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


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

Back to the Future (1985), 116 minutes, D: Robert Zemeckis
See series: Back to the Future (1985-1990).

Brazil (1985, UK), 131 minutes, D: Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam's eccentric, offbeat, satirical ultra-dark comedy was a hybrid, combining science-fiction, despairing ultra-black comedy and fantasy. It told about an oppressive, decaying future dystopian world of conformity and Big Brother totalitarianism in a terrorist-threatened Londonesque metropolis. There were many visually-imaginative references to Kafka's The Trial, Orwell's 1984 and A Clockwork Orange. Mild-mannered and meek bureaucratic statistician Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a civil servant Everyman, worked in the regulatory Ministry of Information (MOI), jammed with paperwork and filled with endless pneumatic tubes. When a literal beetle was squashed in an office teletype printer and caused a typographical error that altered an arrest record, it unjustly identified an innocent citizen Mr. Buttle as suspected terrorist Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro). When Lowry investigated the case of mistaken identity and attempted to unravel it, he imagined himself as a lone heroic, silver-winged knight-savior combating technological threats of the Machine Age. He would fly in the clouds toward a blonde fantasy-dream girl Jill Layton (Kim Griest), a doppelganger (a suspected terrorist and truck driver in the real world) to rescue her and win her love. Meanwhile, the self-deluded Sam became the subject of study by the totalitarian regime. His vain efforts
ended when he was wrongly aligned with the rebellion, and his friend-turned-sinister MOI official Jack Lint (Michael Palin) persecuted and tortured him to death. Fantasy ultimately saved him when he imagined himself escaping to an illusory idyllic paradise that was free of societal restrictions.

The Breakfast Club (1985), 92 minutes, D: John Hughes

Cocoon (1985), 117 minutes, D: Ron Howard

The Color Purple (1985), 152 minutes, D: Steven Spielberg

The Emerald Forest (1985, UK/US), 113 minutes, D: John Boorman

The Goonies (1985), 114 minutes, D: Richard Donner

Jagged Edge (1985), 108 minutes, D: Richard Marquand
This early Joe Eszterhas-penned courtroom thriller and mystery 'who-dun-it' contained a number of unpredictable surprises and twists. In the film's opening, set during a thunderstorm in San Francisco at a remote beach house, wealthy socialite/heiress Mrs. Paige Forrester (Maria Mayenzet) was murdered by a hooded, unidentified attacker (with a ski mask and black leather clothing) who wielded a jagged-edged knife blade and slit her throat. The word "Bitch" was scrawled in blood on the bedroom wall. A maid was also killed (off-screen), and her husband Jack Forrester (Jeff Bridges) also suffered a head wound. However, Jack became a prime suspect and was arrested on charges of double homicide after prosecutor Thomas Krasny (Peter Coyote) learned that he was to inherit his wife's entire SF Times publishing empire fortune. Forrester was also suspected when a jagged hunting knife was seen in his country club gym locker (# 122) by janitor Fabrizi (Louis Giambalvo). Ex-prosecutor and civil rights litigator with a high success rate, Teddy Barnes (Glenn Close), a divorced mother with two children, agreed to defend Forrester when a lie detector test proved positive. Things became much more complicated when Teddy began a passionate affair with her handsome client. During the case preparations, Krasny suspected that Jack's head wound was self-inflicted. Barnes' office began to receive anonymous typewritten notes (from a 1942 Corona typewriter), including clues about the case, and statements that Forrester was innocent. The judge in the case was Judge Carrigan (John Dehner). Prosecutor Krasny revealed that if Paige had divorced Jack, which was her intention (since they were both unfaithful to each other), Jack wouldn't have received the fortune. Pretty Virginia Howell (Leigh Taylor-Young) admitted that she had tried to have sex with Jack, but was jilted. Tennis pro Bobby Slade (Marshall Colt) testified that he had slept with Mrs. Forrester, and used the word "Bitch" to describe her. Another tennis club member admitted to having a jagged knife in his locker (# 222). Surprise defense witness Julie Jensen (Karen Austin), referred to one of the typed clue-notes, testified that 18 months earlier, she was attacked in the same manner as Paige Forrester - to prove that the defendant committed the similarly charged crime. However, Forrester was found not guilty. Soon after, Barnes found an incriminating typewriter (with a unique typeface including elevated 't's', that were found in all of the anonymous letters) in Forrester's closet, and confronted him with the information. In the nail-biting conclusion, a ski-masked figure entered her bedroom late at night with the murder weapon - a jagged-edged knife. She was ready for him - she shot him a number of times with a concealed gun. When he was unmasked by detective Sam Ransom (Robert Loggia), it was revealed that it was Jack who was the attacker (Ransom: "F--k him, he was trash").

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985, Braz./US/Arg.), 119 minutes, D: Hector Babenco

Lost in America (1985), 91 minutes, D: Albert Brooks

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985, UK), 97 minutes, D: Stephen Frears

My Life as a Dog (1985, Swe.) (aka Mitt Liv Som Hund), 101 minutes, D: Lasse Hallstrom

The Official Story (1985, Argentina) (aka La Historia Oficial), 112 minutes, D: Luis Puenzo

Out of Africa (1985), 162 minutes, D: Sydney Pollack
Sydney Pollack's grandly-spectacular, handsome biopic romance, a Best Picture winner with Oscar-winning John Barry's marvelous score, harkened back to the old-style, sweeping epics of the 50s and 60s. The extravagant travelogue-romance was based by Kurt Luedtke on the life, works, and memoirs of Karen Blixen (a Danish writer who published under the pen-name Isak Dinesen). Spanning two decades in the early 20th century, the love pairing between its two major stars was very much embellished and put at the center of the story. Meryl Streep portrayed the Danish Baroness who married and settled on a British East Africa coffee plantation with her disinterested philandering husband Bror Blixen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) who infected her with syphilis before leaving. Interlaced with gorgeous, lyrically-beautiful scenes on location in Kenya, Karen spent idyllic romantic days during a brief passionate affair with white game-hunter Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) (modified to be American instead of British) - holding hands with him in a biplane, and having her hair shampooed by him during a safari. Although their relationship heated up, his demands for personal freedom doomed full commitment. The film came full circle as just before Karen was planning to return home, she attended Denys' funeral when he lost his life in a tragic plane crash.

Pale Rider (1985), 120 minutes, D: Clint Eastwood

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985), 90 minutes, D: Tim Burton

Prizzi's Honor (1985), 130 minutes, D: John Huston
In the black comedy 'sleeper' hit about questionable loyalties, Jack Nicholson took the convincing role of Charley Partanna, a dedicated, proud and unquestioning hit-man for the powerful Prizzi boss 'family.' The dim-witted Charley was fatally-hooked and love-struck by sultry, Los Angeles-bred blonde Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner), a rival paid 'contractor' or hired assassin. After he asked, "Do I ice her? Do I marry her?" a bi-coastal, opposites-attract romantic courtship led to marriage. Unfortunately, their Mafia-associated love and work didn't mix well together, and they were both tasked with taking each other out. In the film's double-crossing confrontational bedroom scene, the two lovers armed themselves with a gun and knife to eliminate each other.

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), 84 minutes, D: Woody Allen

Ran (1985, Jp./Fr.), 160 minutes, D: Akira Kurosawa

A Room With a View (1985, UK), 117 minutes, D: James Ivory
A delightful comedy of errors tale of repressed Victorian romance and British conceit, adapted from E.M. Forster's novel. A proper Edwardian young girl (Helena Bonham Carter) with her elderly, guilt-ridden spinster chaperone/cousin (Maggie Smith) take a tourist holiday in Italy. There, she meets a free-spirited suitor (Julian Sands), but is whisked back to Surrey, England when romance develops. Back home, she is engaged to a prissy, dispassionate, self-possessed, intellectual gentleman (Daniel Day-Lewis). When she is reunited with the charming young man from Florence, she must make a defiant decision regarding her marital plans.

The Trip to Bountiful (1985), 105 minutes, D: Peter Masterson

Witness (1985), 112 minutes, D: Peter Weir

Previous Page Next Page