Fandango Groovers Movie Blog is running a huge old blogathon which I just had to be a part of. The basis is simple; pick your favourite year for movies and then furnish your selection with five movies from that year. Sound difficult? Wasn’t for me. I knew straight away where I was going to go with this. Ahh, the 80s.
I was born in the year of our Lord 1970 AD, which means I was an active human presence on this planet throughout that entire decade. However, other than Star Wars, the better episodes of Doctor Who and a few fashion traumas, there isn’t a great deal I remember about the Seventies. When nostalgia comes calling for me, it comes bearing the unmistakable aroma of the 1980s. And when my nostalgia turns to movies, one year stands out above all: 1984.
I seem to remember spending the best part of the summer of ’84 standing outside the local 3-screen cinema, queuing for the latest exciting movie event . I was 14 years old, and beginning to gain increasing traction in that tug of war with my parents for more freedom. The cinema was the activity of choice for a lot of us at that time. Sure, you could hang out at the park, but the cinema was better. Well, it was to me, anyway. Come on, the cinema had movies. The park had grass and a pretty lame fountain. It was a no-brainer. Yes, I confess I was one of those peculiar teenage guys that sat in the darkened cinema, girlfriend at my side, with every intention of actually watching the movie. I did not go there to snog and cop a feel. That’s what the park was for. Okay, I may have made an exception with Out of Africa, but it was long and boring as a dog’s ass.
1984 was a great year for the summer blockbuster. Most summers come and go, leaving just one big movie in their wake. 1984 had loads of them. Some films travel with you through time, always remaining in step with you, never triggering feelings of nostalgia. 1984 contains a swathe of movies that take me right back to that summer, a time spent exploring new freedoms and discovering movies that I would love for life.
George Orwell was right about a lot of things, but for me 1984 was a great year. Here are five reasons why:
Ivan Reitman’s supernatural comedy, penned by stars Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, turned out to be one of those mysterious and elusive creatures, the Sleeper Hit, coming out of nowhere and stealing the summer. With almost no fanfare, Ghostbusters managed to breeze in and slime the competition.
The summer of 1984 was the summer of Ray Parker Jr. asking you who you were gonna call. And then telling you. Incessantly. I confess to you here and now and with no sense of shame…well, maybe a little, that I bought that damn record. Oh, give me a break, it was catchy. A lot of people bought it. And like a lot of people, Ghostbusters blew me away on that first viewing. It was witty, original, the special effects were fantastic and it had the coolest logo in cinema history.
Iconic moments: The Stay-puft Marshmellow Man rampages, ‘He slimed me’, Gozer’s flat-top.
Still the best Christmas movie ever made, despite its summer release, Gremlins was the kid’s movie for adults; dark, violent and a lot of fun. It’s Spielberg with teeth, skewered through the center by Director Joe Dante’s signature mischievous streak.
Gizmo became the toy everybody wanted but nobody could really have, and all eyes widened in an overdose of cute when the little critter first emerged from his box and launched a million pet names. Audiences were split between those who wanted a Gizmo and those who wanted a Stripe. I was definitely in the latter group. Those mean gremlins were just that much cooler looking. I wanted a life size one, but it was not to be. I had to make do with a pocket-size Stripe. Ah, the traumas of our formative years. On the plus side, the Gremlins sticker album was the only sticker album I ever managed to complete. Yay!
Iconic moments: Microwaved gremlin, Phoebe Cate’s Christmas tale, Mrs Dingle’s stair-lift.
In retrospect this is now considered by most to be the weakest of all the Indiana Jones movies. Certainly the one that offended the most ethnic groups. But at the time, to a carefree 14-year-old, unmindful of the dangers of patronising stereotypes and dodgy female representation, it was a whole lot of fun. Not to mention the sequel (or prequel) to my favourite movie in the entire universe, ever.
This was the one that I’d been most excited about as the summer of ’84 approached. Souvenir magazine ahoy! Novelization, thank you very much! Comic book adaptation, come to me! I confess that, during the 80s, I watched Temple of Doom an unhealthy amount of times. More times than I care to admit in public, anyway. I had a VHS copy that fairly screamed at me for mercy and begged for just a moment’s respite. I showed it the same consideration I had shown my copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Play, damn you, play! Mwah ha ha!
Iconic moments: Chilled monkey brains, mine-car chase, guy loses his heart.
Several million sequels later, it’s easy to forget just how fresh and original Wes Craven’s shocker was back then. Back in the days when Freddy Krueger was actually the bad guy, and scary, rather than the camp, wise-cracking, star of the show. How the mighty fell.
A Nightmare on Elm Street was the movie to see if you were at school in 1984. If you’d seen it, you were offically Cool™ and had the pleasure of spoiling it by telling everyone who hadn’t seen it the best bits. I was never Cool™ so I didn’t see it until it came out on video later that year. At which time I had done my best to forget all the best bits which had been related to me by someone who was clearly Cooler than me. But I did have a full-size quad poster just like that pictured above, which took pride of place on my bedroom wall. Damn, I wish I still had that poster. Great artwork. You just don’t see that anymore. Sigh.
Iconic moments: Squelchy stairs, Johnny Depp gets sucked into his bed, Freddy’s elongated arms.
Back in 1984, we didn’t really know who Arnold Schwarzenegger or James Cameron were. This was long before one took over California and the other took over the world. So The Terminator’s mix of sci-fi, action and an Uzi 9mm was quite the calling card for both.
Another movie that definitely upped your Cool-o-meter reading if you’d seen it. After this, you started to notice some of your friends walking along the street with sunglasses and blank stares, thinking they looked edgy and killing-machine-sent-from-the-future like. They didn’t, of course. They just looked stoned. It’s a look that works when you’ve been carved from Austrian granite, not so much when you’re a stringy teenager.
Of all the movies listed here, this is the one to watch if you want to bask in the cheesy glow of 80s fashion. Witness Sarah Connor’s hair, Kyle Reece’s trainer boots and the bouncy dancing in club Tech Noir. You just don’t see that anymore. Yay.
Iconic moments: ‘Fuck you, asshole’, Tech Noir, advanced eye removal.
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Yaaaaay, you sure picked a bunch of true modern (well, kind of) classics!
Good choice, I love your list. As for The Terminator, for me, nearly thirty years on it is still the best film Schwarzenegger or James Cameron have made. Thanks for taking part.
Ah, the 80s. My glory years. I’ve actually seen every movie on this list. That may be a first for me at Celluloid Zombie. Do I get an award? Huh? Huh?
You’ll have to introduce your son to some of these gems.
Thanks for taking me back.
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Who doesn’t love ‘Terminator’? For some reason 1984 always reminds me of the great Apple commercial by Ridley Scott, I guess I just don’t remember much about the 80s as I didn’t watch that many movies in high school. Glad you’re taking part in this, Richard.
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I really wanted to do a year from the 80s but just didn’t make it happen. Many of your picks would have been on my list, mostly Terminator!
Excellent choices, Richard! A work colleague is reading this over my shoulder and he said he would have picked 1984 as well
The only one I haven’t seen is A Nightmare on Elm Street. I know the character of Freddy Krueger and that he enters children’s dreams but I don’t know much else… I’ve always been too scared to watch it!
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The 1980s would be my decade too Richard. Great choices and great year! Bet it was quite a job cutting the shortlist down to just five films! Argh! So many tough choices. That said, Ghostbusters and The Terminator would be near the top of my list – definitely.
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