Tag Archives: Sam Raimi

Movies We Still Care About – 1987 – Part 1 (A-H)

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

Movies We Still Care About

  • Adventures in Babysitting
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Evil Dead 2
  • (First half of) Full Metal Jacket
  • Hellraiser
  • Lethal Weapon
  • The Lost Boys
  • Moonstruck
  • Predator
  • The Princess Bride
  • Raising Arizona
  • Robocop
  • Spaceballs
  • The Untouchables
  • Wall Street

Other Notable Movies

  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • The Running Man

Best Picture Nominees:

  • The Last Emperor (Winner)
  • Broadcast News
  • Fatal Attraction
  • Hope and Glory
  • Moonstruck

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Three Men and a Baby
  2. Fatal Attraction
  3. Beverly Hills Cop II
  4. Good Morning, Vietnam
  5. Moonstruck
  6. The Untouchables
  7. The Secret of My Success
  8. Stakeout
  9. Lethal Weapon
  10. The Witches of Eastwick

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. The Princess Bride (97%)
  2. Evil Dead 2 (98%)
  3. Wings of Desire (98%)
  4. Broadcast News (98%)
  5. Full Metal Jacket (94%)
  6. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (94%)
  7. Moonstruck (92%)
  8. The Last Emperor (91%)
  9. Raising Arizona (90%)

Movies We Still Care About

Adventures in Babysitting

This was a fun wish-fulfillment adventure that appealed to both children, and teenagers/young adults, who could each put themselves in the place of the characters.

Dirty Dancing

In previous years, I’ve discussed several films that worked as a wish fulfillment fantasy for boys.  Dirty Dancing is just about the purest wish-fulfillment fantasy for girls.  It’s the story of a girl who’s misunderstood by her parents and maybe isn’t the most attractive.  But then she meets a sexy dream guy who sees her inner beauty.  Not only does the hunk fall for her, but he helps her find and embrace her inner sexiness.  Then she gets validation from everyone else, including her parents.


Evil Dead 2

In my opinion, this is the best silly horror movie ever made.  Director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell combine for some of the physical comedy to ever be put on film.

Watch Bruce Campbell get beaten up by his own possessed hand.

I think that what really makes these films endure is that Campbell is brilliant at playing a cocky jerk who you can’t help but like.  And then he retains that cockiness even as he gets continually beaten down by mystical forces that he cannot possibly handle.

We cheer his small victories, but since he’s a jerk, we also enjoy his humiliating defeats.

(First half of) Full Metal Jacket

This is an odd movie, because it’s not based on one story.  It’s an adaptation of a collection of three novellas, which leads to a disjointed film that is two entirely separate stories which happen to share a couple characters.  The second half is a forgettable generic Vietnam movie, but the first half is amazing.  It gets the audience inside the process of boot camp, and shows how the training breaks down an individual’s psychology, and then rebuilds them as a killer.

Interesting note: R. Lee Ermey, who plays Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, was initially hired as an adviser to share his experience of what boot camp is really like.  He lobbied Stanley Kubrick for his starring role in the movie by making a lengthy video of him yelling abuse at extras, calling on his real experience as a drill instructor.  Which lead us to this piece of cinematic brilliance: (Warning: Foul language including racial slurs.)

I should note that some veterans have complained that the portrayal of boot camp isn’t realistic, and that any vaguely competent instructor would have recognized the signs of severe psychosis in Private Pyle, and kicked him out of the Marines.  (Even during Vietnam, the Marines were all-volunteer, and instructors wouldn’t hesitate to remove a recruit that was unfit to serve.)

This brings up the concept of verisimilitude, which is something that seems truthful.  Sometimes what seems truthful isn’t what actually is truthful.  The shorthand we used in film school was “real vs. reel.”  (Which is a terrible shorthand when spoken aloud, but that’s beside the point.)  If you want actual realism, you can look out a window.  At their best, films are stories that can highlight human experience, and sometimes telling the best story means deviating from how things work in reality.


Notable for creating a new horror franchise and monster.  Pinhead more of a second-tier monster, not as well-known as Freddy or Jason.  But these films still are quite popular among horror fans.

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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 – 1981

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

(This post was edited on April 6 to discuss Raiders of the Lost Ark’s role in the development of the fun action movie sub-genre, and to include Stripes in the Other Notable Movies section.)

Movies We Still Care About

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark

Other Notable Movies

  • Superman II
  • Clash of the Titans
  • The Great Muppet Caper
  • The Evil Dead
  • Stripes

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Chariots of Fire (Winner)
  • Atlantic CIty
  • On Golden Pond
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Reds

Top Grossing Films (US)

  1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. On Golden Pond
  3. Superman II
  4. Arthur
  5. Stripes
  6. The Cannonball Run
  7. Chariots of Fire
  8. For Your Eyes Only
  9. The Four Seasons
  10. Time Bandits

Rotten Tomatoes Top Movies

  1. The Evil Dead (98%)
  2. Das Boot (98%)
  3. Raiders of the Lost Ark (95%)
  4. Diva (96%)
  5. An American Werewolf in London (91%)
  6. Blow Out (90%)

In the introductory post to this series, I mentioned that various factors can skew the Rotten Tomatoes rankings, and that seems to have happen here.  If you look at that Rotten Tomatoes list, #1 is a microbudget amateur film that would have been forgotten if it didn’t spawn two popular sequels.  #2 is a foreign film beloved by cinephiles but not known to a widespread American audience.  I’ve never even heard of #4 and have barely heard of #6.  And #5 is a cult film that is unknown to modern mainstream audiences.

Movies We Still Care About

Raiders of the Lost Ark

This is the best action spectacle movie of all time.  Like Star Wars, this is at the highest level of mythology for modern film.  Everyone knows Indiana Jones.  The hat, the whip, the ark, fear of snakes, etc.

It’s a spectacle movie because it isn’t structured like a normal film.  There’s no character development – Indy is exactly the same at the end as he is at the beginning.  And rather than the traditional three acts with rising action, it’s an episodic string of distinct action sequences.  In a lesser film, the audience would be bored and confused, even if they didn’t have enough film theory knowledge to explain why they felt that way.  But Raiders is so awesome that nobody cares about its lack of structure or character growth.

In fact, nobody cares that Indiana Jones is entirely superfluous to his own movie, as explained on The Big Bang Theory:

Raiders of the Lost Ark was a deliberate attempt by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to recall the Saturday morning movie serials that they loved as kids.  Those were in turn based on radio serials.  Which were based on pulp/dime novels.  Which were inspired by the late 19th century adventure novels by authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard.  Haggard’s character Allan Quatermain specifically is considered to be the template for Indiana Jones.  This came full circle in 1985 and 1986 with the Richard Chamberlain movies King Solomon’s Mines and Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold.  These movies are blatant rip-offs of Indiana Jones, even though the character of Allan Quartermain predates Indy by a century.

 Raiders is important for the development of cinema as an art-form, as it established the sub-genre of the Fun Action Movie.  You can generally split action movies into those that are intense, and those that are fun.  These easiest way to see which category a film belongs in is to ask yourself if you would want to be the main character.  Would you want to be Indiana Jones, traveling the world having fantastic adventures and punching Nazis?  Of course you would.  Because the most important thing about Indiana Jones as a character is that even when things go wrong, when he’s captured, beaten up, or exhausted by a string of fights, he still absolutely loves being Indiana Jones,

Look at the bringing a gun to a sword fight scene.  He’s fatigued and exasperated, yet every single person watching the movie can live vicariously through him and would delight in being Indy in that situation.

(Side-note: That scene was ad-libbed.  The script called for Indy to get into an elaborate sword fight. But Harrison Ford was sick that day, and didn’t feel like doing it.  So he used his gun instead, Steven Spielberg realized that was much better, and cinema magic was born.)

In the 70s, action movies had taken a gritty turn, as exemplified by films such as The French Connection.  And prior to the 70s, action wasn’t quite so dark, but still was more dramatic than fun.  Films like The African Queen, North by Northwest, and John Wayne westerns.  Some excellent movies, but that sense of playfulness was mostly absent.

There were a few fun action movies before Raiders, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, James Bond films, and Star Wars.  But  It was really Raiders that brought this feeling of fun into its own, and sparked countless imitators trying to capture that high-spirited adventure.

Raiders expanded the medium, such that from the 80s through today and into the future, we are able to experience both fun action movies and intense action movies, and as fans we are all better off.

Also, if you ever get the chance to see the shot-for-shot remake of Raiders made by twelve-year-olds, do it.  It’s amazing.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find it online.  (I saw it 15 years ago on a VHS tape owned by someone who knew one of the guys who made it.)  The best I could find is the first 10 minutes with no audio.  (If any of you can locate the full version online, please link to it in comments.)

The official website for the Raiders remake is here, though unfortunately it doesn’t have the full movie.

Other Notable Films

Superman II

“Kneel before Zod.”  That’s all that needs to be said for this.  And all that really should be said.  Because aside from a great villain, this film is an incoherent mess that is much better in your memory than in reality.

Clash of the Titans

“Release the Kraken!”  This is a special-effects spectacle movie whose effects were amazing in 1981, but really don’t hold up today.  And without that to carry it, there’s not much point to watching this.

The Great Muppet Caper

I talked about this in my write-up of The Muppet Movie in the 1979 entry.

The Evil Dead

I love Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness.  But the original Evil Dead isn’t in the same league.  It’s notable to see the clever techniques that Sam Raimi used to stretch his limited budget while still having a unique feel.  But the story’s generic, and the humor from the later films is lacking here.  Plus the entire events of Evil Dead are re-done with much better acting, humor, and production value in the first 10 minutes of Evil Dead 2.  So you can just watch the sequel and skip the original.


Stripes continues the Laid-Back Comedy tradition developed by Caddyshack, featuring Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis being Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis.  While it doesn’t still enjoy widespread appeal after 33 years, it does have a small but devoted following of some who consider it among the all-time great comedies.  It’s certainly worth checking out or revisiting if you’re a fan of Murray/Candy/Ramis.

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