Friday, April 6, 2018

The 100 Project: The Top 10 Movies of 1980

Until now, The 100 Project has been taking things whole decades at a time. Now that we've reached the 1980s, it's time to slow things down. We will take things one year at a time. The reason for this is it helps with paring things down for the full decade list that I will still make after finishing up 1989. I need that help because this is the first decade where I saw a large enough amount of movies to make a decent top 10 each year. This particular year, the total was kind of low, but by far the lowest of the decade. All told, I've watched in the neighborhood of 500 movies from this decade, nearly twice what I've seen from the 70s. The 80s also houses my teenage years, so there's a battle brewing between what I loved as a hormonal pimply-faced kid and what I've come to appreciate more as the years have rolled by. Let's see which side gets the early advantage.

My Top 10 Movies of 1980
  • As mentioned, this year has my lowest film count of any in the 80s. as of this writing, I have seen 28 movies released during 1980.
  • I was still only 9 at this point, so unsurprisingly, I only saw 2 of these 10 movies in a theater. To the best of my recollection, those are the only 2 movies I saw in theaters all year.
  • Continuing a theme from the 70s, kiddie flicks don't show up here. I just didn't watch many when I was a kid. That said, the two movies I saw in theaters certainly qualify as family friendly.

10. Superman II
If I'd embarked on this project a few years back, this would be nearer the top of the list. This was one of the two theater experiences for me in 1980 and I loved every bit of it. Viewing this movie recently revealed its flaws to me. A troubled production led to a terribly uneven tone with some bad slapstick randomly inserted. However, it still has Terrence Stamp's iconic Zod, Christopher Reeve being the greatest Superman of all-time, and the magical showdown between our hero and the three evil Kryptonians. That's enough.

9. The Elephant Man
I'm not one of these film buffs who bows at the altar of David Lynch. I don't much like his work. It generally confuses the hell out of me and isn't enjoyable enough for me to give it the required re-watches needed to understand it. Somewhat contained within the boundaries of a biopic, I find this film highly effective and revelatory. It proved to me that Lynch can actually make a coherent film. (Full Review)

8. Caddyshack
Regardless of what else is going on in this movie, in my eyes, it will always be about Bill Murray vs. a gopher on a golf course. And it's hilarious. Now, I realize that's selling it quite a bit short because just about every facet of this movie works, but c'mon, that's the first thing you think of, too, right?

7. Fame
This is one of the first dance movies I ever saw. And despite all the absurd places where fully choreographed routines break out (in the lunchroom, the streets of Manhattan, etc.) it remains one of the most realistic. That's because it's a story with heart about people I can relate to. I'm no song-and-dance man, but these kids could've grown up in my neighborhood. It's far superior to its 21st century remake which is a bit too glossy. This one feels much more raw and gritty. And THAT theme song. (Full Review)

6. The Shining
I first saw this on network television in the mid-80s. Even with all the hacks and cuts to the language and visuals, I still got really into it. When I finally saw it in all its glory, I was even more into it. The strange thing is, I don't know if it ever scared me or just intrigued me. It was one of my first experiences with "horror by proxy." What that means is even though I personally was never frightened of the movie, I could really feel the fear of characters on the screen. That's thanks mostly to the masterful performance of Shelley Duvall. And that's what drew me in. This isn't to say I wasn't disturbed on some level because I was. Mr. Nicholson made sure of that.

5. The Blues Brothers
The plot is the same as I don't know how many musicals. A building is in trouble, an orphanage in this case, and to save it our heroes need to raise a bunch of money. To raise the money, they're going to put on a show. What they do with that premise is pure movie magic. With a who's who style roster of music greats like Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, and Ray Charles, too name a few, we're taken on a whirlwind ride filled with great tunes and loads of laughs. Jake and Elroy telling us they're "getting the band back together" is a sweet song if I ever heard one.

4. Friday the 13th
This is another of those films that aren't technically better than any of the ones behind it, or most of the films I left off the list altogether. But none of them stick with me like this one. It started my life-long love affair with slasher flicks when I saw it in '82 or '83. I wouldn't see Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre until years later. I've remained loyal to the franchise, having seen all of them. However, it's this one in particular I return to over and over again. I lost count long ago of the number of times I've watched this one. And I had a blast every time.

3. Raging Bull
Like much of this list, and the one for the 70s, I was probably too young to have first seen it when I did. At that time it was the boxing, masterfully captured by director Martin Scorsese, that drew me in. I watched it a few more times as the years passed. It became the acting that got me. Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Cathy Moriarty are all magnificent. More years went by. I viewed it a few more times still, and I noticed the mode of storytelling Scorsese uses to pull it all together. (My Favorite Boxing Movies)

2. Airplane!
My love for the spoof shows up again. Full disclosure, the fact that basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is in this movie is what got me to sit in front of it. Everything that happens, whether he's involved or not, is what got me to love it. All the jokes land. The ones that don't only miss because you don't get them. And there are tons of jokes. In other words, I spend just about the entire movie laughing whenever I watch it. Shirley you can understand why I love it.

1. The Empire Strikes Back
Going to see this movie is my other theater-going experience from 1980. Yes, it gets here because I prefer the darker, more uncertain ending to the cut and dry good guy victory of its predecessor. But that experience in 1980 is what I'm most thankful for. I was sitting in a seat, in a movie theater, without warning, when the biggest twist in cinematic history occurred. For that, I'm forever grateful to George Lucas.

Honorable Mentions: Stir Crazy, Prom Night, 9 to 5, Private Benjamin, Smokey and the Bandit II


  1. Empire! Excellent #1 pick. I've seen half of these and really enjoyed all the ones I did see. If I didn't know beforehand, I don't think I would've ever guessed that Lynch directed Elephant Man based on the other things I've seen of him. I also would've guessed that it was made way before the 80's. I liked it.

    1. Elephant Man is such a unique film for Lynch and it really works.

  2. Some good choices here. We'd have some crossover, and even a couple in the same spots. My list would go:

    10. The Elephant Man
    9. Airplane!
    8. The Changeling
    7. Coal Miner's Daughter
    6. The Shining
    5. Breaker Morant
    4. Raging Bull
    3. The Blues Brothers
    2. Ordinary People
    1. The Empire Strikes Back

    If you haven't seen The Changeling (the one with George C. Scott, not the one with Angelina Jolie), it's worth tracking down.

    1. I have seen the Angelina Jolie version of The Changeling, but not the George C. Scott one. That's being added to my ever-growing watchlist. I also need to see Coal Miner's Daughter. Haven't heard of Breaker Morant.

    2. The 1980 Changeling isn't anywhere close to the same story as the Angelina Jolie movie. It's a straight horror film and has absolutely one of my favorite horror moments in film history. I won't spoil it for you, but there's a moment in it where all of the hair on my arms stood up.

      Breaker Morant is a military justice movie, and a damn good one.

    3. You've definitely stoked my interest about The Changeling.

  3. Wow, I can't argue with this list. For me as of right now,

    1. Raging Bull
    2. The Elephant Man
    3. The Shining
    4. Kagemusha
    5. Empire Strikes Back
    6. Caddyshack
    7. Airplane!
    8. Ordinary People
    9. 9 to 5
    10. Heaven's Gate
    11. Friday the 13th
    12. Superman II

    I've only seen bits and pieces of The Blues Brothers every now and then to know what happened and such but I don't think I've seen the film in its entirety from start to finish. I need to rectify that.

    1. Yay, more love for Friday the 13th! And you can't go wrong with Raging Bull. Love that movie. I hope you get to see The Blues Brothers. Such a fun movie.

  4. What an insanely perfect year for movies! Great list! #1 is such a solid choice (obviously).

  5. Good list! I'm not a huge fan of The Empire Strikes Back but I know many Star Wars fans love it.

    Here are some other good recommendations from 1980:

    The Changeling
    Coal Miner's Daughter
    Dressed To Kill
    Melvin And Howard
    Nine To Five
    Ordinary People

    1. Thanks for the recommendations. I have seen 9 to 5 (it made honorable mentions), but I do need to see the rest, especially Coal Miner's Daughter.

  6. Nice list and we have a small overlap.

    While I like it not love it Fame really does have a very true to life raw and gritty quality that makes it seem like it was made on the fly. While the song is very infectious I tend to turn it off when it plays now, I got burnt out on it when it was EVERYWHERE during the movie's heyday.

    I'm not much for any of the Star Wars but the first three were the best of the lot. They'd never make my list though.

    I'm just very in and out on Scorsese and when I'm out I'm way out...such would be the case with Raging Bull. I know, I know first Taxi Driver and now this but sorry I hate both with a passion.

    I feel the same about David Lynch but Elephant Man is a masterful piece of work. He reined in his tendency towards excess and obtuseness, the story doesn't need that and he was fortunate to have two such superior actors as Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft as his leading players.

    LOVE Airplane! What a daffy fun ride. Have you ever seen the film that served as its basis-Zero Hour!? If you can watch it without constantly being reminded of this film (its a big IF because it is very similar but played straight) it's a solid little suspenser with my beloved Linda Darnell (her second to last film), Dana Andrews and Sterling Hayden.

    Here's my 10 in more or less proper order:

    Seems Like Old Times
    Somewhere in Time
    9 to 5
    The Final Countdown
    Ordinary People
    Tell Me Riddle
    The Elephant Man

    1. Oh yeah, that song was EVERYWHERE that year.

      Since more Scorsese films are coming as this project progresses, I'm very curious to see what you have to say about them when they appear.

      And that's exactly why The Elephant Man works.

      You mentioned Zero Hour to me before, but I still haven't seen it. I might do a comparison (if I can find time to watch it this summer).

  7. I remember you don't care for 2001 so glad to see some Kubrick love. Agree The Shining isn't that frightening to watch but it has a lot to offer all the same. Can't really argue against any of those ten picks, many (if not all) are classics. From your HMs, I want to see 9 to 5 at some point. 1980 was a strong year for horror, besides The Shining and Friday 13th, also The Changeling, Altered States,The Fog, City of the Living Dead, and Inferno(the underappreciated sequel to Suspiria)

    My top 10 of 1980:
    1. The Shining
    2. The Empire Strikes Back
    3. Flash Gordon
    4. The Elephant Man
    5. Caddyshack
    6. Inferno
    7. Ordinary People
    8. Raging Bull
    9. The Gods Must Be Crazy
    10. Dressed to Kill

    1. Kubrick is just hit-or-miss with me, but The Shining is a big hit. Nice mention with Flash Gordon, which I have seen. Solid movie.

      You guys are getting me pumped for The Changeling. Can't say the same about Inferno. I'll pass on that one since I didn't much care for Suspiria.

  8. Yeah no doubt with number one haha! A very solid list. I wish I could have seen Empire at the cinema.

  9. I've only seen two from your list - The Shining and The Empire Strikes Back. The Shining was such an experience to watch. Even if it has been referenced in pop culture multiple times, it's not as amazing as watching the actual film. I've only seen The Empire Strikes Back once, and I think I've appreciated it more watching it as an adult rather than going through it when it was initially pushed to me back when I was a kid.

    1. The Shining is certainly an experience. With that and the original Star Wars trilogy all the pop culture references don't dull the movies, but are illuminated by them because things you've heard and seen are given context. At least, that's how I see it.