Oh the 80’s. It was the decade that came and left just before I was born and bestowed us with vibrant clothes, pop music, and Reagan’s regressive policies. It’s the time that my mom refers to mysteriously and with an air of disdain, telling a curious story from her past and concluding with a sigh, “well it was the 80’s.” And when I watch popular American 80’s movies, I think I catch her drift.
Below are five of my favorite off-beat, magical, bizarre, and hilarious movies that are quintessentially of the 80’s. What are a few of yours?
Raising Arizona (dir. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, 1987)
Raising Arizona is my favorite Coen brother’s film (followed closely by The Big Lebowski) and a Nic Cage favorite as well. Raising Arizona is charming, hilarious, well written, and perfectly cast and performed. The film’s very particular production design, cinematography, and soundtrack also adds to its magic. And as an Arizonan, I seem to have a warm place in my heart for any movie that takes place there.
The Breakfast Club (dir. John Hughes, 1985)
Like many before me and surely more after, I fell in love with The Breakfast Club when I was in high school. Although I never related to any one character in particular, I couldn’t help but feel drawn to their transformations as individuals and part of a greater community. Angst, love, loneliness, honesty, fun – The Breakfast Club has a little bit of everything that makes for a great teen film.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1988)
Today’s movie-goer is used to the most spectacular feats in special effects, but Roger Ebert’s 1988 review of Who Framed Roger Rabbit serves as a reminder that the 80’s film was itself a technological triumph. He asserts, “Like ‘2001,’ ‘Close Encounters’ and ‘E.T.,’ this movie is not only great entertainment but a breakthrough in craftsmanship – the first film to convincingly combine real actors and animated cartoon characters in the same space in the same time and make it look real.”
The truthfulness of every shot – showcasing performances by those both real and animated – is so seamless that I never questioned the authenticity of the image. Roger Rabbit was as real to me as Eddie Valiant, and still is to this very day.
Labyrinth (dir. Jim Henson, 1986)
I saw Labyrinth for the first time at The Loft Cinema in Tucson. During the summer of 2011 I spent countless Saturday nights at The Loft’s weekly cult classics screenings and discovered a number of my personal favorites including Wet Hot American Summer, Hausu, and Troll 2. Labyrinth captured my heart (especially Ludo and Sir Didymus) – and who can resist David Bowie’s performance of Magic Dance?
Dance, magic dance!
Weird Science (dir. John Hughes, 1985)
Although I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for John Hughes movies for a while now, I didn’t see Weird Science until just a few years ago. Honestly, it made this list simply because it’s so weird and I came across it at an important time in my life. My boyfriend and I were making the move to Los Angeles and stopped in Blythe, CA, – a small and strange desert highway town – for the night. Despite being excited about our journey, I was also extremely scared and anxious. I had never moved away from home and had a horrible feeling building deep within me, like I had made a terrible mistake. While my heart felt like it was draining empty, we turned on the TV to find that Weird Science was starting, and decided to watch. Weird Science was this bizarre treat that distracted me at a time when I really needed distracting, and for that reason I’m grateful for it.
So those are five of my favorite movies from the 1980’s – what are yours?