You may have gathered by now that, aside from writing this blog, my other great passions in life are Stockport County, music and films.
I wrote briefly about County in one of my early posts, and it’s fair to say that, aside from a small group of fellow ‘Hatters’ who regularly follow my blog (as if they haven’t suffered enough), it didn’t prove to be hugely popular. Bit like County, really.
Then, towards the end of last year, I wrote a trilogy of entries counting down my favourite albums of the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s. Again, these weren’t a massive success, but I said at the outset I would be indulging myself every once in a while, and the countdowns were more to satisfy my own curiosity of what order I would place my favourite albums, than to attract any new followers. Lord knows, I’m not writing this blog for the fame and money (well, not yet).
So, it’s self-indulgence time again, as I’ve decided to do countdowns of my favourite films from the same three decades, starting with the decade I was born – the 1980s.
Loads of great films were released in the ‘80s, and my initial shortlist was well over twenty titles long, but I had to be hard on myself (behave) and restrict the countdown to a top ten. Some entries might come as a surprise, and plenty will be noticeable by their absence – but it’s all relative, and these are my personal favourites.
Last thing – if my choice for best film of the 1980s shocks you, then you really haven’t been paying attention…
10. The Living Daylights (1987)
The only Bond film to make my list, but when you consider the other entries into the franchise during the 1980s – For Your Eyes Only (shit), Octopussy (shitter), A View To A Kill (passable, but Grace Jones scares the bejeezus out of me) and Licence To Kill (back to shit again) – the competition wasn’t too intense.
The Living Daylights was a shining beacon in an otherwise dire decade for Bond, which is a shame, because Roger Moore’s opening three outings as 007 during the ‘70s (Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me) were all excellent. Of course, Roger can’t be blamed for Licence to Kill, as Timothy Dalton had taken over as Bond by that point, but he certainly needs to shoulder most of the responsibility for the barren spell that Bond suffered during my first decade.
The Living Daylights, however, is superb. By far the better of Dalton’s two offerings, everything about it oozes class. Dalton played 007 in a similar way to Daniel Craig, in that he was cold and had less of the cheese that we now associate with Roger Moore – and, to a lesser extent, Pierce Brosnan.
It’s a brilliant film that, by all accounts, saved Bond from becoming a farce.
9. Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989)
Easily my favourite of the Indiana Jones series (let’s all pretend Kingdom of the Crystal Skull never happened, shall we?), and that’s not just because Sean Connery is in it.
It’s certainly more ‘family adventure film’ than its two darker predecessors (I won’t be showing Ollie The Temple of Doom any time soon, that’s for sure)*, but this is no bad thing, and some of the comedy injected into the film – particularly the strained father/son relationship between Connery and Ford – is really entertaining.
Action, adventure, stunning locations and a shitload of Nazis. What’s not to like? Well, Nazis obviously, but they’re kind of integral to the plot, bearing in mind much of the film is set in wartime Germany.
*Actually, I’ve just remembered what happens to one of the Nazis at the end of the film when he drinks from the wrong chalice. Maybe I won’t show this film to Ollie just yet either.
8. The Karate Kid (1984)
Now, this is one film I have shown to Ollie, and thankfully he enjoyed it as much as I did. Everyone relishes a good underdog story, and I still love watching the final ‘crane’ scene as much as I did growing up.
The inner nerd from my childhood (believe it or not, I wasn’t always the ripped Adonis I have grown into), loves the idea of bullies getting their comeuppance, but some of us weren’t fortunate enough to move far away and become friends with an unusual Japanese man, who would give us chores in order to develop us into the ultimate karate champion on the sly. Some people have all the luck.
Want to feel old? Ralph Macchio, who played the title role, is now 54.
7. Ghostbusters (1984)
Another film I have shown to Ollie – although, in all honesty, I’m not sure why I did, as it’s bloody frightening in parts. Still, he seemed to enjoy it, and hasn’t had any nightmares about it since (which is odd, because he got scared by the ballroom scene in Labyrinth last week, so he’s evidently a wuss).
The combination of Bill Murray (who, frankly, is a genius), Dan Ackroyd and Rick Moranis, is more-or-less a guaranteed formula for a great ‘80s film. If you then throw in Harold Ramis (sadly no longer with us) and Sigourney Weaver (who must have saved them a fortune in scary make-up), it’s no wonder the film was a huge success.
It’s funny, scary, entertaining, thrilling, and has a battle with a giant marshmallow man. Not many films can say that.
6. Innerspace (1987)
This film probably wouldn’t make most people’s lists, but I loved it as a kid and, having watched it again for the first time in years a couple of weeks ago, it hasn’t lost any of it’s magic. It has excitement, comedy, and a great soundtrack. Even Meg Ryan looks uncharacteristically hot.
Best of all, it is one of the few ‘80s films that (touch wood) they are going to leave alone, without making a sequel, spin-off or, even worse, ridiculously over-the-top modern remake. Perhaps that’s because it wouldn’t have the appeal to most people if they did try to re-hash it, but some things are best left alone, and this film is one of them. Brilliant.
5. Aliens (1986)
Sadly, this is one film series that they did decide to mess around with, and look what happened. There are now so many spin-offs from the original Alien trilogy, I can’t even name them all. Most seem to revolve around the ‘Alien v Predator’ theme (which is a terrible idea, that has amazingly been reproduced more than once), but even the first film to follow the trilogy, Alien: Resurrection, was woeful, and should have been more than sufficient warning that they shouldn’t fuck around with the series any further.
Notice that I have, however, opted for Aliens, over Alien. Despite all the post-trilogy films being utter shite, the first sequel, in my opinion, surpasses the original. Ok, purists might argue that it’s more all-out action, as opposed to the wonderfully-chilling suspense of the original, but I happen to like that just a teeny bit more.
Besides, Alien came out in 1979, so it’s ineligible.
4. Die Hard (1988)
The recent passing of Alan Rickman not only took everyone by complete surprise, but it robbed the cinematic world of one of the great British baddies. Ok, not all of the characters he played were evil, but by God could he do ‘megalomaniac’ well. Hans Gruber was menacing, but could be funny at the same time, and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role.
Die Hard is quite simplistic as far as action films go, but it shows that you don’t need to spend millions on special effects if you have the right story and, more importantly, cast. Ok, Bruce Willis isn’t the best actor in the world, but he, like Rickman, was perfect for the part. Besides, The Matrix is a great film (spoiler alert for the ‘90s countdown), and Keanu Reeves is a truly terrible actor.
Plus, if we forget A Good Day to Die Hard, the remaining sequels were all really good films in their own right too. So long as they don’t try and make another*
*Bollocks. Just checked. They are.
3. Top Secret! (1984)
If Innerspace wouldn’t feature on most people’s lists, I can’t think of anyone who would include Top Secret! For the uninitiated, this was Val Kilmer’s film debut, and it was directed by the same guys responsible for Airplane! (they liked a film with an exclamation mark, didn’t they?) which gives you some idea of the level of humour you can expect.
If the names of the French Resistance in the film don’t tickle you (Latrine, Chocolate Mousse, Déjà vu – “Have we met before?”), then how about this conversation, when Kilmer’s character, an American Rock ‘n’ Roll singer, is approached by a German waiter in a restaurant:
Nick: “Oh, I’m sorry, I really don’t know any German.”
Hilary: “That’s ok, I know a little German….. He’s sitting over there.”
The film then cuts to a vertically challenged man in lederhosen, who is waving at them. That, my friends, is comedy genius.
I remember Top Secret! being on TV during my first year at university, and I persuaded loads of friends to watch it with me. By the end of the film, everyone had wandered off, except for one girl who enjoyed it and stayed to the end. So I married her.
2. Return of The Jedi (1983)
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t care what the critics and so-called ‘experts’ think, The Empire Strikes Back isn’t the best Star Wars film, this is.
It has all the best bits of its two predecessors – the destruction of the ‘Death Star’ from A New Hope, mixed with the sinister ‘dark side’ elements of The Empire Strikes Back – but it has so much more besides: Jabba; Luke growing from whining little brat into fully-fledged Jedi; Ewoks; Darth turning good again; Han realising that Luke and Leia are siblings (and then clearly recalling them kissing at the start of Empire – as we all did); but above all else it has the greatest costume decision in cinematic history – Leia’s gold bikini.
Everything about this film is fantastic. To be honest, they could have stuck Jar Jar Binks in it, and I would still love it.
Ok, maybe not.
1. Back To The Future (1985)
No surprises here then. The fact that my favourite film of all time (not just the ‘80s) is Back To The Future, is the second thing people learn about me, once I have told them which football team I support.
From start to finish, there isn’t one thing I would change about this film. The soundtrack – which ranges from 1950s classics such as ‘Earth Angel’ and ‘Johnny B. Goode’, to Alan Silvestri’s edge-of-your-seat composition – is the perfect accompaniment to the perfect film.
I could re-watch this film every week, for the rest of my life, and not tire of it. The first time Ollie watched it, which was last year, he got so excited and tense at the scene where Marty races down the road in time to be struck by lightning and sent back to 1985, that he got quite upset – first with the fear that Marty might not make it, and then with relief and joy that he did.
The very fact that he was loving it, and clearly had the same goosebumps I still get watching that scene, brought a tear to my eye. That father/son moment actually topped the first time Ollie watched The Empire Strikes Back, and sat there with his mouth open following Darth’s “I am your father” revelation.
If any film producers out there so much as suggest re-making this film, or attempting Back To The Future IV, I will personally hunt them down and kill them. There, it’s in writing now. You have been warned.
And there you have it – an obvious conclusion to what was, hopefully, a less obvious countdown.
Back to being grumpy next week.