#1038 Class (1983)

A private school brainiac goes for a wild night out and hooks up with a woman of his dreams who woefully turns out to be his roommate’s mother in Class, probably the only decent early 80s comedy with the adult-youngster forbidden love theme (the other ones being My Tutor, Private Lessons and Blame it on Rio).

The movie works because it is first and foremost a decent comedy instead of cringeworthy voyeuristic peeping tom flick like its aforementioned competition. There’s some genuinely good chemistry between Andrew McCarthy and Rob Lowe and I can see the movie failing in many ways with other some less skilled leads.

The well built conflict that tears the friendship apart proves out to be too big for the screenwriters of the movie who weasel out of the situation in a disappointingly lukewarm fashion in the end.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 79%

#1004 Grease 2 (1982)

Grease 2, the sequel for the original 1978 runaway musical hit starring John Travolta was a critical and a box office failure. Oh boy, I thought as I pressed the play on my remote, assured I was facing a torture even worse than having to watch through the original.

Pessimism be blessed, as the experience didn’t turn out to be nearly as bad as I’d anticipated. The movie is inept – that’s given – but it all seems to have been done in a good humour with a fair amount of tongue in cheek. Grease 2 does a remarkably bad work at establishing the early 60s setting and the movie never seizes to feel like 80s kids doing a cosplay of the former era.

Personally I count this only as a definitely plus for the movie.

80s-o-meter: 41%

Total: 48%

#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%

#888 Hiding Out (1987)

Hiding Out follows a Boston stock broker escaping to a small town and disguising himself as a teen punk to lead off the hired killers trying to bump him off. Instead of staying put in a safe house he then rolls himself into a high school in a baffling plot twist sure there only to make the movie more interesting. And yes; all sorts of unnecessary mishaps do start unraveling as a result.

Equally utilitarian is the approach with his cousin who’s there only to provide comedic whirl to the mix. Unfortunately these recurring mishaps – like the driving school bit – never actually drive the plot ahead, and thus feel plastered on.

If you can overlook its ridiculous premise, Hiding Out does offer an above average 80s drama comedy that’s still a good fun to spend 90 minutes with, despite its shortcomings.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 71%

#876 The New Kids (1985)

We’ve seen our fair share of movies based on the payback / revenge aspect as well as portrayals of bullies who terrorise an entire school and community around it. But The New Kids makes for a original and enjoyable stab at the genre by gracefully steering around most of the clichés of the genre.

Not only do the leads manage to stand up for themselves, but the antagonists also fail to spin the public opinion and blame against the new kids. The leads Shannon Presby and Lori Loughlin perform well as the clean cut all american kids while James Spader steals the show as a truly chilling juvenile delinquent with borderline psychopathic traits.

The New kids took me positively by surprise by mixing in some old and some new to an interesting and entertaining 90 minuter.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 81%

#874 Lucas (1986)

I’ve never seen a movie capture a teenage crush in such a honest, pure way.

Lucas is a movie about a boy of the same name whose peculiar life revolving around his peculiar hobbies changes the moment she meets Maggie who’s just moved in to the neighbourhood. They find themselves sharing the last days of the summer together before the start of a new school year and form an unlikely friendship that soon turns to a one-sided, hopeless love.

Corey Haim has never actually wowed me, but here he captures the essence of the misfit character in a magnificently three dimensional way, managing to make Lucas a tangible and often contradictory person by never sugar coating his shortcomings nor underlining his virtues.

The movie wanders too far into fiction towards its last minutes, but even that can’t diminish its accomplishments as one of the most heart warming portrayals of the high school life and of coming to age. Lucas reminds us of what was it like once to be hopelessly, head over heels in love, and in that sense it’s a truly a triumph.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 90%

#780 Heaven Help Us aka Catholic Boys (1985)

There are plenty of movies done in the eighties that reminisce 50s and 60s, an era when many of the film makers were young. Sometimes the trip back in time does make sense story wise – like in the Vietnam war depictions – but more often the period picture approach contributes only to the nostalgic value and doesn’t bring much more else to the table.

Heaven Help Us is one of these titles where the justification of an older time period is debatable. Sure, the catholic schools were more strict back then, but the story of the mischievous students and an abusive teacher is timeless and could’ve as well taken place in the current time. The chosen time period and catholic school theme is alien to me and initially made it harder for me to relate to the events.

But, what lays beneath is a likeable coming to age movie about unlikely friendship between a seemingly random bunch of catholic school boys and their suffocated attempts to rebel against the power that be. Debuting in their first cinematic roles can be seen Patrick Dempsey, Stephen Geoffreys in a weird role of an almost mute chronic masturbator and Kevin Dillon in a leading role as a spiteful and dumb Rooney who might be one of the worst friends one can have, but also someone you’d rather have as an ally instead of your enemy. Mary Stuart Masterson who was a slight miscast in Some Kind of Wonderful does a wonderfully charming role as the object of always likeable Andrew McCarthy’s shy and clumsy romantic attempts.

80s-o-meter: 38%

Total: 64%

#775 Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

A refreshing change in the endless stream of high school romantic comedies, Some Kind of Wonderful ditches the comedy and goes for the drama. It’s a mix of genres that often ends up melodramatic, cringeworthy and unintentionally funny, but John Hughes, who wrote and produced the movie with his impeccable Midas’ touch once again guarantees hitting the mood just right.

The movie deals about your usual teenage themes; insecurity, rejection and searching one’s identity. Plotwise the movie deals with being friend zoned, learning to grow and coming to terms with what matters the most in life. It all sounds a mouthful, but Some Kind of Wonderful never condescends to preaching but concentrates to telling the story in an entertaining fashion, and the themes presented here still feel fresh. Thanks to the humour being used sparingly, it manages to hit the target every time.

Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson make for a strong leads with some genuinely good electricity going on, and my hat is off to John Ashton whose portrayal of the good willed father who wants the best for his kids, but constantly misses the mark is an absolute delight to watch. The chemistry between Stolz and Mary Stuart Masterson is kind of a hard sell, which cripples the credibility of the movie a bit. While it can be argued that Molly Ringwald who turned down the role of the tomboy Watts would’ve made a stronger candidate for the unlikely object of love, this is not a deal breaker in any way.

80s-o-meter: 96%

Total: 90%

#773 3:15 (1986)

Although officially called simply 3:15, this fairly little known title also goes around with numerous additional titles: The Moment of Truth, A Time to Die, Class 89 and Showdown at Lincoln High. In addition to having sort of a problematic, non sticky name (just try Googling it) the number of different titles could be due to the publishing issues the movie faced, having being shot already in 1984 but getting its limited release only two years later, on 1986.

Mohawks and chains were a big thing in late 70s and early 80s cinema, thanks to the gang violence that was spiralling out of hand. New York was on its way to become an urban war zone and on numerous other cities the violent gangs were getting a strong foothold. 3:15 joins the likes of Assault on precinct 13, The Warriors, Class of 1984, Death Wish series and Savage Streets as exploitative dystopian depiction of dealing with these juvenile gangs.

3:15 is basically a high noon -style showdown between two friends, and a depiction of the unfortunate events leading to it. Most of the movie’s running time is spend on the clichéd troubled high school portrayal that fails to bring anything really fresh to the table. The real meat of the movie is the showdown that manages to be palm-sweating intensive, thanks to its fast-paced and savage portrayal of violence. I’ve always liked Adam Baldwin’s screen presence and his subtle acting work here also is pleasant – if a little passionless – to watch.

80s-o-meter: 76%

Total: 70%

#692 Prom Night (1980)

I’ve started watching Prom Night a few times before and always given up as the movie seemed far too generic and uninteresting to follow. Like many slashers of the time Prom Night doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but just cut’n’pastes generic ideas from other movies to the mix: There’s a masked killer attacking out of nowhere, people fleeing and hiding – basically all the stuff you’ve seen elsewhere a thousand times before.

Interestingly Prom Night doesn’t just take cues from the numerous slashers of the time, but also incorporates sort of a half-assed Saturday Night Fever theme into the movie, including some campy choreographed disco dancing scenes. It is truly a strange thing to watch in a movie where most people except some tits and gore.

Being a Canadian movie Prom Night wouldn’t normally have made it to this site, but I decided to give it a chance as it stars Jamie Lee Curtis of the Halloween fame. Also, Leslie Nielsen who at the time was on the verge of his second coming as a comedy actor can be seen in a small part as the high school principle.

Neither actor bring anything to the table that’d make this movie worth your time.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 12%

#665 Soul Man (1986)

Oh dear, this will be a hard one to review.

Let’s get the most obvious out of the way: The idea of building a comedy on the premise of masquerading a white dude to resemble an Afro-American is an idiotic one. Good news is that Soul Man totally acknowledges this and makes its best effort to keep things politically correct and instead pokes fun of the double standards and the prejudice of the society.

The best news is that it’s actually a pretty good comedy despite the controversial theme best enjoyable and not nearly as awkward to watch as the synopsis suggests.

The biggest problem with the movie is that despite the snappy and accurate social commentary (like the rich chic who refuses to see colours, only shades of grey), the issues it raises are so profound it can never really address them.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%

#656 How I Got Into College (1989)

Boasting what could only be described as the ugliest movie poster of the 80, How I Got Into College fortunately fares better as a movie.

A lot better, as a matter infact.

Directed by Savage Steve Holland, the movies real charm is in its quirky humour that is not unlike in his former comedy Better Off Dead, but this time around working much more sophisticated way that doesn’t feel detached or interfere with the pacing of the movie. The movie stars off great, but some of that superb initial momentum is lost as the events unravel and the movie turns into a more generic 80s teen comedy. Still good and enjoyable, but less unique and memorable.

When How I Got Into College wishes to be funny, it succeeds – and that’s what counts. Just don’t let that poster fool you!

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 84%

#634 Back to School (1986)

Back to school provides exactly what you’d except from an 80s Rodney Dangerfield movie with Rodney being his likeable rough around the edges and clashing with the powers that be. Dangerfield rightfully steals the show in every scene he is in, but be sure to check out Robert Downey Jr as a sidekick character in one of his earliest film roles, and Ned Beatty who does a superb job as the dean caught between the rock and a hard place.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 88%

#627 Real Genius (1985)

Val Kilmer’s always wise cracking – but never exactly laugh-out-loud funny – character is at hard to stomach for the first 30 minutes, but as soon as the movie introduces an actual plot, Real Genius becomes interesting enough to watch for the remaining 45 minutes.

The movie kind of tries something new, but the theme was already better handled one year earlier in Revenge of the Nerds (1984)

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 63%