Nightman’s Favourite Films Of The 1990s

I continue my summary of my favourite films by year and by decade with this, my favourite films of the 1990s. Although I spent seven years in the 1980s, it’s really the 90s that most of my ‘growing up’ took place. It’s when I changed schools, became a teen, and all those important things. In terms of my love of film, it’s the decade that I started realizing that films were actually pieces of work that took years of planning and work to create – from the money men to the writers to the director and everyone else involved, while previously I only recognised a film by who starred in it. My tastes continued to be a love of action and horror and as the decade came to a close I was looking further afield for the sort of kicks that Hollywood could no longer provide. Regardless, this list will likely contain mostly American films, though the explosion of indie talent means that even those won’t necessarily be ‘Hollywood’. This could be a long post too, as many of my all time favourites came out in this decade. Essentially everything outside of the top seven can be in any order. Enough balls, lets do this.

21: The Blair Witch Project (1991)

Lets kick things off with a film that received a lot of hate from the horror community. It still divides horror fans with little middle ground – you either love it, or see it as boring, scare-free, and the main reason we have so many terrible shaky cam movies now. If there is any middle ground, it’s those people who say that the film is 95% walking around a forest, and the last 5% of the movie being genuinely terrifying. Obviously I love it, and a large part of that is due to the last 10 minutes or so – what makes the ending so chilling though is everything that comes before it. The three characters here, while they have their moments, are less annoying and more human than most you’ll find in this type of film and make less dubious decisions. The mythology of the film is interesting too, not least because it has basis in historical fact – I’m talking about the whole Witch Trials and Puritan fear-mongering of previous centuries here. Secondly, witches are a type of supernatural creature sorely underrepresented in movies, even in horror fiction as a whole. There are a few standout movies of course.

Obviously not the first found footage movie, The Blair With Project is nevertheless the most influential – it’s still the poster boy for the sub-genre. I remember the hysteria when this was released and I saw it as soon as I could. I watched the related documentary and I bought a related book detailing the history of the township. I love how the movie built up this little universe all of its own. I was mystified though by the people who actually bought into the advertising, believing the film to be real – I’m still not sure how people were fooled by this. The film has such a simple set up – a trio of students are making a documentary about a small town and the mythology surrounding it. They travel to the town, meet a few locals, and head out into the massive woods where evil is meant to lurk. They go missing and a few years later their video footage is found – the film is that footage. In the footage we see them getting stalked by something unseen – the group believe it could be locals having fun but they quickly become disoriented, paranoid, and fight among themselves. They get lost, they see and hear stranger things, and… well, you either know the rest or should watch yourself. I’ve never been scared of camping, or woods, or isolation, or anything like that – in fact I find such things comforting. I’ve no idea why the film creeps me out so much – I can only assume it’s the idea of a witch, some ancient evil lurking which can control time and space apparently, which gets to me but even that sounds stupid. Whatever it is, it works, and I love it.

20: The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Even after other movies from the same era have achieved cult status, this one still flies mainly under the radar and I’ve still no idea why. Look – it has like 40% on Rotten Tomatoes. Idiots. I mean, its treatment of women is dubious at times as I  believe I covered in my review post, but in terms of pure action and entertainment there are few better.

The film opens with some American Football player going for a touchdown or a home run or some sports shit but rather than some last minute glory win like Teenwolf, he whips out a gun and starts shooting the opposition before killing himself. Nice. Elsewhere, we meet a washed up ex Secret Service Agent who is now the disgruntled father of a bratty daughter, husband of a cheating wife, and a boozy PI. He gets a job to bodyguard a stripper, who just happens to be the boyfriend of an ex NFL star. The stripper is promptly killed and the boyfriend and the bodyguard team up to find out who put out the hit, unraveling a plot of corruption in the world of sports and politics. Directed by Tony Scott and starring Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans, this also features Danielle Harris, Halle Berry, Kim Coates, Taylor Negron. The script by Shane Black, which was sold for a record 1.75 million, is superb – filled with great self-aware 90s humour, Scott directs with his usual visual flair, and the cast are all good – Willis especially delivering one of his most sardonic performances. There are some great action set-pieces while remaining grounded, and yet both Scott and Black have stated that the end product was not what the script deserved. If that’s true then I can’t imagine how good the end product should have been.

19: Starship Troopers (1997)

The middle of the Nineties saw Paul Verhoeven moving away from the violent action movies that had earned him worldwide fame a decade earlier. His previous two films were sex-based thrillers – a massive success in Basic Instinct and a massive failure in Showgirls (I like both). Starship Troopers is a glorious return to the likes of Total Recall and Robocop – big, brash, loud mouth action, ultra violence, and more satirical than a liberal talk show host. Adapted from Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel, Verhoeven’s take clearly mocks the celebration of war and its associated propaganda machine although it’s easy to see why many completely miss the fascist satire and take it on face value as movie where guys with guns triumph over some faceless drone enemy.

The film follows Johnny Rico – a student in his final year of a very patriotic, militaristic school – and a small group of friends. Earth is attached by an alien race, kicking off an all out intergalactic war. Rico signs up in the hope of revenge, guts, and glory, and his band of friends all get recruited into different sections of the army – pilots, intelligence, grunts etc. Rico is a grunt and goes off for training to be cannon fodder – the scenes of training taking those of Full Metal Jacket to ridiculous new heights. Once training is complete, Rico heads off to war – that’s pretty much it. The special effects were state of the art for the time, and I still enjoy them now. The action is top rate, futuristic gun battles with ugly arachnid and alien creatures, and a cast featuring Dean Norris, Brenda Strong, Marshall Bell, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, Neil Patrick Harris, Jake Busey, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, and Casper Van Dien. Like in Robocop, Verhoeven fills this with media interludes – news snippets, adverts, info nuggets, all catered to a bloodthirsty flag-waving audience all to willing to sacrifice body and soul for a worthless cause. The dialogue doesn’t quite reach the heights of Robocop (what does?) but the film reunites the director, screenwriter, and musical composer meaning it’s a close cousin. Balls to the wall violent action movies were on the wane in the late 90s, and this is one of the genre’s finest swansongs.

18: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

I’ve argued before how this is a horror film. I’ve argued how Sheryl Lee deserved and Oscar nomination, if not a win for her performance here. David Lynch has quite a few masterpieces in his resume, but Twin Peaks – the series and the movie – are by far his most beloved work. The movie departs tonally, bravely, from the original series and instead offers a harrowing, terrifying glimpse into the last week of Laura Palmer’s tortured life. There are no characters offering quaint small-town wisdom, there is no offbeat humour, and there is almost no hope or light. This is the darkest quivering heart of The Black Lodge, a place of obsession, madness, and death, and its pulsating ripples envelope and suck in any innocence there may be in the unfortunate surroundings. If you haven’t seen the movie, then I won’t say anymore about it – all I can say is that it certainly helps to know the series before watching the movie, and to not expect the movie to be an extension of the show’s charms. This is your favourite town and everyone in it being burned to the ground, and its horrific and glorious.

17: Tombstone (1993)

True Romance and Heat narrowly missed out on making this best of Nineties list. Those films and Tombstone share the honours of having some of the most amazing casts in single films. There are a few films like this in the Nineties where you look at the cast and already know the film is going to be wonderful – doesn’t matter what the thing is about – it could be a discussion of the correlation between paint drying and algebra, it could be one of those terrible singing talent shows, hell – it could even be a musical and the cast alone would make it unmissable. Luckily Tombstone is none of those shitty things, instead being a stylish version of events from the life of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday with all manner of guns and moustaches.

Look at these names: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn, Sam Elliot, Powers Boothe. That’s a strong enough cast to sell any movie, but then you check out the support – Jason Priestly, Thomas Haden Church, Stephen Lang, Dana Delaney, Paula Malcomson. Fine, some decent names there, hardly stars though. Okay, why don’t we throw in Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Billy Bob Thornton? That’s without even mentioning Billy Zane, Michael Rooker, Terry O’Quinn, John Corbett and many others. That’s like a 70s disaster movie epic, or a Cecil B De Mille cast – in some respects literally.

The story is fairly streamlined and straightforward – A gang of outlaws has been shooting up various towns and they descend upon the town of Tombstone. Noted lawman Wyatt Earp and his brothers have decided to settle down there for a quiet life, meeting up with old friend Doc Holliday. The two groups, and assorted others, clash. There’s more to it than that, a lot of character building and inter-relations stuff, but at its core it’s the story of these groups coming together in a bloody conclusion. I’d spoken in another post about not liking many Westerns when I was young, but this is definitely one of the few which appealed to me and has only grown in my estimation over time.

16: Desperado (1995)

Robert Rodriguez burst onto the scene with this 1995 marvel of low budget film-making, essentially remaking his even lower budget El Mariachi. That previous film gained Rodriguez attention from the likes of Quentin Tarantino (who guest stars here) and whose influence no doubt aided in this getting made. The film also brought Salma Hayak and Danny Trejo into the limelight and launched Antonio Banderas into action hero status. Like Tarantino’s films, Desperado is marked by stylish action, quotable cool dialogue, and a variety unique grindhouse type characters.

Following the events of El Mariachi (no need to see that movie first though), the Mariachi with a guitar case full of guns has become something of a legend or folklore hero. El Mariachi is looking for the man called Bucho who killed his girlfriend and blew a hole in his hand. His travels take him to a small Mexican town where he encounters a new lover, a guitar playing boy, Bucho and his goons, and a variety of assassins and scoundrels looking for bounty. Beyond that, it’s guns guns guns. The principle cast are all gorgeous, cool, and the cameos from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Tarantino, Cheech and others are fun. The action set-pieces are fantastic, more in common with John Woo’s antics than the Hollywood blockbuster. For balls to the wall energy and creativity you won’t get many better.

15: Leon (1994)

Luc Besson had been making films for a while before he struck gold with Leon. His previous feature film Nikita had established him as one of the more interesting and diverse directors of action movies, but it’s Leon where he builds upon many of those ideas – isolation, moral ambiguity, control, and does it with a world-renowned cast and the sure touch of a director and writer on a creative roll. The film follows Jean Reno, a deadly assassin who stays away from all human contact and social interaction, who gets embroiled in saving a young girl’s life and trains her to follow in his footsteps. The film also features Natalie Portman’s star-making turn and Gary Oldman being epic, plenty of stylish action and a rather sweet/disturbing relationship depending on how you view it. The action movie moved away from the muscle bound superstars who owned the genre in the 80s and for a few years it struggled to find a new identity – the reluctant or anti-hero would take the place of Arnie and Sly as symbolized by films such as this.

14: Problem Child (1990)

This one was love at first sight and I still remember explaining the film in detail to my friends and a cousin the following week in school. Scene by scene, quote by quote I must have memorized the whole thing and then reenacted it to my class till they knew it by heart without having seen it. I probably contributed a hefty percentage to the amount of money the film made after making sure everyone else went out and saw it. Back when you rented VHS tapes, we generally kept them for a weekend. In most case we probably only watched them once, but I think Problem Child got a few watches and rewinds before getting returned. We probably rented it again before I eventually bought the tape myself.

It’s the story of a boy, Junior, who has been passed from family to family, adopted and sent back, and who ends up in an orphanage for kids no-one wants – hilarious! No-one wants him because he’s, well, a dick. He breaks stuff, steals, swears, plays pranks, and is probably violent. He’s clearly a future serial killer (his hero is in fact a serial killer), but maybe all he needs is the attention of a loving family. Enter John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck – a couple who insides are not compatible. They’re your perfect white American suburban family – all they’re missing is a kid – and they are coerced into adopting Junior. It’s not long before he begins wreaking havoc with his new family, destroying bullies at a baseball game, at a snooty birthday party, and inviting a certain Bow Tie Killer to rescue him.

You wonder what events conspired to ever see a story like this make it to screen. It’s a film you certainly wouldn’t see getting made in today’s more tame climate. The film was touted as a horror – inviting a child in to your home who happens to be violent or have other dark secrets (Orphan), then as a satire of all of the child-centric family hits of the 80s where grown ups overcome their issues thanks to the innocence of a child, eventually settling on this where the morale appears to be that… everyone deserves a chance, but most people are dicks? See, aside from being really funny – for kids and adults – Problem Child is dark as sin. I’ve always appreciated dark humour and I don’t know if that comes from years of violent slapstick cartoons or elsewhere, but I’m sure this film was a part of influencing my tastes. I’m not sure my wife would allow my kids to watch this if she really knew what it was about, but luckily for them I’ve already let them watch it so the joke’s on…. I actually don’t know who.

13: GoldenEye (1995)

I’ve always been a Bond fan. As a red blooded British bloke, of course I am. As with most successful franchises, sooner or later the money men come in and fuck everything up, and that’s exactly what happened with Bond. For years, various owners and companies and twats fought over the rights to the series and in the meantime the world moved on. By the time 1995 rolled around the Cold War was in the past and The West’s old enemies had been defeated or put into hiding. Luckily, evil and greed never dies, so the new world had a bunch of new outlets for ideas. A new Bond, a new M, new writers, directors, a new style, a new world – but still the same old sexy antics of a globe-trotting super spy who can’t resist dipping his PPK in the moist schemes of the world’s Vs (villains). Like most Bond films, the plot is either over-complex or a maguffin – here there’s stuff about Russians and hackers and satellites and financial ruin, but really it’s about a rogue MI6 agent and old friend of 007 getting up to badness, and Bond having to go kill him. On the way he leaps off a Dam, drives a tank, shoots up a train, kills a Boris, and stays Onatopp of his womanizing ways.

I’ll call it out here for full transparency – I love the N64 game and it’s one of my all time favourites. I played the game before I watched the film, but I don’t think this has had a huge impact on my love for the film Sure, being familiar with the game and then watching those scenes and locations on screen was cool and probably gave me some initial lols and hearts. As time went on though the film never fell out of favour with me – it has some of the best performances of any Bond movie, Brosnan is perfect, Bean is a great bad guy, and both Scorupco and Jansenn rank highly in my list of Bond girls. I love how personal and emotional the story becomes – it’s not just a job for Bond – and it has some of the most memorable action and stunts of the series. You’ll see that my favourite Bond films are those which I find the most emotional or have the most interesting story – that’s why the likes of this, For Your Eyes Only, Casino Royale, Live And Let Die rank higher for me over the more obvious Connery stalwarts – Bond as a flawed human or unique stories over your standard spy malarkey. I even like the music in this one – the one thing all critics point to as a major miss.

12: Jurassic Park (1993)

This was always going to be included on my list of favourite 90s movies – I imagine it would be on most people’s top tens/twenties, especially those who grew up with it. I’m annoyed I never caught this at the cinema when it was released. I’m not sure why, given that I saw some other weird ones on the big screen this year – The Nightmare Before Christmas and Super Mario Bros for example. I’ll assume you know the story – rich guy and a bunch of scientists find a way to create dinosaurs, they decide to breed them in a special zoo, but before opening to the public they invite a bunch of experts to inspect. The dinosaurs escape and everyone freaks out.

Like Jaws is to shark movies, Jurassic Park is the daddy of dinosaur movies. I don’t see it ever being topped even though I would happily watch any number of imitators. It’s the perfect film for the kid in us – for those of us who used to look at dinosaur books and be filled with awe and wonder that such things ever walked the earth. There’s no other director in the world at his peak that you’d want working on this film than Spielberg – you just know he shares that awe and wonder. Add to this Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Sam Neill, Samuel L Jackson, and non-annoying kids, and a bunch of iconic images, great score, memorable set pieces, and you have an all time classic. All I’d love now is a genuine, genuinely good dinosaur-based horror movie.

11: Hard Boiled (1992)

People forget that John Woo has been involved in movies since the late 1960s. He directed his first film in the early 70s. There has always been something ultra modern about his films – when something like Hard-Boiled or Face-Off came out you’d assume it was made by some alarmingly talented new voice, not someone who had been doing it for three decades already. He had already made your standard Golden Harvest wuxia type film, then movies with Jackie Chan, and didn’t really get to assert his own true vision until Heroes Shed No Tears and (more accurately) the superb A Better Tomorrow. Those films unleashed his personal style and as his films progressed we got more of his traditional ‘heroic bloodshed’ movies – films with a (then) unique look and fell – very stylized, killers in suits and shades, lots of slow motion gun play, slow motion everything really, and uber-cool actors and characters. There was usually a lot of male bonding/conflict. Hard Boiled is his crowning achievement – a film that laughs at how small and tame the action of Die Hard is, and a film which both is the hallmark for Hong Kong action, and revolutionized the genre as a whole. Yet so few people have seen it.

Chow Yun Fat stars as the renegade cop Tequila, a man who plays by his own rules in the typical 80s archetype. After his partner his killed during a raid, Tequila is taken off the case. Elsewhere, an undercover super-cop is trying to infiltrate a ruthless Triad gang. The two team up and play an uneasy game where the violence rapidly escalates until the final stunning shootout in a hospital. The action man…. there was a point in the nineties when action was becoming stale – there were disaster type epics, there were meta movies, but the genre seemed to be moving away from the one man army movies I grew up with. Then I happened upon Hard Boiled and was in love instantly. The action here is ridiculous, set-pieces going on for thirty minutes rather than three. There are crazy shots here that boggle the mind – the amount of preparation which must have gone into them, especially those one-shot scenes, is still mind-blowing and they were done with no digital trickery. The plot does become overblown and there are some sentimental scenes which will seem odd to Western audiences, but in Fat, Leung, Kwok, and Wong we have some good guys and bad guys to rank alongside the Rambos and Hans Grubers of the world. This is one of those films to show people who think foreign movies are boring. Two hours later they’ll be saying Hollywood movies are boring.

10: The Fifth Element (1997)

Milla Jovovich had already appeared in a number of great films, but this was her star-making turn. For my money, she should have received an Oscar nomination here, as the pure and innocent Fifth Element taking human form. If you don’t fall in love with her here, you have no soul. This is a madcap comic book action movie – over the top in all the right ways, and with a unique look thanks to Besson’s vision and Gaultier’s ‘fashions’. Check out the rest of the cast too – Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, with Luke Perry, Brion James, and Lee Evans in smaller roles. It’s the age old story of the destruction of Earth by an unnamed space evil, and the human and alien representatives on the sides of good and evil trying to save/destroy everything. Bruce Willis is back to his wise-cracking, fatigued best as an ex-military, now cabbie who accidentally meets The Fifth Element and must protect her from those who would use her for their wicked purposes. There’s a lot of plot and history here, but in the end it boils down to a simple kill the bad guys synopsis, with ridiculous guns, wacky characters, and some of the best actors in the world having the most fun they’ve ever had. The fun is infectious and the execution of the youthful ideas will keep you guessing and smiling.

9: Bangkok Dangerous (1999)

I’ve talked on the blog before about how I’ve always enjoyed foreign cinema – especially Asian films as they offer their own twists on my favourite genres of action and horror. I can’t recall exactly, but I think this was either the second or third Pang Brothers film I saw – the first being Bangkok Haunted. The first thing I would say about this – and the rule typically applies for any remakes of foreign movies – is see the original first. Nic Cage’s remake is an average thriller which takes some of the loose ideas here, but sucks the emotion out. It also lacks the vibrant style which the Pang Brothers showcases, especially in their early days. The weird thing is – the remake was also directed by the Pang Brothers, so I’m not sure where things went sour. It’s a decent movie, but very straight to DVD, and not a patch on the original.

The film follows Kong, an archetypal sympathetic hitman, bullied as a child for being deaf, but whose disability and bullying makes him a flawless killer. He ends up working for the mob, he is friends with a stripper and her boyfriend, and he falls in love with a pharmacist. That’s… pretty much it. The story is one you’ve seen a million times before – you know that things will go wrong and revenge will be served cold, but it’s done with such flair, and done with such conviction, with emotion, with humour, that it stands tall as one of the finest examples of the sub-genre. Pawalit Mongkolpisit is a great choice as the lead – you can’t help but feel for him and side with him in spite of the terrible work he does, and Premsinee Ratanasopha as Fon is a revelation. It’s a massive pity that these guys haven’t really done any other work – their relationship here feels both cute and honest without being cutesy. I don’t want to say too much else about it – seek it out for yourself, and enjoy one of the finest slices of 90s action you’ll ever see.

8: Things To In Denver When You’re Dead (1995)

In the post Pulp Fiction world, every young director wanted to make their crime masterpiece. We had British efforts from Guy Ritchie and his clones, Eastern attempts, and endless Hollywood versions. I’ve never felt that Things To In Denver When You’re Dead fit this mold – but that’s how it was reviewed and marketed. It’s a shame this never got to stand on its own as it is a unique film, miles apart in tone and style from Tarantino’s work – a much more sombre affair and a film that I would probably choose to watch over Pulp Fiction any day of the week – and I’m a huge fan of Pulp Fiction. 

There are a number of films this decade which have truly unbelievable casts – Tombstone, Heat, Pulp Fiction, Cop Land, True Romance, Glengarry Glen Ross – and this. Lets see – Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, Christopher Walken, Steve Buscemi, Gabrielle Anwar, Treat Williams, Fairuza Balk, Jack Warden, Bill Nunn, Don Cheadle, William Forsythe. I realize that not all of those names may be A-Listers or household names, but film fans will recognize and respect them – and that’s not to mention the host of regognizable faces who also pop up, even if you don’t know the names – Jenny McCarthy, Willie Garson, Tiny Lister, Buddy Guy, Bill Cobbs, Marshall Bell, and others. You’ll spend the movie going ‘where do I know that guy from?’

It’s not merely a who’s who guessing game – the characters they play you will want to hang out and have boat drinks with, and the story they find themselves in is tinged with regret, heroism, futility, fatalism, honour… Garcia stars as ex-gangster Jimmy The Saint. He has been legit for a while, with a bizarre business where people (generally the elderly or those with an incurable illness) record a video for their loved ones to be given once they pass – I’m not sure such a business model would survive today, but it works as a nice plot device. Christopher Walken (should have grabbed an Oscar nomination) is his terrifying ex-boss, and he calls a favour from Jimmy to help get his pedophile son and ex-girlfriend back together. For some reason Jimmy recruits his old pals to run an intimidation job on the ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend (rather than just roughing him up one to one), and it all goes badly wrong. Buckwheats for all, as they say.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I love the film so much – it’s undoubtedly cool, having a style that sticks with me for whatever reason, and it features some of my favourite performers in iconic ways. Balk is terrific, Garcia and Lloyd give some of their best, understated work, and Anwar proves again that she should have been a much bigger star. I love the dialogue, I love Steve Buscemi’s Mr Sssh, and I love the inevitability of Mr Sssh’s pursuit and the overall vibe of death and honour – doing what you can with the time you have. This made around half a million bucks at the box office, which is a crime. You owe it to yourself, and to the film itself, to go watch this now – yes you, reading this list, watch it now and then tell your friends.

7: Beauty And The Beast (1991)

What can I say – I’m a sucker for schmaltz, when it’s done right. My favourite Disney movie ever, my favourite animated movie ever, for me nothing else comes close to its majesty. The tale as old as time has never been told better, in such vibrant colours and with such lovable and dastardly characters.  I talked about the film in more detail in my Top Ten Disney films post – TLDR version – awesome heroine, great songs, wonderful heartfelt story acted out by great characters and cast.

6: Scream (1996)

By the time 1996 rolled around (I probably actually saw this first in 97, but who’s counting) I was already a hardcore horror fan, with the Elm Street series being my favourite. I was also already head over heels in love with Neve Campbell, thanks to Party Of Five. When I first heard about Scream – merging Wes Craven with Campbell in a new slasher movie which just happened to be getting rave reviews from everyone – I knew I would love it. What I didn’t know was just how much. I remember renting the VHS and watching two or three times that day. There was something so callous and wicked and ingenious about that opening sequence – not just the dialogue, or the scenario, or the whole ‘killing off our big name actress’ thing but how the killer kills Casey such footsteps away from her parents, stabbing her as she reached out for their help in the safety of her own front lawn. I’m not sure there have been many more brutal or poignant horror movie deaths than that – certainly not many have affected me so much. Although I always had an inkling, it was that moment which cemented my understanding of Craven’s over-arcing theme – that theme which runs through all of his work – that kids are never safe, and that your parents can’t help you. As would be revealed, and much like Nightmare, Hills, and other Craven hits – the sins of the parents will come back ten-fold upon the children.

The film doesn’t hold back on the blood and guts either, being fairly graphic given the target audience. There are your standard stabbings and slicings, but also gun shots and the odd ceiling decapitation/chokehold. What about that dialogue? Williamson and Craven collaborate wonderfully, bringing that meta mid-90s speak to a peak, the characters smart, aware, cool, but still falling into the same traps that they mock fictional characters for falling into. As iconic horror dialogue goes, ‘What’s your favourite scary movie’ is right up there with the best, but it’s the discussion of movies and of tropes that really won the fans over – this was, finally, a horror movie made by and for horror movie fans – one which understood us and the fiction we love.

What’s it all about though? A small town is being ravaged by a number of brutal killings and the ultimate target appears to be one Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell in her star-making performance). Who is the killer – it could be anyone – an absent parent, a school faculty member, a reporter, a boyfriend, a friend – part of the fun is that the film keeps you guessing right up until its final reveal and twist. It wouldn’t be a slasher movie without a twist. We have this gorgeous young cast fighting for their lives all while trying to get on with the mundane stuff like school and sex and movies and parties, we have a kick ass soundtrack, both instrumental and the songs, and it’s all pulled together with a taut nod and wink by Craven – one of the best, at his best. All that said, and I didn’t even mention Ghostface – how iconic is that mask?

5: The Crow (1994)

If the 80s was the decade when the most wacky ideas seemed to get a greenlight, then the 90s saw the darker material rising to the top. What Scream is to the horror genre, The Crow is to the comic book genre. The Crow is, without a doubt, the finest comic book movie ever made. I love Batman, Superman, Nolan’s trilogy – but they all pale in comparison to this. Look at how expansive the world Marvel has created – not just as a whole, but in each individual entry – everything is MASSIVE and yet, they’re all so bland. I’ve yet to see a single drop of anything resembling emotion in a single MCU movie – granted I’ve only seen a handful so far, but it’s their generic, stale, lets blow up another city feel which leaves me cold. They’re popcorn movies for sure, but like popcorn which has been lifted off the ground after a double bill of Fifty Shades and Indecent Behaviour. 

Why am I moaning about Marvel? I feel like The Crow doesn’t get it’s due credit. I want as many people to see it, and to honour it, before another inevitable remake comes along – it is a case of the stars at night aligning and making something so perfect that it couldn’t possibly have been made by anyone else at any other time. Before it, very few comic movies were daring, or felt independent, or seemed unique. The Crow takes chances – it’s dark as Witch’s muff, and it casts the untested son of a martial artist as its lead. It’s a film about a man coming back from the dead to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancee and it’s loosely based on the writer’s own, similar, true story. It has a look unlike most other films – rain drenched, always night, always smokey, with crime and debauchery everywhere. Alex Proyas had this and Dark City in the 90s – what a combo – and then he seemed to lose his mind and make fluff. The talent shown in these two movies, the look and tone, is unparalleled.

Brandon Lee stars as Eric Draven – a man brought back for revenge. Over the course of a night he hunts down the men who killed him and his fiancee, all the while hounded by a cop (Ernie Hudson) and a child he once knew (Rochelle Davis) and under the watchful eye of a mysterious crow. That’s all there is to it, but it’s haunted by sadness both real and fictional – writer James O Barr’s real life tragedy all to plain to feel, and Brandon Lee was accidentally killed during filming, ensuring that he would never see the final product. All that takes the darkness on show to higher levels of tragedy but even without the real life stuff, it’s a film oozing with emotion. There is a dizzying visual flare, some of the finest one-line dialogue of the decade, and another brilliant dual soundtrack – instrumental and songs – I bought both shortly after seeing the movie. Lee should have been up for an Oscar here, and the rest of the cast feature standout performances from Michael Wincott, Tony Todd, and David Patrick Kelly. Even though the movie was a hit, even though it spawned a TV series and many sequels, even though Sting based his most popular persona off it, even though I feel like it has its own cult of fans who hold it dearly – it deserves more recognition.

4: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

A number of films just miss out on my Top Ten Of All Time – a few of which are definitely better films than some which are in my Top Ten – Dawn Of The Dead, The Thing, Battle Royale, and this – Edward Scissorhands being some of those. This movie is perfect – there is literally nothing I would change about it, my only problem with it being that it is so short. It cemented Tim Burton as a God in my world, cemented my adoration for Winona Ryder, and made the world take notice of a young fella called Johnny Depp – how he didn’t get an Oscar nomination here is ridiculous. Depp lost a Golden Globe to Depardieu in Green Card – seriously. Danny Elfman didn’t get nominated, Burton was passed over for Best Director, nothing for him or Thompson in the writing categories. 1990 was actually a good year for The Oscars too, but still.

If you’ve seen the film then you already love it for the same reasons I do – as I’ve said, it’s perfect. All I will add is that it has always appealed to the outsider in me, that sad que cera ceraness of it all striking a personal chord.

3: Ringu (Top Ten Of All Time) (1998)

There are a number of horror films which changed my life and which I never shut up about once I saw them – if I knew you at the time, you can be sure I made you, or tried to make you watch them. They had to be films which either came out around that time – not something from decades earlier, or foreign/one I knew most people wouldn’t have seen. Scream was one, Bodysnatchers was another. Maybe I was most vocal about Ringu – it’s one of those films where seeing and feeling people’s reactions was almost as fun as watching the film itself. As those final scenes begin you can feel the oxygen get sucked out of the room, in fact the room itself seems to grow smaller, walls pressing in and the viewer slowly folds their limbs into a crab-like foetal position. This is the pinnacle of the J-Horror movement and of Asian Horror in general, a slow burning masterpiece of dread and outright shivering terror.

You probably know the story by now – there are whispers of an urban legend about a videotape (such things once existed, kids). When you watch the tape, your phone rings and a voice tells you that you have exactly seven days to live. There is only one way to save yourself from the curse, and that is to make it go viral – make a copy and make someone else watch it and the curse is passed on to them. Bodies begin to pile up and it seems there may be some truth or hysteria attached to the legend. Enter journalist Reiko who wants to write a story about the whole thing – her niece apparently a victim of the curse. Upon investigating, Reiko finds what appears to be the videotape of legend. Naturally, she watches it, but oops – so does her ex-husband and son. They have seven days to try to uncover and prevent the curse, looking into the history of the mysterious Sadako Yamamura.

I love this film so much – to the point that I see many many parallels between it and The Terminator series, thematically, stylistically… but I won’t go into those. If you like both series, you’ll see what I mean. Once again, I love the inevitability of it – basically, if you watch the tape you’re fucked, and you can’t really avoid it. Nanako Matsushima and Hiroyuki Sanada are excellent leads and the story merges old world superstition with new age techno-fears. The whole thing is fundamentally routed in Japanese fear and culture, yet it’s intrinsically universal. I bought the sequels, love them too, and I bought the books – very different beasts from the movies, but genuinely brilliant too. Hell, I even bought Rasen – the other sequel which tries to be more like the book, but without the genius of Nakata at the helm it’s not great. Nakata’s best film, his work here made me seek out all of his other stuff with increasingly diminishing returns.

I love me some gore, and I love a good effective jump-scare, but fear works best for me when it creeps upon me and of course, when I actually care about the story and the characters. The story and characters here suit me perfectly – a mystery based on whispered myths and tragedy, bullying, psychic power, intelligent, strong men and women – and while the scares here are actually quite minimal, it’s the way it builds and builds unrelentingly to that climax – you won’t realize that you’ve pulled out your own nails while watching. I had great fun doing prank calls on people after making them watch the movie. We created memes of certain moments before internet memes were a thing. Just one final word – I despise the remake. It is utter shite. Utter, complete shite. Yet most horror fans, most film fans prefer it. It turns this masterpiece of dread into generic, glossy, noisy jump-scare bollocks and even commits the cardinal sin of cutting away during the climax. Stick with the original.

2: Dumb And Dumber (Top Ten Of All Time) (1994)

The only comedy which I have marathoned – watched many times in a short space of days. Probably the comedy I quote the most, and another film where I went out and bought the soundtrack shortly after seeing it, and got annoyed that half the songs were missing. The Farrelly Brothers have never bettered this, and I wish wish wish they had done a sequel in the same decade instead of waiting until the performers were depressingly old and made me too aware of the ravages of time. No matter which version you see, Dumb And Dumber is a perfect comedy, though I am inclined towards the juvenile – again, as long as I actually care about what’s going on.

The film is all about Harry and Lloyd, two loser, less than intelligent friends who scrape by with dead end jobs. During a chance encounter/intervention during a blackmailing deal, the pair end up with a mysterious maguffin (suitcase) and decide to go on a cross country journey to Assssspenn and deliver it to its rightful owner. Along the way they meet a variety of weird and wonderful characters, have a number of adventures, and learn absolutely nothing. It you’re not laughing at least once every thirty seconds while watching this, I don’t want to know you. Naturally, it’s the little things that most people don’t notice that stick with me the most – the things Lloyd buys after being instructed only to purchase the bare essentials, the force with which Lloyd cane-whacks Harry’s legs with… I could go on. It was always my plan to go to my school Formal (for any US readers, it’s our equivalent of Prom) with one of my friends, dressed in the same suits Harry and Lloyd wear to the fundraiser later in the film, but we chickened out and he ended up not going at all. To make up for this, I got drunk and threw pint and shot glasses from one of the hotel rooms into the car park below. Side note – as I checked Wikipedia for box office returns on a number of these films, I keep seeing them being listed in various magazine’s 500 films of all time – I must do some sort of post covering those 500 films and a few words on what I think of each. You’ll love that.

1: Terminator 2 (Top Ten Of All Time) (1991)

Naturally. Like I said in my 80s run down, it’s this or The Terminator which top my all time list. What is there to say about it? It’s groundbreaking in every sense – everyone involved deserves a statue in their honour, and it’s a film which has influenced me deeply. Some films go beyond just being films – fans hold conventions, fans dress up and have regular screenings, fans make life decisions based on their love of these films. I think the film and me were intertwined before I even saw it – it’s almost like it was made just for me, but clearly it was made for millions of others just like me. I don’t even know what I’m talking about any more but as a boy, seeing this for the first time, a little younger than John Connor is in the story, it was about me. I loved Guns N Roses, I loved Public Enemy, I loved Motorbikes – hell, I even had a friend with a ginger mullet. I may not, as far as I’m aware, be the future saviour of the human race, but if such a burden was thrust upon me I’d suck it up, shine that bitch on and snarl an Hasta La Vista, Baby at the enemy. This film is everything I want in a film from top to bottom – story, cast, characters, director, music, dialogue, action, emotion, scares, laughs, tears, the way it looks… I don’t think any other film will ever speak to me the way this one did and has. In a way that’s a thought tinged with sadness, but in another way I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it and be alive when it was released. Thanks to everyone for making it, it means a lot. My only regret is not being in it myself.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of my list and what your favourite films of the 1990s are!

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Nightman’s Top Twenty Films Of 1999

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!

Alright, as it was the end of the century/millennium/world, we’ll have one last top twenty instead of 10.

20: The Sixth Sense (US) M Night Shyamalan

19: Girl, Interrupted (US) James Mangold

18: The Green Mile (US) Frank Darabont

17: Shiri (SK) Kang je Gyu

16: The Iron Giant (US) Brad Bird

15: American Pie (US) Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz

14: Existenz (Canada/UK/France) David Cronenberg

13: Ghost Dog (US/France/Germany/Japan) Jim Jarmusch

12: Music Of The Heart (US) Wes Craven

11: Office Space (US) Mike Judge

10: The Mummy (US) Stephen Sommers

9: Fight Club (US/Germany) David Fincher

8: Man On The Moon (US) Milos Forman

7: Dogma (US) Kevin Smith

6: End Of Days (US) Peter Hyams

5: Audition (Japan) Takashi Miike

4: South Park (US) Trey Parker

3: The Matrix (US/OZ) The Wachowski Brothers

2: The Blair Witch Project (US) Daniel Myrick Eduardo Sanchez

1: Bangkok Dangerous (Thailand) The Pang Brothers

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1998

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!

Narrowly missed out: American History X. Apt Pupil. The Big Lebowski. The Idiots. Mulan. Run Lola Run.

10: Wild Things (US) John McNaughton

9: The Truman Show (US) Peter Weir

8: Dark City (US/OZ) Alex Proyas

7: Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (US) Terry Gilliam

6: Saving Private Ryan (US) Steven Spielberg

5: What Dreams May Come (US) Vincent Ward

4: Fallen (US) Gregory Hoblit

3: Blade (US) Stephen Norrington

2: Ronin (US) John Frankenheimer

1: Ringu (Japan) Hideo Nakata (Top Ten Of All Time)

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: One

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One

Nightman’s Top Twenty Films Of 1997

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!

This will probably (heh) be my final Top Twenty – reverting back to Top Tens from now on. I could have cut this down to ten as there is a clearer distinction between the ones I ‘love’ and the ones I merely ‘really like’.

20: The Ice Storm (US) Ang Lee

19: Boogie Nights (US) Paul Thomas Anderson

18:  LA Confidential (US) Curtis Hanson

17: Cube (Canada) Vincenzo Natali

16: Princess Mononoke (Japan) Hiyao Miyazaki

15: Grosse Point Blank (US) George Armitage

14: The Postman (US) Kevin Costner

13: Con Air (US) Simon West

12: The Game (US) David Fincher

11: I Know What You Did Last Summer (US) Jim Gillespie

10: Face/Off (US) John Woo

9: Liar Liar (US) Tom Shadyac

8: Life Is Beautiful (Italy) Robert Benigni

7: The Devil’s Advocate (US) Taylor Hackford

6: Donnie Brasco (US) Mike Newell

5: Chasing Amy (US) Kevin Smith

4: Lost Highway (US/France) David Lynch

3: Cop Land (US) James Mangold

2: Starship Troopers (US) Paul Verhoeven

1: The Fifth Element (France) Luc Besson

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

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1996

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!

Narrowly missed out: Beautiful Girls. Bound. Sleepers. Fargo. Hamlet. Kingpin. The Rock. Romeo + Juliet.

10: Crash (UK/Canada) David Cronenberg

9: Fly Away Home (Canada/US/NZ) Carroll Ballard

8: Trainspotting (UK) Danny Boyle

7: Breaking The Waves (Denmark) Lars Von Trier

6: The Long Kiss Goodnight (US) Renny Harlin

5: The Craft (US) Andrew Fleming

4: Beavis And Butthead Do America (US) Mike Judge

3: Broken Arrow (US) John Woo

2: From Dusk Till Dawn (US) Robert Rodriguez

1: Scream (US) Wes Craven

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Zero

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Zero

Nightman’s Top Twenty Films Of 1995

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!

While 1994 had more absolute top favourites than any other year, 1995 actually had even more films I enjoyed – but not loved to the same extent. You know what that means – it’s another Top Twenty! First, here’s a few that missed out: The Addiction, The Basketball Diaries, Billy Madison, Dolores Claiborne, Leaving Las Vegas, Money Train

20: Braveheart (US) Mel Gibson

19: Casino (US) Martin Scorsese

18: Casper (US) Brad Silberling

17: Jumanji (US) Joe Johnston

16: Dangerous Minds (US) John N Smith

15: Strange Days (US) Kathryn Bigelow

14: In The Mouth Of Madness (US) John Carpenter

13: The Last Supper (US) Stacy Title

12: Kids (US) Larry Clark

11: Pocahontas (US) Disney

10: Mortal Kombat (US) Paul W S Anderson

9: Now And Then (US) Lesli Linka Glatter

8: The Doom Generation (US/France) Gregg Araki

7: La Haine (France) Mathieu Kassovitz

6: Die Hard With A Vengeance (US) John McTiernan

5: Heat (US) Michael Mann

4: Mallrats (US) Kevin Smith

3: Desperado (US) Robert Rodriguez

2: Goldeneye (UK) Martin Campbell

1: Things To In Denver When You’re Dead (US) Gary Fleder

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Five

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One (The Winner)

Nightman’s Top Twenty Films Of 1994

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!

When I first decided to make these Top Ten By Year lists, I knew that 1987 and 1994 would be the two that I would need to expand. While I was only a youngster in 1987 and came to catch all those movies in syndication in later years, I was 11 in 1994 and already well versed in a variety of genres and heading to the Cinema fairly frequently. It was a turning point year for me in many ways – I left Primary School for Big School, Kurt Cobain died, and many of my favourite movies were released. While I didn’t see all of these movies the year they were released, I would say I had seen them all by 1998 – and each multiple times since. 1987 and 1994 remain my favourite years for movies, though I would say 1994 edges it in terms of quality while 1987 has the most personal favourites.

Here are a few which narrowly missed out: Heavenly Creatures,  The Last Seduction, The River Wild.

And now, the Top Twenty:

20: Little Women (US) Gilliam Armstrong

19: Ace Ventura (US) Tom Shadyac

18: The Mask (US) Charles Russell

17: Stargate (US/France) Roland Emmerich

16: Forrest Gump (US) Robert Zemeckis

15: The Lion King (US Disney)

14: Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (US/Japan) Kenneth Branagh

13: Timecop (US) Peter Hyams

12: The Shawshank Redemption (US) Frank Darabont

11: Ed Wood (US) Tim Burton

10: Natural Born Killers (US) Oliver Stone

9: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (US) Wes Craven

8: Clerks (US) Kevin Smith

7: True Lies (US) James Cameron

6: Speed (US) Jan de Bont

5: Pulp Fiction (US) Quentin Tarantino

4: Interview With The Vampire (US) Neil Jordan

3: Leon (France) Luc Besson

2: The Crow (US) Alex Proyas

1: Dumb And Dumber (Top Ten Of All Time) (US) Peter Farrelly

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Seven (Including the top five)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Three (Including the winner)

Nightman’s Top Seventeen Films Of 1993

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!

So, I couldn’t get twenty but I likewise couldn’t cut it down to ten because most of these films I love equally. There probably won’t be another year like this so bear with me…

17: Falling Down (US/France/UK) Joel Schumacher

16: Mrs Doubtfire (US) Chris Columbus

15: Schindler’s List (US) Steven Spielberg

14: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (US) Lasse Hallstrom

13: Cliffhanger (US/France/Italy) Renny Harlin

12: Benny And Joon (US) Jeremiah S Chechik

11: Dazed And Confused (US) Richard Linklater

10: The Vanishing (US) George Sluizer

9: Carlito’s Way (US) Brian De Palma

8: The Nightmare Before Christmas (US) Henry Selick

7: A Perfect World (US) Clint Eastwood

6: Demolition Man (US) Marco Brambilla

5: Last Action Hero (US) John McTiernan

4: Body Snatchers (US) Abel Ferrara

3: True Romance (US) Tony Scott

2: Tombstone (US) George P Cosmatos

1: Jurassic Park (US) Steven Spielberg

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Four (Including the top grossing film)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One (The Winner)

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 1992

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!

Continuing my apparent love for 90s movies, I’ve cut this down from around twenty – here’s what missed the cut: Alien 3. Bad Lieutenant. Benny’s Video. Ferngully. Glengarry Glen Ross. Man Bites Dog. Passenger 57. Singles. Under Siege. Unforgiven. White Men Can’t Jump.

And now, the top ten:

10: Aladdin (US) Disney

9: Universal Soldier (US) Roland Emmerich

8: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (US) Francis Ford Coppola

7: Candyman (US) Bernard Rose

6: My Cousin Vinny (US) Jonathan Lynn

5: Wayne’s World (US) Penelope Spheeris

4: Braindead (NZ) Peter Jackson

3: Reservoir Dogs (US) Quentin Tarantino

2: Fire Walk With Me (US) David Lynch

1: Hard Boiled (HK) John Woo

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three (including the top grossing film)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None

Nightman’s Favourite Films Of The 1980s

I continue my summary of my favourite films by year and by decade with this, my favourite films of the 1980s. This is going to be tough. If I look back at my favourite all time movie list which I created on IMDB in 2002 or something, six or seven of my Top Ten movies were made in the 80s. It’s the decade I was born and grew up in, and it’s movies from that decade that always seemed to be on TV in my house right through to my early teens. As you’ll have seen from my individual year lists, there are many years where I had to list more than ten films – and those are just my absolute favourites and don’t include the ones I think are great, good, or that I simply like. I’m determined to keep this overall decade post to twenty films, but I’m writing this introduction before I’ve started to whittle any choices down, so who knows. Lets get to it.

26. Die Hard (1988)

Yeah, that went well. Most action fans list Die Hard as the greatest action movie of all time. It’s difficult to argue with that statement – it has it all; Guns, fights, explosions, stunts, thrills, suspense, a great cast, strong direction from a veteran, quotable dialogue, and iconic moments. It’s far from my favourite action movie and I don’t have the same attachment to it as most people from my generation do. As you’ll see further down my list, there are other films which are technically inferior but which I enjoy more. With that being said, I still love it. How can you not love it?

John McClane (Bruce Willis in is defining role – he’s had a few) is a wise-ass cop, husband, dad, visiting his wife on Christmas Eve at her workplace. That workplace? Nakatomi Plaza, a huge skyscraper the likes of which you just don’t get in my country (and if you had a building like this in my country in the 80s, you can be sure it would have been bombed on a weekly basis by more than Germans). She’s having an end of year party with her annoying, coked up, cliche Wall Street 80s boss, and a bunch of yuppie colleagues. While McClane meanders about, a bunch of terrorists quietly sneak into the building, seal it off, and… well, I’ve never been too clear on the whys – I guess it doesn’t matter. Basically they want money and the release of some random terrorists, and the whole thing turns into a huge hostage crisis with cops and feds eventually raining down on the place. Before then, McClane acts as the one man army – trying to stay alive while the terrorists hunt him down from floor to floor, and while he tries to contact the outside world and convince them that’s something’s going down. I’ll be saying this a lot, but if you’re reading this post you’ve already seen the movie. And yet, it’s important to keep these older movies turning in the minds of newer audiences. It feels weird saying it, but it is an old movie now – it’s thirty years old this year. Thirty years before Die Hard was 1958, so just compare Die Hard to a movie from 1958. Yippee dippy doo mother crusher and all that.

25. An American Werewolf London (1981)

The best werewolf movie of a mini resurgence in the 80s, and probably the best werewolf movie of all time. Some people point to The Howling as the better movie, but that’s blatantly false. While The Howling is more horror based, at least on the surface, this one still has the more frightening moments. It’s also funnier, sexier, has the better story, better cast, better effects while The Howling is fairly boring. And I still like The Howling.

The story here sees two friends from the US travelling through the Yorkshire Countryside – something which has almost certainly never happened, because who would ever want to do that? They find a pub – The Slaughtered Lamb – and meet the locals, including Rik Mayall and Brian Glover. They’re not local so they’re not welcome, so they leave with the warning of ‘keep to the road’ ringing in their ears. Long story short, they are attacked by something, one of them is killed, and the other wakes up in hospital with hot nurse Jenny Agutter attending to him. You can guess some of the rest – the survivor finding out he is a werewolf etc, but it’s all done in a fun and unique way. His dead friend comes to him in ever more rotted appearances, he has horrifying nightmares about Nazis, and he caper about London Zoo bare arse to the wind, all while falling in love with Agutter. It builds up to a terrific, and tragic climax. It’s rare that a film so brilliantly balances horror and humour,  but this is one of the finest examples with John Landis nearing the end of a tremendous run of form.

24. First Blood Part 2 (1985)

When people think of Rambo, this is usually the film they think about – those images of long haired Stallone all glistening with sweat, huge muscles carrying a huge gun while he galavants about the jungle blowing away faceless bad guys. While people forget that the first film was much smaller in scope and less violent, they also forget the decent and topical plot for this one. Rambo’s anti-war speech at the end of Part One segues nicely into this one as the American war mongers mislead the veteran into returning to Vietnam under the pretense of locating POWs and bringing them home. The truth is that the government doesn’t care and they’re sending in Rambo as a box checking exercise and as a handy way of potentially getting rid of an irritant. Little do they realise that there actually are a load of POWs still left behind in terrible conditions and that Rambo saves them. What does the Government/Military do? Shrugs their shoulders and leaves them behind again. U-S-A! U-S-A! I mean, it’s not exactly Shakespeare, and thank fuck for that. Plot aside, it’s still an excuse for Stallone and co to go on a classic 80s action rampage using every imaginable piece of arsenal. Stallone dispatches of the enemies with iconic aplomb and even manages to head home and make a statement on US soil. He would go one further in the next movie by helping out the Taliban, but that’s a different story. For pure 80s adrenaline pumping fun, you can’t get much better than this.

23: For Your Eyes Only (1981)

One of my absolute favourite Bond films, and the only Bond entry on this list. There is a certain group of people who don’t care much for this film and there’s even a specific technical term for them – morons. Roger Moore gets a lot of heat for being the ‘comedy Bond’ meaning that his films are more light-hearted, less serious than those of Connery or Dalton. While some of that is down to the direction Moore and the writers and directors chose to take the series, some of it is purely down to the period the movies were made in. Nevertheless, For Your Eyes Only is dark as shit. It features a revenge plot led by the brilliant Carol Bouquet, it opens with the inexplicable/don’t give a fuck killing of Blofeld, a love interest is mowed down mercilessly while Bond looks on helpless, it features Bond visiting his dead wife’s grave, and has one of the most sinister henchmen/villains in all of Cinema in The Dove. The action is more grounded, the plot is not outlandish or out of this world, and the overall villain is not as memorable as others leading many viewers to label the film as forgettable. I would argue that the film is a more realistic representation of the spy world, with flawed people racked with grief and guilt, and the bad guy is a somewhat successful twist. It also features some of the most stunning locations in the series, the action set pieces are a lot of fun, and as I keep reminding people, it portrays Bond for who he truly is – a lost, barren slave, haunted by his past.

22: Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981)

It’s Indiana Jones – of course he’s going to be on my list of favourite 80s movies. Who didn’t grow up with these if you were born around the same time as me? There’s some slight differences between what constitutes and action movie versus what is an adventure movie. The clue’s in the name, I guess. When people say Die Hard is the perfect action movie, I say Raiders Of The Lost Ark is the perfect adventure movie. You can tell it’s a love letter to the genre, a love letter to cinema itself, and you know everyone involved was having such fun making it. Lucas and Spielberg throw as many of their personal interests a possible at the screen – history, mythology, travel, Nazis, treasure hunting, religion, but makes it all as captivating as possible by keeping the plot and action moving breathlessly and giving the viewer new twists on old action tropes. Harrison Ford is at his most dashing, there’s a great backing cast including Karen Allen, John Rhys Davis, Denholm Elliot, John Williams provides one of his most memorable scores, there are quotable lines, and there are moments which are seared into pop culture and which have been endlessly parodied – the boulder run, the whole treasure hunt intro, the pen on eyelids, the face-melting, the excavation silhouettes and more. It’s a rite of passage for everyone and it’s one of the most purely enjoyable films ever made.

21: Beetlejuice (1988)

I can’t wait till I reach the 80s in my Oscars posts. If you just happen to have landed on this page at random – in my Oscars posts I go through each year of the Oscars, starting at 1960, and give my thoughts and my picks from the Official Nominations of most of the categories, as well as giving my alternative nominations. You should read those. I’ve always felt that Michael Ketaon deserved a nomination for his work here – at times it feels like a stand-up routine but it’s so energetically acted, so funny, and iconic that he should have been in with a shout. You might see me mentioning snubs a few times in this post as there are many terrific films in this decade which were entirely ignored by the bigoted Academy. Regardless, this is a Tim Burton movie through and through with a colour palette, overall design, and plot only he could imagine. Tim Burton has one of my most loved early run of films ever, ignoring the atrocity that is Pee Wee. This film features Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder alongside Keaton and has some great make-up and effects (dated now of course) and a decent score.

For those who may not know the story – it’s about a newly wed young couple who move into a mansion on a hill, die, and find out that the afterlife is just as bureaucratic as…lifelife. Before long a new family moves in – self centered parents and a lonely daughter. The newlyweds, now ghosts, are determined to haunt the house and scare the newbs away, but take a liking to the daughter. Having difficulty getting rid of the yuppies, they contact Beetleguese, the ghost with the most who specializes in hauntings, but he has his own agenda. Burton has great fun with the cast and the story, is as inventive as always with miniature work and visuals, and never forgets to focus on character. There are enough creepy moments to keep this somewhere related to horror, but it’s very tongue in cheek – kids should be able to watch without freaking out. It’s truly a one of a kind movie.

20: Temple Of Doom (1984)

Even with my praise for Raiders, this is my favourite entry in the series. It has a lot more horror and gruesome elements, but mostly I think it’s the one I saw most when I was younger and the simpler plot kept me interested. Raiders is the better film, but this is my personal favourite. It always seemed to be on on a Sunday night when I was young and I watched it every time. It’s plot is interesting because it doesn’t really have a true setup – just a bunch of stuff happens. Jones is doing some smuggling in China with his sidekick Skidmark (or Short Round if you prefer). The Chinese bad guys chase him onto a plane that they happen to own. The pilots jump out leaving them with ‘no more parachutes’ and they crash in India. Oh yeah, Willie, a blonde bimbo singer is picked up at some point. They find a village where they learn that all the children have been kidnapped and are apparently being inducted into a cult as slaves. Indy and pals investigate, there are monkey brains, snakes, spiders, dudes getting crushed by massive stones, dudes falling into lava, dudes getting their hearts pulled out, and it all culminates in a frenetic finale with a mine-cart chase and dizzying rope bridge set piece. I love the action in this more than its predecessor. Shorty is a fun addition, and I’ve never minded Willie though I can see why most dismiss her. The Temple bowels are fantastic and the closing 30 minutes has some of the best stunt work and exciting action I’ve ever seen.

19: Batman (1989)

Tim Burton again with arguably, still, the best comic book movie ever. While I love Nolan, Bale, Ledger etc – this will always be my personal preference with Keaton and Nicholson being my favourite Batman and Joker. While the 90s Batman movies became far too camp and entrenched in comic book visuals, Nolan’s films strive for realism. Burton’s films are somewhere in between – you can tell it’s based on a comic but there’s also something more human and universal in there. There are so many great moments in this film – the Batmobile is the best version it has ever been, I love all of the ways the Joker dispatches with people, we have Prince music in the soundtrack, Kim Basinger is great, the chase and fight in Gotham Cathedral is superb, and the opening scene and revealed back story are all handled effectively.

This film also has that ever so 80s treat of Toxic Waste – how many films feature Toxic Waste as a weapon or plot device or as the entire basis of the story? Old Jack Napier falls into this and turns into The Joker – nice we get an origin story for him too. I also used to collect Topps (or some brand) stickers and cards from this movie – you know, you buy a pack of stickers/cards from some movie and you get this pink cardboard flavour chewing gum with it? I remember the Batman ones fondly because quite a few of them were gruesome – there was a shot of Grissom burned alive and charred to a crisp that was either called ‘Fried Alive’ or else that’s just what we called it, along with various Smilex victims and assorted Toxic Waste stuff. Wait, yeah, it was definitely called Fried Alive, I remember each card had a banner around it to make it look more like a comic panel. Do such things still exist for movies? I used to spend an unhealthy amount of time looking at those, and they somehow made the film better.

18: The Hitcher (1986)

For the longest time, no-one knew about this film. I was the cool kid who talked about it and no-one had a clue. Then they remade it with Sean Bean, flipped parts of the story around, and tamed it a little. The remake is okay, but never more than that. This original film is fantastic from start to finish, moody, ambiguous, and with an epic turn by Rutger Hauer. Guess what? It’s another which deserved a bunch of Oscar nods, most obviously in the Cinematography category but also in with a shout for Hauer and for the screenplay. If you’re wondering why it looks so good – well, it was shot by  John Seale who won an Oscar for The English Patient but also worked on Witness, Gorillas In The Mist, Rain Man, Dead Poet’s Society, Cold Mountain, The Philosopher’s Stone, and Fury Road. I consider this maybe his best work. There’s so many just of twilight and dusk, sunrise and sunset that I love – momentary transitional periods which subtly suggest so much thematically. It’s another film that you can summarize in a single sentence but also write essays on, trying to break it down. It boils down to, a young man is driving a car from Chicago to San Diego and picks up a hitch-hiker – the hitcher turns out to be a little crazy and a cross country game of cat and mouse ensues. It’s fantastic. Even with the remake, this is still something of a cult gem that few people talk about. C Thomas Howell is good as the kid, Hauer is at his best as the Hitcher, and Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a pivotal role. The stunts are stunning, beautiful, and there’s that inevitability and nihilism in the plot that I love so much. I’m still amazed by the critical mauling this got – so many people completely missing the point. If there’s one film on this list more people need to see, it’s this one.

17: Day Of The Dead (1985)

Back when it used to be a trilogy, the Dead trilogy was generally known to consist of two bona fide classics, and an average gore fest. As we’ve seen above though, critics often get things viciously wrong. Day Of The Dead is not as groundbreaking as its older siblings, but its every bit as powerful and it’s still superb entertainment. The film opens with shots of a deserted city.  A lone survivor is calling out for others, but the only voices to respond come from the rotting throats of the undead. The world is seemingly lost. We learn that a small group of solders, civilians, and scientists have holed up in an underground bunker, leaving only to scavenge for supplies and survivors. Various psychological problems seem to be setting in, caused by  isolation, paranoia, and fear. We have soldiers, bossed by Captain Rhodes, scientists led by Dr Logan, and a handful of civilians caught in the middle. As time has moved on, relationships have broken apart – they group has lost contact with other outposts and supplies are dwindling quickly. The soldiers are pissed off that they are the ones placing themselves in danger while the scientists apparently sit around running pointless tests, while the scientists are pissed off that the soldiers are trying to order them around like subordinates rather than fellow humans. It quickly becomes clear that both sides cannot co-exist, that both leaders are bat-shit, and that the million or so zombies in the vicinity are going to get in.

There are maybe a handful of film in existence that wow me from a technical or from a special effects perspective every single time I see them. There are a few of them on this list – an older one would be 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a more recent one would be Gravity. Day Of The Dead fits the bill. I don’t know what it is about modern effects – all the overblown Marvel films and Transformer types – I understand that a hell of a lot of work and time and money goes into them, but they either look shit, or they look amazing but leave me cold. I’ve seen skyscrapers collapse so many times now that it’s all so bland and safe. Day Of The Dead is jaw-dropping. There are effects shots here that you won’t believe. Even as a seasoned Walking Dead fan (Greg Nicotero stars and works here), Day Of The Dead contains work that has either been aped by that sister show or has effects that have yet to be bettered over thirty years later. Remember, thirty years before 1985, your best effects were a guy in a silver suit and a paper plate on a string. That is a huge expanse of time in technology, and yet Day Of The Dead destroys 99% of today’s input.

Beyond the effects and make-up, the sense of isolation and claustrophobia here is superb. Romero provides us with another no name case – no stars, no recognisable names, just regular working joes like you or I who may be lucky or unlucky enough to survive the apocalypse. As it’s Romero, there’s a a fair amount of satire and political stuff going on here – the argument between science and the military still raging on today. Naturally it’s taken to extremes, but you can see what Romero is saying and to be fair, no side gets off Scot-free. There are Oscar snubs here to be sure, but you’ll have to wait until I get caught up on those posts. This is an underrated beast, and yet it’s nowhere near the epic which Romero originally envisioned.

16: Near Dark (1987)

Near Dark is one of the greatest vampire films of all time; sexy, dark, violent, great cast, great director. And still it’s not even my favourite vampire movie of the year. At it’s core, Near Dark is a love story. Not a romance, but a love story nevertheless. Love between near partners, love between father and son, and familial love as we meet a band of marauding nomadic vampires who have been together for several decades, maybe much longer, as they try to recruit a new member. I mentioned The Hitcher having sublime cinematography – Near Dark is another contender with shot after shot of seductive shadows and expanse. Adam Greenberg provides the beauty here, a man known for The Big Red One, Ghost, and both Cameron directed Terminator movies among others. There are many, many Cameron crossovers with this film – it’s directed by his one time wife Kathryn Bigelow and features Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jennete Goldstein. It has a nifty score by Tangerine Dream, and it portrays vampires in a way you don’t often see – as characters with their own history, but beneath it all, killers. Even though this is also a cult hit it still feels like not enough people, especially outside of horror circles have seen it. Do yourself a favour and rectify that.

15: The Lost Boys (1987)

Where Near Dark strives to be a ‘mature’ vampire film, The Lost Boys aims for the MTV audience – it’s a teen movie through and through, yet it’s no less clever or entertaining for it. Like Bigelow’s film, the vampires here are depicted both on human terms and as vicious, vindictive killers. Though the style has long since been vanquished, it’s unquestionably stylish. The humour is still sharp, the twists still work, the cast – the two Coreys, Keifer Sutherland, Dianne Wiest, Jason Patric, and others – are great, and it’s another film which looks fantastic to this day. Naturally you have those 80s quirks like BMXs, comic stores, DIY home protection, and muscle-bound saxophone players, but what can you do? It’s a classic of the genre and the era.

14: The Goonies (1985)

Who grows up in the 80s or 90s and doesn’t see The Goonies? The film has become somewhat overly glorified, taking it out of context for what it really is. It’s a slice of Spielbergian entertainment – fast moving, loose, action-packed, filled with laughs, iconic moments, great characters, and quotable dialogue. You guessed it – it’s another film that seemed to be on TV every half-term so that on those inevitable rainy holidays every single kid in class would watch it. Again. Most people remember that the film is about a gang of kids who go on an adventure to find pirate treasure. Some people forget that the reason they are doing it is because they are about to be evicted and their homes replaced by condos or a mall or some shit. You may forget the criminal element too as the Fratelli family, on the run from the law, chase the kids who accidentally stumbled upon their hideout. The names have become legendary in their own right – Sloth, One Eyed Willy, Mouth, Mikey, Chuck, and people have been unnecessarily crying out for a sequel for decades. Let it go, as a one off slice of 80s magic. Richard Donner was on an incredible roll, and the soundtrack is pretty tasty too. Another vital part of my generation’s childhood.

13: Back To The Future (1985)

The undoubted classics continue. There are few films about time travel as smart or as entertaining as this. It’s a film you think you know off by heart, but that you’ll find new things in each time you watch. Marty McFly, ‘great Scott’, DeLorean, Biff, Enchantment Under The Sea, the clocktower – any mention of these things will evoke fond memories and misty eyes. It was a simpler time, a more fun time… all you needed was a little confidence. It’s such a smart film in the way it’s constructed, glossing over potential plot holes and murky details with energy and workarounds. Throw in superb performances from top to bottom, great dialogue, great soundtrack, and Zemeckis in total control and you have another film that was unnecessarily snubbed at The Oscars.

12: Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

It’s Carpenter time again, and as we always say when we talk about John Carpenter movies, this one was a cult film which has since found a wider audience and greater acclaim. Where do you even begin with this? It’s an action movie with fantasy elements, but there are also monsters, demons, gangs, and martial arts. The fantasy element sees Chinese Elemental Gods coming to Earth in search of green-eyed women for…. nefarious purposes? Jack Burton somehow gets roped into saving the day – a trucker with a John Wayne swagger and drawl – a man who knows all about reflexes but little else. This film was made for around 20 million, but somehow only made around 10 at the box office – WTF? To compare, in the same year Stallone’s Cobra made 15 million in one weekend. It’s a mystery why this wasn’t an immediate success – I could say that for at least five other Carpenter films. Kurt Russell is on epic form here, while everyone else hams the shit out of it – Kim Cattrall, James Hong, it’s really funny – funnier that most actual comedies, it has nifty effects, and you’ll be quoting it for the rest of your life. It’s another one of those movies that everyone watched and talked about the next day in school, inevitably acting out our favourite scenes at lunch time.

11: The Road Warrior (1981)

As much as I love Mad Max, this sequel ups the ante in every respect; Bigger, better. Apparently Miller wanted this to be his version of The Illiad. That’s a bit of a stretch, but the story goes; Max, still Mad from the events of the first film now travels the wasteland in his Interceptor, stopping for supplies where and when he can. He meets a fellow scavenger who travels by gyrocopter and tells Max of a nearby refinery – all the gas and oil a man could ever want. Naturally, Max finds that the refinery acts as a compound of survivors too and it is under siege from a massive biker gang who just slinked out of an S&M cosplay club. Max decides to help the compound get rid of the gang in exchange for some petrol of his own. Chaos ensues.

Up until the release of Fury Road, I cited The Road Warrior as the best car chase movie ever made – best car stunts too. Fury Road certainly goes bigger but there’s still something even more visceral about this one. Every single vehicle is a unique character, and each vehicle houses a unique character. Most are crushed to pieces. The action is pounding, frenetic, and ridiculous. Gibson is strong again as Max, ably backed by a cast of weirdos including Virginia Hey, Vernon Wells, Bruce Spence, and Emil Minty. The world of the first movie, broken and bizarre as it was, has since moved on and we appear to be left with desert – desert and scattered outposts. It didn’t take humanity long to descend to primal, feral types or adopt bizarre and impractical clothing. The atmosphere that I spoke of which oozes from the first film is replaced by something else here – another unique atmosphere, but one less unsettling and grungy. There’s a sense of desolation, but you get the feeling that there is still hope – hope in the individual. This is unquestionably one of the greatest sequels ever made, and bonus points for featuring a bad guy called Lord Humungus and for having a scene where a guy has fingers chopped off by a boomerang. Australia – where everything will kill you.

10: Commando (1985)

Man, this is a long post. Arnie again, and the second film in a row featuring Vernon Wells. Wells is Bennett, an ex Special Forces guy who has been going around killing all his old friends. He works with a wannabee dictator (Dan Hedaya) who plots a coup but needs someone to assassinate the man in charge. Arnie fits the bill – the boss of the Special Forces team who Bennett is offing and who has a relationship with the country where the coup is to take place. Really though, all that matter to us now is Jenny – Arnie’s daughter. The bad guys kidnap her to force Arnie to carry out the assassination, but he escapes and seeks revenge. It’s 90 minutes of Arnie slaughtering everyone in sight, and it’s beautiful. I’d pick this over Die Hard (often rumoured to originally have been a sequel to Commando) every time. I used to watch this movie at least once a week when I was young – for at least a couple of years. It’s a film that made me want to be a solider, and when I eventually became sort of part of the military and saw how boring it actually was, I was disillusioned. I just wanted to blow shit up and kill bad guys.

So many action movies have followed this format, but almost all have fallen far from the heights this one reaches. It’s dumb, but it’s fun and doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is. We have a tonne of one-liners, a cast of entertaining familiar face bad guys waiting to be destroyed – David Patrick Kelly and Bill Duke included – and the action stuff is over the top without being ludicrous. Arnie fighting his way through mall security guards, dropping Sully off a cliff, gearing up for war, and talking out a small army singlehandedly are all memorable moments. When I was young a small group of friends would copy these scenes, buying camo make-up from local Army surplus and camping shops, covering our skinny arms and faces, and hiding in bushes ready to snap the necks of unsuspecting dog-walkers and pensioners. This is a film where necks snap like twigs, punches sound like gunshots, and gunshots sound like the end of the world, yet all rub off the shoulders of the hero like dust from a… hero’s shoulder. Bonus points for the similarities in the score between this and the 48 Hours series – all James Horner.

9: The Thing (1982)

This top ten, by and large, represents films which have each shaped me as a person. Not only my taste in film, but my wider interests and in some cases my attitude to, well, existence. Any day of the week, any one of these could be placed differently in my top ten, except maybe for the number 1. The Thing is a film I knew about for year but could never get to see it in whole until after every other film on this list. Baring in mind I saw every other film on this list before I was ten. I saw snippets of this in friends houses, and knew I had to see it from start to finish. I knew I would love it long before I saw it. John Carpenter’s remake is frequently and rightly cited as one of, if not the best remake ever. It surpasses the original, which I like, in every aspect. Most crucially, it remains terrifying. Like Day Of The Dead, the effects work here is incredible. Carpenter hands over the scoring tools to Morricone who scribes one of his most startling and unusual works. If I have one gripe in the film it’s that quite a few of the cast members feel and look too similar. We don’t necessarily need big names here – indeed the facelessness adds to the paranoia and confusion – but some more variety would have helped. By the time we get down to the final survivors, things are more clear. That’s a minor thing, and goes away with multiple viewings.

The filmed is framed in a very similar way to the original – a group of scientists and researchers are working in a remote Antarctica station. An alien craft is found, some form of alien lifeform is uncovered, and it wreaks havoc. In this version, the Thing they uncover can take on the exact form of another living creature, be it dog or human. As the people in the station realize what they are up against, they can’t be sure that the person beside them is human or alien, and it’s clear the alien wants to survive, spread, and kill. Kurt Russell and Keith David, among others, are superb here, but it’s the effects and the direction which make it the undoubted classic that it is. It’s the little things – the shadows, the slow fades and pans, the snippets of dialogue, but then you have the action – the petri dish scene, the final fight, the nihilistic ending, the uncertainty, and the rewatchability. It’s a film you watch again and again trying to understand who is The Thing at any given time. One clue is in the eyes – Carpenter shot each face in such a way that only those with light visible and reflecting in their eyes could be human – watch closely. The film was ripped to shreds upon release – audiences gorged over Spielberg’s enjoyable fluff ET instead – and critics were apparently falling over themselves to get in the best barb. If you ever need reassurance that maybe the human races needs to be taken over by aliens, or has been already, then look at the reception for The Thing – one of the best movies of all time, barely making back it’s 15 million budget. It’s easy to see why the effects, gruesome as they are, might put some people off along with the film’s ambiguity – but would you really want to befriend someone who feels that way? The Thing is the perfect mix of sci-fi and horror, and a masterpiece from top to bottom.

8: Aliens (1986)

While we’re on the subject of top to bottom masterpieces, James Cameron looked at Ridley’s Scott’s classic and thought ‘yeah, I’ll have some of that’. Cameron is known to be a bit of a perfectionist, and also adept at creatively overcoming any obstacle – two factors ensuring that Aliens is every bit as good, if not better, than the first part. After Ripley survived her encounter with the Xenomorph in the previous film, she has been floating in hyperspace for years. Decades in fact. She is picked up, learns how long she has been asleep and that in the interim her daughter has heartbreakingly grown up and died after a long, peaceful life. ‘The Company’ grills her on the rundown of events – namely that her crew was wiped out by an unknown lifeform and the only way she could kill it was to blow up her ship and blow it into space. They would like to know who’s going to pick up the bill. Elsewhere, a mining colony has been living on the planet that Ripley found the Alien on, but has recently stopped communicating. Uh oh.

The Company decides to go down to the planet to check on Ripley’s claims and to check on their mining folks, taking with them a team of badass marines and Ripley herself. Finding the base deserted, but with evidence of a battle, we find that the Aliens have been busy making babies. There are so many things I love about Aliens – the same things everyone loves. From the dialogue to the characters to the performances to the action, it’s perfect. I’ll focus on two things I enjoy which rarely get mentioned – the pacing, and the fact that everything seems to go wrong progressively. Those are key to the film’s success. If the pacing was off, you’d risk boring the viewer – this is a long film, even without the director’s cut. It’s a long time before we get any action, but once it kicks off it rarely lets up. Cameron ensures those early scenes have enough tension, sadness, and intrigue that we are invested in the characters long before all hell breaks loose. I’m not sure if it’s a trope, but those films where the plot moves along by virtue of the situation for the characters continually getting worse, that’s a favourite of mine. The characters even reference it here, tongue in cheek. They land, they search for the aliens, they are attacked. They can’t fight back because they risk blowing up the entire planet. They lose their command, they lose their pilot, they are blocked from their means of escape, they are betrayed, they are trapped, they are outnumbered, and they learn the planet is about to explode anyway. Everything that can go wrong, does. It keeps you on the edge of your seat like few films do. We’re now firmly in the list of films where, even though I may own it on DVD, Blu Ray, VHS, or all – if it’s on TV when channel hopping, I still watch it.

7: Police Academy (1984 – Top Ten Of All Time)

A ridiculous choice for most, no doubt, but it’s a personal list. I’m not sure any film series has made me laugh as much as this one, and while the sequels hit an inevitable decline it’s easy to forget that the first one is actually good. It’s not a work of art by any means, and you’ll never hear me call any of the sequels ‘good films’, but I love them dearly. The film follows the same sort of story as any number of other late 70s, early 80s films a person or a group of misfits enter a world they would normally have no business with – fish out of water – and we watch their antics. Here, it’s a group of small time cons, crooks, and losers who decide (or are forced to) join the local Police Academy.The characters are colourfully drawn, the humour ranges from slapstick to sight gags, to dated offensive stuff, to the just plain weird, but I will never not laugh. I’ve never been particularly high brow in my sense of humour, but if there’s one thing lacking in today’s painful world of attempted gross out humour – it’s heart. Maybe soul too. Police Academy, weird as it may sound, has heart. The cast is great, the characters iconic in their own way, and the soundtrack deserved an Oscar nomination. Give it a chance if you’re looking down your nose at it – you may be surprised. Probably not, but at least you’ll get to see an old guy being sucked off in front of a crowd. You see? Heart. 

6: The Empire Strikes Back/Jedi (1980/83 – Top Ten Of All Time)

So, this is a cheat. But not really, because I’ve always considered the original trilogy as a single entity, just in three distinct parts. That IMDB list I made had the Star Wars Trilogy at number one. I’m a rebel in that Jedi is my favourite of the bunch. I’m not going to put them at number one here, though everything in this Top Ten could switch around at a whim – it’s not important. Empire is the ‘dark one’, Jedi is the ‘fun one’ even though it has plenty of dark moments too. If you’re reading this and you’ve never seen these movies, then I’m not really sure what to say. I can’t tell you to go watch them, because you’ve probably entrenched yourself into a foolish decision to never see them, in which case you’re an idiot. Watch them. Only then can you moan about them. They are all essential – essential to us as movie fans, essential to us as humans.

5: Conan The Barbarian (1982 – Top Ten Of All Time)

I’ve always been an Arnie fan. I remember having an argument with a friend (RIP Scott) in P3  – for any foreigners reading, that’s our third year of school so I must have been 7 or 8 – over who would win in a fight, Bruce Lee or Arnie. Then, I was on the Bruce Lee side of the debate, but came to the conclusion that if guns were involved, then Arnie would win. I hadn’t seen Conan yet, so maybe that would have swayed me if we’d brought swords into the argument. It took me the longest time to see Conan. For whatever reason it was both difficult to come by and I’d dismissed it. I know I’d seen Red Sonja, which is crap, and probably assumed Conan was more of the same. I saw it first in my early teens, maybe slightly earlier and boy was I wrong. Directed by the legendary John Milius, based on the stories by Robert E Howard and with a script from Oliver Stone and Milius, it isn’t you’re standard sword and sorcery affair. The cast includes James Earl Jones and Max Von Sydow. Sandahl Bergman is terrific. Mako and Gerry Lopez provide able back-up. Can you imagine a better Conan than Arnie? The score by Basil Poledouris is, without a doubt, the greatest movie score in history. There are perhaps more one-liners here, or at least memorable dialogue, than in any other Arnie movie.

The plot boils down to an origin and revenge story – it’s Batman but without the body armour. We meet Conan as a child, his father explaining the Riddle Of Steel to him, shortly before his family is slaughtered at the hands of Thulsa Doom and his followers. Conan and several others are taken away to be slaves, Conan outlives them all before being trained as a gladiator/arena killer. Eventually earning his freedom Conan befriends a group of like-minded warriors and rogues and they embark on a series of adventures before being drafting into saving a Princess who has been captured and indoctrinated into Thulsa Doom’s cult. It’s a mish mash of Howard’s character’s, places, stories, and themes, but as a tale of violent revenge there are few better. The film has lately received more acclaim for its performances, music, dialogue, and action but I feel that even among Arnie fans it’s a little underrated. Buy the movie, buy the soundtrack, and let them tell you of the days of high adventure.

4: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984 – Top Ten Of All Time)

My favourite horror movie ever. It wasn’t the first horror movie I ever saw, but it (and the character of Freddy) was the first to intrigue me. I’ve told the story before, of how I would always be drawn to the horror section of the video store – the faces of Krueger staring down at me from all angles. I’ve still no idea what it is about his image that both haunts and yet pulls so many in like a siren call. Is it the disfigurement? Is it the glove? Is it the unspoken threat of violence and sex? This is a film I had discussions about in Primary School before I’d ever seen it. I’d caught snippets of it, and they stayed with me up until the point I watched the whole thing. I’d somehow seen the ending, or at least the scene where Nancy dispatches of Freddy, before I’d seen the movie. The scene where Freddy stretches his arms, the bath scene, and several others I had seen images of and was familiar with for years before sitting down to watch.

What’s not to love? A great idea fleshed out with fervent imagination, and featuring a neat little cast, Craven’s macabre humour, visuals, fascination with the relationship between parent and child, and one of horror’s most effective fairy-tale like scores, A Nightmare On Elm Street, remains a unique mixture of slasher tropes and dark fantasy. For me, Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy was the first strong female character of an age I could relate to. She wasn’t superhuman, she wasn’t obviously smart, she was just a teenage girl in terrible danger whose friends were being killed and whose cries were being ignored. Rather than sitting back or hoping someone else could rescue her, she puts her own plan into action as everyone else continually lets her down. I love the ambiguity here, how the Nightmare scenes versus reality are at first obviously separate visually and tonally, but how they begin to merge into one as Krueger’s power grows. They give just enough back story to leave thing’s interesting – the sequels would become more convoluted as they sought to ‘explain’ – and even the standard shock horror ending is more bizarre than usual, leading most to utter a variance of WTF. As a hardened horror fan and a fan of this for decades now, it’s hard to say whether today’s generation would find it scary. I’d say there are genuinely frightening and expertly creepy moments, and the idea of a creature stalking you in your sleep is still ripe for exploration and is inherently scary. I think it’s by and large true that what one generation finds scary, the next doesn’t what with changing trends

3: Predator (1987 – Top Ten Of All Time)

I said Conan The Barbarian has plenty of quotable dialogue. Predator might top it for sheer one-liners. Some of them are your standard action movie quips such as ‘knock knock’ and ‘stick around’, but it makes you wonder what makes a line quotable. For me, it has to be funny, snappy, or insightful, and make you immediately recall the movie or scene it’s from. If you think of something like ‘here’s looking at you, kid’. There’s nothing funny or insightful there – it’s no different from ‘knock knock’, except that the latter might give you a cheap giggle. ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’ just happens to be from one of the most iconic movies ever made, even though it doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s also repeated ad nauseum – imagine if Arnie repeated it after he killed every bad guy. What on Earth am I on about?

Predator sees John McTiernan looking at the badassery of Aliens and thinking ‘yeah, I’ll have some of that’. He takes the hardcore Marines, makes them all men, and dumps them in a jungle. They are supposedly sent in to retrieve a hostage taken in hostile territory, but in good old First Blood Part 2 fashion, the CIA doesn’t give a shit about any hostage and that it was really about retrieving classified information. The team isn’t impressed by this lack of transparency and general treachery, but before they can spank each other they discover that they are being hunted by an unknown and unseen assailant. As they get picked off one by one, they learn that their enemy may not be of this world.

Predator is a full blown masculine shitshow. The muscles are monstrous, the machismo is twelve inches long, and the only thing bigger than the balls are the guns. It’s fantastic. This, along with Commando I often watched as a double bill at least once a week. It was my prepping for the upcoming day or weekend’s play – spending all day with toy guns building bases and lurking in hideouts in our local forests, parks, streets, fields. If we lived in a warmer climate, I have no doubt we would have camped out more, stayed in our makeshift bases, and covered ourselves in mud to avoid detection (read – covered ourselves in mud and run through innocent neighbours’ backyards hootin’ and a hollerin’). I wanted to be half as badass as the guys in this film – Dutch, Billy, Mac, Dillon, Blain… maybe not Hawkins or Poncho. Me and the friend I spent most days watching the double bill with both signed up for military duties at a young age, but soon found out that it was all balls.

Stan Winston shines once more in Predator – his effects and makeup work being state of the art for the time, and still holds up in places today – certainly in the context of the film everything works. You have Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves and Shane Black (who also worked on the script, naturally). Elpidia Carrillo holds her own. The Predator is a fantastic creature. There are so many great moments here – each kill is well thought out, the action is lethal, the final showdown and other moments are executed with smarts and racked with tension. The scene where the team effectively takes down an entire rainforest with their guns is possibly my favourite scene in any movie.

2: RoboCop (1987 – Top Ten Of All Time)

Where to begin with this one? I still argue it’s the most quotable movie of all time. It’s certainly rare that a day passes where I don’t quote it – it’s become so commonplace that I do it subconsciously. It’s got to the point where I quote it so much that people who I know haven’t seen the film or are even aware that what I’m saying is from a movie have adopted the dialogue and quote it too. The film is your traditional tale of young, ambitious cop who moves to a dirty, deadly district to try to clean it up but ends up being shot to (literally) pieces on his first day only to be resurrected as an unstoppable human-robot hybrid. What shouldn’t work on paper ends up being infinitely more than a sum of its parts – Paul Verhoeven doesn’t hold back with the violence, filling it with scene after scene of bloody carnage, he makes it a biting satire on justice, corruption, and The American Dream, throws in the odd Christ metaphor, and shoots the film with a mixture of the real and the outlandish. You’ve got to love all those news and advertisement intermissions.

Peter Weller gives a superb performance and was unfortunate not to get an Oscar nomination – not that they’d ever nominate something like this, and he’s backed up by the ever game Nancy Allen and the finest group of villainous scumbags you’re ever likely to find including Ronny Cox, Kurwood Smith, and Miguel Ferrer. You also have yet another classic Basil Poledouris score, a psychologically complex story boiled that you can still boil down to revenge action thriller standards, and on top of it all you have wonderful, ludicrous action. The guns are deafening, the swibs have gallons of the red stuff ready to explode at a whim, and you have any number of legendary characters and moments. Some people can’t handle the amount of swearing in the movie – don’t worry, there are plenty of re-dubbed versions where they replace the pesky f-bombs with more creative snippets which have in turn become even more quotable than the originals – ‘fuck you’ becomes ‘why me’ or ‘for you’ or ‘damn you’, ‘asshole’ becomes ‘airhead’, ‘bullshit’ becomes ‘baloney’, ‘fucking’ becomes ‘freaky’, and of course ‘you’re gonna be a bad mothercrusher’. Yes, there are of course versions with much of the violence removed, but why would you want to watch that? Instead, watch one of the several amazing fan edits out there, some of which go far beyond the boundaries of creative taste… taste? Tastes like baby food. Knock yourself out.

1: The Terminator (1984 – Top Ten Of All Time)

Was there ever any doubt? It’s always a toss up between this and T2 as my favourite film ever – doesn’t really matter though as they’re both perfect. You must know the story by now? In the future and artificial intelligence known as Skynet turned against its human overlords and kicked off a nuclear war which wiped out most of mankind. The survivors live in a desolate wasteland, hiding from and fighting back against the machines which Skynet has built to kill them. One such machine is known as a Terminator – a cyborg which can look and act human, but is essentially an unstoppable killing machine. Unable to eradicate the human resistance, the machines somehow build a time machine and send one such Terminator back to 1984 to kill the mother of the future resistance – a man named John Connor – before he can be born. In the future, the humans learn of this plan and manage to send someone back too, a protector known as Kyle Reece. So begins a race against time as both Kyle and The Terminator try to find Sarah Connor – a bumbling waitress with no idea what is in front of her.

I can’t be certain, but I think this was the first Arnie film I ever saw. I was pretty young, like maybe seven. I’ve been obsessed ever since. It’s safe to say the movie has had a massive influence on me personally, the notion of a selfless hero, of putting the greater good before the self often shaping the decisions I’ve made. I’m in no way a hero, but if there’s any character in a movie I’d want to be like it would be Reece. Linda Hamilton grows into the role as Sarah understands her position, and by the end she’s a beast. The three leads here are extraordinary. Cameron directs like his life depends on it, bringing sci-fi into realms previously unexplored. The film still looks stunning. The main soundtrack theme, in all of its guises, is maybe my favourite piece of music ever written. This is a chase movie, a cat and mouse movie, a dark and neon drenched thriller that seduced me at first sight. There are deleted scenes in the movie that are more vital and important than the entire filmography of other directors and actors. The film handles the mixture of action, violence, horror, tension flawlessly, while never forgetting that the characters are paramount. I’ve argued that it’s the greatest love story ever told. It’s a line I’ve used a few times in this post- that the effects may be dated in places but by the time you reach those moments you’re already invested in the story so that these can be ignored. Most of the time the effects work very well, the practical work more tangible than today’s rubber CGI. There are so many moments I could mention here as to why it’s my favourite movie ever, but you should just watch and pick your own, after all, there’s not fate but what we make for ourselves.

Well, that was a beast of a post. I’ll keep this bit short then – let us know in the comments what your favourite films of the 1980s are!

PS – Look what I found!