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

Aliens (1986), 137 minutes, D: James Cameron

The Assault (1986, Netherlands) (aka De Aanslag), 144 minutes, D: Fons Rademakers

Betty Blue (1986, Fr.) (aka 37.2 Le Matin), 121 minutes, D: Jean-Jacques Beineix

Blue Velvet (1986), 120 minutes, D: David Lynch
A controversial, disturbing, off-beat cult film drama that explores the corrupt, malevolent under-side of small town, suburban Americana. Following the collapse of his father in a colorful opening sequence, a college boy Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) returns to middle-class hometown Lumberton, where he finds a severed human ear in an overgrown vacant field. With the help of an innocent, sweet high school teenager Sandy Williams (Laura Dern), he investigates the bizarre mystery of the ear, finding himself involved (and participating) in a frightening, nightmarish world of voyeurism, violent sex, perversion, drug-addiction, and depraved degradation. He encounters nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) (who repeatedly sings Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet") enslaved by her sadistic, demoniacal, obscenity-shouting, sexual tormentor and drug-dealer Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), who psycho-sexually blackmails her while holding her husband and child hostage.

Children of a Lesser God (1986), 119 minutes, D: Randa Haines

The Color of Money (1986), 119 minutes, D: Martin Scorsese

"Crocodile" Dundee (1986), 102 minutes, D: Peter Faiman

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), 103 minutes, D: John Hughes

The Fly (1986), 100 minutes, D: David Cronenberg

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), 106 minutes, D: Woody Allen
Woody Allen's masterful, insightful comedy/drama about contemporary New Yorkers. This episodic film is full of vignettes woven together, and features some of the sharpest direction and writing of Allen's career. The threaded-together, multiple storylines, very typical of an ensemble film, focus on the lives of three sisters during a traditional Thanksgiving dinner gathering: the eldest sister - homemaker and 'matriarch' Hannah (Farrow), the neurotic middle sister - actress Holly (Wiest in an Oscar-winning performance), and the emotional, free-spirited Lee (Hershey), and their relationships in mid-life crisis. There are other fully-developed characters all playing out their neuroses and lives: Hannah's ex-husband Mickey (Allen) who has a despairing obsession with death, illness, and unhappiness; older and cynical Soho artist Frederick (Von Sydow) who lives with Lee; Hannah's adulterous, financial accountant husband Elliot (Caine, also in an Oscar-winning role), who has a torrid but shallow love affair with Lee behind Hannah's and Frederick's backs; and Holly's desperate struggle to prove herself to the world. Even the peripheral characters are believable: the sisters' embittered show business parents (O'Sullivan and Nolan), Holly's best friend and rival April (Fisher), as well as Mickey's assistant and voice of reason Gail (Kavner). Although considered by some to be Allen's best work, it lost to Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986) for Best Picture.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) (released in 1990), 90 minutes, D: John McNaughton

The Hitcher (1986), 96 minutes, D: Robert Harmon

Manhunter (1986), 119 minutes, D: Michael Mann

Manon of the Spring (1986, Fr./It./Switz) (aka Manon Des Sources), 113 minutes, D: Claude Berri

The Mission (1986, UK), 126 minutes, D: Roland Joffe

Mona Lisa (1986, UK), 104 minutes, D: Neil Jordan

Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986), 117 minutes, D: Adrian Lyne

Platoon (1986), 111 minutes, D: Oliver Stone
A harrowing, visceral, realistic, visually-shattering Vietnam-war film, a Best Picture-winner based on the writer/director's own first-hand knowledge as a Vietnam combat soldier. Young, naive, 19 year-old enlisted infantry soldier Chris (Charlie Sheen) serves in Vietnam in a fragmented, schizoid, rifle platoon/troop under two radically-different, veteran officers: pot-smoking, compassionate Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) and boozing, fierce Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger). In the violence of combat, the two 'good' and 'bad' sergeants clash, forcing Chris to examine his own loyalty and perspective toward violence. The first film in Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone's Vietnam trilogy, followed by Born of the Fourth of July (1989) and Heaven and Earth (1993).

Salvador (1986, UK/US), 123 minutes, D: Oliver Stone

She's Gotta Have It (1986), 85 minutes, D: Spike Lee

Something Wild (1986), 113 minutes, D: Jonathan Demme

Stand By Me (1986), 87 minutes, D: Rob Reiner

Top Gun (1986), 110 minutes, D: Tony Scott
The perfect film for wannabe armchair aviators who want to see Tom Cruise in his first mega-star role reflecting his close-to-life cocksure persona. As grinning top fighter pilot Lt. Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell in flying school for elite top guns, Cruise fell for civilian astrophysics instructor Charlotte 'Charlie' Blackwood (Kelly McGillis), while attracted to rival adversary air-ace 'Iceman' (Val Kilmer). Besides the thin glossy love-plot and comic-book tone (all the nicknamed characters), the feverishly-choreographed film served as a recruitment tool for the USAF and its boy-toy fighter jets, and became the quintessential joy-ride action film of the 1980s, with death-defying, competitive dog-fight action in aerial sequences and a loud, pumped-up pop music soundtrack.

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