#1762 Courage aka Raw Courage (1984)

A pet project of Ronny Cox, starring the man himself and co-written with his wife Mary, Courage turned out to be a really refreshing piece of low budget cinema.

Building up from a simple story of three long distance runners crossing a desert, this survive thriller ends up with the best of the genre, offering tons of tension with just good plain old movie making workmanship.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 76%

#1715 Distant Thunder (1988)

Most people know John Lithgow for starring in 3rd Rock from the Sun or Dexter, but every movie I’ve seen him in furthermore underlines how he is one of the greatest actors of his era, a versatile performer who has excelled in a wide range of roles and genres.

What makes Lithgow such a great actor is his ability to fully inhabit a character and bring it to life in a believable and nuanced way. He has a talent for finding the heart and humanity in even the most complex and flawed characters, and he has a natural charisma and charm that endears him to audiences.

This shows in Distant Thunder which would not be much of a movie without Lithgow’s stellar performance, as he is able to elevate both mediocre manuscript and a pack of mediocre actors to excellence with his portrayal of the many Vietnam veterans failing to rejoin civilian life, living a vagabond life as one of the mountain men in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Lithgow perfectly captures all the right nuances of socially awkward and traumatised veteran’s clumsy efforts to once again rejoin the society and reach out to his son.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 84%

#1458 Death Before Dishonor (1987)

A rambo-like Sergeant goes against a terrorist organisation led by Abu Jihad (!) in Death Before Dishonor, a patriotic American action romp taking place somewhere in Middle East.

Despite all the action, the overall feeling of the movie is oddly tame. The movie tries to push all the best buttons to the best of its abilities, but the end result always seems to fall far behind expected.

I expected to lift up a few strengths of the movie to this last paragraph, but honestly can’t think of anything that would stand above average – and that is probably the biggest downside of the whole film.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 50%

#1197 A Soldier’s Story (1984)

The playwright Charles Fuller had a stroke of genius when he came up with the concept behind A Soldier’s Story: a murder mystery taking place deep south in segregated Louisiana and involving a African-American regiment looking forward to be shipped to serve in WWII.

A Soldier’s Story includes multiple intriguing themes: the struggle for equality, the mental stress while stuck in a limbo, and of course all the bigotry and racism that takes place in the army camp – but not the way you expected.

The movie is a triumph; its story is equally entertaining and thought provoking, directing solid, time period effortlessly established and the cast does not include one single weak link.

80s-o-meter: 2%

Total: 93%

#1057 Best Defense (1984)

A cautionary example of two wrongs not making the right, Best Defense is a movie that got a bad reception when shown to test audience upon its completion and in a panic attempt to recover the project the studio decided to fix things by hiring young Eddie Murphy to star in additional segments then glued haphazardly on top of the original movie in post production.

Yeah, it wasn’t a good call at all. On top of spending a staggering amount of $ getting Murphy, the added shots of him driving around in a malfunctioning tank in desert contribute nothing to the movie and make an already so-and-so movie a total mess.

Without the butchering, Best Defense would’ve landed safely as one of the mostly harmless comedies of the 80s, but now it will only stand out a warning example of too many cooks annihilating the broth.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 37%

#939 Taps (1981)

Based on Father Sky, a Novel by Devery Freeman, I had Taps figured out before I started watching it: A movie about the youngsters in Military Academy where they obey the strict rules, turn loose in their free time and talk about girls and growing up. Some of them rebel against the powers that be, but in the end they are faced with a harsh situation where they learn all about the honour and end up graduating as valiant young men with tons of self respect.

How was I led on. And the movie didn’t stop there. After the tragic events the movie seemed to become a light-hearted coming to age story where the mischievous boys take a stand for their school and become a true band of brothers.

I loved every surprise the movie had to offer. Although I didn’t really score the movie high when first watching it – my bet is that the original novel still betters the movie – it did leave an impression that has stuck for days, and the movie’s value has certainly grown interest since I watched it. Timothy Hutton is a spot on choice for the upright cadet who takes the lead in the exceptional situation while trying to hide from everyone – including himself – how lost he really is. Sean Penn and Tom Cruise star in minor roles, latter of them showing some real, chilling acting prowess in the few passing moments he’s featured on screen.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 81%

#931 Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Directed with mastery by Stanley Kubrick Full Metal Jacket is a different kind of war movie consisting of individual segments all of which have been designed to stick. The barbershop opening scene, training bit, helicopter flight, tv interviews, getting pinned by the sniper all have became a part of pop culture imagery we now associate with Vietnam war.

As with any Vietnam War movie, the contemporary music plays a big part here as well, with tracks like The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black and The Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird. The ending scene as the soldiers march through the flaming ruins at the end, and join together in singing the Mickey Mouse club march, reminding us of the chilling of the end of an innocence.

A perfect movie in its own right, Full Metal Jacket is a flawless exercise in dark humour and sheer madness that is war.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 100%

#862 Iron Eagle (1986)

Often dubbed as the poor man’s Top Gun, Iron Eagle was actually released seven months earlier, in january 1986. As I didn’t check out any previews beforehand I also was expecting a similar experience; a bunch of young Navy hotheads rivalling in the skies.

Instead, Iron Eagle presents us an underage kid nicking a fighter plane from the navy in order to fly it to an imaginary state somewhere in the middle east in order to free his imprisoned father, sentenced to be executed.

This is truly an outrageous concept that could’ve only been born in the 80s and thanks to this ludicrous setup, Iron Eagle ended up a much more fun experience than I had expected.

The movie also gets a high praise from its soundtrack full of kick ass songs from artists such as Dio, Queen, Twisted Sister and King Kobra.

80s-o-meter: 100%

Total: 87%

#712 The Ninth Configuration (1980)

A fairytale-like action drama comedy war mystery movie, The Ninth Configuration is a genre bender if I’ve ever seen one.

The movie follows a crew of post-traumatic military personnel in a castle being used as an insane asylum. They are soon joined by Colonel Kane, an eccentric and grim psychiatrist who’s arrived to help the patients. The movie starts off as a farcical, even slapsticky comedy, but as soon as Kane’s brother arrives at the castle, the movie takes a turn to much darker waters and deals with themes like sacrifice and faith. This is the part of the movie that I much preferred. The act two culminates to the palm-sweating bar confrontation scene that’s a textbook example of building up a tension.

Even if its weirdness feels self righteous and artsy at times – especially during act one – a credit has to be given to the writer and director William Peter Blatty for creating something entertainingly different.

80s-o-meter: 58%

Total: 77%

#475 Every Time We Say Goodbye (1986)

I was somewhat surprised to discover a Tom Hanks movie I’d never even heard about. An israeli movie, shot in Israel, Every Time We Say Goodbye wouldn’t never caught my interest if it didn’t have Hanks starring in it.

For a movie shot in the middle east with a lot of Ladino thrown in the mix, the movie makes a pretty passable imitation of an American film. A romantic tale about forbidden love between an American WWII pilot and a Sephardi Jewish girl, the movie has some interesting cultural and historical aspects to it. Although there’s a lot of hot blooded action involved, the movie is very much on the slow side and does get a bit tedious to keep up from time to time.

One doesn’t have to be a Tom Hanks completionist to justify watching Every Time We Say Goodbye – but I can’t say it won’t hurt either.

80s-o-meter: 33%

Total: 61%

#454 Tank (1984)

This being one of the lesser known 80s movies so I expected a light-hearted military farce with some sort of special tank as the centerpiece. Quite the opposite, this movie is more of a adventure and coming-of-age drama for both the father (James Garner) and the son (C. Thomas Howell).

The movie starts off a bit slow and keeps you guessing of the genre and things to come. When things start happening, they sort of make sense but are merrily over exaggerated and ridiculous, with bad cops, a hidden labor camp and reaching the point of no return by going berserk in town with the military tank.

As much as I loved the nonsense of escaping the police with a Sherman tank and them not able to keep up, the movie couldn’t get me interested in events and lagged more and more towards the end.

Tank was written by Dan Gordon who would go on to write Gotcha (1995) and Surf Ninjas (1993), a movie that still has eighties written all over it, despite the later release date.

Summary : Has tank, bad cops, explosions and mayhem, but fails to create any substantial interest to the plot or the characters throughout its running time