Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!
10: Highlander (UK/US)
There can only be one! Except they followed it up with a bunch more and a TV series, and probably an 80s animated series that no-one remembers. It’s the Camp special on the list – it even features Queen all through the soundtrack. It also stars Sean Connery at his hammiest, and a French bloke as a kilt-wearing, sheep-bothering Scotsman. Yet somehow it’s cool. It’s the 80s high concept-ness of it all – a race of immortals battle their way through time until there is only one left, the only way they can be killed is via sword beheading for some reason. Queue lots of dubious sword fighting choreography and neon lit shenanigans, with some sort of love story at the heart of it all. There’s interesting lore, from Quickenings to Gatherings, but as a kid it was the idea of immortals sword-fighting which sold it for me – I’ve always loved the idea of someone living through these major historical times, existing from century to century accruing all of this knowledge and wisdom, while whipping out a sword every so often.
9: Stand By Me (US)
A contender for the best Stephen King adaptation and the one best cast, Stand By Me is a gripping drama, a coming of age story like no other, and an all to human story regardless of the time and place in which it is set. River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell, Keifer Sutherland, Will Wheaton, Corey Feldman, John Cusack, and Richard Dreyfuss all star, in another story which looks to the past as four friends embark one long summer day on a mission to see a dead body.
8: A Better Tomorrow (HK)
Hong Kong was knocking it out of the park in the late 80s, making steps away from the straight kung fu movies of the previous decades. It was all guns and gangsters now. A Better Tomorrow is an archetype for this, setting out various tropes which would be copied for years after with John Woo directing Leslie Cheung, Chow Yun Fat, and Ti Lung as three men connected by blood or through their work with the Triad.
Lung is a low level manager type in the business, Fat is his charismatic best friend, while Leung is his younger brother training to be a cop. After a botched job, Lung takes the fall letting a younger Triad member called Shing get away. We flash forward to Lung getting out of prison, only to find his brother cannot forgive his him for his life of crime, and that Shing has become a ruthless leader casting Fat out of the group. It’s typical masculine, violent John Woo stuff, and it’s fantastic. While Woo would further hone his style, this was a huge smash and turned the cast into stars overnight. It still holds up as an action movie today, with plenty of visceral stunts and slow mo, and a plot which you know will lead to one final nail-biting, gun-pointing conclusion.
7: Blue Velvet (US)
David Lynch’s fourth film saw him returning to what he did best – small town stories told through his unique noir-tinged lens. Eraserhead was his nightmarish vision of this model, The Elephant Man was his Oscar bait big league shot, and Dune was his big budget Mr Hollywood show. Blue Velvet is unfiltered Lynch, writing and directing a story the way he wanted to. Starting out innocently enough – a severed human ear being found by an All American Boy returning to his All American Town – it ramps up into an alien crime drama where seedy truths and shocking violence ooze from the ground. Kyle MachLaclan, Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Dean Stockwell, and an unhinged Dennis Hopper lead the cast in Lynch’s alluring, horrible fable.
6: Platoon (US)
Arguably Stone’s finest film, and undoubtedly one of the best War movies ever made, Platoon reflects Stone’s own experiences in Vietnam in an uncompromising way, never showering the US troops in the glory they had been used to in prior Cinematic depictions. These soldiers are flawed men in a worthless war, fighting for nothing, and frequently there for nothing more than their own ego or trying simply to survive when death could come at any moment from any side. The war and its fighters are ugly, and as we observe it through Charlie Sheen’s eyes, we are left bruised and battered by the end, having learned or re-learned that old adage of there being no good guys in war, only victims.
5: Police Academy 3 (US)
It’s only on this blog that you can follow a critically revered classic like Platoon with something as worthless as Police Academy 3 – a film I rank higher. You come for the content, and stay for the disbelief. In this entry, the team is tasked with training a batch of new recruits to the Police Academy, knowing that if they fail they’ll be shut down. This leads to the likes of Zed, Fackler’s wife, Sweetchuck, Nogata, and another love interest for Mahoney all signing up and getting into all manner of silly japes. It’s more of the same, and as my comedy brain never matured being the age of 5, it’s perfect.
4: The Fly (US)
David Cronenberg’s crowning achievement, bringing his body horror obsessions to peak grotesque levels in the midst of a steady character based narrative which never feels like it’s slipping out of reach. It would be easy, and unfair, to speak of the visual effects as the star of the show given that Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis both give star-making performances.
3: The Hitcher (US)
The Hitcher, in spite of its remake, remains an underrated film and the very definition of a Cult movie. We get right to the point in the opening minutes, and from there the tension and action doesn’t let up. It’s opaque in its character moments, its story can be taken directly or broken down into complex themes, it has several iconic scenes and set pieces, it has terrific action and a superb performance from Rutger Hauer, and its visual style is as close to what I want a film to look like as it’s possible to be.
2: Big Trouble In Little China (US)
John Carpenter’s ‘All In’ movie. Horror? Sure. Martial arts? Why not? Slapstick comedy? It’d be rude not to. Kurt Russell and a mullet? Obviously. It’s the most successful mish-mash of multiple genres ever committed to screen and one of the most fun movies of the 80s.
1: Aliens (US)
James Cameron knows how to make heart-pumping action, knowing that the key to making us care about the action is to make us care about the characters. We already had an in with Ripley, and we already understood the lore of the universe, so Cameron takes everything else up a notch by pitting Ripley alongside a group of tough-nosed marines who are no match for a colony of Aliens. Cameron has a track record of making perfect sequels – will he keep it up with the new Avatar movie – and Aliens remains a prime example of how to respect an original and take the story to the next level.
How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two
How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One – the winner