Saturday, June 23, 2018

The 100 Project: Top 10 Movies of 1982

The 100 Project arrives at 1982! '81 was a bad year for movies as far as I'm concerned. 1982 is a sizable step up. Not only that, it's where the decade really starts to form its cinematic identity. The two prior years were more about shaking off the 70s and those first baby steps on their way to becoming something new. As a result, I had a tougher time limiting myself to just 10. Though I've seen a good number of movies from this year, it's not to the point where I feel comfortable expanding beyond a top 10. So, let's see what made the cut.

My Top 10 Movies of 1982
  • According to my Letterboxd account, I've seen 50 movies released during 1982.
  • I made six trips to the theater. Only two of those movies made my top 10.
  • For the first time in the 80s, kiddie flicks show up! I'd say there are two on the list. Some would say none. At the very least, there are two, maybe three "family" movies - depending on how you feel about one of the two horror flicks on the list.

10. The Last American Virgin
I first saw this on one of those late summer nights on HBO and must have watched it a dozen times or more. Back then, I thought it was funny and it had boobs. What more could a teenage boy want. In the 90s, I revisited the movie and, to my surprise, found a story that I really enjoyed. I found it on DVD a few years back and rewatched it again and enjoyed it even more. Because of its lineage as part of the Cannon filmography it's become one of the more underrated movies of its decade. It didn't happen often, but I think they slipped up and made a good movie with this one. (My full review)

9. The Dark Crystal
For a kiddie flick, this movie is damn slow. At least, that's what you might think as, ya know, a kid. Watching it later, you call this movie a slow burn. And man, does it burn. The story just builds and builds until it finally explodes. Jim Henson, the mastermind behind the Muppets went dark with this one and I love him for it.

8. 48 Hrs.
If you're under thirty, you might only know Eddie Murphy as a guy who does lame family comedies, but has been really good as a voice-over actor in animated flicks. The only way you would know that he had any edge at all would be if you saw 2006's Dreamgirls. Back in '82, Eddie Murphy didn't just have edge, he was the edge. This is his big screen debut, and he absolutely steals the show from vet Nick Nolte in this buddy cop flick. He let us know there's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Reggie Hammond!

7. First Blood
When the name Rambo comes up, your first thoughts are probably of an over-muscled Sylvester Stallone toting an automatic machine gun, grunting, and screaming as he mows down an army of soldiers in the jungles of whatever small Asian nation he happens upon. He's invincible, and while not quite mindless, the movies are - except this one, the first. It's not just an action movie, it's a thoughtful exploration of a man suffering from PTSD. It's been over-shadowed by all of the bulked up and progressively cartoonish sequels, but it really is one of the better Vietnam related movies ever made.

6. Sophie's Choice
I don't have the personal connection with this movie that I have with any other movie on this list. I only saw it for the first time a couple years ago. That's a pretty good indicator that this is a remarkable film. It had to fight through all my nostalgia to claim a spot on this list. And it's completely worthy of this spot. It's Meryl Streep before she was just automatically Oscar nominated for just showing up on screen. She truly earns it here. And that writing! Man, what an ending! (My full review)

5. Poltergeist
When they released the remake to this a couple years, I decided to revisit this. The special effects don't really hold up, but the story, the directing, and the acting all do. There are some thrills to be had along the way, but it's much more fun than most horror flicks. It certainly isn't the dark, dreary type like most of what passes for PG-13 horror. It's just a blast to watch and that helps it remain one of the best haunted house movies ever made. (My full review)

4. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
KHHHHHAAAAAANNNNNN! I could probably stop there and totally justify why this movie is here. It's the first Star Trek that felt like it belonged in the canon. Where it's predecessor was just a long, boring love letter to the USS Enterprise, this one expands on a classic story from the original TV series, with many of the same actors reprising their roles, and none of them feeling past their prime. The characters we love all get to do their thing, but it's the one we hate who keeps us coming back for more. In true, classic film fashion, it earned an inferior remake - Star Trek Into Darkness. The failures of that movie only serve to highlight the greatness of this one. KHHHHHAAAAAANNNNNN! (My full review)

3. The Thing
Though I was fully immersed in horror when this came out, I didn't see it until years later, well after I reached adulthood. When I watched it, I had one of those moments great movies give us when we've seen them long after the cinematic world has stamped it a classic. I sat back when it was over and said to myself "Woah, that's what the big deal is." It was over a quarter-century old at the time, but it all still worked - the story, the performances, and best of all, the practical special fx. There's a certain charm that comes with seeing a monstrosity that we know was really in the room with the performers rather than something that was added in later, via computer. These fx however, don't just charm, they unsettle.

2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
One of the reasons I didn't see The Thing was because it wasn't a hit. It came and went in theaters, and I was only vaguely aware of its existence, so I didn't really want to see it. E.T., on the other hand, was everywhere. And it was a Spielberg flick. I had to see it, in the theaters, so I begged Mama Dell and made it happen. Instantly, I was overwhelmed with the one thing this movie has as much of as any movie ever made - magic. I saw it a few times as a kid, then went a couple decades without seeing it until I showed it to my own kids. They experienced the same feelings I had all those years ago, and so did I. We can quibble over which aspects don't work from a critical standpoint, but magic has a way of making all that stuff irrelevant.

1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
When I saw this a few times as a youngster, I liked it okay, but thought it was just a lesser version of my beloved Porky's. It had some boobs and a few great gags, but overall, it's just not as funny. For a number of years, I saw it in bits and pieces whenever I came across it on TV, but not really watching it in full. Shortly after adding it to my movie collection, I decided to give it a full spin for old time's sake. Those same few gags worked again, so I wasn't surprised there. What did surprise me was how much better the story, the story-telling, and the acting were than any teen movie out there. Parts of it hit very close to home, and I could still parts that weren't necessarily part of my own experience. Director Amy Heckerling gives us a more honest and down-to-earth version of teen life than anything John Hughes ever cooked up. It's deeper cuts makes it resonate far beyond some funny bits. (My full review)

Honorable Mention: Blade Runner, Rocky III, Zapped!, Creepshow, Night Shift, The Toy, Friday the 13th Part III

A word on Blade Runner:

Experience tells me Blade Runner is the movie people will give me the most grief about. I know, I know, "greatest sci-fi movie EVAR!" At least that's what you keep telling me. Here's my experience with this movie, as brief as I can describe it. Back in the 80s, I saw bits and pieces of it here and there, but couldn't get into it. When I worked for Blockbuster in the 90s, I finally gave it a full watch. It was amazing from a visual standpoint, but the story dragged horribly and again struggled to hold my interest. A few weeks ago, I gave it another shot to refresh my memory ahead of watching Blade Runner 2049. I liked it better. A lot better. But did I love it? No. Maybe after the next watch.


  1. These 80s lists have inspired me to create my own lists of films since 1980 as it's actually been fun. Here is my list of the best films of 1982 that I've seen. I can understand why you probably didn't get into Blade Runner though I was fortunate that the version I saw was the 1992 director's cut by Ridley Scott as I later saw the 1982 theatrical version which was good except for the voiceover which I felt was unnecessary.

    I've seen bits of The Last American Virgin but not enough to give it a full opinion while I haven't seen Sophie's Choice. Zapped! was OK though I really can't stand Scott Baio right now as I think he's become a total self-righteous asshole. The Toy and Creepshow would be in my honorable mentions list. I've already finished a list of the best films of the 80s as there's a tag for 1980s lists as I'm now doing the films of the 1990s.

    1. Cool! I've been going through your letterboxd checking out a bunch of those lists. Great stuff!

  2. First Blood, Poltergeist, E.T. and Fast Times are among my 1982 favourites. I haven't seen Sophie's Choice in many decades, so that's one I need to revisit.

    I'm not a big fan of The Thing and I never quite understood the fascination with 48 Hrs -- Murphy is great, but it's a weak film. I probably like Blade Runner a bit more than you, but I enjoyed the sequel more.

    Here are some of my other 1982 faves:

    The King of Comedy
    An Officer And A Gentleman
    The World According To Garp

    1. The way you feel about 48 Hrs. is the way I feel about An Officer and a Gentleman. The actors are great, but it's a weak...and very cheesy film. The World According to Garp is the one I haven't seen in too long to properly judge.

      I've only seen Gandhi and Tootsie in pieces, and the others not at all, so I have some movies to watch.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. After watching Gandhi, Roger Ebert coined the phrase "Gandhi movie" to describe a film that you are happy to have seen and will never consent to watch a second time.

    Here are a few others worth adding on, some of which will be duplicating Ace's suggestions.
    The King of Comedy
    A Question of Silence
    My Favorite Year
    Fanny and Alexander
    The Year of Living Dangerously

    Honestly, the one that I'm the most surprised isn't on your list is TRON. I mean, it's a dumb movie, but it's pretty astonishing for its time.

    Also, your list confirms what I have said for years. Numbers 2-5 on your list plus Blade Runner were all released in June of that year. It's the single greatest sci-fi/horror month in film history.

    1. I have read that quote by Ebert, lol.

      Tron might have been on the list had I seen it in the 80s and had more nostalgia attached to it. Back then, I saw parts of it and even played the video game. Somehow, I never watched it in full until maybe 10 years ago. I understand why people are fond of it, it just doesn't quite work that well for me.

      That is a really strong month! I knew The Thing and E.T. came out about the same time, but I forgot the others were so close in proximity.

  4. Nice varied list Dell.

    Murphy was just bursting with talent and charisma at this point, what happened? 48 Hrs. isn't that unique but he makes it a must see. How long has it been since you can say that about one of his films?

    I have nothing but respect for Sophie's Choice and Streep's work is revelatory but I was tremendously depressed after watching it. I can't imagine ever revisiting it.

    First Blood, much like the original Die Hard, is a compelling film whose luster has been dimmed by too many wrongheaded sequels. Stallone is no Bruce Willis but he was about as close as he can get to good in the film.

    The original Star Treks are such a strange lot, all the even numbered films are good and the odds are terrible or at best rough. The fourth is my favorite but Khan is a fun film.

    The effects may be dated but this Poltergeist rocks. JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Zelda Rubenstein, Beatrice Straight and Heather O'Rourke all just play their roles to perfection.

    E.T. and Fast Times wouldn't make my top 10 but are terrific films. Penn had never been more appealing and he and Ray Walston are a dream comic team.

    The Thing and Dark Crystal did little for me but I'm not a horror guy and variable on fantasy.

    Geez I hated The Last American Virgin.

    1. Thanks!

      Murphy got rich and had (lots of) kids, at least that's my best guess. I will say I think 48 Hrs. was pretty unique at the time. There were buddy movies before, but none quite like this one. And it practically gave birth to Lethal Weapon.

      Sophie's Choice is definitely not one to put on for light entertainment.

      I don't think this is Penn's best performance, but certainly it's the most likable he's been. He and Walston were so great together.

      Yeah, not many people seem to be fans of The Last American Virgin.

  5. Oops I hit the post button to quickly and forgot to include my top 10!

    Our list are wildly divergent but I think that just goes to show how much goodness was on offer this year.

    1) The Return of the Soldier-Traumatized WWI soldier Chris Baldry (Alan Bates) returns home with no memory of his wife Kitty (Julie Christie) or their life together but longs for his first love Margaret (Glenda Jackson) of 20 years before as his cousin Jenny (Ann-Margret) looks on unable to help. Somber but with four absolutely brilliant performances at its core.

    2) My Favorite Year-A young writer is tasked with keeping reprobate movie star Alan Swann (Peter O’Toole) sober during his week-long rehearsal for a variety show. Charming and lovely.

    3) Missing-When journalist Charles Horman disappears during a Chilean coup his father Ed (Jack Lemmon) flies in to work with his wife Beth (Sissy Spacek) to try and find him but hits bureaucratic walls at every turn.

    4) Evil Under the Sun-Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) works to discover who among a star-studded cast (Maggie Smith, James Mason etc.) killed famous actress Arlena Marshall (Diana Rigg) on a vacation island in the Adriatic.

    5) Tootsie-Bombastic actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) masquerades as a woman, Dorothy Michaels to get work on a soap but ends up learning much more than he bargained for along the way.

    6) Poltergeist-They’re hhheeerrreee.

    7) The Year of Living Dangerously-Newly arrived in Jakarta journalist Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) has difficulty making contacts until he befriends dwarf photographer Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt) and British diplomat Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver). He learns of an approaching Communist uprising and as the city roils with danger he remains to pursue the story. As he gets closer to the government his position becomes precarious.

    8) Making Love-Successful Zack & Claire’s (Michael Ontkean and Kate Jackson) once happy marriage is rocked when Zack can no longer deny his attraction to men and falls for Bart (Harry Hamlin).

    9) Kiss Me Goodbye-Widowed Kay (Sally Field) is preparing to wed her nice but dull fiancĂ©e Rupert (Jeff Bridges) when suddenly her late husband the bon vivant Jolly’s (James Caan) ghost appears to voice his objections. Breezy complications ensue.

    10) Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean-Members of a Texas James Dean club (including Cher, Karen Black and Sandy Dennis) come together on the 20th anniversary of his death. Revelations flow. Directed by Robert Altman.

    Runner-Ups-Burden of Dreams, E.T., Fitzcarraldo, Shoot the Moon, 48 Hrs., Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

    TV movies/miniseries worth seeking out-The Blue and the Grey, Golda (Ingrid Bergman’s final role), The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Mae West, Murder is Easy, My Body, My Child, The Rainmaker, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Witness for the Prosecution

    1. Lots of stuff I still need to see here. The big hole for me is Tootsie, which I have seen bits and pieces of. Since I just bought it a few weeks back, it'll certainly be on my blind spot list for next year if I can't get to it sooner.

  6. I love these '80s lists of yours, and I really dig your picks here! I appreciate you calling out Blade Runner specifically. I've had a complicated relationship with that film too, mostly because I'm never sure which version people are watching and discussing. Ultimately, my top five of '82 would be:
    5. The King of Comedy
    4. The Verdict
    3. Fitzcarraldo
    2. ET
    1. Fanny and Alexander

    1. The King of Comedy and Fitzcarraldo are the ones I think I need to see most since they're the ones the masses seem to like most from this set.

  7. Yet again I have seen far too few of these, but while you are kinda "meh" on Blade Runner, I full-on dislike E.T. I saw it as a kid and didn't like it then, and have had absolutely zero desire to revisit it since, despite everyone shouting about how great it is. I'm reasonably certain that my reasons for not liking it were stupid kid stuff, but I'm willing to trust young me on that.

    Tootsie is a MUST-SEE. An all-timer. One of the all-time great comedies.

    1. Guess I can't argue with young you.

      I know, I know. I'm seeing it.

  8. Yep, "Blade Runner" would definitely make my list although I don't really hold it as high as many do. I did rewatch it recently and still found it to be a good one.

  9. I really haven't seen many films from 1982 at all.

  10. I agree with what you said about E.T...magic.