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 Big Chill (1983), 103 minutes, D: Lawrence Kasdan

A Christmas Story (1983, US/Can.), 94 minutes, D: Bob Clark

The Dresser (1983, UK), 118 minutes, D: Peter Yates

El Norte (1983, US/UK) (aka The North), 139 minutes, D: Gregory Nava

Entre Nous (1983, Fr.) (aka Coup de Foudre), 110 minutes, D: Diane Kurys

Flashdance (1983), 95 minutes, D: Adrian Lyne
The unexpected tremendous financial success of this highly-choreographed, fast-paced and stylized romantic drama (and musical-dance film) and its soundtrack of hit songs also brought marketing attention to two new fads: break-dancing and torn/cut-off-the-shoulder gray sweatshirts. A series of musical vignettes, highlighted by popular MTV-type rock music-video numbers, underscored the vapid, formulaic, superficial and implausible 'Cinderella' fantasy story of pretty, self-doubting 18 year-old Alexandra "Alex" Owens (Jennifer Beals), who worked by day as a Pittsburgh steelyard welder, and at night as an exotic dancer in a local blue collar, working-class bar known as Mawbry's. Living in the loft of a huge abandoned and converted warehouse, she also aspired to become a professional ballet dancer. She initially entered reluctantly into a romance with her persistent, handsome, older, wealthy steel-mill boss Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri). In the film's climactic dance sequence, Alex (wearing a black leotard and ankle warmers) auditioned before the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance and Repertory
to the tune of the Oscar-winning Best Song "Oh, What a Feeling!" (sung by Irene Cara), and although she faltered, she was allowed to continue and was able to be accepted. In a cliched, upbeat romantic conclusion, she was reunited outside by Nick with a handful of long-stemmed red roses, a twirl and a loving kiss in the freeze-framed, dialogue-less conclusion.

Local Hero (1983, UK), 111 minutes, D: Bill Forsyth

(National Lampoon's) Vacation (1983), 98 minutes, D: Harold Ramis

Return of the Jedi (1983) (aka Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), 132 minutes, D: Richard Marquand

The Right Stuff (1983), 192 minutes, D: Philip Kaufman

Risky Business (1983), 98 minutes, D: Paul Brickman

Scarface (1983), 170 minutes, D: Brian De Palma

The Star Chamber (1983), 109 minutes, D: Peter Hyams
In this mystery cop thriller-drama, small technicalities in the law (such as illegal search and seizures, forbidden by the 4th Amendment) were hindering the pursuit of justice. Conscientious LA Judge Steven Hardin (Michael Douglas) was becoming increasingly frustrated when he had to disregard crucial evidence in cases where confirmed criminals were breaking the law, but were defended by clever defense lawyers who knew all the loopholes. There were two shocking cases of the miscarriage of justice: (1) killer Hector Andujar (Domingo Ambriz) murdered five old women (for their welfare checks), but then the case was dismissed regarding the illegal seizure of the murder weapon in his garbage, and (2) marijuana was suspected in the van (with unpaid parking tickets and warrants) of Lawrence Monk (Don Calfa) and Arthur Cooms (Joe Regalbuto), where the bloody shoe of young murder victim Danny Lewin was found; however it was ruled that the police were unlawful in stopping the van with no probable cause, because the computer had erroneous information. In anger and devastation, Danny's father Dr. Harold Lewin (James Sikking) attempted to take the law into his own hands and kill the two child murderers Monk and Cooms in the court, but injured a police officer instead. The distraught father committed suicide in jail. Mentor and fellow Judge Benjamin Caulfield (Hal Holbrook) inducted the disillusioned Hardin into the Star Chamber, an underground group of nine embittered judges who met in secret to retry cases as modern-day vigilantes (judge, jury, and executioner), with one basic premise: if found guilty, the accused were assassinated by hired killers. Monk and Cooms were discovered to be not guilty by police Detective Harry Lowes (Yaphet Kotto). However, the Star Chamber had already ruled that the two men were to be targeted, and the hit could not be withdrawn. Desperate to stop the unwarranted murder of two innocent men (even though they were despicable and had committed other crimes, such as child pornography and drug dealing), Judge Hardin went rogue and attempted to track down the two and warn them. When he came upon them in an abandoned warehouse, they were in the midst of an illegal drug operation, and they didn't believe him. Although threatened with his life, Hardin was saved by the hitman (disguised as a police officer) who killed Monk and Cooms. Then, Hardin himself escaped death when Lowes arrived and killed the hitman. In the brief epilogue, Hardin and Lowes were attempting to bring down the Star Chamber by wire-tapping its illegal activities.

Tender Mercies (1983), 92 minutes, D: Bruce Beresford

Terms of Endearment (1983), 130 minutes, D: James L. Brooks
A comedy/drama classic, an entertaining film, but also a manipulative, soap-operatic melodramatic tearjerker, with an ending similar to Dark Victory (1939) and Love Story (1970). Its tagline was: "Have you come to Terms yet?" The feel-good, box-office hit from writer/director/producer James L. Brooks (his first directorial effort) was based on the novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry. It was a major Academy Award winner in 1983, with eleven nominations and five Oscars (including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director). It told about the thirty-year mother-daughter relationship between two women: stubborn brunette Emma (Debra Winger) and her devoted, possessive, blonde, widowed mother Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine). They endured Emma's marriage, separation, and illness. Aurora also engaged in a hilarious romance with her next-door neighbor - a boozy, beer-bellied, over-the-hill, former astronaut named Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). Their relationship was the comedic highlight of the film. The self-indulgent, horny playboy's flirtatious womanizing with reluctant, stiff and similarly middle-aged Aurora was hilarious. After their first, much-delayed luncheon date, ending with a drunken ride into the Gulf of Mexico in his open-roofed Corvette, she invited him over to her bedroom to look at a Renoir painting - her pretext for "lights-off" sex. Later, Garrett proved his decent, sensitive and fatherly nature in the film's tragic conclusion.
A sub-par sequel, titled The Evening Star (1996) found Shirley MacLaine reprising her role fifteen years later, as a grand-mother to her daughter Emma's three children, and Jack Nicholson with only a short cameo appearance.

Videodrome (1983), 87 minutes, D: David Cronenberg
In director David Cronenberg's terrorizing and shocking hallucinatory tale of erotic science fiction, Max Renn (James Woods) - the sleazy owner-director-producer of an X-rated Toronto cable TV station, became enticed (and obsessed) by his own pirated TV show called Videodrome that specialized in ultra-violent "snuff" films. The film's theme was the prophetic prediction that TV would replace 'real-life', as conspirators in a nightmarish cult wanted to entice (control and manipulate) the docile, consumer-oriented masses by marathon television watching (of extreme sex and violence). Renn also became mind-controlled and infected, leading to his brain mutating and developing fatal tumors, causing him to have many disturbing, mind-altering visions. Villains were able to forcefully insert videotapes into a slot in his abdomen to "play" him - causing him to be both "raped" and "programmed" - ultimately leading to his own suicidal self-destruction ("Long live the new flesh").

Zelig (1983), 80 minutes, D: Woody Allen

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