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

The Accidental Tourist (1988), 121 minutes, D: Lawrence Kasdan

The Accused (1988), 111 minutes, D: Jonathan Kaplan

Akira (1988, Jp.), 124 minutes, D: Katsuhiro Otomo

Big (1988), 104 minutes, D: Penny Marshall

Bull Durham (1988), 108 minutes, D: Ron Shelton
First-time director Ron Shelton, a former second-baser in the minor leagues, has made a predominant career of sports movies that realistically examine the participants' heart, both in terms of sportsmanship and in terms of romance. His writing (and directing) credits have also included: The Best of Times (1986) (football), White Men Can't Jump (1992) (basketball, also directed), Blue Chips (1994) (basketball), Cobb (1994) (baseball, also directed), The Great White Hype (1996) (boxing), Tin Cup (1996) (golf, also directed), and Play It To the Bone (2000) (boxing, also directed). This humorous romantic drama about the Carolina minor leagues is the quintessential modern sports film of America's greatest game. Kevin Costner stars as "Crash" Davis, a veteran, romantic-minded, minor league catcher who has to tutor wild young, rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) for the mediocre Durham Bulls, while simultaneously competing with him - in a love triangle - for the affections of English teacher and sexually-seductive baseball groupie Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon, Robbins' real-life 'wife'). Bull Durham would only receive a single Oscar nomination for Shelton's writing, while Costner's next film would be another baseball film, the mystical Field of Dreams (1989), based on the W.P. Kinsella book.

Cinema Paradiso (1988, It.) (aka Nuovo Cinema Paradiso), 123 minutes, D: Giuseppe Tornatore

Dangerous Liaisons (1988, US/UK), 120 minutes, D: Stephen Frears

Dead Ringers (1988), 115 minutes, D: David Cronenberg

Die Hard (1988), 132 minutes, D: John McTiernan
See Die Hard film series.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988), 108 minutes, D: Charles Crichton
One of the cleverest, quirkiest and wittiest madcap caper comedies ever made, that included members of the original anarchic Monty Python troupe with American stars - in a subversive and raucous tale that combined both British and American humor. The film recalls the British Ealing Studio comedies (such as Crichton's own The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and The Ladykillers (1955)) and Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve (1941). As the tagline stated, the unexpected hit was "a tale of murder, lust, greed, revenge, and seafood," in which three eccentric thieves (Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin) battle the authorities and each other to recover a valuable cache of stolen diamonds. All actors are perfect in their roles, especially the self-absorbed, not-too-bright ("Don't you ever call me stupid") Buddha-misquoting Anglophobe Otto West (Kevin Kline) and the stuttering, animal-loving hitman Ken (Palin). Features such bits as Ken's attempts at murdering an old woman that results in the deaths of her dogs (to his horror), Otto's constant tormenting of Ken ("Look! It's K-k-ken coming to k-k-kill me!") and conservative, uptight barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese), Wanda Gerschwitz's (Jamie Lee Curtis) use of sex to dominate the men in her life and her total arousal to foreign languages like Italian and Russian. The leads would team up again in the comedy Fierce Creatures (1997), in lieu of a sequel.

Hairspray (1988), 94 minutes, D: John Waters

Heathers (1988), 102 minutes, D: Michael Lehmann

High Hopes (1988, UK), 110 minutes, D: Mike Leigh

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), 164 minutes, D: Martin Scorsese
An adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel, presenting a more fallible human version of Jesus (Willem Dafoe) - a controversial yet provocative possibility.

Mississippi Burning (1988), 128 minutes, D: Alan Parker

My Neighbor Totoro (1988, Jp.) (aka Tonari no Totoro), 87 minutes, D: Hayao Miyazaki

Rain Man (1988), 134 minutes, D: Barry Levinson
This Best Picture-winning drama, a comedy road film, paired two actors who delivered superb character performances: Tom Cruise (as boastful yuppie California car dealer Charlie Babbitt) and Oscar-winning co-star Dustin Hoffman (as Raymond) - brothers unknown to each other, forgotten and separated at infancy. Institutionalized older sibling Raymond was awarded a $3 million inheritance in trust when their wealthy estranged father died. During a cross-country road trip and kidnapping from Cincinnati, Ohio to California (with an entertaining detour to Las Vegas), Raymond revealed his self-absorbed, anxious, autistic-idiot savant condition (with an amazing memory and facility with numbers), while the shallow, selfish, greedy and exasperated Charlie attempted to separate him from the lion's-share of the money. Hoffman personified Raymond perfectly (without caricaturing), using a stiff gait, cocked head, a reliance on routines, and endless chatter. Popular catchphrases have often been quoted from the dialogue, such as: "Kmart sucks," "I'm an excellent driver," and "Ten minutes to Wapner." The memorable car trip brought about self-discovery, values reassessment and reconciliation. Their relationship and bond intensified and grew touching as they developed a caring and connected understanding for each other, and Charlie's initial plan to wheel-and-deal his brother to give up the fortune had a change of heart.
In their tear-jerking emotional farewell scene, the two brothers, now bonded, touched heads together.

The Thin Blue Line (1988), 101 minutes, D: Errol Morris

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), 171 minutes, D: Philip Kaufman

The Vanishing (1988, Netherlands/Fr.) (aka Spoorloos), 107 minutes, D: George Sluizer

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), 104 minutes, D: Robert Zemeckis
A technically-marvelous film blending animated, ink-and-paint cartoon characters and flesh-and-blood live actors, in a convincing comedy/mystery noir thriller, set in Los Angeles in 1947. Very loosely based on Gary Wolf's 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (with comic-book and newspaper strip characters who speak with word balloons instead of voices) -- in a very sanitized version. The film is a delightful spoof of the hard-boiled Sam Spade films and reminiscent of Chinatown (1974), complete with a sultry, femme fatale humanoid Toon named Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner, uncredited, with singing voice by Amy Irving, Amblin Entertainment executive producer Steven Spielberg's wife at the time), and a case involving alleged marital infidelity ("pattycake"), murder, a missing will, blackmail, and a conspiracy hatched by evil, Toon-hating Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) (of Cloverleaf Industries). Doom's plan is to bring freeways to LA, thereby ruining the existing Pacific & Electric Red Car public transport electric trolley system. The film revolves around the murder of Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), a gag-gift promoter and props supplier (Acme Novelty Co.) for all Toon productions and the owner of the ghetto-ized Toon-town where the Toons, regarded as a segregated minority group, live just outside Hollywood. Framed for the murder, zany Maroon Cartoon Studios actor Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer), a stuttering, disaster-prone 'Toon,' solicits help from reluctant, hard-boiled, boozing private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to clear his name. Valiant is still grief-stricken over the death of brother Ted by a falling cartoon piano, but is financially - and emotionally - supported by girlfriend Dolores (Joanna Cassidy), as he solves the case. Earlier efforts to combine humans and ink-and-paint cartoon characters side-by-side in a film (Disney's Song of the South (1946) and Mary Poppins (1964), for example) are considered primitive next to this film, which used computers to precisely repeat camera movements and calculate shading, to allow them to cast shadows and have complex lighting. Unprecedented cooperation from Warner Brothers and Disney allowed for classic cartoon characters to be seen together for the first time, such as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny parachuting together, having both Tinkerbell and Porky Pig end the movie, and, of course, the famous piano duel between Daffy and Donald Duck in a Cotton Club-style nightclub, the Ink & Paint Club.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988, Sp.) (Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de 'Nervios'), 90 minutes, D: Pedro Almodóvar

Working Girl (1988), 113 minutes, D: Mike Nichols

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