Films 1980s

Ah the 1980s. On the whole the worst time for Hollywood films. The decade where it all changed and Hollywood siloed itself into there being two sorts of films: blockbusters and artier Oscar contenders. Gone where the days where the likes of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest could become the biggest hit of the year. Instead the age of the franchise began, often with diminishing returns for each entry, many playing to the lowest common denominator. Internationally, directors continued to produce striking, landmark films – but still had their films squeezed at home by Rocky and Rambo style behemoths.


Breaker Morant – three Australian officers go on trial for murder in the Boer War in this superb denunciation of warDirector: Bruce Beresford
Cast: Edward Woodward, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson
The Elephant Man – heartbreaking version of the life of Joseph Merrick, beautifully made and also provokes tearsDirector: David Lynch
Cast: John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft
The Empire Strikes Back – the best ever Star Wars film, as Luke trains as a Jedi while his friends dodge capture by Darth VaderDirector: Irvin Kershner
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Flash Gordon – cult, but actually awful, campy attempt to capture some of the Star Wars magic. Director: Mike Hodges
Cast: Sam J Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow
Kagemusha – a peasant acts as a double for a lord. When the lord dies he has to take his place.Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki
The Last Metro – during the occupation, an actress hides her Jewish director husband in their theatre basementDirector: François Truffaut
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Heinz Bennett
The Long Good Friday – a capitalist London gangster gets in over his ahead against the IRA in this brilliant Brit thrillerDirector: John Mackenzie
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Derek Thompson
Ordinary People – Best Picture winning exploration of grief as a family struggles to overcome the suicide of its oldest sonDirector: Robert Redford
Cast: Mary Taylor Moore, Donald Sutherland, Timothy Hutton
Raging Bull – famous boxer Jake LaMotta can’t control his jealousy in possibly the greatest American film of the decadeDirector: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty
The Shining – a writer, stranded in an empty hotel full of evil spirits, loses his mind and tries to kill his family. TerrifyingDirector: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd


An American Werewolf in London – After being attacked by a crazed wolf, a backpacker develops a terrible new conditionDirector: John Landis
Cast: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne
Atlantic City – a loser in a crumbling city tries to seduce a dreamer in this low-key, observant dramaDirector: Louis Malle
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Michel Piccoli
Chariots of Fire – Best Picture winning biopic of 1924 British Olympic Gold medal winners with possibly the most famous score everDirector: Hugh Hudson
Cast: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Ian Holm
Clash of the Titans – Perseus needs the head of the Gorgon to save a princess in this past-its-best Harryhausen epicDirector: Desmond Davis
Cast: Harry Hamlin, Judi Bowker, Burgess Meredith
Escape to Victory – bizarre POW movie in which a team of football legends take on the Germans. Pelé and Stallone together at last!Director: John Huston
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine, Pelé 
Excalibur – dementedly Gothic version of the Arthurian legend, like a Opera on heatDirector: John Boorman
Cast: Nigel Terry, Nicol Williamson, Helen Mirren
For Your Eyes Only – Bond goes back to basics, in a low-key adventure hunting for a missing computer in GreeceDirector: John Glen
Cast: Roger Moore, Carol Bouquet, Topol
The French Lieutenant’s Woman – a Victorian man loves a fallen woman, while the actor playing him loves his co-starDirector: Karel Reisz
Cast: Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Leo McKern
Raiders of the Lost Ark – one of the greatest adventure stories in the movies: bullwhips, snakes and hats all in one movieDirector: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
Reds – epic political biopic as journalists John Reed and Louise Bryant fight for Socialism in America and Russia in the 1910sDirector: Warren Beatty
Cast: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson
Time Bandits – a young boy joins a group of time travelling dwarves in this wonderful fantasy for history buffsDirector: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Craig Warnock, David Rappaport, Kenny Baker


Blade Runner – a detective is hired to find (and terminate) rogue replicants in this influential dystopian sci-fi classicDirector: Ridley Scott
Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
The Draughtsman’s Contract – deliberately oblique, art film about a murder in a country house in the 1680sDirector: Peter Greenaway
Cast: Anthony Higgins, Janet Suzman, Anne-Louise Lambert
Gandhi – Best Picture winning biopic of India’s greatest statesman, a little schoolboy history but earnestly endearingDirector: Richard Attenborough
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Rohini Hattaggadi, Roshan Seth
Missing – in the aftermath of the Chilean revolution an American father hunts for his missing son Director: Costa-Gravas
Cast: Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek, John Shea
The Missionary – witty, gentle comedy: a priest working with fallen women finds himself in endless sexual entanglementsDirector: Richard Loncraine
Cast: Michael Palin, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott
An Officer and a Gentleman – a naval candidate learns to be a better man in this kitchen-sink drama masquerading as romanceDirector: Taylor Hackford
Cast: Richard Gere, Debra Winger, Louis Gossett Jnr
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – the best Star Trek film, Kirk duels with an old enemy who is desperate for revengeDirector: Nicholas Meyer
Cast: William Shatner, Ricardo Montalban, Leonard Nimoy
The Thing – on an Antarctic base, a shapeshifting alien hunts down the crew. Body horror classic.Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilfrid Brimley, TK Carter
Tootsie – a difficult actor finds work disguised as a woman and winning a part on a TV soap. Superb, smart comedyDirector: Sydney Pollack
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr


Gorky Park – excellent crime drama as a Soviet cop investigates murders that tie into an international smuggling ringDirector: Michael Apted
Cast: William Hurt, Lee Marvin, Brian Dennehy
Heat and Dust – a woman travels to India to find out more about the scandalous love life of her Grandmother under the British RajDirector: James Ivory
Cast: Julie Christie, Greta Scacchi, Shashi Kapoor
Scarface – OTT crime drama about a Cuban gangster making it big in the US and self-destructing. Satire on greed and bling cultureDirector: Brian de Palma
Cast: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer
Tender Mercies – a reformed country and western singer searches for joy in Chekovian dramaDirector: Bruce Beresford
Cast: Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley
Terms of Endearment – Best Picture winning tearjerker about the fractious relationship between a mother and daughterDirector: James L Brooks
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, Jack Nicholson
Under Fire – well-made but naive film about Nicaragua that pulls its punches and settles for melodramaDirector: Roger Spottiswoode
Cast: Nick Nolte, Gene Hackman, Joanna Cassidy
WarGames – a computer wants to play a game: unfortunately the game is Thermonuclear war…Director: John Badham
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, John Wood


The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension – cultish OTT sci-fi as a polymath takes on ruthless aliensDirector: WD Richter
Cast: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin
Amadeus – Best Picture winning epic on the life of Mozart and the envy of his (unacknowledged) rival Salieri. I love this filmDirector: Milos Forman
Cast: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge
The Bounty – revisionist version of the mutiny that sympathises more with Bligh than usual. Director: Roger Donaldson
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson, Laurence Olivier
Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes – revisionist version, takes itself very, very seriouslyDirector: Hugh Hudson
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm
1984 – Orwell adaptation, dripping with dystopian oppression and post-industrial gloom with Hurt perfectly castDirector: Michael Radford
Cast: John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton
Once Upon a Time in America – Leone’s Godfather riff, a poetic, operatic coming-of-age tale of kids who become gangstersDirector: Sergio Leone
Cast: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern
A Passage to India – Lean’s handsome Forster adaptation as a Raj woman accuses an Indian doctor of rape – is it true?Director: David Lean
Cast: Judy Davis, Victor Bannerjee, Peggy Ashcroft
A Soldier’s Story – in 1942 on a military base, a black NCO is killed – a racist crime? A black JAG is sent to investigateDirector: Norman Jewison
Cast: Howard E Rollins Jnr, Adolph Caesar, Art Evans


Back to the Future – a teenager time travels and screws up his parents meeting. Can he get them back together? 80s classicDirector: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover
Dance with a Stranger – ill-treated Ruth Ellis becomes the last woman hung in Britain in this sympathetic dramaDirector: Mike Newell
Cast: Miranda Richardson, Rupert Everett, Ian Holm
Out of Africa – Best Picture winner, all show and no depth. A Danish farmer in Africa falls in love with a British adventurer Director: Sydney Pollack
Cast: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer
Plenty – dry theatre adaptation: a female SOE agent finds post-war life dull and oppressive when she returns homeDirector: Fred Schepisi
Cast: Meryl Streep, Charles Dance, Sam Neill, John Gielgud
Ran – Kurosawa transfers King Lear to Samurai Japan in this luscious but sometimes too stately epicDirector: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu
Rocky IV – Rocky fights the USSR champ to get revenge for the death of mentor Apollo Creed. Silly but funDirector: Sylvestor Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Talia Shire
A Room with a View – Merchant-Ivory triumph with this perfectly mounted Forster adaptationDirector: James Ivory
Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Maggie Smith
Witness – an Amish boy witnesses a murder. A detective goes undercover to protect him and falls in love with his motherDirector: Peter Weir
Cast: Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas


Aliens – brilliant sequel that resets the original wonderfully. Ripley leads marines to save a colony from more Aliens.Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen
Caravaggio – post-modern biopic of the artist, with plenty of killing and added motorbikesDirector: Derek Jarmon
Cast: Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton, Sean Bean
The Color of Money – Scorsese’s one for the money with this belated Hustler sequel: Fast Eddie Felson trains a protegeDirector: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Hannah and Her Sisters – family dramas abound as three sisters face romantic entanglementsDirector: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest
Highlander – cult adventure as immortals compete for a mystical prize. Spawned a whole franchise Director: Russell Mulcahy
Cast: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown
Jean de Florette – a farmer is betrayed by his neighbours in this luscious French Merchant Ivory style filmDirector: Claude Berri
Cast: Yves Montard, Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu
Manhunter – the hunt for a serial killer leads to dangerous obsession in this moody Harris adaptationDirector: Michael Mann
Cast: William Petersen, Dennis Farina, Brian Cox
Manon des Sources – conspiring farmers are found out in the second of this French Merchant-Ivory style epicDirector: Claude Berri
Cast: Yves Montard, Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Béart
The Mission – tragic South American missionaries drama, as colonialism claims multiple victims. Breathtaking scoreDirector: Roland Joffé
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Ray McAnally
The Name of the Rose – a polymath monk investigates murders in a medieval abbey. Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Cast: Sean Connery, F. Murray Abraham, Christian Slater
Platoon – Best Picture winning semi-autobiographical Vietnam war film, based on Stone’s own experiencesDirector: Oliver Stone
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger
Salvador – Stone’s angry denunciation of US Cold War policy, electric if at times a little obviousDirector: Oliver Stone
Cast: James Woods, Jim Belushi, Michael Murphy
Top Gun – Cruise flies planes and Goose dies: that’s the basic sum of the plot of this mega smash-hitDirector: Tony Scott
Cast: Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer


Broadcast News – heavy-handed media satire: a producer is torn between an empty-headed anchor and a sanctimonious reporterDirector: James L Brooks
Cast: Holly Hunter, William Hurt, Albert Brooks
The Dead – rather beautiful Joyce adaptation, low-key and gorgeous, the director’s swansongDirector: John Huston
Cast: Anjelica Huston, Donal McCann, Cathleen Delaney
Fatal Attraction – an affair goes wrong when the woman can’t let it go. A mega-hit that looks more and more sexist todayDirector: Adrian Lyne
Cast: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer
The Last Emperor – Best Picture winning epic on the life of the last Chinese Emperor – looks a million dollars, but slightly shallowDirector: Bernardo Bertolucci
Cast: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O’Toole
The Living Daylights – Dalton takes on his first mission and is masterful, in this overlooked Bond adventureDirector: John Glen
Cast: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Jeroen Krabbé
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne – a spinster with a drink problem tries to cease one final chance at happinessDirector: Jack Clayton
Cast: Maggie Smith, Bob Hoskins, Wendy Hiller
The Untouchables – FBI Agents take on Al Capone in this superb cops and robbers film (with added Eisenstein homage)Director: Brian de Palma
Cast: Kevin Coster, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro


Dangerous Liaisons – in pre-Revolutionary France, two aristocrats play seductive games with other people’s hearts.Director: Stephen Frears
Cast: Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer
Die Hard – a cop, trapped in a hijacked building, gets into a battle with wits with a mastermind. Best action film of all time?Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
The Last Temptation of Christ – one of the most controversial films ever made, a reimagining of the Gospels with a doubt-filled JesusDirector: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey
Midnight Run – a bail-bond collector tracks down an accountant who stole money from the mafia. Brilliant odd-couple comedyDirector: Martin Brest
Cast: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto
Rain Man – Best Picture winner about a man who discovers he has an autistic older brother. Lessons are learned.Director: Barry Levinson
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino
Working Girl – a secretary has business smarts – but her ideas stolen by her female boss – in this Wall Street comedyDirector: Mike Nichols
Cast: Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver


Back to the Future Part II – terrible sequel that goes to the future then an alternative 1985 then back to 1955 : a messDirector: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
Batman – first big serious comic book movie, looks campier now than it did, but showed comics could be dark and seriousDirector: Tim Burton
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger
Crimes and Misdemeanors – a celebrated doctor has his mistress murdered in this flattering-to-deceive Allen pictureDirector: Woody Allen
Cast: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow
Dead Poet’s Society – a teacher inspires students in this sickly sentimental coming-of-age drama. He would fail DBS todayDirector: Peter Weir
Cast: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke
Do the Right Thing – racial tensions simmer in a hot New York in Spike Lee’s masterpiece, a truly brilliant filmDirector: Spike Lee
Cast: Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee
Driving Miss Daisy – in the South, a Black chauffeur drives a Jewish lady in infamous Best Picture winning feel-good filmDirector: Bruce Beresford
Cast: Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Dan Aykroyd
Glory – during the civil war an all-Black company – and its white officers – have to struggle for respect Director: Edward Zwick
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman
Parenthood – a multi-generational family faces all sorts of troubles in this warm and witty comedy dramaDirector: Ron Howard
Cast: Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Dianne Wiest
Scandal – careful reconstruction of the Profumo scandal, with plenty of sex (of course)Director: Michael Caton Jones
Cast: John Hurt, Joanne Whalley, Ian McKellen