Pastel Coke, Bad Hair and Synth Soundtracks: Some Fine 1980's Movies You May Have Forgot

by seanmrcondon | created - 07 Oct 2011 | updated - 07 Oct 2011 | Public

The 1980 were for film much like they were for music - not generally considered a great decade in the grand sweep of things. There were, however, many wonderful, entertaining errr....entertainments "mounted". Sometimes you just have to get past the Jan Hammer music.

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1. Cutter's Way (1981)

R | 109 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

Richard spots a man dumping a body, and decides to expose the man he thinks is the culprit with his friend Alex Cutter.

Director: Ivan Passer | Stars: Jeff Bridges, John Heard, Lisa Eichhorn, Ann Dusenberry

Votes: 4,140 | Gross: $1.73M

2. The Morning After (1986)

R | 103 min | Crime, Mystery, Romance

A washed up, alcoholic actress who is prone to blackouts wakes up next to a murdered man. Did she kill him and, if not, is she in danger?

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Jane Fonda, Jeff Bridges, Raul Julia, Diane Salinger

Votes: 5,088 | Gross: $25.15M

3. The Boost (1988)

R | 95 min | Drama, Romance

Lenny Brown moves to California to find his fortune in tax shelter investments. When the federal government changes the tax laws, poor Lenny finds himself $700,000 in hock with nowhere to ... See full summary »

Director: Harold Becker | Stars: James Woods, Sean Young, John Kapelos, Steven Hill

Votes: 1,679 | Gross: $0.78M

David Thomson called this one of the best films about ordinary people and money. It's a terrific movie, possibly Harold Becker's best and it contains two great lead performances from James Woods and Sean Young (remember Crazy Sean Young?). My favourite moment is on the commentary track (Woods & Becker) when Woods describes a late-night swim'n sex pool scene with Young as "one of those times an actor lives for."

4. American Gigolo (1980)

R | 117 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery

57 Metascore

A Los Angeles male escort, who mostly caters to an older female clientèle, is accused of a murder which he did not commit.

Director: Paul Schrader | Stars: Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Hector Elizondo, Nina van Pallandt

Votes: 17,994 | Gross: $23.00M

More celebrated for its style and the emergence of Richard Gere as a bona fide star than for anything to do with the story (can anybody remember the plot?) Gigolo was nonetheless early evidence of super screenwriter Paul Schrader's ability to direct. For me, Schrader has never really blossomed as a director- his films are often too stagy and stiff, as if he were running acting workouts, but he's still one of my favourites and I loved the book Scrader on Schrader.

5. Atlantic City (1980)

R | 104 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

In a corrupt city, a small-time gangster and the estranged wife of a pot dealer find themselves thrown together in an escapade of love, money, drugs, and danger.

Director: Louis Malle | Stars: Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Kate Reid, Michel Piccoli

Votes: 12,546

It's Louis Malle and Burt Lancaster - what more do I have to say? Burt was nominated -justly- for this role about a small-time chancer looking for that one big score in an Atlantic City that's eight years more decayed than it was in The King of Marvin Gardens. That being said, this is a movie that reeks of being Canadian. Check that supporting cast of Canucks.

6. Bad Timing (1980)

X | 123 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

A psychiatrist, living in Vienna, enters a torrid relationship with a married woman. When she ends up in the hospital from an overdose, an Inspector becomes set on discovering the demise of their affair.

Director: Nicolas Roeg | Stars: Art Garfunkel, Theresa Russell, Harvey Keitel, Denholm Elliott

Votes: 6,542

Forget Performance, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Don't Look Now and Walkabout: THIS is Nic Roeg's masterwork. A heartbreaking tale of sexual obsession set in wonderful Venice and containing what should have been an Oscar nominated performance by Theresa Russell.

7. Loulou (1980)

TV-14 | 101 min | Drama, Romance

Maurice Pialat's portrait of contemporary France mocks prosperity as a substitute for social and sexual revolution. Nelly abandons her bourgeois friends and a steady relationship for the ... See full summary »

Director: Maurice Pialat | Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Gérard Depardieu, Guy Marchand, Humbert Balsan

Votes: 2,330

Are you kidding me? Maurice Pialat, Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu in a delicious movie that Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw described as "effortlessly watchable". If you have never seen a Maurice Pialat film, do yourself a favour. They called him the French Cassavetes, but don't believe it - he was much, much better than that.

8. Melvin and Howard (1980)

R | 95 min | Comedy, Drama

The story of hard-luck Melvin E. Dummar, who claimed to have received a will naming him an heir to the fortune of Howard Hughes.

Director: Jonathan Demme | Stars: Paul Le Mat, Jason Robards, Elizabeth Cheshire, Mary Steenburgen

Votes: 3,784 | Gross: $4.31M

A charming slice of what Jonathan Demme was capable of eleven years before he helmed arguably the greatest thriller ever made. Deserved Oscars were copped by Mrs.Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, and screenwriter Bo Goldman, but the real thrill for me was seeing the "Can't Say No Girl", the great, GREAT Gloria Grahame (Bogey's near saviour in In A Lonely Place and an Oscar winner herself) in one of her last roles.

9. The Stunt Man (1980)

R | 131 min | Action, Comedy, Drama

A fugitive stumbles on a movie set just when they need a new stunt man, takes the job as a way to hide out, and falls for the leading lady.

Director: Richard Rush | Stars: Peter O'Toole, Steve Railsback, Barbara Hershey, Allen Garfield

Votes: 7,526 | Gross: $7.06M

Just good fun with the dude who played Charles Manson on tv and the dude who played Lawrence of Arabia....on the big screen.

10. Heaven's Gate (1980)

R | 325 min | Adventure, Drama, Western

57 Metascore

A dramatization of the real-life Johnson County War in 1890 Wyoming, in which a Sheriff born into wealth, attempts to protect immigrant farmers from rich cattle interests.

Director: Michael Cimino | Stars: Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, John Hurt, Sam Waterston

Votes: 11,372 | Gross: $3.48M

Please give this another chance. Grab the director's cut dvd (cheap, and the only version you are likely to find) and marvel at the epic sweep of Crazy Michael Cimino's vision. The cinematography and music are *beep* epic.......you could watch a thousand films and not come across such a perfect marriage of the two. Kristofferson, Chris Walken and Isabelle Huppert form the central triangle. Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Sam Waterston, Brad Dourif, Joseph Cotten, Richard Masur and Mickey Rourke, among others, round out a stellar cast. The book, Final Cut, and the documentary (available on youtube, but not dvd) both make significant additions to the story, a little bit like a homemade Criterion release.....what we'll have to do with until the CC actually gets around to releasing this neglected MASTERPIECE.

11. Mephisto (1981)

Unrated | 144 min | Drama

A German stage actor finds unexpected success and mixed blessings in the popularity of his performance in a Faustian play as the Nazis take power in pre-WWII Germany. As his associates and ... See full summary »

Director: István Szabó | Stars: Klaus Maria Brandauer, Krystyna Janda, Ildikó Bánsági, Rolf Hoppe

Votes: 8,095

A killer performance from Klaus Maria Brandauer in a very Faustian tale involving the Nazi's and the theater.

12. Prince of the City (1981)

R | 167 min | Crime, Drama

A New York City narcotics detective reluctantly agrees to cooperate with a special commission investigating police corruption. However, he soon discovers that he's in over his head, and nobody can be trusted.

Director: Sidney Lumet | Stars: Treat Williams, Jerry Orbach, Richard Foronjy, Don Billett

Votes: 5,891 | Gross: $8.12M

It's one of Sidney Lumet's triumphs: epic in length, finely detailed and featuring a strong central performance from Treat Williams. It's pretty tough slogging at times, though, as Super Sidney never tired of piling dialogue on top of conversation. If only they had used a few more extras and fleshed out NYC a bit. The only other time I've seen a big city so underpopulated in (a non sci-fi) film was in David Mamet's overrated Homicide where the ten-buck acting budget was split between William H. Macy and Joe Mantegna.

13. Reds (1981)

PG | 195 min | Biography, Drama, History

76 Metascore

A radical American journalist becomes involved with the Communist revolution in Russia, and hopes to bring its spirit and idealism to the United States.

Director: Warren Beatty | Stars: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Edward Herrmann, Jerzy Kosinski

Votes: 18,161 | Gross: $40.38M

Ok, you probably haven't forgotten this one. After Warren Beatty had screened his Bolshie epic for a select Hollywood audience one of his waterboys noticed that Paul Schrader had slept through much of the picture. Upon informing the lisping Calvinist that Beatty would be none too pleased with this, reminding PS that Warren had put something like fifty years of his life into the project Schrader retorted by saying that "Yeah, but he's just taken away over three hours of my life and my time is infinitely more important to me than Warren's is." Haha.

14. True Confessions (1981)

R | 108 min | Crime, Drama

A worldly ambitious monsignor clashes with his older brother, a cynical Los Angeles homicide detective who is investigating the brutal murder of a young prostitute.

Director: Ulu Grosbard | Stars: Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Charles Durning, Kenneth McMillan

Votes: 6,009 | Gross: $10.20M

One of my favourites from the decade. An unjustly neglected film that has absolutely everything going for it. It plays like a precursor to LA Confidential and contains quite possibly the finest Robert Duvall performance on record. A quagmire of corruption in El Lay.....cops, crooks, contractors, hookers......and priests. Charles Durning is menacing, Burgess Meredith is Burgess Meredith and De Niro, well...he's a bit tough to buy as a Catholic priest, but what the hell, it's a great movie.

15. Lola (1981)

R | 115 min | Drama, Romance

In post-war West Germany, the charming Von Bohm is appointed a city's new Building Commissioner. His morality is tested when he unknowingly falls in love with a brothel worker, Lola, the paid mistress of a corrupt property developer.

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder | Stars: Barbara Sukowa, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Mario Adorf, Matthias Fuchs

Votes: 4,240

16. À nos amours (1983)

R | 95 min | Drama, Romance

An erratic young woman's family desperately tries to prevent her increasingly erotic ways.

Director: Maurice Pialat | Stars: Sandrine Bonnaire, Maurice Pialat, Christophe Odent, Dominique Besnehard

Votes: 4,292

I'm at a loss for words. Maurice Pialat, again, and a fifteen year old colt named Sandrine Bonnaire. That's all you really need to know.

17. The Right Stuff (1983)

PG | 193 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama

91 Metascore

The story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts and their macho, seat-of-the-pants approach to the space program.

Director: Philip Kaufman | Stars: Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid

Votes: 49,560 | Gross: $21.50M

Phil Kaufman's adaptation of Tom Wolfe's terrific book about the space guys was a box office disappointment that remains one of THE very best American films made in the 1980's. Or any other decade for that matter. I don't think that PK made the flyboys heroic enough for the milky-bland tastes of middle America, but I, for one, am glad he didn't.

18. Silkwood (1983)

R | 131 min | Biography, Drama, History

64 Metascore

A worker at a plutonium processing plant is purposefully contaminated, psychologically tortured and possibly murdered to prevent her from exposing worker safety violations at the plant.

Director: Mike Nichols | Stars: Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, Cher, Craig T. Nelson

Votes: 15,684 | Gross: $35.62M

19. Dance with a Stranger (1985)

R | 96 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

A stormy relationship, complicated by the strictures of 1950s social class and gender roles, ends in death. Based on the life of Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain.

Director: Mike Newell | Stars: Miranda Richardson, Rupert Everett, Ian Holm, Matthew Carroll

Votes: 2,112 | Gross: $2.17M

The cinematic debut of a force of nature known as Miranda Richardson, in the tragic tale of Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain.

20. Plenty (1985)

R | 121 min | Drama

A young Englishwoman spends twenty years to make whatever kind of life for herself, at the expense of others around her, in post-World War II England.

Director: Fred Schepisi | Stars: Meryl Streep, Sam Neill, André Maranne, Charles Dance

Votes: 2,325 | Gross: $6.15M

21. Something Wild (1986)

R | 114 min | Comedy, Crime, Romance

73 Metascore

A free-spirited woman "kidnaps" a yuppie for a weekend of adventure. But the fun quickly takes a dangerous turn when her ex-convict husband shows up.

Director: Jonathan Demme | Stars: Jeff Daniels, Melanie Griffith, George 'Red' Schwartz, Leib Lensky

Votes: 13,647 | Gross: $8.36M

22. Screen Two (1985–2002)
Episode: The Firm (1989)

70 min | Drama

This is the story of rival "Firms" of football supporters, and how one man has a wish to team them up for the European Championships of 1988. However, when this is discussed, the opposing ... See full summary »

Director: Alan Clarke | Stars: Gary Oldman, Lesley Manville, Phil Davis, Andrew Wilde

Votes: 2,723

I'm not sure what is going on with that Diana Rigg thumbnail, but The Firm is an Alan Clarke (he of Scum fame) film about middle class football hooligans featuring a young and nasty Gary Oldman.

23. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

PG-13 | 104 min | Comedy, Drama

77 Metascore

An ophthalmologist's mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated with another woman.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Bill Bernstein, Claire Bloom

Votes: 47,722 | Gross: $18.25M

Hardly a forgotten movie; indeed, it's frequently celebrated for being one of the Woodman's mid-period artistic triumphs. The man himself must love it because he virtually re-made it a few years ago with the entertaining, if less well-acted, Match Point. The Alan Alda sequences still make me howl.

24. Dead Calm (1989)

R | 96 min | Horror, Thriller

70 Metascore

After a tragedy, John Ingram and his wife Rae are spending some time isolated at sea, when they come across a stranger who has abandoned a sinking ship.

Director: Phillip Noyce | Stars: Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Billy Zane, Rod Mullinar

Votes: 32,285 | Gross: $7.83M

25. The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

R | 114 min | Drama, Music, Romance

The lives of two struggling musicians, who happen to be brothers, inevitably change when they team up with a beautiful, up-and-coming singer.

Director: Steve Kloves | Stars: Jeff Bridges, Michelle Pfeiffer, Beau Bridges, Ellie Raab

Votes: 19,272 | Gross: $16.82M

26. Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)

R | 100 min | Drama

86 Metascore

A sexually repressed woman's husband is having an affair with her sister. The arrival of a visitor with a rather unusual fetish changes everything.

Director: Steven Soderbergh | Stars: James Spader, Andie MacDowell, Peter Gallagher, Laura San Giacomo

Votes: 42,139 | Gross: $24.74M

Steven Soderbergh's masterful, and legendary debut.

27. Four Friends (1981)

R | 114 min | Comedy, Drama

This story of four working-class kids in a small industrial town--who go their separate ways after high school in the innocence of 1961 and come together again at the end of the turbulent ... See full summary »

Director: Arthur Penn | Stars: Craig Wasson, Jodi Thelen, Michael Huddleston, Jim Metzler

Votes: 1,530

Arthur Penn's last good film.

28. Fitzcarraldo (1982)

PG | 158 min | Adventure, Drama

The story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an extremely determined man who intends to build an opera house in the middle of a jungle.

Director: Werner Herzog | Stars: Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale, José Lewgoy, Miguel Ángel Fuentes

Votes: 25,524

29. Smash Palace (1981)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama, Thriller

Al Shaw's life revolves around motor racing and his back country junkyard, the "Smash Palace". His French wife, Jacqui, doesn't appreciate the lack of attention due to Al's obsession with ... See full summary »

Director: Roger Donaldson | Stars: Bruno Lawrence, Anna Maria Monticelli, Greer Robson-Kirk, Keith Aberdein

Votes: 674

30. Missing (1982)

PG | 122 min | Biography, Drama, History

78 Metascore

When an idealistic American writer disappears during the Chilean coup d'état in September 1973, his wife and father try to find him.

Director: Costa-Gavras | Stars: Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek, Melanie Mayron, John Shea

Votes: 15,611 | Gross: $14.00M

31. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

PG | 84 min | Comedy

80 Metascore

In his attempts to reconcile a lounge singer with his mistress, a hapless talent agent is mistaken as her lover by a jealous gangster.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte, Sandy Baron

Votes: 20,736 | Gross: $10.60M

32. Tin Men (1987)

R | 112 min | Comedy, Drama

75 Metascore

A minor car accident drives two rival aluminum-siding salesmen to the ridiculous extremes of man versus man in 1963 Baltimore.

Director: Barry Levinson | Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, Danny DeVito, Barbara Hershey, John Mahoney

Votes: 7,095 | Gross: $25.41M

33. Patty Hearst (1988)

R | 108 min | Biography, Drama

In the 1970s, Patty Hearst is abducted by American revolutionaries, but eventually joins their cause instead.

Director: Paul Schrader | Stars: Natasha Richardson, William Forsythe, Ving Rhames, Frances Fisher

Votes: 1,104 | Gross: $1.22M

34. Chocolat (1988)

PG-13 | 105 min | Drama

A young French woman returns to the vast silence of West Africa to contemplate her childhood days in a colonial outpost in Cameroon. Her strongest memories are of the family's houseboy, ... See full summary »

Director: Claire Denis | Stars: Isaach De Bankolé, Giulia Boschi, François Cluzet, Jean-Claude Adelin

Votes: 2,290 | Gross: $2.32M

35. Enemies: A Love Story (1989)

R | 119 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

A ghostwriter finds himself romantically involved with his current wife, a married woman and his long-vanished wife.

Director: Paul Mazursky | Stars: Ron Silver, Anjelica Huston, Lena Olin, Malgorzata Zajaczkowska

Votes: 1,740 | Gross: $7.75M

36. High Hopes (1988)

PG | 108 min | Comedy, Drama

84 Metascore

The life of a working class couple living in London and their complicated relationships with other members of the family.

Director: Mike Leigh | Stars: Phil Davis, Ruth Sheen, Edna Doré, Philip Jackson

Votes: 3,425 | Gross: $1.19M