Friday, February 5, 2010

The Decades: 1980s

The great films of the 1980s were not just wonderful pieces of cinema, but definers of the cinema culture, films that would influence and inspire the filmmaking landscape for decades to come -- films whose influence and inspiration has, in all honesty, still not faded. There were incredible blockbusters, grand epics, and poetic filmic statements about the world we live in. And we still embrace the power of these films today. Here they are, the best films of the 1980s.

Check out's collective list of the decade's best.

And now, my personal list:

1. Raging Bull (1980) -- Scorsese's extraordinary masterpiece about grace and power, victory and defeat, humanity and the loss of humanity.
2. Do the Right Thing (1989) -- Spike Lee's grandest masterwork, and cinema's boldest, most powerful statement on race in relations in America.
3. Ran (1985) -- Akira Kurosawa's intimate epic about the futility of wisdom, the consuming power of greed, and the profound sadness of an aging monarch. In many ways, the aging monarch was Kurosawa himself.
4. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) -- There is no greater, more profound Woody Allen picture than this, the legend's piercing dissection of humankind's virtues and flaws, its giddy joys and its lethal downfalls.
5. Blood Simple (1984) -- Legends were born in Joel and Ethan Coen, and their first film -- about a jealous man's increasingly complicated attempt to kill his wife and her lover -- is one of their absolute best.
6. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) -- In a decade full of Scorsese masterpieces, this vivid and powerful depiction of Christ's humanity is another brilliant insight into the human experience. The film was controversial, but in the opinion of this humble critic, there has been no more powerful cinematic depiction of Jesus than this film.
7. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) -- A story of transcendent wonder that speaks straight to the heart. The image of the flying bicycles with E.T. in the basket is one of the great iconic cinematic images, and the tension of watching the flowers wilt and then bloom again -- representations of E.T.'s resilience -- is one of the great magical joys of the cinema.
8. Fanny and Alexander (1982) -- Ingmar Bergman's sprawling epic -- over 5 hours in its truest form -- that tells a harsh, sad, and yet sometimes magical story of two young children growing up in Sweden. In many ways, it is the most revelatory explication of Bergman's complicated worldview.
9. Wings of Desire (1987) -- Wim Wenders' lilting lullaby of a film that ponders the existence of angels, the link between the earthly and the spiritual, and the lofty moral quandaries of celestial beings.
10. Platoon (1986) -- Oliver Stone's sobering masterpiece that confronts the horrors of war with extraordinary acuity.

Honorable Mentions:
After Hours (1985) -- Scorsese does comedy. You have to witness this wild brilliance.
Back to the Future (1985) -- The second great blockbuster of the decade.
The Breakfast Club (1985) -- The signature John Hughes film.
The Color of Money (1986) -- Another incredible Scorsese entry.
The Color Purple (1985) -- Spielberg interprets Alice Walker's classic novel.
Rain Man (1988) -- Barry Levinson's wonderful, ever-quotable drama about brotherly love.
Roger & Me (1989) -- Michael Moore introduces himself to the world and his first film is probably still his best.
The Shining (1980) -- Kubrick's legendary chiller.
The Thin Blue Line (1988) -- One of the extraordinary documentaries of all-time.
Tootsie (1982) -- Classic comedy.

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