10. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) dir. Woody Allen
Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) a successful ophthalmologist, is having an affair with flight attendant Delores Paley. She is threatening to expose him to his wife as she knows he will never leave his wife to marry her. He confides in a rabbi, Ben, who he is treating, and Ben councils honesty, but Judah doesn’t want that. He gets his brother Jack to hire a hit man to kill Delores, and as soon as she is dead, removes all his property.
Clifford Stern, a filmmaker, is hired by his brother in law, Lester, to make a documentary about Lester, showcasing his successful life as a TV producer. Cliff hates Lester so he adds unusual footage to the documentary. He also falls in love with Lester’s assistant producer, Halley Reed (Mia Farrow). He shows her the other documentary he is working on about a successful philosopher. Halley goes to London to do some work for Lester. Cliff learns his documentary subject has committed suicide. Will he and Halley get together? And how foes Judah cope with a murder he gets away with?
An excellent comedy/drama from Allen, who also does a good job as Cliff. Martin Landau also acquits himself well as Judah. Ostensibly a drama, it still has all the hallmarks of Allen’s dry humor. As reflected in his excellent screenplay. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor for Martin Landau and Woody Allen for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Despite these, it was not nominated for Best Picture.
9. Scarface (1983) dir. Brian De Palma
In 1980 Tony Montana (Al Pacino), his friend Manny (Stephen Bauer) and their associates Chi-Chi and Angel, arrive in Miami from Cuba. For doing an assassination a former Cuban official as ordered by drug dealer Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), they are given immediate green cards. The four of them are given the opportunity by Omar an associate of Frank to purchase cocaine from Colombians.
The deal goes sour and Angel is killed. Tony insists on delivering directly to Frank. Frank is impressed and hires Tony and Manny. Tony meets Frank’s girlfriend, Elvira Hancock, and is instantly attracted to her. Later he goes to see his mother and sister Gina. Manny comments on Gina’s beauty and Tony tells him to stay away. Tony moves up the ladder and starts running his own operation, which leads to a showdown and death.
A very violent film, it is an exciting caper film. The language is strictly for adults. Pacino and Bauer give very intense performances. It had to be edited several times due to language and violence to get an R rating. This has become a cult film and has gained in popularity every year. Possibly because of the violence and language it was not nominated for any Academy Awards, but was nominated for three Golden Globes.
8. Full Metal Jacket (1987) dir. Stanley Kubrick
In 1967 a group of Marine Corps recruits come to Parris Island for Basic Training. They meet Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, their training officer. He gives overweight recruit Leonard Lawrence the nickname “Gomer Pyle” because of his bumbling. He puts him with other recruits like “Joker”, and “Cowboy” after Pyle is beaten for the other recruits have to do punishment, he becomes a model Marine, but Joker is worried he is going too far. The last night of training Pyle loads his gun and kills Hartman and himself.
In 1968 Vietnam Joker, now a sergeant, is a journalist for the “Stars & Stripes) he is teased by other Marines for not having much combat experience. When the platoon is ambushed by a sniper, a young Vietnamese girl, Joker is given the job of killing her. He does but realizes he has compromised his principles.
An exciting film, the first half is very realistic. Sergeant Hartman is played by R. Lee Ermey, who was a drill sergeant, he made up much of his dialog. The film also starred Matthew Modine, Vincent D’Orofrio, who gained 70 pounds for the role, and Adam Baldwin. The second half is harder to watch due to realistic war scenes set in Vietnam. But it is an exciting, intense movie. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but not for any other Oscars.
7. Stand By Me (1986) dir. Rob Reiner
Gordie LaChance (Richard Dreyfuss as an adult, Wil Wheaton as a 12 year old) is writing a memoir after reading that an old friend had died. He talks about the first dead body he saw when he was 12. His older brother had just died and he was rejected by his parents. He hangs out with three friends, Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) a child of parents that have criminal records, Teddy Duchamp (Cory Feldman), who has a scar from his father’s physical abuse, and Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell) who is shy, overweight and bullied.
They said out to find the body of Ray Brower, who was killed by a train, but his body was not found. The boys decide to take a hike and find the body. It takes a long time and two of the boys are nearly hit by a train, but they find the body, and anonymously call the authorities to pick it up. Gordie at the end tells what happened to the other boys, then takes his son and his son’s friend swimming.
One of the very best adaptations of a Stephen King story, this film really has a true feeling of nostalgia. Any man who has been a twelve year old boy will be able to identify with this film. All of the young boys give excellent performances and the direction and script are spot on. Definitely a tear-jerker ending, but a truly satisfying film experience.
It was very successful at the box office. It was nominated for one Academy Award, for Best Adapted Screenplay, but it deserved more. It’s a shame it was not nominated for Best Picture.
6. This is Spinal Tap (1984) dir. Rob Reiner
This is a parody of a rock documentary of the kind popular in the 70’s, supposedly written and directed by Marty Di Bergi (Rob Reiner). It shows footage from a 1982 tour plus flashbacks to previous incarnations of the band, such as the 1960’s when David St Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Michael Guest) started a pop band and had modest success, then reinvented itself as a heavy metal/rock band with some success.
The film also shows one on one interviews with members of the band. They tried to do a tour but kept having to cancel due to low sales. They kept having drummers die in mysterious ways, from spontaneous combustion to choking to death. As the venues get smaller they consider scrapping the tour, until they find out about their popularity in Japan, where they play a stadium tour.
This is a very funny movie, yet it looks like many documentaries of rock bands from the 70’s. The band shows an ability to write songs and play instruments, but in interviews come across as less than intelligent and childish, such as their amplifiers going to eleven.
It became a cult film as it resonated with young people who grew up with these kinds of bands. Much of the film was ad libbed so the band members were credited with the script. The film did modestly at the box office, but when it was released on video, it became a cult and critical favorite. It was not nominated for any Academy Awards.
5. Brazil (1985) dir. Terry Gilliam
Sam Lowery (Jonathan Pryce) is a low level government worker who dreams of a young woman. He is ordered to fix a printer that due to a foreign body in it, put out the wrong file so the government arrested and killed Archibald Buttle, instead of terrorist Archibald Tuttle. Sam goes to see Buttle’s widow and meets the upstairs neighbor, Jill Layton (Kim Greist), who happens to be the woman in his dreams. She is now seen as a terrorist as she reported the mix up and the government does not care they just want the evidence and witnesses eliminated.
Sam runs into the real Tuttle (Robert Di Niro) who is in air conditioning. Tuttle helps him get rid of two Central Office workers, who then destroy Sam’s home. Sam is captured as an accomplice to Tuttle, and is bound to a chair in an old power plant. He is tortured and loses his mind.
An extremely black comedy, this film is very well acted and directed brilliantly. The art decoration is superb, with all kinds of unusual sets. This film has been seen as one of the most blatant political satires since “Dr. Strangelove”.
It made several Best of lists and was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay by Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown, and Best Art Decoration by Norman Garwood, and Maggie Gray. It was not nominated for Best Picture, a real surprise due to great reviews.
4. The Shining (1980) dir. Stanley Kubrick
Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) arrives at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado to take up the position of off season manager. A writer by trade, he wants to use the time to write, as the hotel is closed from November to May. The manager warns him that the previous caretaker got cabin fever and killed himself and his family. Jack’s wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) is in Boulder taking their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd) to the Doctor as Danny suffers from premonitions and has an imaginary friend, Tony.
The family gets to the hotel on closing day. The chef shows them around and demonstrates his telepathic abilities, which he. Calls “The Shining). He tells Danny the hotel has a shine, some good and some bad memories and to stay out of room 237. Jack gets writer’s block and starts exploring the hotel, which he realizes is full of ghosts. What will happen to the family because of this?
A very well acted film based on the Stephen King story, this was Jack’s moment to shine as he descends into madness. Shelly Duvall is really very good in her reactions. An excellent horror film, don’t watch this alone! Being a horror movie, which the Academy Awards have never favored, it received no Oscar nominations, despite its box office success.
3. Blue Velvet (1986) dir. David Lynch
Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle McLachlan) returns to his home town from college when his father has a stroke and visits him in the hospital. Walking home, He goes through a vacant lot and finds a severed ear. He takes the ear to police detective John Williams, and finds his daughter Sandy (Laura Dern) with him. Sandy tells Jeffrey about a mysterious woman who seems to be involved named Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini).
Jeffrey enters Dorothy’s apartment by claiming to be an exterminator. When Dorothy goes to the door to speak to another man, Jeffrey steals her spare key. He goes to a nightclub that night to hear Dorothy sing “Blue Velvet”, but leaves to go to her apartment.
Dorothy finds him there and wants to have sex with him, but before they really get going, there is a knock on the door. Dorothy shoves Jeffry in the closet and opens the door to Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) who has kidnapped Dorothy’s husband and child to force Dorothy to go along with his bizarre sexual behavior. This leads to danger and intrigue for Jeffrey, who gets more involve at what is going on.
This is a very difficult film to watch the first time. You really need multiple viewing to take it all in. This film put Dennis Hopper back on the map and introduced Isabella Rossellini as an actress, rather than a model. It barely broke even at the box office, but became a cult favorite, and is now considered one of the best films in the neo-noir genre. It was nominated for Best Director for David Lynch at the Academy Awards, but was considered too graphic for a Best Picture nomination.
2. Blade Runner (1982) dir. Ridley Scott
In 2019 former police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a Blade Runner is brought out of retirement by his former boss, Bryant (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill 4 replicants that have escaped their off-world colony and have come to Earth to try to extend their lives, as they only live four years.
Because replicants are not allowed on Earth, Rick must find them and kill them. He heads to the Tyrell Corporation, where the replicants were designed and meets Tyrell’s assistant, Rachel (Sean Young) who is an experimental replicants who is given human memories, making it more difficult to test if she is a replicants. She escapes the factory and Rick is ordered to kill her too. He goes off to destroy the replicants, but will he kill Rachel too?
An interesting film with a plot that can be difficult to follow, but very rewarding to watch. Harrison Ford and Sean Young are excellent in their roles. The film embraces several different themes, from Sci-Fi to film noir to action/adventure. The script forces moral dilemmas, mainly about replicants technology and the Bible.
The look of the film is very dark and bleak due to the Cinematography. It did not perform well at the box office when it was first released, but has become a cult classic. It received two Academy Award nominations, for Best Art Decoration Set Decoration, and for Best Effects, Visual Effects. It was not nominated for Best Picture.
1. Once Upon a Time in America (1984) dir. Sergio Leone
Five street kids from the Jewish part of Lower Manhattan have been working for an older boy named Bugsy until another boy, Max says they should be working for themselves. They start a fund which they keep in a bus locker, giving the key to Fat Moe, a friend of theirs who is not in the gang.
One of the boys, Noodles, is in love with Big Moe’s sister, who wants to be an actress and dancer. When Bugsy jumps the gang and kills one of the other boys, Noodles stabs him and a cop who tried to help. Noodles gets 12 years in prison. When he gets out he rejoins the gang of Max, Patsy and Cockeye. It is the tail end of Prohibition, and the gang has been involved and made good money.
Noodles tries to get back with Deborah but she rebuffs him, so he rapes her, but regrets it immediately. The other three try to rob a bank and are killed. Noodles holes up in an opium den getting high and then moves to Brooklyn under an assumed name. In 1968, he receives a letter telling him that his three friends have to be reburied somewhere else. What will he find when he goes back home?
An extremely long film in its original cut, almost 4 hours. This was the version that played in Europe. In the US, the studio cut it over Leone’s objections to 2 hours 19 minutes, and unlike the longer cut, the story was told in chronological order, which was not what Leone intended. He was so upset, he never made another film. The 229 minute cut is the one to watch, as the story is told as it was intended. Due to the disastrous American cut, it received no Academy Award nominations.
Author Bio: Michael Giffey lives in Denver, Colorado. His family and friends say he is full of “useless information”. you can follow him at @giffeymichael on Twitter or on Facebook.