Best 80’s Films

When people think 80’s, ‘cinematic masterpieces’ is rarely the first phrase which jumps to mind. For some film philistines, I dare to say that 80’s films are probably written off before they’ve even been given a chance. Here I, a 16 year old girl who happens to have a keen interest in the cinema of yesteryear, will attempt to round up what I consider to be the best films of the decade.

1. Blue Velvet, 1986 (dir. David Lynch) – Starring the lovely Kyle MacLachlan as amateur sleuth Jeffrey Beaumont, this is probably Lynch’s stand out film. Both Lynch and MacLachlan are perhaps best known for the early 90’s mystery series Twin Peaks, recently revived for a new season. Blue Velvet has many of the same elements that meant Twin Peaks worked so well, with a deeply enthralling story line and the feeling of underlying tension Lynch does so well. If you need one reason to watch it, Dennis Hopper puts in a fabulous performance as Frank, who can only be described as a total nutter with psychotic tendencies. Lynch is very subtle, and his style was probably ahead of its time. So despite initial appearances, this is as probably as far from the 80’s and 80’s film can get.

2. Dirty Dancing, 1987 (dir. Emile Ardolino) – Unlike Blue Velvet, Dirty Dancing is as 80’s as it gets. Right down to its soundtrack, this film has everything. Not to undersell it, of course, I love a bit of Swayze as much as the next girl, and this really is as good as it gets for romance films (hence its place on the list). Dirty Dancing is totally iconic, whether you go in for cheesy love stories or not, and frankly as far as films which centre around dancing goes this is one of the few that managed to pull it off gracefully and not descend into ridiculous self-indulgent dance festivals.

3. The Breakfast Club, 1985 (dir, John Hughes) – Probably one of the superior ‘teen’ films from any decade, and from a director who specialised in them. Hughes also directed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles (both also from the 80’s). It’s very character based, which I like, and takes place more or less entirely on a single set. That said, it leaves an impression. Films about teenagers tend to be memorable for all the wrong reasons, and I gladly welcome any exception to that.

4. The Color Purple, 1985 (dir. Steven Spielberg) – Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple was a powerful representation of life in South America for African Americans in the early 20th century. The cast consisted almost entirely of black actors, something very rarely seen now let alone at the time it was filmed, and starred Whoopi Goldberg as Celie alongside Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover. It’s a very moving story, and the film itself communicated that very well, unlike in some book to film adaptations where a lot of the meaning is lost.

5. Withnail and I, 1987 (dir. Bruce Robinson) – Withnail and I is undoubtedly the best comedy I have ever seen and is distinct as being unlike many others of the same genre. The film which kick-started Richard E. Grant’s career, it has received cult acclaim since its release and for good reason.

6. Amadeus, 1984 (dir. Milos Forman) – Amadeus is the semi-fact tale of Mozart’s life, told through the eyes of another famous composer at the time Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham). It’s a fantastic spectacle from start to finish and is surprisingly quite moving. It is, like Blue Velvet, a film very much to be set apart from others of the decade. Probably Tom Hulce’s career defining performance as Mozart, the adaptation of the original Peter Shaffer play is both startling and rousing.