1985 – the year the first .com domain was registered. That plastic thingy that prevents hot pizza cheese from getting stuck to the top of the box was invented. The world sang in glorious unification, “We are the World” and “get rid of New Coke.”
It was the year Mr. Snuffleupagus was revealed to the adults on Sesame Street. It was the year Eddie Murphy wanted to party all the time. And, on a brisk, sunny afternoon in October, it was the year I was born.
Amidst the aforementioned, it was also a great year for movies. If you were a fan of action or comedy or fantasy or teen romance or horror or all of the above, there were a plethora of flicks to choose from.
As difficult a decision as it was, here are five of my favorite films from 1985, the year I was born.
“You haven’t seen The Goonies? How have you not seen The Goonies??” Chances are any child of the 80s, or child of a child of the 80s who has not seen this beloved adventure film heard that series of questions too many times – and for good reason. It is, by far, the gold standard of children’s adventure movies.
The Goonies was conceived by one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century, Steven Spielberg, who gave us timeless gems such as E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Jurassic Park. The story was adapted into a screenplay by Chris Columbus, who magically brought Harry Potter to the silver screen. Richard Donner, who made you believe a man can fly in Superman: The Movie, sat in the director’s chair. And lest we forget the cast sold this quirky adventure, including a young Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, and Jonathan “Short Round” Ke Quan.
The trifecta of auteurs and teen cast expertly make you feel like you are joining in on the adventure to find the long-lost fortune of One-Eyed Willy. And boy do they love a good booby-trap sequence. The characters are fun, the kids are energetic, and the sets are enchanting. Like the other films from 1985 on this list, I frequently pop it in the ol’ DVD player, transporting me back to a simpler time. If you haven’t seen this morsel of nostalgia, stop whatever it is you’re doing, and rent or download, or stream The Goonies today.
Day of the Dead
Let me put this out there – I am terrified of zombies. The notion of the dead rising from the grave with no agenda than to devour my guts gives me nightmares. And yet, I can’t get enough of it. From The Walking Dead, to Shaun of the Dead, to World War Z, I have found myself utterly obsessed with the sub genre. I love the classic approach to special effects – the makeup, the prosthetics, the homemade blood and guts – that zombie films and tv have used since day one, and have only gotten better over time. And you can’t spell zombie film without George A. Romero.
1985’s Day of the Dead is the third and final installment of legendary filmmaker George A. Romero’s original ‘Dead’ trilogy. Yes, he would go on to make three more zombie films in later years, but they didn’t find as much critical success, although they each had their own merits. While Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are both certified horror classics, Day of the Dead doesn’t get the credit or attention it deserves, other than being one chapter of the Romero Dead saga.
Day of the Dead is certainly the bleakest of the trilogy. The war against the undead is all but lost. Humanity has resorted to hiding in underground government installations, where scientists are studying the undead, searching for a way to cure them, or obliterate them. Unfortunately, there was meant to be a much more epic version of the film, which Romero called the “Gone With the Wind” of zombie films. But the studio cut Romero’s budget in half for Day of the Dead, leaving many fans, and Romero himself, disappointed with the final version. Nonetheless, Day of the Dead is a favorite of mine, a step forward in zombie makeup and practical effects, and a fine piece of Romero’s bigger vision.
The Black Cauldron
Disney has inspired aspiring artists and entertainers for generations, myself included. I could include dozens of Disney films on a list of favorite films. You can’t help but be captivated by the music, by being transported to other worlds and ages, and be inspired by their message to dream, to dare to be better, to LET IT GO. In 1985, Disney made a bold move for their 25th animated feature with The Black Cauldron. Based on Lloyd Alexander’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Prydain, Cauldron’s scary villain and dark themes earned it Disney animation’s first-ever PG rating.
Like most things in the 80s, Disney was going through a bit of a transitional period when they released The Black Cauldron. This film drifted a bit too far away from the Disney formula, so much so that it did not do well in the box office. Furthermore, it took over a decade for it to be released on home video. And I have been a fan ever since. Reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings, it’s a tale of dark fantasy, magic, swords and sorcery, something that right up my alley.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
The first major feature of my favorite filmmaker – Tim Burton, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is funny, manic, and scary, at times. It was a flick that this odd boy from Jersey grew up loving, and still quote to this day. It’s such an imaginative comedy; one that exists entirely in a realm of big, goofy, unapologetic fantasy.
Pee-Wee Herman is a… unique fellow, that has an amazing customized bicycle as his prized possession. When his bicycle is stolen, he will stop at nothing to retrieve it. He travels across the country, meets the utterly terrifying ghost of Large Marge, wrecks a biker crew’s rides, and wreaks havoc on a Hollywood sound stage. From Danny Elfman’s zany score, to Burton’s masterful grasp of the oddball story and cast, to Paul Reuben’s off-the-wall performance, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is fresh, fun, and inventive, even to this day.
Of course, the success of this film solidified the careers of Elfman, Burton, and Reubens. Burton went on to direct other classics like Batman, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands. Reubens took his character to the small screen with the successful Pee Wee’s Playhouse.
Back to the Future
How can this movie not be on anyone’s list? It’s not just one of my favorite films of the year, it’s one of my favorite films of all time.
Unless you’ve been living happily in the year 1885, you probably know the premise of Back to the Future. High-schooler Marty McFly is accidentally sent thirty years into the past in a time-travelling DeLorean invented by his friend, Dr. Emmett Brown, and must make sure his high-school-age parents canoodle in order to save his own existence. Producer Steven Spielberg and Writer/Director Robert Zemeckis expertly craft a film that blends sci-fi, adventure, comedy, and romance seamlessly. What makes it all the more classic is that sensational score by John Williams.
Do I really need to say anything more? It’s Back to the Future. 1.21 gigawatts of cinematic enjoyment; one of the greatest films of all time.
It’s truly amazing to look back on the year of my birth and see how many classic films premiered. It was so hard to narrow it down to just five. I have to include some honorable mentions. 1985 was just a damn fine year to go to the movies.
The Breakfast Club, Teen Wolf, Rambo: First Blood Part II, The Color Purple, Out of Africa, Cocoon, Commando, Weird Science, Witness, Brazil, A View to a Kill, Lifeforce, The Return of the Living Dead, Rocky IV, St. Elmo’s Fire, Fletch, Fright Night, Brewster’s Millions, Desperately Seeking Susan, Legend, Re-Animator…
… And, of course, The Care Bears Movie.