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

Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987, Fr./W.Germ./It.) (aka Goodbye Children), 103 minutes, D: Louis Malle

Babette's Feast (1987, Denmark) (aka Babettes Gæstebud), 102 minutes, D: Gabriel Axel

The Big Easy (1987), 108 minutes, D: Jim McBride

Broadcast News (1987), 131 minutes, D: James L. Brooks

The Dead (1987, UK), 83 minutes, D: John Huston

Dirty Dancing (1987), 105 minutes, D: Emile Ardolino

Evil Dead 2 (1987) (aka Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn), 84 minutes, D: Sam Raimi

Fatal Attraction (1987), 120 minutes, D: Adrian Lyne

Full Metal Jacket (1987), 116 minutes, D: Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick's thought-provoking Vietnam War film was partly based on Gustav Hasford's 1979 book The Short Timers, and followed in the footsteps of Kubrick's other anti-war films: Paths of Glory (1957) and Dr. Strangelove, Or: (1964). This was Kubrick's first film after The Shining (1980), and it made an underappreciated appearance the year after Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986) won Best Picture. Kubrick's film was unsuccessful at the box office -- lost in the spate of mostly Vietnam-related war films that came out in Platoon's wake, including Heartbreak Ridge (1986) (about the invasion of Grenada), Hamburger Hill (1987), The Hanoi Hilton (1987), Casualties of War (1989), 84 Charlie Mopic (1989), and Born on the Fourth of July (1989). A two-part drama, the first part of the film takes place at Parris Island training-boot camp in S. Carolina (although the entire film was shot in England), where drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman (R. Lee Ermey, a former, real life Marine sergeant) transforms young Marine cadets into killing machines with twisted sentiments, and verbal, psychological, and physical abuse and torment. The first half climaxes with a chilling, dehumanizing bathroom scene between Hartman, Private Leonard Lawrence (dubbed "Gomer Pyle") (Vincent D'Onofrio) - an overweight, misfit cadet driven insane by Hartman's bullying, and Private J.T. Davis (dubbed "Joker") (Matthew Modine), who is caught between them. "Joker," a cynical Stars & Stripes military correspondent/journalist, is the bridge to the second half of the film on the nightmarish, violent front lines within Hue City - a cool, unemotional look at urban warfare on the eve of the 1968 Tet Offensive at the turning point of the war.

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), 121 minutes, D: Barry Levinson
The late Robin Williams starred as irreverent, non-conformist and antagonistic Air Forces Radio disk jockey Adrian Cronauer who boosted GI morale in Barry Levinson's war comedy, with manic commentary and straight-forward news from Saigon in 1965 (his signature line: "Gooooooooood Morning, Vietnam!"). His early morning, fast-talking, unpredictable mouth, spewing anti-establishment one-liners, predictably alienated other superior officers. During his pursuit of a local Vietnamese girl as a love interest and a friendship with her little brother, he refused to racially stereotype them as "the enemy."

Hope and Glory (1987, UK), 113 minutes, D: John Boorman

House of Games (1987), 102 minutes, D: David Mamet

The Last Emperor (1987, UK/It./China/HK), 160 minutes, D: Bernardo Bertolucci
One of the most successful films ever, Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci's lavish epic biography of Pu Yi, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty of China (the "Lord of ten thousand years and Son of Heaven") before the Communist revolution deposed him. Based in part on Pu Yi's autobiography, From Emperor to Citizen, Bertolucci garnered unprecedented support and permission from the Chinese government, something no other Western film company had received since 1949. This was the first film ever to be shot in the Forbidden City in the People's Republic of China, aside from the Lucy Jarvis documentary Forbidden City (1973). The grand, sweeping, character-driven story, a Best Picture-winner, told through flashbacks, follows the bittersweet life of the boy emperor born in 1906, who first sat in the Dragon Throne at the age of three -- memorably depicted by the imagery of the scene in which the restless young boy leaps up and pushes away a billowing yellow drapery - and sees thousands of his loyal costumed eunuch-servants bowing before him. He was literally a puppet - imprisoned within the gilded walls of the Forbidden City, and never allowed to leave its gates. In 1912, at the age of 7, he formally abdicated the throne, and remained a powerless figurehead Emperor, receiving tutoring from Scottish Reginald Johnston (Peter O'Toole) in the ways of the West. In 1924 during a period of civil war, he was ousted from the Forbidden City (along with his opium-addicted empress Wan Jung (Joan Chen) and official consort Wen Hsiu (Mei)) and moved to his native, Japanese-controlled Manchuria, where he served as a puppet emperor backed by the Japanese. After World War II, he was held prisoner as a pro-Japanese war criminal - first by the Russians, and then by the Communist Chinese for ten years, until being freed at the dawn of the Cultural Revolution. In one of the film's most memorable scenes, as a dispassionate young adult (John Lone), Pu Yi wears Western clothes and wistfully croons "Am I Blue" - a silent cry for salvation from his boredom and entrapment. By film's end, his new life as a lowly gardener in Peking in the late 1960s is finally happy and free, and in a poignant scene as an elderly man, he revisits the Forbidden City, now open to tourists. One of the few films that won all of its Academy Award nominations.

Lethal Weapon (1987), 110 minutes, D: Richard Donner
See Lethal Weapon film series.

Moonstruck (1987), 102 minutes, D: Norman Jewison
Cher won an Oscar for her role as a cynical widow in this romantic comedy. She was "moonstruck" by a hot-headed baker (Nicolas Cage). Famous for her quote: "Snap out of it."

No Way Out (1987), 115 minutes, D: Ronald Donaldson

Pelle The Conqueror (1987, Denm./Swe.) (aka Pelle Erobreren), 157 minutes, D: Bille August

Predator (1987), 107 minutes, D: John McTiernan
Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared in director John McTiernan's macho-oriented action flick as a battle-hardened, cigar-chomping soldier named Maj. Alan "Dutch" Schaefer. He was a one-man killing machine in the face of his slashing foe - an extra-terrestrial hunter-predator (enhanced with Stan Winston's special effects) with thermal infra-red vision. The brawny and lean Dutch was joined by Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, and other special-forces commandos who navigated a treacherous Central American jungle while being stalked by the alien nemesis who was only gradually revealed. Predator's manly characters spouted cheesy but memorable dialogue ("I ain't got time to bleed" or "Get to the choppa!" or "If it bleeds, we can kill it"). The film's nearly wordless final half-hour was pure macho Arnold, who had outlived the rest of the film's cast of tough guys, and covered himself in mud for a outwit-outlast showdown with the titular beast.

The Princess Bride (1987), 98 minutes, D: Rob Reiner
Rob Reiner's popular romantic comedy was framed as a classic fairy-tale bedtime story read to a sick little boy (Fred Savage) by his kind grandfather (Peter Falk). The doubting, romance-averse, cynical grandson didn't believe in all of the fanciful characters and motifs (but was won over at the end). At the heart of the romance in the kingdom of Florin was blonde princess heroine Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her true love, farm-boy turned pirate Westley (Cary Elwes). However, she reluctantly married a sinister Prince (Chris Sarandon) after being kidnapped by a threesome: wicked criminal mastermind Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a giant (wrestling legend Andre the Giant), and swashbuckling Spaniard Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). The latter was seeking revenge against the 6-fingered Count Rugen (Christopher Guest) who killed his father ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die"). Action and intrigue were provided by frequent swordplay and dueling scenes, a fire swamp with large rodents, and screaming eels. And last but not least, there were hilarious cameos by Billy Crystal (as life-restoring wizard Miracle Max) and Carol Kane (as his crone wife Valerie).

Radio Days (1987), 96 minutes, D: Woody Allen

Raising Arizona (1987), 94 minutes, D: Joel Coen

Red Sorghum (1987, China) (aka Hong gao liang), 91 minutes, D: Yimou Zhang

RoboCop (1987), 103 minutes, D: Paul Verhoeven

3 Men and a Baby (1987) (aka Three Men and a Baby), 102 minutes, D: Leonard Nimoy

The Untouchables (1987), 119 minutes, D: Brian De Palma

Wall Street (1987), 124 minutes, D: Oliver Stone

Wings of Desire (1987, W. Ger/Fr.), 130 minutes, D: Wim Wenders

Withnail & I (1987, UK), 108 minutes, D: Bruce Robinson

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