Greatest Films of the 1980s
Greatest Films of the 1980s


Greatest Films of the 1980s
1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989

1980

Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Airplane! (1980), 88 minutes, D: Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, David Zucker
A trend-setting, zany, hilarious comedy - using the airplane disaster film, such as Airport (1970), as a spoof stepping stone, from the comedy writing/directing team of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker (known colloquially as ZAZ and their brand of "ZAZ humor"). This film was preceded by their screenwriting for John Landis' The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) (the ZAZ trio of comedy writers were known as The Kentucky Fried Theater when they performed as a Wisconsin comedy troupe), and later followed by Top Secret! (1984), and Ruthless People (1986). Airplane's plot is an excuse for a frantic, slapstick parody filled with visual-sight gags, puns, verbal literalism ("Surely you can't be serious." "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley"), rapid-fire satirical wisecracks, irreverent references to From Here to Eternity (1953) and Saturday Night Fever (1977) disco dancing, and visual non-sequiturs. Shell-shocked ex-military flyer Ted Striker (Robert Hays) pursues girlfriend Elaine (Julie Hagerty) - a stewardess on an ill-fated flight with stricken pilots. This movie also revitalized the acting careers of Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, and Robert Stack, and launched the comedy career of Leslie Nielsen as the straight-faced, dead-panning doctor, who up to that time was known mostly for B-movie dramatic roles, in films like Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Followed by a less funny ZAZ-less Airplane II: The Sequel (1982) by director Ken Finkleman.

Atlantic City (1980, US/Can./Fr.), 104 minutes, D: Louis Malle

The Big Red One (1980), 113 minutes, D: Samuel Fuller

Breaker Morant (1980, Australia), 107 minutes, D: Bruce Beresford

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), 125 minutes, D: Michael Apted

Dressed to Kill (1980), 105 minutes, D: Brian De Palma

The Elephant Man (1980), 125 minutes, D: David Lynch

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (aka Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back), 120 minutes, D: Irvin Kershner
The second in the famous Star Wars trilogy of fantastic science-fiction films, often rated as the best in the trilogy, with stunning special-effects, great characters and a rich, comic-bookish storyline. Again, evil Darth Vader continues to aid the Emperor to determinedly crush the Rebel forces. The Rebel Alliance, on the frozen and icy planet Hoth, are threatened by troops attacking from the Galactic Empire, and space jockey Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) - with the Wookie Chewbacca and the two robotic droids (R2-D2 and C-3PO) - flee to Cloud City ruled by supposed-ally Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Meanwhile, young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is mentored about the wise ways of the Force and Jedi Knights by the last great Jedi Master, a gnome-like, swamp-dwelling Yoda on the planet Dagobah. The film culminates with a climactic show-down between Luke and Darth Vader. Followed by Return of the Jedi (1983).

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980, Botswana), 109 minutes, D: Jamie Uys

Heaven's Gate (1980), 219 minutes, D: Michael Cimino

Kagemusha (1980, Jp.) (aka The Shadow Warrior), 162 minutes, D: Akira Kurosawa

The Long Good Friday (1980, UK), 105 minutes, D: John Mackenzie

Melvin and Howard (1980), 95 minutes, D: Jonathan Demme

Ordinary People (1980), 124 minutes, D: Robert Redford

Raging Bull (1980), 129 minutes, D: Martin Scorsese
A magnificently visceral, vivid and real, black and white bio/docu-drama of the rise and fall of a violent, suicidally-macho prize-fighter. Hard-headed, animalistic, unlovable slum kid Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) becomes the 1949 middle-weight champ. The boxer experiences bouts of ring and domestic violence with brother Joey (Joe Pesci) and second, beautiful teenage wife Vikki (Cathy Moriarty), and slowly but predictably descends into fat slobbishness. Robert De Niro's transformation from a sleek professional boxer to an out-of-shape, stand-up nightclub entertainer is simply remarkable. This film is regularly voted the Best Film of the decade of the 80s.

The Shining (1980, UK/US), 144 minutes, D: Stanley Kubrick
Creative director Stanley Kubrick's intense, epic, gothic, haunted house horror film masterpiece. It follows the disintegrating Torrance family -- aspiring writer Jack, his wife Wendy, and son Danny (Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd) who become affected by a "psychic photograph" of a bloody series of historic murders committed in an imposing Rocky Mountain hotel, the Overlook. The film has beautiful, stylish work that distances itself from the blood-letting and gore of most modern films in the horror genre. The film's source material from science-fiction/horror author Stephen King's 1977 best-selling novel (his third novel under his own name) by the same name bears little resemblance to Kubrick's creation. The film's title refers to the extra-sensory, paranormal psychic abilities possessed by the Overlook's head cook Halloran (Scatman Crothers) and Danny. With American co-screenwriter Diane Johnson, Kubrick moved from the conventions of traditional horror film thrillers, displacing them with his own, much more subtle, rich, symbolic motifs. As in many of his films, director Kubrick explores the dimensions of the genre to create the ultimate horror film of a man going mad, Jack Torrance (Nicholson in an over-the-top performance) while serving as an off-season caretaker of an isolated, snowbound resort with his family. Kubrick deliberately reduced the pace of the narrative and expanded the rather simple plot of a domestic tragedy to over two hours in length, created lush images within the ornate interior of the main set, added a disturbing synthesized soundtrack (selecting musical works from Bela Bartok, Gyorgy Ligeti, and Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki), used a Steadicam in groundbreaking fashion, filmed most of the gothic horror in broad daylight or brightly-lit scenes, and built an unforgettable, mounting sensation of frustration, rage, terror, ghosts, and the paranormal.


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