Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1980

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1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989

The Year 1980
Year
Event and Significance
1980
Former governor of California Ronald Reagan (and ex-movie actor) was elected as the 40th president of the United States on November 4, 1980 (defeating incumbent President Jimmy Carter), noted for films such as Kings Row (1942) and Bedtime for Bonzo (1951). He was the first professional actor to serve in the White House, completing two terms as a Republican, from 1981-1989.
1980
36 year-old Sherry Lansing became the first female to head a major studio when she became president of 20th Century Fox studios. In her three years as production head, she counted Chariots of Fire (1981), Taps (1981), and The Verdict (1982) as successes.
1980
Friday the 13th (1980) debuted - it was the first segment in one of the longest running, most prolific and financially-successful horror film series of all time. It was one of the first splatter-films to be picked up as a franchise by a major studio - Paramount Pictures. It was a quintessential slasher movie with minimal character development (and amateurish acting), premiering its main character Jason Voorhees (although in this first installment, Jason's mother was the villain, and the drowned Jason was not wearing his trademark hockey mask).
1980
The highest grossing film (domestic) of 1980 was the sci-fi fantasy, the second film in the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back (1980), at $209 million, besting comedy 9 To 5 (1980) in second place at $103 million. It eventually earned $290 million (domestic lifetime gross). It was nominated for three Academy Awards (including Best Art Direction and Best Score), with only one win: Best Sound, even though it has generally been regarded since then as the best film of the six-part saga.
1980
Most of the Best Picture nominees in this year were not spectaculars or blockbusters, but unique films about struggling, ordinary, real-life people. The winner was the well-acted, low-budget human drama Ordinary People (1980) (with six nominations and four wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor). It was an emotional film - about fictional people - in a year filled with seven nominations for real-life individuals. Popular acting star and sex symbol Robert Redford won two Oscar awards (his first wins) for Best Director and Best Picture for his directorial debut. Redford became the first major acting star to take a turn at directing in order to win the Oscar - for his first film.
1980
UA premiered director Michael Cimino's bloated $44 million western Heaven's Gate (1980) in late 1980, and then withdrew it for re-editing, and re-released it in 1981. The notorious, big-budget epic film was a major financial disaster for its studio (United Artists, the studio of Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks) - it also was a disaster for the western film genre for the remainder of the 80s, and it ended the reign of the New Wave of 1970's American 'auteurs' or independent film-makers that had blossomed in the 1970s, with original works by directors and producers, including Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976)), Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show (1971)), Woody Allen (Annie Hall (1976)), and Michael Cimino himself (The Deer Hunter (1978)).
1980
Exemplifying dedication to the art of realistic acting, Robert De Niro set the world record for most weight gained for a film by gaining 50-60 pounds to play boxer Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980).
1980
The Tinto Brass/Bob Guccione (publisher of Penthouse Magazine) trashy, adult-rated film Caligula (1979) engendered controversy over its graphic sexual content (self-rated for MA - Mature Audiences only), when released in the US in 1980. The high-profile film was a remarkable production, considering that it featured eminent film actors (John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole, Malcolm McDowell, and Helen Mirren) and an adapted screenplay by Gore Vidal.
1980
Ted Turner's CNN (Cable News Network), the world's first 24-hour television news network, made its debut on June 1, 1980.
1980
Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder's epic drama Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980, TV), originally 15 and a half hours in length, was serialized into 14 parts (of varying lengths) for television viewing. Three years later in 1983, it was also released for theatrical viewing to US theaters.
1980
Director/actor/producer/writer Jamie Uys's film The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) - a comedy about a Kalahari desert Bushman named Xi who decided to take a journey to the edge of the world to return a peculiar foreign object (a Coca-Cola bottle) to the gods - became the biggest foreign box office hit in history, although it wasn't released in the US until 1984 (after it broke records internationally).
1980
The disco film musical Can't Stop the Music (1980) was nominated in every Razzie Awards (aka Golden Raspberry Awards) category (in its inaugural year of 1981) except "Worst Supporting Actor." It became the recipient of the Razzie Awards' first "Worst Picture" and "Worst Screenplay" awards - recognition given to the most banal and awful 'turkey' films of the year.
1980
9-week-old Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from a campground near Ayers Rock in Australia in August of 1980, according to her mother Lindy, who claimed that her daughter had been taken by a dingo. She was convicted of murder in October of 1982, but new evidence supporting her claim was found and she was freed in February of 1986. The docu-melodrama A Cry in the Dark (1988, Austral.) (aka Evil Angels), starring Best Actress-nominated Meryl Streep, was based on the case (with the famous line: "The dingo took my baby"), and was released less than two months after Lindy's conviction was overturned.
1980
The acclaimed British director and "Master of Suspense" Alfred Hitchcock died at the age of 80. He was often noted as the originator of the "thriller" genre, the director of England's first feature-length sound film Blackmail (1929), the director of one of Hollywood's 3-D pictures Dial M for Murder (1954) and the originator of all slasher films Psycho (1960). His films were known for their themes and characters: an innocent man wrongly-accused (i.e., North by Northwest (1959)), sexual obsession (i.e., Vertigo (1958)), McGuffins, and cool blondes.
1980
John Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in NYC outside his home at The Dakota, in the late evening of December 8, 1980. Ironically, Chapman had received an autograph from Lennon earlier in the day, the signing of a copy of his Double Fantasy album.
1980
American actress and sex symbol Mae West ("The Queen of Camp"), known for her scandalous double-entendres and bold sexual innuendo, died at the age of 87 in Los Angeles from complications after suffering a stroke. The aging star had made a film comeback, of sorts, in the 1970s, with an appearance in Myra Breckinridge (1970) and in Sextette (1978). Her earlier films, She Done Him Wrong (1933) and I'm No Angel (1933) were very popular, although overshadowed by censorship required by the new Production Code in 1934.
1980
Animator, cartoonist, voice actor, Frederick "Tex" Avery, known for outlandish, fast-moving cartoons, and for originating Bugs Bunny's character and his catchphrase "What's up Doc?" (debuting in A Wild Hare (1980)), died at the age of 72 of lung cancer. He also created the cartoon characters of Daffy Duck and Droopy, and further developed the character of Porky Pig.
1980
83 million people in the US tuned in on November 21, 1980, to CBS-TV's popular primetime drama Dallas to find out who shot J.R. Ewing, creating the catchphrase "Who Shot J.R.?" The character of J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) had been shot in a previous episode aired on March 21, 1980, and had to wait many months to discover the cliffhanger's culprit (Answer: J.R.'s scheming sister-in-law and mistress Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby)).
1980
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, legendary director King Vidor had the longest career of any film director. His debut film was Hurricane in Galveston (1913), and his last film was the short documentary Metaphor (1980) - a 67 year span. In 1979, he was awarded an Honorary Academy Award.
1980
The national average ticket price for theatre admission was $2.69, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO).


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