#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%

#711 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

Totally surprising chemistry between Steve Martin and Michael Caine provides a great amount of laughs in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a tale of two money-swindling riviera playboys set on a war path.

This is one of those 80s comedies that leaves very little room for improvement. The setup is original, the pacing feels just right and the plot itself bears a strong resemble to its two protagonists, always hiding an extra ace up its sleeve. Although Martin’s and Caine’s performances are impeccable, a two man show this isn’t: The two male actors are perfectly complimented by Glenne Headly who gives the two veteran actors a run for their money.

For whatever reason, we humans are drawn towards lovable rapscallions, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels provides two of them – best in the business – for the price of just one.

Almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 96%

#710 The Blues Brothers (1980)

Paradoxically, the actual music in many musicals can often be pretty lousy sometimes. Not the case with The Blues Brothers.

Not only are the songs themselves top notch, they are also performed with such a positive vibe and pure energy that pretty much cannot leave anyone cold even if blues or rock music isn’t your thing. To underline the its credibility music wise, The Blues Brothers includes cameos from legends such as James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles.

The Blues Brothers is an iconic piece of pop culture that has continued its life outside the movie still to date. It’s a musical tailor-made for those of us that don’t actually really care for musicals.

80s-o-meter: 68%

Total: 87%

#709 Witness (1985)

A solid thriller set in an amish community, Witness marks yet another triumph for Harrison Ford in his long line of 80s box office hits. It’s also his first step outside the fantasy/scifi genre, and a flawless performance that earned him his only academy award nomination still to date.

Witness, the director Peter Weir’s Hollywood debut is a textbook example how an enticing and grasping action drama is made. The movie presents us with an original and interesting premise, suspense, an array of characters that the viewer really cares for, topped off with a sparkle of humour to balance it all.

Ford’s and Weir’s collaboration continued the next year with The Mosquito Coast, a surprisingly flawed movie in comparison to this masterpiece.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 93%

#708 Teen Wolf Too (1987)

Everything I said I didn’t like in Teen Wolf goes for the sequel as well. You see, Teen Wolf Too plays it too tame and safe and pretty much just reprises everything seen in the first movie, just replacing the actors involved and takes the story to another high school. Every character in the movie and the members of the audience already know how the movie is going to play out and Teen Wolf Too goes to great lengths to make sure it doesn’t take one step outside that sandbox.

Michael J. Fox, a force of nature who pretty much was the only reason to watch the first movie is now gone and replaced with Jason Bateman in his feature film debut. He plays the role just as as predictably and safely as the rest of the movie with little to none surprises.

Whatever little freshness there was in the concept in the first run, it’s all gone, and Teen Wolf Too is stale like a bowl of yesterday’s oatmeal.

80s-o-meter: 88%

Total: 32%

#707 Teen Wolf (1985)

I’m pretty sure that by 1985 Michael J. Fox knew he was destined for something bigger but just needed the right vehicle to get there.

Teen Wolf isn’t that vehicle.

It’s a weak movie and I’m not even hundred percent sure why. Michael J. Fox seen here is pretty much carbon copy of the same likeable Marty we saw in Back to the Future. The manuscript isn’t anything to write to home about, but I can see the whole concept working if given to the right hands.

Most of the right elements are there, but Teen Wolf just misses that special something that a few directors can deliver. Some call it magic, some plain talent, but whatever it is, this movie lacks it and the end result feels flat throughout.

A part of the wave of werewolf movies in the early-mid 80s, Teen Wolf was launched simultaneously with Back to the Future, which undoubtedly helped in boosting the box office result of this movie. Without it the movie would be very much forgotten.

80s-o-meter: 82%

Total: 52%

#706 D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)

D.A.R.Y.L. is a tale of an cyborg boy who gets smuggled out of a secret research facility and placed on a foster home. He soon shows some extraordinary talents, many with activities he just picked up for the first time.

As much as a genius he might be, having lived in an isolated environment all his life, he’s socially awkward in an innocent kind of way. Much of the best moments of the film are derived from this setup; D.A.R.Y.L. getting acquainted with real world with his non-existent social skills. There’s a lot of great insights here, like in the baseball scene as his best friend Turtle suggests him to make a few mistakes every now and then to make his foster parents feel like they’re needed.

D.A.R.Y.L. is an extraordinary movie, and watching it requires one to take multiple leaps of faith ranging from a researcher who reveals a multi-billion secret project to a bunch of civilians to the whole government not being able to figure out he is heading back to where he was taken at the first place.

My suggestion is to look past the obvious plot holes, watch the movie as a sort of a modern day fairy tale and you’ll find D.A.R.Y.L. an entertaining watch.

80s-o-meter: 90%

Total: 86%

#705 From Beyond (1986)

From Beyond wastes no time getting to the meat of the movie; its special effects. Quite literally, within just two minutes from the start we’re presented with first creatures from another dimension gnawing the flesh out of a human cheek. After seeing too many horror movies that really take their sweet time to get to the point, the shock beginning of From Beyond works well.

The movie is loosely based on a short story of just seven pages by H. P. Lovecraft and stars Jeffrey Combs, whose kooky, eccentric assistant character draws a resemblance to his earlier role in Re-Animator. That same intensity fits this movie quite perfectly.

The sadomasochist and sexual themes presented here feel uninspired throughout the movie, but otherwise From Beyond is a morbid and creepy ride that showcases some very inventive FX work in the very best tradition of the 80s.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 72%

#704 The Rescue (1988)

Need to infiltrate and North Korean border and rescue four navy seals taken to a prison camp? No worries, according to The Rescue it’s pretty much a walk in a park – that is, if you’re a gang of four teens and a 10-year old kid.

What we have here is a strange mix of an action movie done like it was a book out of the The Famous Five series. On the other hand there’s shootings, bombs, knife fights and multiple dead Koreans and on the other it’s all just one safe adventure in the style of a Disneyland ride, up to the point of actually riding down in a sewer pipe like it was an amusement park waterslide. Had they really followed the action-adventure tone of the movie they should’ve amped up the characterisation between the actors to be more distinguishable so that they wouldn’t be so wishy-washy and easily forgotten.

Production wise the movie is professionally shot, and actually offers some semi-decent action towards the end, but unless you’re a 12-year old and the year is 1988, The Rescue might be a mismatch for you.

80s-o-meter: 86%

Total: 61%

#703 Fire with Fire (1986)

Fire with Fire plays like a teenager’s angst filled poem: Melodramatic, pretentious and theatrical, but also kind of disarming in its clumsy sincerity. It’s very much a collection of clichés with its tale of forbidden love between two youngsters, one of them confined to a strict Catholic girls school, and the other, a misunderstood juvenile delinquent closed to a nearby prison camp to a mercy of a sadistic ward.

The catholic school girls are hot, and the prisoners and young and wild hunks with white teeth, ripped abs and clean cut hair. It all feels so plastic and artificial that nothing in Fire with Fire feels that leaves a lasting impression, even if the overall tone is so overdramatic; it feels like watching a 90 minute long music video with lots of style over substance.

By the way, if the beautiful forest scenery of the British Columbia seen in the movie rings a bell, here’s why: It’s the very same location seen in Rambo: First Blood.

To me Fire with Fire was a ’meh’ kind of disappointment, but it’s also one of those movies that’s so over the edge and cheesy it’s very likely someone else’s guilty pleasure.

Just not mine.

80s-o-meter: 89%

Total: 43%

#702 Airplane II: The Sequel (1982)

Being a huge box office hit, Airplane got its followup, but here’s the interesting part: Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker weren’t involved in it. Unaware that Paramount had the option for the sequel – with or without the consent of the trio – they felt the aviation humour vain was already drained and passed the chance to do the sequel. Paramount then handed the job over to Ken Finkleman who wrote and directed Airplane II: The Sequel. Zuckers and Abraham weren’t too happy about the situation and still claim not to have seen the movie to date.

Considering all this, Finkleman did a surprisingly good work here! Ok, so the sequel recycles the jokes from its predecessor quite a lot, but it also manages to come up with gags so good you could swear the original trio was behind them. Structurally it’s not as tight package as the previous one and some of the iconic deadpan style is unfortunately lost and replaced with people being silly, which feels less true to the first movie.

Airplane II: The Sequel is less iconic, less recognised movie that will always be left in shadow by its bigger brother. But even so it outshines most of the similar attempts by a long shot. If you liked the first movie and can cope with the fact that this is in a way an unofficial sequel, Airplane II is an easy one to recommend for watching.

80s-o-meter: 83%

Total: 90%

#701 Airplane! (1980)

A proof that many cooks sometimes don’t spoil the broth, Airplane! is a milestone in a comedy movie history that perfected the spoof comedy formula by taking it over the edge – and then some. A co-written and co-directed by Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker, Airplane became a commercial and critical success, and a movie that paved the way to the top zany comedies of the following years: Top Secret, Naked Gun and Hot Shots.

A lot of good insights went into making Airplane a reality. Firstly, instead of casting a gang of worn comedy actors get silly on the screen, they hired actors with no comedy background whatsoever to play their parts with a straight face, which contrasting with the surrounding absurdity added a lot to the comedic effect of the movie. This is where Leslie Nielsen, aged 54 at the time, got his second wind as a comedy actor.

Secondly, if there was an opportunity for a joke, Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker went for it: The movie and its screen estate is constantly loaded with gags, happening on and off the camera. This contributed to the movie’s rewatchability value and it has had a very healthy off box office lifespan in VHS, DVD and on the TV.

80s-o-meter: 80%

Total: 94%

#700 WarGames (1983)

Visionary both in its thematics and the execution, WarGames was ahead of its time probably in much more ways than the team creating it could ever anticipate.

In the early 80s the video and co-op games were a huge craze and were featured in many movies, but the computers were still a rare subject in a movie, and very much remained to be so for a long time to come. WarGames was not only one of the first big budget film to feature home computing, but also presented us with one curious, relatable, mischievous youngster that spent his free time phreaking and hacking into remote computer systems. And made it all a huge, exciting adventure.

That adventure quickly gets way out of hand as he manages to hack his way into a computer wired to the thermonuclear arsenal of the United States and thus capable of launching a full scale nuclear assault. The themes of balance of terror and the fear of AI turning against the humankind presented here are just as topical now as they were back in 1983 – if not even more so.

As the movie makers really did their homework with the subject and presented the hacking in believable way – more than can be said about most Hollywood movies to date – WarGames just leaves very little to improve. The great production quality holds up throughout the movie, and the end showdown with Joshua playing Thermonuclear War on the big screen is truly one palm sweating scene, as well as a visual treat.

80s-o-meter: 96%

Total: 100%

#699 Cutter’s Way aka Cutter and Bone (1981)

Cutter’s Way is an unique experience, an interesting and stylish character study of two very different kind of men driven by an unsolved murder case. We’re presented with Richard Bone who confidently trusts his charm will see him through whatever life throws his way, and a vietnam vet Alex Cutter who links around with his crippled leg, spewing guilt and grudge around wherever he goes.

It takes the movie a good while to progress with Cutter being the ignitive catalyst and Bone who tries to weasel his way out of any kind of decision making concerning his life – or the others’. All the waiting and buildup pay off as it makes the final point of no return feel impactful in a palm-sweatting kind of way.

John Heard as the unrelenting Cutter and Jeff Bridges as the anti hero hunk of meat are both a treat to watch and play their parts to the perfection. Originally unsuccessfully launched in the US as ’Bone and Cutter’, the movie never quite gained the recognition it should’ve.

80s-o-meter: 70%

Total: 84%

#698 Night of the Comet (1984)

A low budget horror action movie that’s become something of a cult classic, Night of the Comet is a collection of good and bad, still outperforming its modest budget.

First and foremost Night of the Comet gets its mood just right: The feeling of the apocalyptic Los Angeles void of all its inhabitants is captured efficiently with smartly framed early morning shots. The kick ass soundtrack no doubt adds a lot to the overall feeling, and this awesome collection of songs is a sought after collector item.

It’s therefore unfortunate the plot itself doesn’t quite match the superb setting. Far too many events and reasons are left vague and unexplained, and the whole zombie approach feels totally uninspired and unnecessary.

Ultimately and very regrettably the cult status and the positive vibe of the movie have a promise of something much greater than Night of the Comet can deliver.

80s-o-meter: 84%

Total: 70%

#697 The World According to Garp (1982)

The World According to Garp is a intriguing tale about an unorthodox family in a twisted world, told in an episodic fashion through the eyes of one T.S.Garp, whom Robin Williams portrays with such easiness you’d think the movie was written with especially him in mind.

It’s that other early 80s movie based on novel by John Irving, and clearly the superior one of the two. While it does suffer from the same problem of trying to cram in a whole whopping novel into a film, given the challenges involved the end result is very admirable and the movie feels much longer than its running time – in a good way.

The World According to Garp is an prime example how the written fiction and movies sometimes manage to create a world of entirely their own: It might be far fetched, improbable, even implausible make belive – but boy, if the narrator knows his stuff we really want to buy it all.

80s-o-meter: 55%

Total: 80%

#696 Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

You know the drill: A movie with a huge financial success gets the inevitable sequel. This time around it’s not entirely bad news as most of the key players from the first movie were willing to participate, with some beefed up payroll no doubt. The big investment paid of as Lethal Weapon 2 netted a whopping $147M total gross, making it the third biggest box office hit of the year.

In addition to the amped up action sequences there’s also lots of additional humour and one liners this time around. Much of the credit is due to the Joe Pesci’s hilarious man child sidekick character, who successfully walks the tightrope of being annoying but still likeable, and does deliver some good laughs along the way.

Lethal Weapon 2 is in many ways more well rounded and mature action movie than its predecessor, but also a bit more calculative which shines through every now and then, making the end result feel less organic than the first iteration.

Still, most people who loved the first movie will feel right at home here – and that’s what really counts.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 88%

#695 Lethal Weapon (1987)

An iconic 80s action movie and a subject to numerous imitations, spoofs and even blatant copies, Lethal Weapon soon became a fundamental part of the 80s pop culture imagery that still gets referenced to.

As with always when you watch a movie you’ve seen many times when it first came out, but missed it for the last 25 years, the question arises if the movie is really as solid as you remember it to be. Not a problem here: Lethal Weapon is a tight-wound guilty pleasure action pack that leaves very little to improve.

Danny Glover and Mel Gibson make a good pair here, and Gibson delivers the intensity that perfectly suits the part of the suicidal cop on the verge of a breakdown. With that same vigor he absolutely nails the part of fighting off his demons in a suicidal rage in his trailer. It’s a scene that could’ve turned embarrassingly awkward and phoney if done by an actor with less acting chops.

The only minor gripe lies with the ending. Passable, but surely the immense buildup until that moment had a promise of a showdown of a much more epic proportions. As a proof of that, Lethal Weapon is a movie much better known of its other scenes, not its ending.

Lethal Weapon is a landmark 80s a-class action movie that totally belongs up there with the greats like Die Hard, Beverly Hills Cop and Predator.

80s-o-meter: 97%

Total: 94%

#694 Nightfall (1988)

Based on Isaac Asimov’s classic short story of the same name, Nightfall is a pretentious and pompous scifi movie that somehow feels a bit like an hour long episode of some new age soap opera. It starts without an actual beginning, continues with a crawling pace without much development and terminates as suddenly as it started.

There’s plenty of terms, customs and connotations we are somehow expected to be aware of when we probably wouldn’t be interested in them even if we had the movie explain them to us.

If you disliked Dune, you’ll absolutely loathe Nightfall.

This is definitely not a good kind of bad movie, or something that could be dubbed a guilty pleasure. Unlike some other scifi turkeys, Nightfall enjoys absolutely no cult following of any sort – a rare feat for a bad scifi movie of this epic proportions.

80s-o-meter: 30%

Total: 21%

#693 Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989)

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death somehow falls into the uncanny zone between a crazy comedy and your usual adventure comedy. It’s too zany and out there to be taken seriously in any way, but still hopes to convey the idea of a jungle adventure and the discovery of an ancient tribe therein without bothering with any sort of set design. The resulting movie experience is flattened by failing to establish a sense of place where the adventure happens.

I know it’s a weird thing to complain in a movie that’s intentionally campy by design, but even many wackier comedies out there even try to pretend that the movie isn’t shot in the producer’s back yard.

The prominent theme in the movie is feminism and the battle between the sexes – which is bit of a hit and miss. It plays on the easy stereotypes and isn’t nowhere as snappy as it would like to be, but there are certainly some good ideas and moments of self-realisation here as well. It’s not a mean spirited movie per se, but those who get easily offended might still want to steer away from it.

80s-o-meter: 87%

Total: 59%