80's Movies - an alternate list of big hair and bad fashions
Being born towards the start of the 70's I really didn't start getting into movies until the 80s and what a great decade it was to be thrown into the alternate world of film. It may be a much derided time when it comes to fashion and hair styles but there are very few people who can't pick at least one favourite movie from the 80's. But whilst there are thousands of "top 10 movies from the 80's" lists there are a lot of movies which sadly fail to make it on. I say sadly as whilst "Back to the Future", "Ghostbusters" and ET" are great movies there are the likes of "Working Girl", "Stripes" and "St Elmo's Fire" which equally deserve mention. So here are a few good 80's movie which time and top ten lists have forgot.
Not to be confused with the laugh fest of the gurning Jim Carrey, "Mask" is a surprisingly touching movie about Rocky Dennis an American teenager who suffered from a rare disease which left him horribly disfigured. Based upon a true story it is quite a surprising movie which I have to say is at times quite hard to watch, but is also inspirational watching this young man tackle head on all the adversity he suffers because of the way he looks. But it's not just about the way he looks it's also a wonderful drama about his relationship with his mother who struggles with life.
It really is one of the most movie movies I have had the pleasure to watch with a great performance from Eric Stoltz as well as Cher and Sam Elliot. It's the sort of movie which although you know where it will probably end up leads you a wonderful journey which makes you think without needing to try to over complicate things with contrived twists. It's beautiful in it's simplicity.
Working Girl (1988)
"Working Girl" is the fun story of Tess McGill who having been knocked back for promotion far too many times takes advantage when her manipulative boss is bedridden and uses the opportunity to advance her career at the same time falling in love for a decent man rather than the cheating boyfriend she had put up with. It's very much your run of the mill romcom but epitomizes everything everyone remembers the 80's for the bad hair, the bad fashion and over the top makeup.
Watching it these days it's hard not to find yourself laughing for the wrong reasons such as Melanie Griffith's huge, and I do mean huge, hair and the rather strange scene which sees her vacuuming in just her knickers, but it also has all the charm you would expect from any romcom with more than adequate performances from Griffiths as well as Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford and Joan Cussack in a stereotypical best friend role.
Featuring many of the Saturday Night Live alumina and pairing up Bill Murray and Harold Ramis before they went Ghost Busting, "Stripes" is a glorious 80's comedy about life in the army. It's the sort of insane humour which will appeal to you if you enjoyed the likes of "CaddyShack" and "National Lampoon's Animal House" with its focus on jokes, jokes and more jokes rather than a really tight storyline.
The thing which makes "Stripes" such a good 80's movie is Billy Murray and his brand of wise ass, flippant remarks which are delivered in such a manner you can't help laugh. It's not just Murray and with the likes of John Candy mud wrestling, Warren Oates as a gruff drill sergeant and a whole lot of set piece gags it's one of just a few movies which manages to make you laugh from start to finish.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
Whilst in his heyday Steve Martin made some wonderful comedies I have to admit the more mainstream "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is probably my favourite. A remake of a 1960s movie called "Bedtime Story", "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is the story of two con men, the sophisticated Lawrence Jamieson and the cheap trickster Freddy Benson who end up in competition with each other as they try to swindle Janet Colgate out of her fortune.
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is a movie of memorable scenes and characters such as those which feature Steve Martin playing the character of Ruprecht, Jamieson's younger inept brother. But it is also the partnership of Michael Caine and Steve Martin who work so well together, with Steve Martin revelling in the more visual side of the movie whilst Michael Caine putting in a memorable comedic turn as the suave Lawrence a slightly over the top character which makes it amusing. The actual storyline isn't that bad either and is not as straight forward as you would expect with each con man taking it one step further in their competition to out con each other.
The Secret of My Success (1987)
Although most people's favourite Michael J. Fox 80's movie is going to be "Back to the Future", he also made quite a few other movies in the 80s and into the 90s. One of the better ones is "The Secret of My Success" which sees Fox playing Brantley Foster a mail room boy who masquerades as an executive in his Uncle's company who falls in love with another executive who to complicate matters is his Uncle's bit on the side.
I would be lying if I say that "The Secret of My Success" was a great comedy with a clever storyline but it it is amusing full of 80's slapstick, 80's fashions and a memorable 80's soundtrack. It is certainly a movie which trades on the popularity of Michael J. Fox but with supporting performances from Helen Slater, Richard Jordan and Margaret Whitton it is an all round good comedy. Plus being an 80's romcom it has that strange uneven balance for sex humour, as in the scene where Brantley has to fight off the amorous advances of his aunt in a swimming pool of all places.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Whilst many remember "Die Hard" as being an 80's movie many forget that "Lethal Weapon" was also a product of the 80s. It's strange to think that the "Lethal Weapon" series of movies actually started during the 80's, it feels more like a 90s movie which may have something to do with the fourth movie coming at the end of the 90's. Anyway as cop/ buddy movies go "Lethal Weapon" is one of the most memorable from the 80's and introduced us to the unlikely partnership of Riggs and Murtaugh played by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
Whilst the storyline to "Lethal Weapon" is very much your generic cop/action movie it is the humorous partnership of Riggs and Murtaugh which makes it such a memorable movie. Mel Gibson is brilliant as the slightly wacky Riggs, a character trait he would use in numerous other movies and Danny Glover is perfect as his slightly exasperated partner nearing retirement.
Whilst Matthew Broderick was a few years away from becoming everyone’s favourite teen in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" he didn't do half bad in his first leading role in "WarGames", all the more surprising seeing that it was only his second movie. "WarGames" is the story of David, a computer geek, who whilst trying to hack into the systems of a games manufacturer nearly causes World War III when he hacks in the new Nato system controlling their nuclear missile arsenal.
In many ways "WarGames" is not a great movie, it's a drama cum thriller which isn't exactly edge of your seat stuff. But it is entertaining with it's take on computer geekery at a time when the world was still in the grip of the Cold War. It's actually more fun to watch "WarGames" now because of the archaic computer systems, the huge disk drives, and the coupler modem makes you smile. It's not a terrible thriller, and one which was lead by the relatively unknown pair of Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy is probably one of the better teenage thrillers from the time.
Well there you go a few alternatives to the usual batch of 80's movies which generally occupy most top ten lists. It's by no means a definitive list, not even a top 10, as there are far too many good 80's movies which could have been mentioned such as "Teen Wolf", "Big", "Crossroads", "The Lost Boys", "Rain Man" and even the late Patrick Swayze's "Road House".