14. 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
“A Heavy Metal Journey Into An Urban Hell Where Everything Was Done Wrong!” . An Italian rip off of the film Escape from New York, which also manages to take elements from The Warriors, The Road Warrior, The Exterminator, and Class of 1984. In the post apocalyptic future of 1990, the Bronx is declared a no man’s land and is run by a group of street gangs.
The daughter of a rich Manhattan man, who runs the Manhattan Corporation, runs away into the Bronx and ends up with a biker gang called the Riders. They send a man called Hammer to go into the Bronx and bring her back.
The major plot is taken from Escape from New York, involving a man who is sent into the lawless zone of New York to rescue an important girl. The look of the rundown city is mostly taken from that as well. The different gangs and their unique looks were taken from The Warriors, which involved New York gangs who all dress in various costumes.
The gangs shown consist of the Zombies, a group on roller skates that carry hockey sticks. The Riders are the motorcycle gang and they have skulls on the front of their bikes that light up at night. Their leader named Trash resembles the main character of the Warriors gang. Then there is a gang called the Tigers led by Fred Williamson, who wear suits and drive fancy old cars.
There is another gang dressed in rags that actually look like zombies. Depending on the version you see, there are appearances of some other weird gangs as well. The music is a combination of what you would have heard in both the Warriors and Escape from New York.
This is a great low budget rip off combination of both movies. It doesn’t have the best dialogue or the best acting, but it has a good overall look to the film. Partially filmed in New York, they took advantage of filming in and around buildings that were dilapidated and run down.
While the gangs may look weird and not make sense, they did the same thing in the Warriors and it worked. They had some unusual and inventive weapons, like the knives on the side of the bike.
The director did a decent job framing shots, shooting some close ups, and angular shots to keep the look of the film interesting. Vic Morrow is good as Hammer; this was one of his last films before he was killed on the set of the Twilight Zone movie.
15. Turkey Shoot AKA Escape 2000 (1982)
“Controversial! Violent! The film that shocked Australian critics and broke Box Office records in London!” . This is what happens when you mix together Mad Max, Caged Heat, the Most Dangerous Game, Ozploitation, and a little extra weirdness. The end result is a bloody good time featuring nudity, violence, gore, an eclectic group of rich hunters, a Mr. Hyde type monster, and a very large and explosive finally.
Set in a dystopian future, deviants or opposers of the government are sent to concentration like camps where they are tortured and re-educated. This particular camp also has a side business involving hunting the prisoners for sport a la the Most Dangerous Game theme. The film starts out as a women in prison type of movie and then about thirty minutes in it turns into a full on man hunt.
There are some great characters in this, notably the chief guard Ritter played by Roger Ward. Ward is probably best known for appearing in Mad Max and is very tall and opposing, with a bald head and big mustache. He has a very memorable scene where he is throwing air punches at a female prisoner while she is supposed to be reciting the rules of the prison.
The film stars Steve Railsback, who has been known to play cutting edge characters like Charles Manson and has been involved in a series of movies that are considered cult classics, including another on the list called Lifeforce. The film was directed by Bryan Trenchard-Smith who has another movie appear on this list later on.
16. Trancers (1984)
“His name is Deth. He hunts Trancers. Even in the 20th Century” . A wonderful combination of Blade Runner, Terminator, and zombies wrapped up in some warm 1980’s goodness. Character actor Tim Thomerson plays Jack Deth, a cop/bounty hunter from the year 2247.
Deth looks just like Harrison Ford’s character Dekkard from Blade Runner. He is sent back to the year 1985, in the body of one of his relatives to hunt down an evil criminal named Whistler. Whistler inhabits one of his relatives who happens to be a detective. Oh and there’s these things called Trancers. They are kind of like zombies that Whistler can take over; people who have weak minds are the ones that are susceptible.
The film was produced by Empire Pictures, which eventually folded and was reformed as Full Moon Features. If you are familiar at all with the VHS era or these production companies, then you know that they were one of the kings of great low budget films.
This includes the Trancers series, Re-Animator, Eliminators, Terror Vision, From Beyond, Ghoulies, Troll, Dolls, the Puppet Master series, and many others. Thomerson also starred as another character for Full Moon features called Dollman, a twelve inch tall detective. Known for his distinctive looks, Thomerson has appeared in tons of movies and television series.
Look, if you love the 80’s or any of the above production companies then you will absolutely love this. There were five Trancer sequels made, along with a half hour sequel that takes place between the first two films.
17. Repo Man (1984)
“Meet Otto. He’s a clean-cut kid in a dirty business. He’s a Repo Man. He steals cars legally. Now, he’s out to repossess a ’64 Chevy Malibu…with an amazing reward of $20,000. But Otto is not alone. There are others who want the car and will do anything to get it. The risks are great, because hidden in the trunk is something so incredible it could destroy them all.
We’ll give you a hint… it glows in the dark” . How many films can you say include a realistic gritty Los Angeles, repo men, teenage punk rockers, and aliens; most likely just this one. It all sounds pretty crazy and probably should not work, but it does and the result is one of the best cult movies ever.
Emilio Estevez plays punk rocker Otto, who ends up meeting veteran repo man Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) and gets involved in repossessing cars for a job.
There he meets a world of unusual characters and their crazy lifestyle; including Bud who lives by a repo man code and snorts speed, a security guard that knits, the mechanic that speaks about the cosmic unconscious and how UFO’s are time machines, the black repo man that carries a gun with blanks, and the competing Spanish repo brothers.
There’s also Otto’s parents who have been brain washed by a television evangelical minister, the car with aliens in the trunk, and a group of government agents trying to track it down. The music is excellent, with a mix of punk rock songs and surf music used throughout the movie. There is a lot of very good and comedic dialogue as well.
18. Roller Blade (1985)
“In a futuristic society, rebels fighting against a fascist state are aided by a group of roller-skating nuns called the Bod Sisters” . Do you remember a period during the 1980’s when there was actually a couple of similar films that were set in dystopian societies where people road around on roller-skates or rollerblades, kind of hard to believe but it’s true.
This thing is total madness and in a truly hilarious way. There is a group of Amazon like nuns that are dressed more like they are in the Klan or some white hate group and they worship a “Have a Nice Day” smiley face, going around trying to right wrongs and prevent the bad guys from getting a magical amulet.
This has it all; nudity, roller skates, cheesy dialogue, a fountain of youth hot-tub, martial arts, mysticism, and a bad guy with a hand puppet. It is from the director of Hell Comes to Frogtown, so if you enjoyed that you may have an interest in this low budget 80’s film.
19. Dead End Drive-in (1986)
“There’s a party every day, a movie every night, and all the junk food you can eat. What more can a kid want… except to get out” . Similar to another Ozploitation dystopian film Mad Max, this one deals with the government locking up unruly youths in a concentration like camp.
Except this camp is an old drive-in, where they are provided fast food, drugs, and movies. It’s everything that they could want, enough to keep them content and keen on staying there. One young man has different plans when he finds out that he’s trapped and looks for a way to escape.
This is probably director Brian Trenchard-Smith’s finest movie, which includes the cult films Turkey Shoot and the Man from Hong Kong that end up being shown at the drive-in. It has everything that would please a cult film fan; there’s violence, fist fights, car chases and crashes, explosions, nudity, sex, outrageous punk rock looks, punk music, a 56 Chevy, and a stunt jump that set the world record for a truck jump at 162 feet.
20. Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
“A new breed of enemy has taken over the world… Sam Hell has come to take it back.” . Its Mad Max meets Planet of the Apes, as a nuclear war has ravaged the world and there are mutated frog men running a city called Frogtown.
The human race is in danger of becoming extinct because most of the women are infertile, except for a group that’s being held captive in Frogtown. Two women force Sam (Roddy Piper) to go with them to rescue the girls and impregnate them, since he is the most fertile male they have ever seen.
This film is total low budget B grade cheesy movie fare that used to regularly play on the USA Network in the 1980’s, when they used to show cool movies on USA Up All Night from 1989 to 1998. Sure its cheep and silly, but who cares.
It stars professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and that’s the only reason needed to want to watch this one. This may not be as great as They Live, but it’s still light and entertaining and Piper is funny in it.
All the works cited can be found here.
Author Bio: Raul J. Vantassle is a jazz musician whose key strokes move about the page creating an explosion of formlessness to form, or just total bullshit. His heroes include John Waters, Robert Crumb, Charles Bukowski, and the Cobra Commander. His Knowledge of film goes across the board but he specializes in Asian and cult cinema. He may be the filthiest person alive. You can visit his blog here.