Movies We Still Care About – 1980

(For an explanation of this, read the Introduction.  Other posts in this series can be found here.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Airplane!
  • The Shining
  • Caddyshack

Other Notable Movies

  • The Blues Brothers
  • Friday the 13th

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Ordinary People (Winner)
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • The Elephant Man
  • Raging Bull
  • Tess

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. 9 to 5
  3. Stir Crazy
  4. Airplane!
  5. Any Which Way You Can
  6. Private Benjamin
  7. Coal Miner’s Daughter
  8. Smokey and the Bandit II
  9. The Blue Lagoon
  10. The Blues Brothers

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

(This is a new section to this series, as Rotten Tomatoes only has these lists starting with 1980.  I will include every film with a rating of 90% or higher, up to the top 10 for the year.)

  1. Raging Bull (98%)
  2. The Empire Strikes Back (96%)
  3. Airplane! (98%)
  4. The Shining (92%)
  5. The Big Red One (91%)

(I don’t know why Empire is listed above Airplane despite having a lower rating.  I’m just copying Rotten Tomatoes’ list.)

Movies We Still Care About

The Empire Strikes Back

Everything I said about Star Wars in the 1977 entry applies to this.  Empire expanded on and introduced new pieces to the mythology created by the first film.  Yoda, Hoth, tauntauns, Lando, Boba Fett, Cloud City, the feisty argumentative love between Han and Leia.  And of course, the greatest twist ending in the history of cinema.  The twist by which all other twists/spoilers are measured:

To get a good idea of how shocking that truly is to someone who didn’t know it, watch this compilation of children reacting to seeing that scene for the first time:

I also like when James Earl Jones talked about that scene on The Big Bang Theory.

Here’s a fun fact about Empire that you’ve probably never thought about.  Most movies have what’s called an external plot goal.  It’s the specific difficult task that the heroes are trying to accomplish.  Their efforts to do so are what drives the action forward and moves them from scene to scene.

In Empire, this goal, the thing that drives all the action, is that Han is trying to get the Millenium Falcon repaired.  Seriously, rewatch the movie.  It’s all about him trying to fix his broken down ship.  And all the amazing stuff that happens is because of those efforts.

Airplane!

Generally considered one of the funniest movies of all time, and certainly the best of the pure spoofs.  It’s just a joke a minute laugh riot.  I can’t pick a best joke to include here.  So instead I’ll post one of my all-time favorite moments on Jeopardy, in which Kareem Abdul Jabbar gets a question referencing one of his lines in Airplane, answers “Who is Kareem Abdul Jabbar,” and is wrong.

The Shining

There are so many cultural touchstones from this movie.  The blood in the elevator.  The creepy twins.  “REDRUM.”  “Here’s Johnny.”  The story is largely incoherent, with random elements that don’t make the slightest bit of sense to anyone who hasn’t read the book.  But Kubrick is such a master of creepy atmosphere that you end up on the edge of your seat regardless.

Just for fun, check out this recut trailer portraying it as a wacky family comedy.  And note that this is only funny because we already have such an ingrained understanding of what the movie should be.

Caddyshack

The first of what I call the 1980s “laid-back comedies,” where there isn’t much of a plot, and the film is just an excuse for funny people to stand around saying and doing funny things.  Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield act like Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield.  Bill Murray is the crazy groundskeeper.  And Ted Knight chews the scenery as the cartoonishly evil judge.  This is the sort of movie that you just want to hang out with.

Other Notable Films

The Blues Brothers

Everyone knows this movie, but I think few people care about still watching it.  Like many spectacle movies, it doesn’t really hold up.  There are better song-and-dance numbers.  There are better car chases.  There’s better laid-back comedy.  So there isn’t much reason to watch this.

Friday the 13th

Certainly people still care about the Friday the 13th franchise.  But the first film is missing the iconic elements.  Jason is a child who drowns, and his mother is the slasher killing off the promiscuous teenagers.  (Because they were doing drugs and having sex when they should have been watching over him.  This has become a standard horror movie trope, but it actually had a reason here.)  There’s no hockey mask, machete, or Jason as a monster in the first film.  When you think of Friday the 13th, you aren’t thinking of this.

– – – – –

Do you disagree with any of these choices, or think that I missed something?  Leave a comment below.

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One thought on “Movies We Still Care About – 1980”

  1. I’d argue that when we were in college, there were more Blues Brothers-themed posters on dorm walls than any of the other movies on the list except for Empire Strikes Back (maybe The Shining). I’m not sure that’s the most important metric, but on a list of movies we still care about, that’s got to be a metric.

    Like

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