It’s been almost a year, but I got this idea back when Dom over at Fairly Professional wrote a post titled, “A Movie For Every Year I’ve Been Alive.” It was a post I thought I’d get around to when I finished going through my personal Top 100 Movies of All Time. But then I figured, if I look back at every year I’ve been alive and do a post on each of my favorite movies from each of those years, they would get pretty redundant. After all, once I hit 1985, my favorite is sure to be Back to the Future, because of course it is.
I was going to do one post with 40 years worth of movies… but that’s a lot. Like… a lot a lot. So I’ve decided to do multiple posts, split up by decade. Welcome to the 1980s!
1980: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Of course, back then it was just The Empire Strikes Back. Who knew that George Lucas would actually stretch this Star Wars thing out into the saga it would become? I sure didn’t. Because I was an infant. I wouldn’t fully appreciate the awesomeness of this sequel until I was at least five years old.
Honorable Mentions: Superman II, Somewhere in Time, and The Shining
1981: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Of course, back then it was just Raiders of the Lost Ark. Who knew that George Lucas would rerelease the movie in a DVD box set and decide to retitle the first movie in the Indiana Jones trilogy to try and make it fit in with the other titles that had the main character’s name in the title? You know what they say. When a movie is perfectly good as it is, you might as well go back and make changes.
Honorable Mentions: Clash of the Titans, The Fox and the Hound, and Halloween II
1982: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
I will always rank this among sequels that are way better than the films that came before them. And when it comes to Star Trek movies that feature the original cast, I go back and forth between this and the sixth installment as to which is the best. Both are well worth the watch. But this one is brilliant for Ricardo Montalban’s performance alone.
Honorable Mentions: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Annie, and Rocky III
1983: Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Of course, back then it was just Return of the Jedi. Who knew that George… well, you know. This one features one of my favorite hero/villain parley scenes in cinematic history when Luke Skywalker turns himself over to Darth Vader. Prior to Vader presenting his son to the Emperor, Luke gets a chance to appeal to the good that he still senses in his father. I just love that scene.
Honorable Mentions: A Christmas Story, Mr. Mom, and National Lampoon’s Vacation
1984: The Karate Kid
“Show me wax on, wax off.” I mean, what a scam! This elderly maintenance man tricks a skinny teenager from Jersey into doing all of his household chores under the guise of “teaching karate.” Honestly, I think Miyagi was just as surprised as anyone else when Daniel won the All-Valley Tournament. Seriously, though… This is a great movie and if you haven’t watched all three seasons of Cobra Kai multiple times you are doing yourself a disservice.
Honorable Mentions: Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Gremlins
1985: Back to the Future
Duh. Even though I was only five years old, I clearly remember my parents taking us to see this movie at a local drive-in theater. I seriously doubt I was awake for the entire movie. It wasn’t until my teenage years and multiple viewings on VHS that I fully came to realize the awesomeness of Back to the Future. And I watched that movie so many times I know I wore out the cassette tape while memorizing the entire script.
Honorable Mentions: The Goonies, Rocky IV, and The Breakfast Club
1986: Stand By Me
Absolutely one of the greatest coming of age stories put to film. Worth watching if only for the climactic stand-off between our quartet of protagonists and Kiefer Sutherland’s bully to end all bullies. I only wish we could glimpse an alternate reality where River Phoenix survived through the 90s and continued his acting career because that kid was amazing.
Honorable Mentions: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Karate Kid, Part II, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
1987: The Princess Bride
What’s not to love about this movie? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… Try to stay awake for this one.
Honorable Mentions: Can’t Buy Me Love, Adventures in Babysitting, and Lethal Weapon
1988: Die Hard
Is this the greatest Christmas movie of all time? Probably not. Is this the greatest action movie of all time? I’m sure that’s arguable. Is this the greatest Christmas action movie of all time? Absolutely. To say Die Hard changed action movies would be an understatement, considering so many movies that followed were described as, “Die Hard on a (fill in the blank).”
Honorable Mentions: Willow, Rain Man, and Big
1989: Field of Dreams
I know… A lot of people would point to Bull Durham as being the best baseball movie. Others may say The Sandlot or The Natural. I say Field of Dreams… “If you build it, he will come.” I dare you not to get chills when James Earl Jones delivers his speech about America’s past time. I dare you not to tear up when Kevin Costner asks his father to play catch.
Honorable Mentions: When Harry Met Sally…, Glory, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
So that’s it for part one of this little series. I really am glad I’ve decided to break it up. Imagine if I’d tried to do all 40 movies in one post. We’d only be a quarter of the way through. You’re welcome, by the way. Stay tuned for the 90s, y’all.