#1145 No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

No Retreat, No Surrender takes a good portion of Karate Kid and mixes it up with Rocky – especially the fourth one – and manages to come up as a pretty fresh and entertaining competitive martial arts movie.

I always mistook the movie for Jean-Claude Van Damme’s vehicle, but instead he is seen portraying the role of a cocky baddie straight from USSR. The cold war aspect of the movie feels much, much more glued on than in Rocky IV, but in an 80s movie like this that’s just part of the fun, right?

The story itself concentrates on a young kid who practises karate and idolises Bruce Lee. After getting his ass handed to him by the bullies and running into clash with a syndicate and his father, he is visited by the spirit of Bruce Lee that teaches him the way of the Kung Fu.

The modern Bluray transfer reveals the shortcomings of the original film and the movie seems old beyond its years – not in a flattering way – so my recommendation is to hunt this one down as VHS instead.

80s-o-meter: 98%

Total: 87%

#1067 Race for Glory (1989)

A Top Gun equivalent of a motorcycle movie, Race for Glory features tons of speed, kick-ass soundtrack .. and your average, very predictable sports movie plot.

The movie is one of the very few Hollywood titles filmed in old continent that still looks fresh and American – in a good way! In fact, the luxurious international locations work really well and capture well all the excitement that surrounds the big motor sports events.

If you’re to watch Race for Glory, you should do it for mostly for the atmosphere for the plot follows a very predictable path without much surprises along the way.

80s-o-meter: 91%

Total: 70%

#1065 Best of the Best (1989)

USA national karate team goes against team Korea in Best of the Best, a totally ridiculous, unrealistic, sports movie about an unlikely karate team.

Sports movies can be a bore as they stick to the plot of an underdog making it through difficulties to the final victory and then try to masquerade this one way or another. Best of the Best on the other hand does not shy away from clichés, it fully embraces them: There’s the unlikely team, an old shoulder injury that you know will come back haunting later, over the top acting, and a final showdown with an opponent guilty of killing your brother! The only thing missing from the arsenal of clichés is if the last match would’ve ended up with some unorthodox special move.

Eric Roberts seems a weird pick for the lead role at first, but he actually makes for one menacing looking fighter in his ponytail – and gives an excellent performance that’s just the right amount over the top.

80s-o-meter: 95%

Total: 88%

#1026 Bull Durham (1988)

A veteran catcher joins a minor-league baseball team Durham Bulls and crosses paths with up and coming star pitcher Ebby and Ann, a baseball groupie who has her own view on how to mature Ebby to the big leagues.

All in all Bull Durham is a quite refreshing sports movie as it concentrates on its characters instead of playing the tired from the bottom of the barrel to the champions schtick; there’s no training montages, no big motivational speeches and no last second game winning throws here.

Kevin Costner performs one of his strongest roles as a charismatic 33-year old baseball veteran on his very last game leg.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 74%

#983 Hoosiers (1986)

A coach with a checkered past is enrolled in to work as small rural town’s new high school basketball coach in Hoosiers, a nostalgic take on an Indiana team making it to the state championships.

It’s probably due to some heavy cutting demanded by the studio that many of the events in the movie feel rushed; the teams’ way to the ultimate victory seems to happen overnight, with just a few games on their way there. Similarly the big love affair of the movie just kind of happens without a real buildup, and is not followed through afterwards.

If you know the drill with the sports movies, Hoosiers follows that very same path from being an underdog to the ultimate triumph. But what makes Hoosiers special is the way it stays so small, concentrating on a two horse town where even the adequate success of their undersized team is a matter a notch above life and death for the town folk, school boards, students and the parents alike. And does is all in a very sympathetic way.

80s-o-meter: 62%

Total: 71%

#936 Vision Quest aka Crazy for You (1985)

First of all, it has to be noted that despite its sci-fey name, Vision Quest is a coming-of-age sports movie and the cliches of the genre go with it; a story of rising up to a challenge, overcoming the odds and the inevitable showdown are all there. But like any above average movie of the genre, the sports is just a framework and the real focus here is in the human interest.

Louden is a a sympathetic but naive high school wrestler surrounded by some interesting, well written, 3-dimensional characters who share his journey in becoming the champion in a lower weight class. And in their way, all these people are more interesting than Louden himself: His kind but righteous all-American father, his co-worker Elmo who takes Louden on arm wrestling challenges and lives the dream of the victory through him, his mate Kuch who stands up for him even at the cost of his own wrestling career, his english teacher Tanneran who’s tightroping between being a teacher, confidant and a rival, and lastly the gorgeous Carla who’s standing at a crossroad in her life when their paths cross by a passing chance.

A notable trivia to mention about the movie is that it was shot already in 1983 with the young Madonna making a brief appearance as a singer in a local bar. As the fame of Madonna soon skyrocketed, the movie was rebranded as ’Crazy For You’ in an effort to piggyback the movie in the success of the song.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 81%

#934 North Shore (1987)

North Shore is a surfing movie that at first seems like the most douche 80s piece of cinema: There’s surfer dudes, bikini girls and, like, totally groovy look and feel to it all. It was only after the actual surfing started that the movie seemed to find a tone of its own.

Don’t get me wrong. The depth of the movie is still on par with an average episode of Beverly Hills, 90210: The baddies are comical, there’s an idiotic subplot about a forbidden love and as it is a sports movie you pretty know how it is going to turn out in the end. Nevertheless, it has to be said that there’s a certain kind of undeniable enjoyment to watching the stunning Hawaiian setting coupled with some nice surfing action by the top surfers of the 80s.

North Shore is fluffy, insignificant movie that takes itself serious in a most adorable fashion. But it is also a decent escape if you need some surfing, ocean, endless summer mixed in with a dose of innocence of the youth.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 58%

#821 Major League (1989)

A proof that the classic sports story of an underdog team raising to a champion is worth doing one more time, Major League follows the often seen formula, but adds so many delicious bits to the mix that make it irresistible.

The movie is not about the winning ultimately – as we all know where it’s going to end up – but about the road getting there. And in this case the journey is filled with various events of the very entertaining kind that make Major League a one of the top sports comedies of the 80s.

80s-o-meter: 85%

Total: 89%

#805 Eight Men Out (1988)

Eight Men Out retells the story of 1919 baseball scandal, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox made a pact with gamblers to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series. Knowing how it all turns out in the end the movie’s angle is to go through the events in the chronological order as they unfolded, with the focus slightly tilted towards outfielder Buck Weaver who would go on trying to prove his innocence for rest of his natural life.

As we go on from a match to another, I can’t help but to think some smarter editing could’ve been used here, snipping off the time from the games and focusing for example on the final trial instead. Still, it was a positive surprise how well the movie was put together and how well it conveys the time period without ever making a big fuss about it, or getting tediously drowsy or stale like so many period pictures tend to come out.

The casting is strong with John Cusack leading as Buck Weaver. As his teammate can be seen young Charlie Sheen, who’d incidentally go on starring in Major League, a hugely successful baseball comedy released the following year.

80s-o-meter: 35%

Total: 72%

#675 Rocky IV (1985)

With its cold war thematics the fourth instalment of the Rocky throws out the window all the remaining bits of the drama and credibility there was and replaces them with cartoon-like action movie elements.

Rocky IV is a true offspring of its era and could not have been made in any other decade. Made to purely entertain and to give the western audience what they want, we are presented with the now super athlete Rocky compete against steroid buffed Russian mountain of muscles called Ivan Drago.

It’s more or less a propaganda/personality cult film tailor made for both the USA and Stallone himself to polish his superstar status, but does it all in such an entertaining fashion that one can’t help but love all the nonsense.

Made for the MTV generation, the movie itself is sort of a prolonged music video, and there’s an amazing soundtrack to accompany it, with tons of bigger than life songs including Vince DiCola’s epic training montage theme.

80s-o-meter: 100%

Total: 94%

#674 Rocky III (1982)

Of the 6 Rocky movies Sylvester Stallone made, two were released during the 80s. While Rocky III clearly has its roots in the previous two installations, the overall theme has now changed to that of the consumeristic 80s.

And herein lies the most interesting aspect of the movie: How the money and success corrupts a once hungry athlete. The depictions of Rocky’s new found extravagant lifestyle are as hilarious as they are scary.

Otherwise Stallone seems to have run out of ideas, and most of the second half of the movie consists of training montages and the actual showdown. The iconic Mr.T debuts creditably as the big mouthed challenger, but the end bout between him and Rocky is mostly anticlimatic.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 78%