to like about the Criterion version. Sure, it's slow-moving, and no, it's not cool to blow horses up with dynamite, but it's full of great performances and the cinematography is first-rate. If you liked Days of Heaven, you'll find a lot to appreciate in Heaven's Gate.
5. Atlantic City
This movie was nominated for all the big Academy Awards - and won none of them. Susan Sarandon stars as a woman trying to disentangle herself from a manipulative husband, and Burt Lancaster stars as a small-time crook who stumbles across a big score. Very French in its way, without being annoyingly arty.
6. The Jazz Singer
Like Heaven's Gate, another box office bomb that has some redeeming features. Definitely super cheesy with a generous helping of plot holes, but it's one of those movies that inhabits a gray area between "good," "bad," and "so bad it's good." Dude, that song "America" will get you PUMPED.
Some Bad Ones
I had a hell of a time finishing this movie. There's almost no plot, and some of the dialogue ranks as the worst ever. Olivia Newton-John was bearable in Grease, but in Xanadu she's unbearable.
2. Smokey and the Bandit Part II
I freaking loved the first Smokey and the Bandit, but the sequel is BAD. It also makes you feel sorry for Sally Field, who won the Best Actress Oscar the year before for Norma Rae. Apparently this movie and Cannonball Run (below) were filmed at the same time.
3. 9 to 5
This movie was (of course) a huge success in 1980, dealing as it does with gender roles in the workplace. My trouble with it is that it's a comedy, and that it's just not funny anymore. I think movies like Mr. Mom and Tootsie did a MUCH better job with similar subject matter, and they're still funny.
4. Melvin and Howard
I believe this was Jonathan Demme's first big success. Mary Steenburgen won the Oscar for her role as Melvin's wife, and it received a lot of praise at the time. But as with 9 to 5, its humor hasn't aged well and the characters are hard to relate to.
5. Stir Crazy
The first half of this movie is funny, but after that it gets bogged down in a prison escape subplot. Who cares how they escape the prison rodeo? Isn't this supposed to be a comedy?
6. The Unseen
To be fair, Barbara Bach had a great ass, and there's a long, lingering shot of it in the beginning of this movie. Stephen Furst was also a genuinely creepy "monster," but the rest of this movie is strictly B-grade horror. You can, by the way, see the whole thing on YouTube.
As much as I loved A Woman Under the Influence, I just couldn't get into this movie. Some of the plot elements are incredibly unrealistic, and the kid Gena Rowlands rescues is the worst actor ever - so bad that his performance brings you right out of the movie. "I am the man! I am the man!" Argh. Gloria and Atlantic City might have been neck and neck at the 1980 Academy Awards, but Atlantic City is a much better movie all around.
Some That Are So Bad They're Good
1. Can't Stop the Music
The movie that helped kill disco and also end many movie careers. Valerie Perrine stars as a model, Steve Guttenberg costars as a DJ, and the Village People provide a reason for this movie's existence. People are really too hard on this movie, but it never took itself that seriously anyway.
2. Cannonball Run
Roger Moore is the best part of this movie, but there's enough silliness to make all of the characters endearing. Is it an enduring piece of film history? Hell no. But if you feel nostalgic for the 80s this is the movie you want to see.
3. The Exterminator
A Vietnam vet vs. evil marijuana growers in California! It's chock full of bad acting, nonsensical plot points, and super low-budget special effects.