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: They Live (US)
It’s the one John Carpenter movie which I feel gets more hype than it deserves. It’s still my tenth favourite film of the year, but it would be lower down my list of favourite Carpenter films, which says a lot for the quality of his work and my love for it. While still prescient today, and while stoutly anti-Reagan and anti-Republican, it’s one of those films whose message can be, and has been, twisted by individuals and organizations of any persuasion. Or you can simply view it as Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David knocking several shades of shite out of each other while keeping a shaded eye on Alien shenanigans.
9: Hellraiser 2 (US/UK)
It’s not as immediately arresting as the first movie, but it builds upon the mysterious world we only glimpsed in part 1, and remains one of the most visually inventive horror movies of the decade which pushed the boundary for what devilish delights could be realised on screen. It follows more or less directly from the first movie, with Kirsty committed to a psychiatric hospital and begging that the doctor’s destroy all evidence of what happened to prevent the Cenobites (and anyone else) from returning. Unfortunately, she happens to have been committed to the one hospital in the world, and be in the care of the one doctor in the world, who has awareness of The Lament Configuration and wants to experience its delights and torments for himself.
It’s best to not think about the plot too much and just follow it like you’re in the grip of a particularly vivid and violent nightmare. It’s great to see the old gang back together from Part 1, and it’s interesting just how much the film has in common with Dream Warriors. It’s another bizarre and bloody descent into Barker’ peculiar brand of Hell, but sadly the last film in the neverending Hellraiser series that’s worth watching.
8: Bloodsport (US)
One of JCVD’s breakout hits, and one of those movies I slipped into the basket when we were picking up VHSs to rent back in the day. Contentiously based on the real life events of Frank Dux it follows Van Damme (as Dux), a soldier with a Martial Arts background who goes AWOL so that he can join an underground, illegal Martial Arts tournament. He makes friends with a Yank, becomes entangled with a reporter, is followed by Forest Whitaker, and invites the rage of Bolo Yeung. The highlights are of course the fights – your typical 80s Western Martial Arts one to one fodder, but spiced up by the talent on display.
7: Akira (Japan)
Arguably still the greatest Japanese animated movie ever, and undoubtedly one of the most influential animated films of all time, Akira remains a jaw-dropping and mind-boggling experience. While bloody, violent, stylized, confusing, and sometimes overly kinetic, Akira is a film everyone should experience at least once. The plot isn’t easy to condense into a couple of lines, but it involves feuding biker gangs in the aftermath of World War 3, set in Neo-Tokyo after the original Tokyo was wiped out. When one of the gang members is arrested by shady Government types, his friends attempt to rescue him but uncover a world of extra-sensory science experiments which could not only claim their friend’s life, but also end all life on the planet as we know it. A hallucinatory trip, with pounding music and visuals speeding by like a bullet, Akira still feels like one of a kind four decades later.
6: Twins (US)
Putting the world’s biggest action star alongside one of America’s funniest men may have sounded strange at the time, but the charm of both stars feeding an endearing relationship, wrapped up inside a silly yet heart-warming story, mean that Twins is an easy, enjoyable watch for any generation. Arnie shows fine comedic chops while Devito brings the pizazz, the two starring as twins separated at birth – Arnie ‘getting all the good genes’ – the strength, the looks, the height, and intelligence, along with an exotic wealthy upbringing, while Devito got everything else. Arnie sets out to find his long lost street crook brother, and so kicks off a cross-country journey for their mutual past while outrunning a bunch of hapless criminals. It’s a lot of fun.
5: Young Guns (US)
The Western has never really been the young man’s genre. Sure, kids back in the early days of Cinema would have loved the sweeping vistas and tales of macho manliness, but once you hit adolescence you become jaded and horny and look for other forms of entertainment. Stagnant for at least a decade, the Western had fallen out of favour with general audience too, outside of the odd Clint Eastwood update – enter the Brat Pack with their Revisionist take on the Billy The Kid legend. Suddenly, Cowboys were cool again – young, human, but with a modern outlook of happy go lucky cynicism as exemplified by a spirited Emilio Estevez and his pals – Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips etc. It was the movie which got me into Westerns after avoiding them as boring old man fare, and it’s still one of a limited number of Westerns I return to over and over.
4: Heathers (US)
Another wonderful vehicle for Christian Slater and Winona Ryder, Heathers is one of the greatest anti-hero teen movies. While Ryder would go grom strength to strength, Slater’s stardom would burn out somewhat, although he has made various credible returns in recent years. Heathers remains some of their finest work, starring as a jaded, murderous young couple sick of the popular kids, sick of the grind, sick of life. At once a satire of popularity, cliques, and anti-heroes, Heathers is a delightful slice of non-PC cynicism, featuring performances from familiar faces such as Glenn Shadix, Penelope Milford, and Shannon Doherty.
3: Willow (US)
It’s always been a mystery why Willow has not remained as popular as it once was. Now we’re getting a Disney Plus reboot, so perhaps that will breathe some life back into a wonderful, almost Star Wars adjacent universe. Written by George Lucas and with some game-changing visuals for the time, Willow follows Warwick Davis as an aspiring Sorcerer who takes guardianship of a baby. Not just any baby, but a baby who’s life is in danger by the ruthless Warlord Queen Bavmorda due to a prophecy which states that the child will bring her rein to and end.
2: Die Hard (US)
Covered in my Favourite Films Of The 80s post
1: Beetlejuice. (US)
Covered in my Favourite Films Of The 80s post
Let us know in the comments what your favourite films of 1988 are!