Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The 100 Project: Top 10 Movies of 1984

Yes, The 100 Project is going waaaaayyy slower than what I planned on, but we've arrived at what many consider to be one of the greatest years in cinematic history, 1984. To be honest, I don't think I can do it justice. There are just so many titles from this year that I haven't seen. That said, I am pretty happy with what I have watched. Let's get to it.

My Top 10 Movies of 1984

  • According to my Letterboxd account, I watched 69 movies released during 1984.
  • According to that same account, and my memories, I saw 13 movies in theaters. 7 of them made the list. 2 more are honorable mentions.
  • 4 of the top 10 plus 1 honorable mention have African-American protagonists

10. The Karate Kid
I already know that this is the movie that other people likely have way higher than me. That's fine. I really do like it, hence the reason it makes my list at all. It's really relatable for teens and has a heart-warming story that perfectly rips off adapts the Rocky formula. And that performance by Pat Morita really carries the film.

9. Ghostbusters
Okay, so this is another one you might have way higher on your list. I understand why. This is peak Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, and most important of all, Harold Ramis. They, along with Sigourney Weaver, combine to make it a really fun movie with lots of iconic moments.

8. Gremlins
Seeing this as a youngster, I really liked this movie, but I didn't "get it" as much as I did the two movies below it on this list. In the years since, I've returned to this more than the others and it's because there's more to unpack. What I thought was a kiddie flick is really a dark comedy with a twisted sense of humor that you might miss if you're not paying close attention. Even all these years later, I can put this movie on and see something that I haven't before.

7. Beverly Hills Cop
This is where Eddie Murphy proved he could carry a movie. Studio execs weren't sure early on so they put him with a more established white actor, essentially relegating him to the sidekick road. However, after this movie's many twists and turns in development hell, it landed in Murphy's lap and he ran with it. I went and saw it with my best friend. On the way home from the theater, and for weeks after that, we were constantly quoting this movie and laughing every time.

6. Beat Street
If you've been around this blog, you may have figured out that I'm a lifelong hip-hop fan. And for me, this is the best movie based on the culture. It captures exactly what it was like to be around during hip-hop's formative years on all fronts, not just rapping. In fact, rap is the aspect of the culture it focuses least on. Every part of it captures a piece of the reality I called childhood. (Greatest Movies About Hip Hop Part 2)

5. Purple Rain
I'm also a big time Prince fan. I was there, in the theater, opening weekend even though I was nowhere near old enough to be watching it. I loved every minute of it and shortly had the lyrics to every song committed to memory. I've lost count long ago of how many times I've watched this movie. Sure, I'll understand if this movie isn't anywhere close to your list. I'll understand if you go down to the bottom of this list and tell me I have it backwards. Those movies just don't speak to me the same way this one does. (More Purple Rain related posts)

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street
As slashers go, this is easily one of the best. And why not? The killer that drives the action ssn't some mindless mad man chasing kids down in the woods, or even through the neighborhood. Sure, he focuses on the children of Elm Street, but he gets them in the one place every person must go - their own sleep. It's an amazing concept, amazingly executed. This is another of those great theater experiences that had a major impact on me and stuck with long after the credits rolled. (Proof of a Movie God: A Nightmare on Elm Street)

3. A Soldier's Story
This might be the most severely underrated movie I've ever seen. Some films I rate highly I can attest to just my personal taste or how well I relate to the people in them. This is different. It's genuinely great. It earned three Academy Award nominations - Charles Fuller's script for Best Adapted Screenplay, Adolph Caesar for Best Supporting Actor, and the big one, Best Picture. Every minute of  the mystery at its core is nothing short of riveting. The acting is outstanding across the board, including great work from Howard E. Rollins in the lead and a young Denzel Washington. It also has lots to say, not just about racism, but more about prejudice within the black community itself. Still, I talk to so many people, in person or online, black or white, who have never heard of this movie. If you're one of those people, or if you have heard of it but haven't seen it, do yourself a favor, find it, and watch it.

2. The Terminator
The idea that machines will take over the world is one humans have long held. This movie brings our deepest fears with regards to said machines into sharp focus. Ironically, it's the limitations of the actor in the titular role, a very green Arnold Schwarzenegger, that really makes the movie as menacing as it is. Nowadays, Arnie is an affable, charming fellow and has grown into a fairly capable actor. Then, he could do little more than be the hulking, stone-faced figure relentlessly, and coldly, stomping across the screen - a killing machine brought to life and bent on killing US. In my opinion, this unsettling piece of sci-fi-horror is better than its happier, flashier, more polished sequel. (Proof of a Movie God: The Terminator)

1. Once Upon a Time in America
Some movies discourage viewing simply by their sheer run-time. Clocking in at a menacing 229 minutes, the best version of this movie certainly qualifies. I came across it late at night, on HBO, in the summer of 1985, without realizing how long it was. It came on. I watched it, and loved it. I watched it several more times that summer and still loved it. Years later, I bought it, watched it, and loved it even more, as I got even more out of it than I had as a teen. DeNiro and James Woods are both amazing, and the direction by Sergio Leone is off the charts good. He really earns the near-four hours of your time this movie demands and delivers one of the very best gangster movies ever made. As proof, that same summer I watched the longer version, I also watched the 139 minute US version a few times, because HBO played that one too, and it's not even close to being as good. Therefore, if this post inspires you to watch this, dive all the way in. Use that time you would to binge four or five episodes of whatever series you're currently watching, and give yourself over to Mr. Leone.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetically): Bachelor Party, The Brother From Another Planet, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Last Starfighter, The Neverending Story, Police Academy, Revenge of the Nerds, Romancing the Stone, Sixteen Candles, Splash, The Woman in Red


  1. HOLY SHIT!!!!!! You and I have the same pick at #1. I've only seen bits of Beat Street and The Brother from Another Planet while I admit to not having seen A Soldier's Story. Still, you can't go wrong with any of the films in that list or in the honorable mentions. 1984 was a fucking incredible year in film. Here's my list. I know it's more artsy but you still have all of those blockbusters. What a year it was.

    1. Love your list, as well. Once Upon a Time in America is phenomenal. I still need to see Paris, Texas and Blood Simple.

  2. I've only seen a few of these. Gremlins would probably be my #1, followed by A Nightmare on Elm Street. Then maybe This Is Spinal Tap. I haven't seen your top pick. I'll have to consider that for a Blind Spot list.

    1. I hope you do. Just remember what I said about time. It is very...VERY long.

  3. I haven't seen nearly enough films from the '80s to attempt a top ten for even the entire decade, but I've seen a few of these and love them all. It's tough to choose which would be number one, but I'm thinking it would be between Purple Rain and The Terminator.

    You're not the first person to rave about A Soldier's Story, and it's been on my list for a while because I'm obsessed with filmed adaptations of stage plays.

  4. Very nice pick at #1. Talk about an underappreciated movie.

  5. The only place our main list match is The Terminator, though a couple of mine are in your runner-ups and vice versa. It’s a great propulsive ride of a movie.

    While I thought there was some entertaining parts to Once Upon a Time in America it was a huge investment of time for not a great deal of payoff, at least for me.

    Though it didn’t make my top 10 A Soldier’s Story is a very fine film.

    I hate Ghostbusters with a passion!!

    I guess it shows how plentiful a year this was for film by looking at the disparity of our lists.

    1. The Times of Harvey Milk-The Sean Penn starring “Milk” is a very fine film but this documentary of the real Harvey is an amazing journey through his life and legacy.
    2. American Dreamer-One of my Against the Crowd picks!
    3. Sixteen Candles
    4. Amadeus
    5. Romancing the Stone
    6. Starman
    7. Racing the Moon
    8. The Terminator
    9. All of Me
    10. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan

    28 Up-this would only really work for people who have watched the entire Up series to this point (7 Up, 7 Plus Seven, 21 Up), Another Country, Beverly Hills Cop, The Hit, The Last Starfighter, Marlene, Mrs. Soffel, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Night of the Comet, The Philadelphia Experiment, Places in the Heart, Repo Man, The Revenge of the Nerds, A Soldier’s Story, Splash, Tightrope, Under the Volcano

    1. Not even a little love for Ghostbusters? lol.

      So many great movies in '84. Plentiful, indeed.

      I've been meaning to see the Milk doc for quite some time. Thanks for the reminder.Same for Amadeus.

      I also like All of Me. Just missed my HM cut. One of Steve Martin's better movies of the ones I've seen.

      I've never seen any of the Up series, and not really familiar with it.

    2. The Up films are an extraordinary series of documentaries that began in 1964 when director Paul Almond and producer Micheal Apted (he's directed a bunch of notable films including Coal Miner's Daughter) under the auspices of the BBC interviewed a group of 7 year old London school children from different economic backgrounds and have returned to talk to those that are willing every 7 years since.

      To say they are fascinating and compelling especially at this point since some of the kids have returned every septem and you literally watch them grow up and experience their highs, lows, struggles and sorrows is an understatement. Pre-production has begun on 63 Up and I am chomping at the bit!!

      They are so completely worth investing the time in....make sure to start at the beginning!

    3. I have heard of them and their concept, but they sounded like a rather daunting undertaking. I also had no idea they were still going. Wow.

  6. Hey, I actually know most of these!

  7. Love A Soldier's Story and wish more did see this film. I do like Ghostbusters which I always find funny. Let's see...I can't place them in order but, to me they are all fun/great. So the first 2 I mention plus The Killing Fields, Marlene-a great documentary, Amadeus, Garbo talks, Top Secret, A Passage to India, Splash and The Neverending Story.

    1. Yes! Always glad to hear some love for A Soldier's Story. Top Secret is very fun. I remember there being some hype around Garbo Talks, but I never did get around to seeing it.

  8. What a great year for film! (and music, with Purple Rain, among others). The "menacing" running time, as you put it, is the reason Leone's film isn't higher on my top 10. Does have an epic feel of a classic novel, and many memorable scenes, though the parts with the old De Niro could maybe have been shortened. I like Ghostbusters but I rewatched it recently and wasn't as funny as I remembered, the concept is brilliant though.

    We have a few overlaps:

    1. The Neverending Story (Wolfgang Petersen)
    2. Body Double (Brian De Palma)
    3. Blood Simple (Coen’s)
    4. Starman (John Carpenter)
    5. Romancing the Stone (Robert Zemeckis)
    6. The Terminator (James Cameron)
    7. Gremlins (Joe Dante)
    8. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Steven Spielberg)
    9. Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone)
    10. Beverly Hills Cop (Martin Brest)

    1. It's fair to say that Once Upon a Time in America could be shortened, but not the butchery committed to get it down to 2 hours. I still need to see Blood Simple and Body Double. Though I think I've seen parts of the latter. Same for Starman. I've seen different parts of it over the years, but never the whole thing.