Tag Archives: Real Genius

Movies We Still Care About – 1985 – Part 2 (N-Z)

(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%)

Movies We Still Care About


Ran is Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of King Lear set in feudal Japan.  While most Kurosawa films tend to be too slow for modern western audiences, Ran is full of stunning visuals and epic battles that are sure to hold an audience’s attention.  The trailer gives a pretty good sense of the scope of the battles and the beauty of the cinematography.


Rocky IV

This is the true story of how Sylvester Stallone won the cold war by punching a Communist.

Okay, maybe it’s not entirely a true story.  But it came at the turning point of the Cold War, right when it seemed like the Soviets were achieving dominance, and just before things in Russia started to collapse.  Coming when it did, and featuring a scrappy American underdog overcoming the dominant Russian through sheer pluck, it really fell into a place of cultural significance.  One thing to note in the montage I posted above is the contrast between Drago’s training, which is all high tech, and Rocky’s training, which is all primitive.  That tied into the American self-image of the time – Rugged individualist cowboys against an industrial machine.

Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf is a wish fulfillment fantasy, where the unpopular loser suddenly acquires magic abilities that make him powerful, cool, and the envy of everyone who previously looked down on him.  Thus it can be a reflection of the hidden desire of every teenager who feels like an outcast.  (Which as I mentioned in my write-up of The Breakfast Club, is most teenagers.)

(It’s also an obvious metaphor for puberty, but I won’t get into that.)

Follow up question: Is Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck a teen wolf?

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.)

  • Weird Science
  • Witness

Other Notable Films

Rambo: First Blood Part II

As I mentioned in the 1982 entry, all the iconography of Rambo comes from Rambo 2, rather than First Blood.  When you picture Rambo, this is what you’re imagining.  Shirtless Sly Stallone, with the headband, killing villages full of bad guys with exploding arrows.  You know, this:


Real Genius

As I mentioned in the 1984 entry, Real Genius tackles some of the same subject matter as Revenge of the Nerds, but with an air of affection rather than mean-spiritedness.  Real Genius made being a nerd seem fun, and inspired a generation of kids to embrace their intelligence and weirdness rather than be ashamed of it.


Young Sherlock Holmes

Chris Columbus exploded on the scene as a screenwriter in 1984 and 1985, with Gremlins, The Goonies, and Young Sherlock Holmes.  He then switched to directing and more or less gave up wriitng, which is a shame considering how brilliant his first three films were.

Young Sherlock Holmes is probably the least remembered of those three, but is still highly entertaining.  I think where it runs into trouble with audiences is in how different it is from the original Conan Doyle stories.  Fans of the original were turned off by the liberties taken, while people who weren’t into the literature didn’t have interest in seeing it in the first place.

But if you ignore the Holmes connection and just think of it as two Edwardian teenagers getting wrapped up in a crazy mystery and adventure, it’s a lot of fun. (For the record, I’m a fan of the original stories, and I don’t mind how different Young Sherlock Holmes is, because all of the changes are in service of making an excellent movie.)

And it’s also interesting for its pioneering use of CGI.  (And since the CGI was supposed to be people’s hallucinations, it made sense in the film that it was so crappy looking.)

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


Movies We Still Care About – 1984 – Part 2 (N-Z)

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

As I mentioned previously, I am now splitting up the discussion of films for each year in order to keep the length of the posts manageable.  This post covers 1984 movies that started with the letters N-Z. The full yearly lists will be included with each post.

Movies We Still Care About

  • Amadeus
  • Ghostbusters
  • Gremlins
  • The Karate Kid
  • Neverending Story
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Police Academy
  • Red Dawn
  • Sixteen Candles
  • The Terminator
  • This is Spinal Tap

Other Notable Movies

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Revenge of the Nerds
  • Romancing the Stone

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Amadeus (Winner)
  • The Killing Fields
  • A Passage to India
  • Places in the Heart
  • A Soldier’s Story

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Beverly Hills Cop
  2. Ghostbusters
  3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  4. Gremlins
  5. The Karate Kid
  6. Police Academy
  7. Footloose
  8. Romancing the Stone
  9. Star Trek III: The Search for Spok
  10. Splash

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. The Terminator (100%)
  2. Amadeus (95%)
  3. Repo Man (98%)
  4. Blood Simple (94%)
  5. Ghostbusters (96%
  6. This is Spinal Tap (95%)
  7. A Nightmare on Elm Street (96%)
  8. The Karate Kid (90%)

Movies We Still Care About

Neverending Story

I don’t have any commentary on this, and would put it in the “Other Fond Memories” section, except that i want to post this Neverending Party skit from Robot Chicken.


A Nightmare on Elm Street

Another of those slasher horror franchises that have reached the level of mythology.  This was interesting in that unlike Halloween or Friday the 13th, which feature (literally) faceless killers, Freddy Krueger is a real character who is able to make threats and quips.  That makes it a lot funnier than the other franchises.  And in my opinion, it also makes it a lot scarier.

As a real person, you don’t have any reason to fear Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers.  You’ve never been in a situation where you thought they were chasing you.  But late at night, when you’re falling asleep, and your rational thought is giving way to the realm of dreams – that is exactly when you think that Freddy might come after you.  Which is what makes these movies so terrifying.  Plus the children chanting the rhyme is damn creepy:


Sixteen Candles

The first of the John Hughes movies that would dominate the mid to late 80s, this perfectly captured the feelings of teenaged angst and alienation that we’ve all gone through.

The Terminator

One of the best intense action movies of all time.  In fact, if you look at my glossary page, it’s actually the example I give of the quintessential intense action film.  This established James Cameron as a titan of filmmaking (his only previous directing credit was “Piranha 2: The Spawning”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger as one of the biggest action stars of all time.  It’s also the origin of Arnold’s catchphrase.

It became part of our culture, and not just in art and entertainment.  As a matter of policy, people will still reference Skynet when discussing social and technological issues such as artificial intelligence and the power of tech companies such as Facebook and Google.

For a reminder of how intense this movie, just watch the final scene:

Better yet, watch the whole movie.

This is Spinal Tap

This more or less created the mockumentary genre, and is still the best example of the category.  One could even make the argument that every mockumentary since 1984 has been a futile attempt to imitate the genius of Spinal Tap.

This is also an excellent example of why you can’t necessarily judge a film’s quality by box office numbers.  There were 116 films that outgrossed Spinal Tap in 1984, and most of those have been completely forgotten.  But the legacy of Spinal Tap endures, to the point that everyone understand what “turn it up to eleven” means, even if they haven’t seen the movie or know where the reference is coming from.

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.)

  • Police Academy
  • Red Dawn

Other Notable Films

Revenge of the Nerds

This was popular in the 80s, but few people still watch it today.  I think the reason it hasn’t remained popular is because it is very mean-spirited.  The heroes of this film use chemicals to torture the genitals of their rivals, and install hidden cameras to spy on women in the shower and bathroom.  One of the heroes commits a flat-out rape, disguising himself as a woman’s boyfriend in order to trick her into having sex with him.  This rape is played off as a silly prank, and ultimately a good thing because she ends up liking it.

In the 80s, when people had a different sensibility, this worked as a revenge fantasy.  (Hence the title of the movie.) But modern audiences won’t tolerate such loathsome behavior from the heroes of a silly comedy.  Plus, in the 80s nerds were considered to be at the bottom of the social order.  But for modern adults, nerds are at the top, running businesses and becoming billionaires.  It’s a truism that people will root for an underdog who is punching someone bigger than him, but not for an overdog who is punching down.  So this abusive behavior no longer works in movies.

I know a lot of nerds, and very few of them still care for Revenge of the Nerds because of its mean-spiritedness.  But many still do love Real Genius, a movie with similar subject matter from 1985.  That treated its subject with affection, and thus has a lot more staying power.  (I highly recommend watching Real Genius if you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in a long time.)

Romancing The Stone

This is an excellent movie that a lot of people have forgotten.  It’s a really solid and fun movie, expertly combining adventure, comedy, and romance.  I highly recommend that you revisit it.

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