Movies We Still Care About – 1985 – Part 1 (A-M)

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

Movies We Still Care About

  • Back to the Future
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Fletch
  • The Goonies
  • Ran
  • Rocky IV
  • Teen Wolf
  • Weird Science
  • Witness

Other Notable Movies

  • Brazil
  • Clue
  • Commando
  • Gymkata
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II
  • Real Genius
  • Young Sherlock Holmes

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Out of Africa (Winner)
  • The Color Purple
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Prizzi’s Honor
  • Witness

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Back to the Future
  2. Rambo: First Blood Part II
  3. Rocky IV
  4. The Color Purple
  5. Out of Africa
  6. Cocoon
  7. The Jewel of the Nile
  8. Witness
  9. The Goonies
  10. Spies Like Us

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. Ran (97%)
  2. Back to the Future (96%)
  3. Brazil (96%0
  4. Re-Animator (93%)
  5. The Breakfast Club (91%)

To get you in the mood, here’s Bowling for Soup’s song 1985

Movies We Still Care About

Back to the Future

This is one of those films that has become part of our culture.  It perfectly blends action, sci-fi, humor, and romance, all wrapped up in a sense of fun.  The theme to Back to the Future is the ringtone on my cell phone, as a reminder to myself of what movies should be and what I should aim to write.

The clocktower scene is one of the best action scenes of all time.  (One of my professors in film school actually showed it in class as an example of a perfect action scene.  True story.) It’s a reminder that action scenes don’t need fights, shootouts, explosions, car chases, or a cast of thousands.  It’s just Doc Brown trying to accomplish a difficult task before a deadline, cutting to Marty McFly, whose life is in his hands.

Here’s something that will blow your mind/make you feel old.  Marty traveled back in time 30 years to 1955, when his parents were teenagers.  If the movie were to be made today, he’d be going back to 1984, just one year before the actual movie came out.

Just for fun, here’s Tom Wilson, who played Biff, singing a song about how people always ask him the same questions regarding BTTF.

 

The Breakfast Club

This film spoke to teenagers at the time, and has continued to stick with them as they’ve grown up.  I think it’s quite common for teens to fall into certain stereotypical roles and cliques in high school, even while recognizing that the system of cliques and putting people into boxes is fundamentally messed up.  Breakfast Club shined a light on just how nonsensical those social divides really are.  That’s certainly not a unique perspective, but it’s one that had been rare in movies before this.

Only a small percentage of kids at any given school can be the popular kids.  Which means that the overwhelming majority of kids feel like outsiders of some sort.  Breakfast Club gave them the opportunity to say, “No, the problem isn’t with me.  It’s with the system that makes me an outsider.”

The Goonies

On a certain level, all fun action movies are about wish-fulfillment.  We put ourselves in the place of the hero, and use the film to vicariously escape our humdrum lives and go on an amazing adventure.

For this to work, we have to be able to imagine ourselves inhabiting the role.  But the more removed from our lives that the hero starts out as, the harder this is to do.  Sure, kids can make-believe they’re Luke Skywalker.  But this is tempered by the knowledge that they could never really be a magical space-wizard.  Maybe they can picture themselves being Indiana Jones once they grew up and learn a bunch of knowledge and how to fight (though it might be difficult to track down Nazis to punch), but it’s certainly not something a child can really imagine himself doing while a kid.

Which is why Goonies was so special.  By having a bunch of ordinary kids go on an adult cinematic adventure, it made it easy for us to believe in the wish-fulfillment aspect of the story.  When you were a kid watching the Goonies, you truly believed that you could be one of the Goonies the next day if only you happened to find a treasure map.  You don’t even have to smart, strong, handsome, or popular.  You could even be a fat loser like Chunk and still go on this adventure.

Other Fond Memories

(These are movies that fit the category of “Movies We Still Care About,” but for which I personally can’t think of anything interesting to say. Please don’t take a movie’s inclusion in this category as any sort of criticism.  You are encouraged to voice your thoughts on these films in the comments section.)

Fletch

Other Notable Films

Brazil

Terry Gilliam is a genius when it comes to unique visuals and interesting ideas.  There’s far more creativity in his films than you almost ever see elsewhere, in 1985 or today. Brazil is probably the most enduring of his non Monty-Python work.  It brilliantly takes the themes of George Orwell’s 1984, and twists them around so that instead of an all-powerful dictator that controls people down to their souls, there’s an absurd incompetent bureaucracy that has invaded every aspect of life and causes people to enslave themselves.  As exemplified in this scene where one of the few individualists remaining in society is literally consumed by paperwork, while the crowd goes about their business not paying the slightest bit of attention.

It also accurately predicted the rise of beauty-obsessed rich women getting so much plastic surgery that they fall into the uncanny valley:

However, while Terry Gilliam was marvelously creative, he was not especially skilled in developing story and character, which are the two most important factors in allowing the audience to truly care about a movie.  Because Brazil is lacking in these, it has remained a cult movie rather than becoming part of our culture.

Clue

A lot of people have forgotten about this film.  It’s probably best known for the gimmick of having three different endings, as a means to get audiences to see it in theaters multiple times. (The version released on video/played on TV includes all three endings.)  But this is an excellent madcap comedy-mystery.  See how expertly it cuts from tension to a silly murder, all in a 17 second clip:

And there’s so much zany fun in Tim Curry’s explanation of what happened:

 

Commando

This is the prototypical Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie.  I think this has faded from a lot of people’s memories over time.  Certainly there are better known Arnold movies, such as the Terminator series.  But if you like this style of hyper-violent fun action, this is worth revisiting.

It also features about eight-hundred-seventy-three mall cops getting killed at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, which was the go-to mall for movies in the 80s.  (It was in Terminator 2, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Valley Girl, Inner Space, and many others.)  (My apologies, I couldn’t find the whole scene on YouTube, so that link it to a best-of compilation that was choppily edited by a fan.)

Gymkata

I have nothing to say about this movie, except to post the pommel horse fight, which is quite possibly the single most absurd and ridiculous action scene to ever appear in a major movie.

– – – – –

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

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2 thoughts on “Movies We Still Care About – 1985 – Part 1 (A-M)”

  1. I remember leaving the theater after seeing Back to the Future and thinking “I’m so happy I was alive when this movie came out.”

    On the other hand, I swear by my life and my love of it that I have never cared about Fletch.

    Like

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