Several of the contributors to our celebrity lists of '80s classics commented on their choices. While the Gutenberg edition of the paper has its space limitations, we're in the blogosphere, baby, where word counts are not an object. So, here are the lists from some of our pickers with a little elaboration. Yes, it goes a while, but let's get you started on '80s movies and see if you're overcome with brevity. After Chuck, we have Anne Deck, Brad Riddell and a list from Top Gun scribe Jack Epps, Jr., whose comments are featured in our '80s movies story.
Anne Deck, child of the ’80s
The WUKY-91.3 FM deejay hosts Girls Night Out and Solo Shots on Friday nights. She’s always up to date, but her playlists often reveal her as a child of the ’80s. (Photo from WUKY.org.)
1. Dead Poets Society -- I can't think of a more grounded, inspirational film (especially considering it was released at a time when depth often played second fiddle to glossy materialism).
2.Times Square -- Besides the engaging coming-of-age storyline, actor/musician Tim Curry takes a turn at being a DJ. Need I say more? Considering my 23 years in radio, this 1980 film obviously proved influential during my youth, whether I realized it at the time or not. With a soundtrack boasting an array of groundbreaking artists (XTC, Talking Heads, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, The Cure, Gary Numan, The Pretenders, The Ramones, Joe Jackson), Times Square stands the test of time – and taste (if only all soundtracks were this good). The substance-starved soundtracks of today hardly compare.
3. Amadeus -- A brilliant film about a brilliant composer. Without a doubt, it’s one of my all-time favorites. Period.
4. Timeless teen trilogy: Sixteen Candles / Breakfast Club / Pretty in Pink (and Some Kind of Wonderful for good measure) -- For much of the '80s, John Hughes had his finger squarely on the pulse of our generation. Driven by clever dialogue and stellar soundtracks that touted some of the era's core underground artists who stand credited with ushering in the post-wave "alternative/modern rock” radio genre (The Psychedelic Furs, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Smiths, Simple Minds...), these films were fertile ground for molding tastes and shaping a good many mix tapes in the day. There are some concessions, however. Namely, The Rave-Ups. On the heels of a cameo depicting (what else) the ultimate '80s prom band, these alt/mod rockers fell short of their celluloid calling card's promise. It seems Molly Ringwald was dating a Rave-Up at the time when John Hughes was wrapping up the movie's casting upon receiving much-publicized input from his hip female star.
5. Heathers – Considering the popularity of this cult classic came some years after it was available as a rental, I was fortunate to catch "Heathers" on the big screen during its limited release (not much else would spur me to drive to the Florence “Y’all” Mall – or any mall). I seem to recall how the optimized “larger than life” viewing added to the film's dark, ethereal subtext. At the heart of the script is a poignant message of inclusion told unapologetically through black humor. The deadpan dialogue? Let’s just say playing croquet has never been quite the same.
6. Polyester - No '80s list is complete without a kitsch John Waters flick (and a pre-"Hairspray" one at that).
7. Stop Maiking Sense - Having been spoiled by "The Wall" at The Kentucky Theatre where I sat comfortably mesmerized the whole time, I was prepared for a similarly laid back experience when I first set out to see “Stop Making Sense.” Unbeknownst to me, but to my delight, “Stop Making Sense” turned out to be a full-fledge concert film (hey, in those days, there was no LexGo to inform me of these crucial things). Within minutes, this movie had the entire audience on its feet and dancing freely in the aisles (as I recall, “dancing” was relative in my case). The sheer genius of The Talking Heads’ music shines in what remains a most memorable technicolor feast for the senses. FA-fa-fa-FA-fa-fa-FA-fa-FA-FA
8. Return to Waterloo -- Unfortunately, too many critics ignored Ray Davies' compelling turn at telling a story through film. This unheralded directorial debut from The Kinks' legendary frontman shamefully fell through the cracks despite boasting an all-Kinks soundtrack. Now a cult classic, Return to Waterloo rightfully belongs in any music enthusiast’s DVD collection.
9. Monty Python's Meaning of Life - Frankly, a "Top 10 List" without Britain’s Monty Python would be suspect. While the film hardly lives up to its '70s predecessors, Meaning of Life still stands the test of time. hank God for the dry, droll wit of Terry Gilliam and John Cleese.
10. Rain Man -- While I've never been much of a
Tom Cruise fan, my praise for Dustin Hoffman runs deep. Superb acting aside
(Hoffman clearly carries the weight in this one), Rain Man holds a
bit more personal sentiment for me. The memorable scene during which
"97X - Bam! - The Future of Rock 'n Roll" was immortalized by
Hoffman's character was, in fact, the real deal, as broadcast from WOXY-FM, a
pioneering "modern rock" station where I worked while in grad school
at Miami University (Rain Man was filmed in nearby Cincinnati). Today,
in what is clearly a sign of the times, WOXY is an internet-only station with a
streaming site that draws legions of old school "alt rock" and lo-fi
indie fans alike. The long-revered station’s impact on radio is evident
when one considers the evolved programming of local stations, such as
UK’s student-run WRFL and (bias aside) WUKY, Lexington’s lauded National Public Radio affiliate.
…and, in random order, the honorable mentions are…
Racing with the Moon -- During the '80s, while in high school, I was sometimes told I resembled Elizabeth McGovern, albeit a younger version. So, not having seen her yet on screen, I saw Racing With the Moon out of simple curiosity, really. To my surprise (military-themed dramas hold limited appeal for me), the movie turned out to be quite good. While I later enjoyed watching McGovern star opposite Kevin Bacon in John Hughes’ She’s Having a Baby (yet another great soundtrack), this particular film, a period piece set in the 1940s, made a lasting impression.
Pink Floyd: The Wall – For years, I’ve been a longtime fan of Roger Waters (perhaps, as a bassist, I feel a kindred connection with those unknowingly who’ve influenced me along the way), and The Wall is just one reason why. Now, don’t get me started on how I feel toward Floyd’s David Gilmore (look, it was Waters’ punctuated bass lines and skilled songwriting that steered Pink Floyd from day one – Gilmore didn’t join the band till later, although he’d like to have you think he was Pink Floyd’s original wizard, but I digress…). In 1980, when I first heard the album version of The Wall, it quickly became one of my all-time favorites. It’s no surprise, then, that the film version ranks up there as well.
Echo Park –- This movie was worth the price of admission for the music alone (or at least one song that I played repeatedly to the point of wearing out my turntable’s needle). The film’s soundtrack features a pre-Concrete Blonde Johnette Napolitano (billed simply as “Johnette”) performing Tomorrow's Gonna Be, a rare gem in the pre-Blonde catalog.
Wall Street (or, “The Boy’s Club Goes for Broke”) – What better way to depict the ‘80s as envisioned by the character of Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties (that is, if amped up to the 10th power). Money amidst stiff-suited corruption galore (a consulting role by Enron suspected). Michael Douglas, as Gordon Gekko, turned in a brilliant portrayal of his character’s power-hungry pursuit of the mighty dollar. Hedge funds aside, Charlie Sheen’s good looks proved rather distracting to my teenage eyes in those days (who knew he’d one day grow into his real-life role as Womanizer).
My Beautiful Laundrette - A long-running staple at The Kentucky when initially released, this film depicts a charming tale of a young Pakistani-bred man finding his way in life through laughter, love, and (yes) laundry while making a life for himself in jolly ol’ London..
Less than Zero – Is it just me, or is this one of the few books-turned-screenplays that seemed to translate particularly well on screen?
Brad Riddell, screenwriter
In addition to being a founding member of the Kentucky Film Lab, UK graduate Riddell wrote screenplays for American Pie Presents Band Camp and the forthcoming Slapshot: The Junior League.
"This was very, very hard to do! My rationale was to go with iconic movies I watch over and over again. Clearly, few of them were Oscar winners, but in my mind, they define the era and are still well-loved today."
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
2. The Empire Strikes Back
3. E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial
4. Back to the Future
6. The Breakfast Club
7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
8. Top Gun
9. Wall Street
But what about The Princess Bride, Ghostbusters, Rain Main, Die Hard, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, 48 Hours, Gandhi, Driving Miss Daisy and Beverly Hills Cop?
Top Gun screenwriter Jack Epps, Jr. was gracious enough to talk to us for our '80s story, and he offered a list of 10 movies that he said best represents that era:
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
2. E.T. -- The Extra-Terrestrial
4. Terms of Endearment
5. Back to the Future
6. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
7. Top Gun
9. Die Hard
10. When Harry Met Sally
We also had a couple of contributors that didn't elaborate:
1. E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial
2. The Natural
3. Full Metal Jacket
4. Rain Man
5. Out Of Africa
7. The Right Stuff
8. Body Heat
9. Lethal Weapon
If you have hung on this long, congratulations. I think this is the longest Copious Notes post ever. If you haven't had enough '80s movie chatter, please comment or check out the comments on our initial post on this subject, which includes several other excellent lists of favorites from the Reagan Era.