The Best Discoveries of 2018: The 1980s



Even though I started college in 1980 and finished in 1985 (and took at least one course every summer), I still managed to watch a ton of movies during that time. I also saw several during my first years of teaching, but I’m amazed at how many I missed in that decade. Exploring films from the 80s has been one of my real joys of late, especially with so many available. (Here are the ones from last year’s 80s discoveries list.)


With family coming in today, I’m going to keep this pretty short, so here are my best discoveries from the 80s for this year:




Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)

What a goofy, fun movie with Michael Moriarty discovering a man-eating serpent’s nest in a New York City building. Director Larry Coen is either a genius or as crazy as a road lizard. Maybe both?



Three O’Clock High (1987)

Many thanks to Brian and Elric over at Pure Cinema Podcast for recommending this one, a sort of High Noon story set at a high school. I don’t know why this one’s not better known, but if you love fun high school movies, you should pick up the Shout Factory Blu-ray.



Come and See (1985)

Easily the most devastating film I saw this year (and just possibly the best war movie ever made), Come and See is one of those titles you’ll never forget.



Streets of Fire (1984)

Another Pure Cinema Podcast recommendation (and another Shout Factory Blu-ray), Streets of Fire is the 80s by way of street gangs and rock ’n roll from the 50s. It’s a pure fantasy that may not hold up under close cinematic scrutiny, but it sure is fun.



Local Hero (1983)

Sometimes you just fall deeply, hopelessly in love with a movie. That’s what happened to me with Local Hero, previously discussed here.



Withnail and I (1987)

As I began to seriously work my way through Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list, I found Withnail & I, a film I’d heard of for years, but never encountered until it showed up on FilmStruck. There’s no way I can adequately describe this movie about two would-be actors looking for work, but Roger Ebert did a fine job of it. It won’t be for everyone, but maybe it’ll work its magic on you as it did with me.



Love Streams (1984)

Man, John Cassavetes… Here we have Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, not as husband and wife (as they were in real life), but as brother and sister: he, a philandering, moody writer; she, a damaged divorcee. The siblings find themselves living together and caring for one another after many years of distance. Funny, devastating, surreal, beautiful… Cassavetes.



Into the Night (1985)

I’m not really sure I even liked Into the Night, but on some level it worked for me. Jeff Goldblum stars as an aerospace engineer who discovers his wife is cheating on him, but that’s not the worst thing that happens. That would be a combination of a beautiful jewel thief (Michelle Pfeiffer), a gang of thugs, federal agents, David Bowie as a hitman, and more. In addition to a large cast (including Dan Aykroyd, Richard Farnsworth, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, and Kathryn Harrold), it’s got a ton of cameo appearances and a great soundtrack. Dang it, after writing about it, I realize I really do want so see it again! (And now, for the Shout Factory trifecta...)



Tampopo (1985)

What a charming, odd little film that really owes its existence to… well, just about everything, including Seven Samurai, Shane, Educating Rita, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, spaghetti westerns, film noir, and so much more. It’s also hilarious. Thanks to my friend Tom L. for recommending this one.



Where Is My Friend’s House? (1987)

Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami has become one of my all-time favorite directors. I’ve only seen four of his films, but they’re all brilliant. Where Is My Friend’s House? has a simple premise: an Iranian schoolboy named Ahmed (Babek Ahmed Poor) has mistakenly brought home both his and his friend’s school notebooks. Ahmed knows that his friend will be in big trouble if he isn’t able to complete his assignment, so he travels alone to a neighboring village to find him, with almost no idea where the boy lives. A beautiful film. You’ll see Kiarostami’s name again on another list very soon.


Next time: the 1990s


Photos: DVD Beaver, Drafthouse, Crooked Marquee, Home Cinema Choice, Zombies Don’t Run, NY Times

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