The 1980s were crazy! You could still smoke on airplanes and people were fighting each other for Cabbage Patch Kids. By the time the late 1970s rolled around, America was going through big changes. Many Americans no longer trusted the government and were tired of the struggle. Hollywood was really beginning to attack social issues. I mean, a former Hollywood star was newly named president in Ronald Reagan. That swell guy not only cut taxes, introduced ‘Reaganomics’ and ended the Cold War, but he also racked up 82 credits as an actor.
The Blue Lagoon came out in 1980, starring a 14-year-old Brooke Shields alongside Christopher Atkins, in which the pair played naked teenage cousins that were experiencing their budding sexuality while marooned on an island. Moviegoers took issue with watching real-life teenagers having fake sex. Never mind the fact that the two, well … conceived a child. Oh, can you believe that, at one point, parents didn’t even want their kids playing Dungeons and Dragons? With that, see below for my favorite five movies from 1980. This was a tough list to put together and I still hate myself for not including The Shining (Please feel free to yell at me for omissions in the comments section below).
The original Halloween (1978) was the first horror flick I ever watched. It prompted me to want to check out movies like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm St. (1984). Just like JAWS (1975) had people scared to go in the water, this movie had folks terrified to go to camp. The premise is simple, as a group of camp counselors, trying to reopen a summer camp a few years after a child drowned, are murdered by an unknown stalker. For all the trivia buffs out there: the actress who played Mrs. Voorhees, Betsy Palmer, thought the movie was going to be a bust and only took the role so that she could buy a new car. This movie, to me, is really a feel-good story about the lengths a mother will go to prove how much she loves her child.
I first watched this movie with a group of friends in high school. It was our favorite movie for an entire summer. We could all literally quote the movie, word-for-word. Still can. I have a legitimate man crush on Bill Murray and I don’t care who knows it. True story – I was Carl Spackler for four Halloweens, including three-consecutive. In my opinion, Ted Knight as Judge Smails, quietly steals the show among a star-studded cast that included the Murray brothers, Rodney Dangerfield and Chevy Chase. I can still see him swinging his grandson around from his arm and saying, “You’ll get nothing and like it!”, and yelling, “Spaulding, get your foot off the boat!”. This is a true underdog story for caddies and slackers everywhere.
3. Superman II
Before Michael Shannon took on the role of General Zod in Man of Steel (2013), that honor belonged to one Terence Stamp. He was great! He played the part so well. Superman is one of my favorite superheroes, ever. Just a guy that wants to be a regular guy, but has amazing powers like a super guy. When Dan Jurgens and Co. killed him off in the Death of Superman-Doomsday graphic novel in the 1990s, I legitimately cried (No, you’re ridiculous!). That was Earth-shattering stuff. Henry Cavill is excellent, but Christopher Reeve really set the bar high. He was a fantastic Superman and an even better Clark Kent.
I remember seeing this movie in high school and not really appreciating it (please be kind). After seeing it again when I was in college, it was – it is – to this day, one of the most-hilarious movies I have ever seen. Great writing with a calming blend of dry humor. Leslie Nielsen was an absolute genius in everything he did. I loved his brief role in this movie as Dr. Rumack, but it was after seeing the absolutely incredible The Naked Gun (1988-94) series, where I completely became a fan of his. He was one of my favorite actors and always made me laugh with his stern comedic delivery.
Harrison Ford is my acting hero. It feels good to say that out loud. My favorite movie trilogy of all-time is that of Indiana Jones (1981-89). Yes, I, like so many others, refuse to acknowledge that the fourth installment, 2008’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, ever happened. Not much I have to say here. We all love Lucasfilm flicks and this movie had it all. I mean, Luke meets Yoda and, in what I would consider the greatest reveal in cinematic history, his father, (gasp!) Darth Vader. Lando invites the crew to Cloud City for his own version of the ‘Red Wedding’ and Han gets frozen in carbonite! How about that Millennium Falcon, huh?
Honorable Mentions: The Shining, Raging Bull, Stir Crazy, Blues Brothers, Flash Gordon, Smokey and the Bandit II, Humanoids from the Deep, Maniac!, Popeye, Prom Night.