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

1982

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

Blade Runner (1982), 117 minutes, D: Ridley Scott
Moody futuristic, sci-fi noirish thriller, with stunning, visually-dazzling effects and a brooding atmosphere, about a hard-boiled detective hunting near-human "replicants." Based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. In a totalitarian, decaying 21st century Los Angeles (2019), a jaded, semi-retired, Philip Marlowe-style ex-cop (Harrison Ford), known as a "blade runner," is forced out of retirement to hunt down and eliminate four "replicants" (Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, Joanna Cassidy) - genetically engineered super-humanoid robots. On earth illegally from an Off-world colony where they were used as slave laborers, and with a built-in, shortened life span of only four years, the androids have mutinied and escaped in order to confront the individual who designed them (Joe Turkel). Seeing their heroic struggle against an inhuman system, the blade-runner ultimately falls in love with an android femme fatale (Sean Young).

Diner (1982), 110 minutes, D: Barry Levinson

E. T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), 115 minutes, D: Steven Spielberg
A massively popular, widely appealing, feel-good sci-fi fantasy - a cultural phenomenon in the early 80s - about a kind-hearted, cute alien living with a suburban family - one of the most popular and highest-grossing movies of all time. A harmless alien botanist from outer space is left behind and stranded on Earth. The lovable extra-terrestrial is lured by Halloween candy (Reese's Pieces), befriended by a young boy (Henry Thomas), and protected from authoritarian adults and menacing scientists who want to dissect and study the creature. The curious alien eventually finds his way home, with aid from children, to his returning spaceship.

Fanny and Alexander (1982, Swe./Fr./W.Germ.) (aka Fanny Och Alexander), 188 minutes, D: Ingmar Bergman

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), 91 minutes, D: Amy Heckerling

First Blood (1982) (aka Rambo: First Blood), 99 minutes, D: Ted Kotcheff

Fitzcarraldo (1982, W.Germ./Peru), 157 minutes, D: Werner Herzog

48 Hrs. (1982), 96 minutes, D: Walter Hill

Gandhi (1982, UK), 188 minutes, D: Richard Attenborough

The King of Comedy (1982), 108 minutes, D: Martin Scorsese
Scorsese's original, under-appreciated dark comedy - a stark contrast to his own Taxi Driver (1976), about the bizarre relationship between stardom, the cult of celebrity, and violence-prone wannabe obsessed fans, similar to Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957). With Robert De Niro (in his fourth film with Scorsese) as a wimpy, aspiring stand-up comedian named Rupert Pupkin, a man in his mid-30's who still lives with his mother (only heard off-screen). The untalented and self-deluded Rupert worships fame and is determined to become a celebrity. He is totally obsessed with late-night talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis, playing the role absolutely straight in his best dramatic role ever), a Johnny Carson-esque character (the part was originally written for Johnny Carson), and stalks his 'love' object at his show. He brazenly appears unannounced at Langford's country estate with an embarrassed date-friend Rita (Diahnne Abbott, De Niro's wife at the time). Later, with the help of an equally deranged, amorous fan and talk-show groupie Masha (Sandra Bernhard, who won Best Supporting Actress with the National Society of Film Critics), Rupert kidnaps Langford and demands as ransom that he get to do the opening monologue one night on Langford's show, and be named the new "King of Comedy." Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Zimmerman manage to pull off a story that is not only chilling and spooky, but geniunely funny, yet the film was so far ahead of its time that it flopped at the box-office upon release.

Koyaanisqatsi (1982), 87 minutes, D: Godfrey Reggio
A powerful, unconventional, experimental and provocative script-less, actor-less, and dialogue-less film (except for the chanting of Hopi prophecy at the end), from director Godfrey Reggio - his first attempt at a feature-length narrative film. Considered both revolutionary and pretentious, this unique work with incredible, expert time-lapse photography is insightful about humankind and our relationship to nature, and explores the world in ways we usually never see due to our limited perceptions. The title was taken from a Hopi Indian word, meaning, among other things, "Life (a world) out of balance." This hypnotic, multimedia film supported by both Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas illustrates the collision of the natural world with urban, technological life and civilization. Koyaanisqatsi features images and scenes that are truly haunting and linger long after the film is over, like the empty shells of the Pruitt-Igoe housing in St. Louis, the alternating shots between satellite photos of human cities and the landscapes of micro-chip circuitry, and the final shot of a V2 rocket exploding, as the camera follows the free-fall of a charred chunk to the ground. Clouds over the Grand Canyon appear as roiling waves of a white ocean, or reflected in a towering skyscraper, and city streets with streaks of brake lights from commuter's vehicles look like blood vessels in the circulatory system. Philip Glass' stunningly creative, minimalist score plays as large a part as the cinematography (by Ron Fricke), and beautifully complements this artistic film. Followed by two sequels in a Qatsi trilogy, of sorts: the equally powerful Powaqqatsi (1988) (life in transformation) focusing on Third World countries, and the lesser Naqoyqatsi (2003) (life as war).

Missing (1982), 122 minutes, D: Constantin Costa-Gavras

Moonlighting (1982, UK), 97 minutes, D: Jerzy Skolimowski

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), 126 minutes, D: Taylor Hackford

Poltergeist (1982), 114 minutes, D: Tobe Hooper
A memorable supernatural horror film from co-producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper (better known for his cult horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)). This was Spielberg's first smash hit as a co-producer, paired with Frank Marshall (who later produced Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)). Its classic 'haunted house ghost story' is fascinating to watch, with extraordinary special effects created by George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic team, from a screenplay by Spielberg, Michael Grais, and Mark Victor. It was released at the same time as another suburban tale with otherworldly visitors: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and can also be interpreted as a threatening, scarier version of director Spielberg's pre-E.T. film: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Compared to both films, Poltergeist is the dark flip side for Diane and Steve Freeling (JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson) in the Cuesta Verde housing development, with ordinary objects that turn threatening (for example, a suburban tract dream home, a backyard tree, a favorite doll, a closet, and a TV screen). The famous poster reflected one of the more memorable, spookier moments of the film, with young 5 year-old Carole Anne (Heather O'Rourke) pressed against a television showing nothing but white noise, saying, "They're here."There were two, less successful sequels in subsequent years: Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) and Poltergeist III (1988). Many filmgoers have been intrigued by the seemingly-tragic legacy of the film, with the unexpected deaths of star Dominique Dunne (in her last film role before her tragic murder by her live-in boyfriend) and O'Rourke (who died six years later just before the second sequel's release).

The Road Warrior (1982), 94 minutes, D: George Miller
See previous year's Mad Max 2 (1981, Aust.).

Sophie's Choice (1982), 157 minutes, D: Alan J. Pakula

The Thing (1982) (aka John Carpenter's The Thing), 108 minutes, D: John Carpenter

Tootsie (1982), 116 minutes, D: Sydney Pollack
A modern-day, appealing classic Hollywood comedy with witty dialogue about a NYC actor who cross-dresses to find employment. Desperate out-of-work stage actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), often considered temperamental, can only find part-time jobs. When his girlfriend Sandy (Teri Garr) is rejected for a role in a daytime TV soap opera produced/directed by sexist Ron (Dabney Coleman), Michael disguises himself as 'Dorothy Michaels' - a middle-aged feminist with padding, and wins the part. Soon, he becomes wildly popular in the hit show, but his life becomes even more soap operish. Complications arise with his insecure girlfriend, his nervous roommate Jeff (Bill Murray), his exasperated agent George Fields (Sydney Pollack), lecherous fellow actor John Van Horn (George Gaynes), his new love interest - co-star Julie (Jessica Lange), and her interested widowed father Les (Charles Durning).

The Verdict (1982), 129 minutes, D: Sidney Lumet

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982, Australia), 115 minutes, D: Peter Weir


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