The 1980’s was a pivotal decade in the history of movies. So many iconic classics were born, so many major new stars and characters were brought into the spotlight, and to this day that ten years worth of movies still stands as the finest decade in the history of cinema. In my opinion, at least. So to honor the many great 80’s classics that have brought us so much joy over the years, here are the ten movies I feel show the decade at its very finest, the ten movies I personally can’t imagine my movie-loving life without. Sadly, condensing an entire decade into ten choices will certainly leave out so many favorites, of both mine and everyone else’s, it also forced some extremely difficult decisions putting this list together, which made it all the more fun. So without further delay…
10 – ‘Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade’ (1989) / Stars: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery. Director: Steven Spielberg.
Instantly, I hear the cries of “OMG! WHERE IS ‘RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK?’ coming along. But for me, as a fan of the entire Indiana Jones movie franchise, ‘Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade’ has long been my favorite of the series. Following the incredible ‘Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom’, Indy is back in action, this time joined by his father (Played brilliantly by Sean Connery), as they fight off hoards of Nazi villains in the 1930’s. all the while on a quest to find the Holy Grail, the cup of Christ. Bonkers, hilarious and extremely action-packed, ‘Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade’ never fails to to delight both fans and action movie fans. Absolutely wonderful movie. And Sean Connery made it even more so, thanks to his hysterical performance as Indy’s dad. Spielberg and George Lucas really brought their A-Game here.
9 – ‘Batman’ (1989) – Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger. Director: Tim Burton.
After the massive success of the Superman movies at Warner Bros. (I wanted so badly to include ‘Superman III’ in this list, a movie that brought me a lot of happiness as a child!), their attention turned to Batman, and with Tim Burton on board, the Dark Knight took to the screen for the first time in 23 years, as Michael Keaton donned the cape to take on his arch nemesis, the Joker, with a staggering performance from the legendary Jack Nicholson. Kim Basinger joined the action as Vicki Vale, the super sexy super journalist who likes to live life dangerously. Tim Burton’s movie career went through the roof after this monster hit movie, and he went on to direct the even more magnificent ‘Batman Returns’ in 1992. Anyone wanting to relive the 1980’s superhero world need only check out ‘Batman’ and ‘Superman III’ (Although most will say ‘Superman II’ instead!) to see the caped heroes kicking ass and saving the day.
8 – ‘A View To A Kill’ (1985) / Stars: Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Grace Jones. Director: John Glen.
Arriving at the end of a dazzling run of blockbuster smash hit James Bond movies for Roger Moore, ‘A View To A Kill’ wrapped up what is easily, in my opinion, the greatest run of Bond movies ever made. Seven spectacular, action-packed and hilarious movies, each outdoing the last for sheer danger, fun and absolute entertainment. With Roger’s last outing as 007, this time we see the iconic secret agent take on Zorin (Christopher Walken) a demented mad man intent on attacking the San Andreas fault line under California, in an attempt to cause a series of massive earthquakes and destroy a massive chunk of San Francisco (Silicon Valley) in an attempt to corner America’s technology market. ‘A View To A Kill’ was my first Bond movie to see as a child, my introduction to one of the most beloved and popular movie franchises ever made. And still one of the greatest Bond movies I’ve ever seen, thanks to Roger’s wonderful performance as the super spy, Walken’s hugely fun Zorin and the breathtaking action sequences, including the terrific chase through Paris and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge finale. Roger Moore’s seven James Bond adventures truly define the franchise, and to this day, he remains the only star to maintain a flawless track record in the series. A wonderful actor, an even greater man, and in my opinion, the first real James Bond, Roger Moore is a timeless treasure. And let’s not forget the epic theme song from Duran Duran that makes the whole movie even more fun.
7 – ‘Die Hard’ (1988) / Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia. Director: John McTiernan.
What can I say about ‘Die Hard’ that hasn’t been said a million times before? Simply put, it’s one of the most famous and beloved action movies of all time. Bruce Willis in his defining role as John McClane, the first ‘Die Hard’ of five sees the heroic cop caught up in a deadly hostage crisis, as a group of terrorists, led by Hans Gruber (The late great Alan Rickman, may he rest in peace), take control of an office tower in downtown L.A. With McClane trapped inside, and his estranged wife as one of the hostages, the barefoot cop takes the fight to the evil doers, in a ballet of glorious gunfights and the hilarious charm of Willis. Although everyone has their own personal favorite of the ‘Die Hard’ franchise (Mine is ‘Live Free Or Die Hard’, one of my all-time favorite movies), this first movie remains the most celebrated and respected of them all. “Yippee-Kaye, Motherf**ker!”.
6 – ‘RoboCop’ (1987) / Stars: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Ronny Cox. Director: Paul Verhoeven.
Like I said early on, the 1980’s saw the birth of many iconic movies and characters at the cinema. And one of the true greats… RoboCop! Both RoboCop the character and ‘RoboCop’ the movie have changed the world sci-fi forever. Starring Peter Weller as a cop who is practically brutally murdered, he is barely kept alive long enough to use his mind to inhabit the body of a new cyborg police officer, intended to clean up the streets of Detroit. When when the cop’s past memories come back to haunt the machine, RoboCop busts free of his controls and sets out on a rampage of total vengeance against the evil criminals who took everything away from him. With a fantastic performance from Peter Weller, ‘RoboCop’ is filled out with terrific performances from Nancy Allen as the loyal partner, Kurtwood Smith as the vicious killer and Ronny Cox as the tyrannical co-head of the corporation responsible for RoboCop. Nancy especially is wonderful, adding a lot of much-needed tenderness to an utterly violent and blood thirsty action fest. She’s a bonafide legend. Although many great RoboCop sequels/reboots and TV shows have come along since, the original movie will always remain untouched.
5 – ‘The Terminator’ (1984) / Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn. Director: James Cameron.
Remember the days when James Cameron wasn’t the “King of the world”? Remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger was still a rising star? Well, ‘The Terminator’ changed all of that. Made on a low budget by an independent company, ‘The Terminator’ stars Schwarzenegger as a machine sent back through time by a future system responsible for the destruction of mankind to murder Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a woman who is about to conceive the world’s only hope, a future solider who will save the world from machines. With the help of a man who travels back to the stop the killing machine, Connor is about to face off against the world’s most advanced killer. ‘The Terminator’ on paper is nonsense, the stuff that even the most insane of comic book writers would laugh at. But thanks to the legendary star-making performance from Schwarzenegger and the fantastic early film making skills of James Cameron, the movie has rightfully earned its place among not only among the greatest action movies, but also as a beloved cult classic that has spawned hit sequels, reboots and TV shows. Obviously ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ changed the movie world forever seven years later. And another of my personal favorite movies came to be, ‘Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines’. “I’ll be back” is still one of the most popular movie quotes ever.
4 – ‘Lethal Weapon’ (1987) / Stars: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover. Director: Richard Donner.
‘Lethal Weapon’ is an easy movie to review. Perfection. That one word describes that movie. Perfect cast, perfect story, perfect directing, perfect soundtrack. And above all else, perfect action. The first of four outings for Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh sees the Magnificent Two square up to a drug-running gang who use former military ties to import drugs to the United States. Riggs is deeply suicidal, a cop on the edge after the death of his wife. Murtaugh is a 50 year-old police veteran getting ready for his retirement. But when they’re partnered together, they become the ultimate crime-fighting duo, taking the war on drugs right to the front doors of the men who aim to destroy the streets of L.A., all the while bickering and slowly becoming the best of friends. ‘Lethal Weapon’ is glorious, I’m a massive fan of all four movies. While I personally choose ‘Lethal Weapon 4’ is my favorite, I believe that even if only the first movie existed, ‘Lethal Weapon’ would still be greater than most entire action movie franchises. And with a TV show on the way (Which looks wonderful), the Lethal Legacy looks set to reign for many years to come.
3 – ‘Back To The Future’ (1985) / Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd. Director: Robert Zemeckis.
I still remember seeing ‘Back To The Future’ for the first time as a child. The magic of it all, from the beautiful DeLorean to the crazy antics of Marty and Doc, I knew this movie was something extremely special. Starring Michael J. Fox as high school student Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as eccentric inventer Doc Brown, ‘Back To The Future’ starts off the trilogy as Marty accidentally time travels back to 1955 in Doc’s latest invention, a DeLorean time machine. As Marty meets his future parents and unwittingly becomes the love interest of his own mother, he must rely on the Doc of the past from 1955 to get him back to his own time, before he’s wiped from existence forever. ‘Back To The Future’ is big, bold, colorful and so absolutely exciting that even to this day, 31 years later, it’s still as wonderful, fresh and trend setting as ever. The whole trilogy has stood the test of time and continued to enthrall new fans. And it always will.
2 – ‘Midnight Run’ (1988) / Stars: Robert DeNiro, Charles Grodin. Director: Martin Brest.
Robert DeNiro is famous for his major roles in mafia movies like ‘The Godfather Part II’, ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Casino’ and the magnificent ‘Once Upon A Time In America’. Along with those movies, he’s also renowned for classic movies such as ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Raging Bull’ and ‘Heat’. Considering a history of movies so serious in tone and character, anyone could be forgiven thinking DeNiro is not a comical actor. But ‘Midnight Run’ is the ultimate proof to the fact that not only is he a fantastic comedy star, but in actual fact, he does comedy better than he ever did serious. Again, in my opinion. Starring as Jack Walsh, a foul-mouthed bounty hunter on the trail of an embezzler played by the brilliant Charles Grodin, ‘Midnight Run’ showcases the two actors at their very best, as the movie constantly switches gear from laugh-out-loud gags to fantastic chases sequences, but keeps the focus always on the two leads, as they embark on the ultimate road trip. Also on top form is director Martin Brest (‘Beverly Hills Cop’) ‘Midnight Run’ is gorgeous film making, the kind of movie I would love to make if I were in the field. Loud, hilarious and very exciting, very few movies display 1980’s cinema at the peak that movie does. I’m not just a major fan of ‘Midnight Run’, i’m obsessed with it.
1 – ‘The Delta Force’ (1986) / Stars: Chuck Norris, Lee Marvin, Robert Forster. Director Menaham Golan.
‘The Delta Force’ may be a 1980’s movie. It may feature two of the biggest stars in action cinema. But for all of the incredible action sequences, the spectacular Alan Silvestri score and the classic one-liners from Chuck Norris, this is also a movie of serious importance, it’s not just a massive amount of kick-ass fun. Heavily inspired by three real-life Delta Force missions, the movie follows the desperate rescue attempts of a Delta Force unit after they’re called in when a passenger plane is hijacked mid-flight. Under constant threat from their captors, the passengers fear for their lives as the soldiers on the ground put a plan in motion to rescue the innocent men, women and children on board. With the leadership of their two best men McCoy (Chuck Norris) and Alexander (Lee Marvin), the Delta Force are ready to take on their most deadly mission ever. Based on events around a 1985 hijacking of a TWA flight (Even portraying an account of the brutal real-life murder of a Navy diver who was shot dead and thrown from the plane), and two separate rescue missions, with one tied to the plane hijacking for the sake of the movie. With so much emotion, and with the current events of the world, this movie really is more than a joyful Chuck Norris shoot-em-up action movie, it’s also a brutal and harrowing look at the horrific attacks that are inflicted upon the world by many terrorist groups. With Norris battling terrorists in countless incredible battles (The finale still blows me away after 30 years!), the iconic Silvestri score (The main theme is the finest any action movie has ever had, there’s none better!) and the heartbreaking emotion throughout, ‘The Delta Force’ is quite simply the greatest movie of the 1980’s. Be sure to check back soon for a retrospective piece as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of this legendary masterpiece in action cinema.
And there it is. The top 10 greatest movies of the 1980’s. Perhaps a top 20 would have been easier, and given me the chance to speak of wonderful classics like ‘Ghostbusters’, ‘Gremlins’ and ‘Police Academy’. I would have loved to include ‘Scarface’ also, along with ‘Superman III’. But alas, that’s the fun of a top 10. The difficulty of choice. I hope you enjoyed reading this list. Check back soon for more pieces similar to this. Until then, I leave you with the spectacular Alan Silvestri theme from ‘The Delta Force’…