Even though I love the classic films that Hollywood used to make, I have a soft spot for the movies of the 1980s. After all, the 1980s was my childhood – when life was seemingly so much simpler. I remember going to see a lot of movies with my uncles at the time as well, so this was a particularly hard list to make. What is also interesting is that three of the five movies I picked came out in 1980:
5. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
Sure, I was going to pick a movie that was deeper or more profound, but Back To The Future was such a fun movie to watch. Michael J. Fox, who was and is an very underrated actor was perfect as the time traveler Marty McFly. The story was basically about Marty going back in time and fixing what he eventually messed up. It was great to see 1980s America colliding with 1950s America. Again, the film did not receive any acting awards but it did not need to. It was a favorite childhood movie of mine, and it was worth the $2.75 it cost to see a movie in 1985!
4. THE KING OF COMEDY (1983)
Director Martin Scorsese is best remembered for his gangster dramas like Goodfellas, Casino, and The Departed and rightfully so. However, Scorsese made a little movie in 1983 that is just an underrated gem. The film stars Robert DeNiro as a stalker who sets his sight on a late night talk show host (played surprisingly well by Jerry Lewis). He eventually kidnaps the house and becomes an overnight sensation. Lewis was not Scorsese’s first choice to play the host. He actually campaigned for Johnny Carson to take the role and then Dean Martin before choosing Lewis. Sure there are better Scorsese movies out there, but the chemistry of Robert DeNiro and Jerry Lewis worked for me, and the film has been a critic favorite for almost three decades now.
3. THE SHINING (1980)
I never could make it through the book of The Shining, which was written by Stephen King. When I was younger, I could not make it through the movie as well. However, after I realized that there were no monsters under my bed, I became a huge fan of horror movies. What is scarier than a mentally disturbed Jack Nicholson! Nicholson and Shelley Duvall play husband and wife who take their young child to a secluded hotel to become caretakers through the winter months. Nicholson is a writer, and he figures the solitude would give him time to write his new novel. What happens is he goes crazy…bottom line. Stephen King himself does not like this movie version of his novel, but I think the movie works well still. It is a longer film, but the way the film was shot really makes you feel as if you are in the middle of the action. This movie is worth watching just to see Jack Nicholson’s evil look while he exclaims “Here’s Johnny!”
2. RAGING BULL (1980)
This is my second Martin Scorsese film to make this list, and I am really shocked when I talk to fellow film fans, and they have not seen the film. For those who haven’t have the pleasure to see the film, Raging Bull an American biographical sports drama art film directed by Martin Scorsese, and adapted by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin from Jake LaMotta's memoir Raging Bull: My Story. It stars Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta, an Italian American middleweight boxer whose sadomasochistic rage, sexual jealousy, and animalistic appetite destroyed his relationship with his wife and family. I am not a huge boxing fan, but you do not even have to be a fan of the sport to get engrossed in this engaging film. The film won Robert DeNiro an Oscar and deservedly so for Best Actor. As an odd footnote, President Ronald Reagan was shot the day of the Oscars, by a crazed fan of Jodie Foster. Foster appeared in the Scorsese film Taxi Driver years earlier, and Martin Scorsese had to go to the Oscar ceremonies with armed guards out of fear.
1. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
Like the movie Back To The Future, the Star Wars trilogy was a big part of my childhood. All three movies are worth anyone’s top list of films, but I think “The Empire Strikes Back” (the second film) is the best of all of the movies. I have watched this film countless times, and I have to say that although CGI was not thought of in 1980, the movie is pretty advanced looking and well made. It is not a movie that would win any acting awards, but again it is not meant to be. The film is set three years after the original Star Wars. The Galactic Empire, under the leadership of the villainous Darth Vader, is in pursuit of Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. While Vader chases a small band of Luke's friends—Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and others—across the galaxy, Luke studies the Force under Jedi Master Yoda. But when Vader captures Luke's friends, Luke must decide whether to complete his training and become a full Jedi Knight or to confront Vader and save his comrades. If you have no idea what I just wrote, then you did not watch movies in the 1980s or you lived under a rock…
Here are some films of the 1980s that are great as well and deserve to at least be honorable mentions: Caddyshack (1980), Scarface (1983), Return Of The Jedi (1983), The Breakfast Club (1985), and Stand By Me (1986).