Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The 100 Project: The Top 10 Movies of 1987

The 100 Project reaches 1987, a year of lots of movies I cycled in and out of my top 10 before settling on the list below. As with many years of this decade, I saw a good number of popular films, not many of the critically acclaimed. This includes having seen only two of the five Best Picture nominees. One made my list, the other made honorable mention. On the flip side, I've seen eight of the top 10 grossing movies of that year, sixteen of the top twenty. So yeah, you've been warned.

My Top 10 Movies of 1987

  • According to my Letterboxd account I've seen 57 films released during 1987.
  • 5 of the 11 movies I saw in theaters that year made the list
  • For the first time in The 100 Project, a stand-up comedy film makes the list

10. Raising Arizona
My family rented this upon my request and I have no idea what drew me to it. Nothing about the cover art on the VHS said that it was like anything else I had seen before. It wasn't. And I still laughed myself silly. The film served as my intro to Nicolas Cage what a hilarious introduction it was.

9. Hollywood Shuffle
When I saw the trailer on TV, it looked funny and starred black people so I wanted to go see it. My friends and I showed up to the theater only half-knowing what to expect. We got a movie way more self-aware and insightful than we thought we were getting and still got tons of laughs. With those laughs came some sadness because even at our young ages, we realized we also got a lot of truth.

8. Angel Heart
The controversy surrounding the release of this movie was all about the female lead, Lisa Bonet. America, including me, watched her as a squeaky clean teenager on The Cosby Show. We were told she did nudity and a fairly bizarre sex scene. The promise of boobs was way too much for 16 year old me to resist so I had to see it. When I did, I got a movie that left my brain in knots. I knew I loved it when I wanted to see it again, not for another glimpse of Bonet's bodaciousness, but to try and piece together the puzzle I just saw.

7. Eddie Murphy Raw
So I'm sitting in the theater between my best and my girlfriend, nobody checked ID's at the movies back then, watching Eddie Murphy in a blue leather suit. He's killing me. I'm laughing non-stop. The opening skit, featuring Samuel L. Jackson by the way, cements the phrase, "And he kicked him in the ding ding!" in my personal lexicon. The actual stand-up is now iconic, but my giggles stopped dead for a minute or two when Eddie says, "Imagine your best friend fucking your girl." I can't say for sure, but that single line might have dropped it six slots on this very list.

6. Fatal Attraction
To help me decide what movies I wanted to see, I used to read the mini-reviews in the Sunday paper. For some reason I can't put my finger on, the review for this stuck with me. When I finally saw this movie, four or five years after its release, I recalled what that blurb said. Basically, it said "good movie, bad ending." When I finished, I said, "Hmph, critics suck." And my love for movies about psycho stalkers was born.

5. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
I loved the original when I saw a few years earlier but hated the second installment. Still, I was willing to go see the third installment. The iconic Freddy Krueger was now as much stand-up comedian as boogeyman. However, this is the one time where the franchise gets the balance between those two things just right. A blast was had that night and the numerous other nights on which I revisited this.

4. Predator
I was a huge Ah-nuld fan growing up, so I'm not sure why I didn't see this when it came out. I was actually about two years late to this party. When I got there, it was clear I came for Arnie. I stayed for the severed arm of Carl Weathers flopping around on the ground still firing his automatic rifle in every direction. Goosebumps.

3. Robocop
The first time I saw this was opening weekend. I loved every minute of it even though I didn't really know what I saw. It wasn't until a few years and a few rewatches later that it dawned on me that this is really a wonderfully violent, gory, unrelenting, and subversive dark comedy. I'll buy that for a dollar.

2. Full Metal Jacket
The first half of this movie is all about Marine boot camp. It doesn't end so well. Even worse, I first saw it about two weeks before I entered the U.S. Army. Scary. After seeing a few more times I've come to appreciate what that half of the film did. I've also come to love the much-maligned second half, too. I'm not so sure what you guys don't like about it.

1. The Untouchables
"A man becomes preeminent, he's expected to have enthusiasms. Enthusiasms, enthusiasms... What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball! A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Teamwork... Looks, throws, catches, hustles. Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don't field... what is he? You follow me? No one. Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? I'm goin' out there for myself. But... I get nowhere unless the team wins." Just as he finishes saying this, Al Capone (Robert De Niro) bashes one of his goons in the back of the skull with a baseball bat and hits the guy repeatedly. The camera pulls back to reveal the poor guy's life flowing across the table in a dark red pool of blood. I nearly choked on the popcorn Mama Dell spent her hard-earned cash on, and fell in love.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetically): Beverly Hills Cop II, City on Fire, Evil Dead 2, Flowers in the Attic, La Bamba, Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, Moonstruck, The Princess Bride, Throw Momma From the Train, Wall Street, The Witches of Eastwick


  1. Based on my list as there's some films of that year like City on Fire, Monster Squad, The Witches of Eastwick (in its entirety as I've seen it in scattered parts), and Hollywood Shuffle (only seen bits of it) that I want to see.

    In response to your question of Full Metal Jacket, it is no question that its first half is so strong in terms of the compositions and setting that Kubrick created. It also had that element of realism about the concept of basic training at its most brutal as Kubrick originally wanted another actor to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann but once he heard R. Lee Ermey. He decided to get the real thing instead. The second half of the film is much looser as I think people were taken aback by its tone as well as the fact that it's got more humor in the film. I think it had to do with tonal issues as I too was taken aback by it the first time I saw it but like every film of Kubrick's. It gets better with every re-watch as I began to enjoy the second half even more though not as much as the first but it did play into its theme of de-humanization that is seen from the perspective of Joker about the ideas of war. It's a film that is analyzed a bunch of times as I would probably lose my train of thought if I explained things as there's still things I'm baffled by but it's part of why I love the film so much.

  2. Wigglecop would be an awesome parody title 💜

  3. So many gems in 1987. Raising Arizona would easily be among my top 2 or 3. Love that movie so much. REALLY great to see The Untouchables so high. It too is a favorite of mine. I feel it is a movie that is looked over far too often. Predator, good.

    1. I moved Raising Arizona all up and down the list from 4 to 10, so I can see anyone having it that high. Excellent year.

  4. Not into the Nightmare films or Predator so they are a no. Love Raising Arizona and I love Moonstruck. Angel Heart is brilliant and when the kid’s eyes glowed, I had nightmares. Lethal Weapon and Full Metal Jacket..the latter is excellent! I also love Black Widow which many people have not seen but it is excellent. The Lost Boys is great as well as The Princess Bride is so much fun. I also love Hope and Glory based on the director’s account of the war when he was a kid and it reminded me of my mom and what she went through. I like The Whales of August starring acting legends but I must give it to Planes, Trains and Automobiles as #1 and Empire of the Sun as #2.

    1. I've never seen Black Widow. I'll have to look into that one, same for Hope and Glory. I have definitely heard of your #1 and #2, but believe it or not, I haven't seen them.

  5. Interesting list Dell. I think it shows how many films for all interests came out this year since except for two films in our runner-up lists our picks are completely different. That’s not to say that there aren’t several of yours that I liked quite a bit.

    Raising Arizona is wacky fun with both Holly Hunter and Nicolas Cage (before he went off the deep end and still did interesting work) going for broke with their characters.

    I just saw Hollywood Shuffle within the last few months and while it was rough around the edges it was very inventive and enjoyable.

    Everybody seems to love Fatal Attraction more than I did but Glenn Close was phenomenal in what is basically a slasher flick in fancy clothes.

    Predator was okay but not one of Arnold’s films I have much affection for.

    You know how I am about horror (though there is a horror/sci-fi movie on my list!) so I watched the first Nightmare on Elm Street and that was more than enough for me.

    Robocop left me cold and a little Eddie Murphy (especially standup Eddie Murphy) goes a long way for me.

    The Untouchables was big and operatic but for some reason I didn’t really connect to it. I should probably give it another look.

    I hated Full Metal Jacket and flat out detested Angel Heart.

    This was one of the years I was managing a movie theatre so I saw all but three of my top ten and an equal number of my runner-ups in one cinema or another.

    Broadcast News-Incisive and trenchant drama that looked at a major news department just at the unfortunate moment when hard news and entertainment divisions were being blended.

    Baby Boom-One of my Girl Week titles with a tailor made role for Diane Keaton.

    84 Charing Cross Road-A small two-hander of a film but when those two hands are Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins that’s really all that’s needed.

    Adventures in Babysitting-Everyone else is great but Elisabeth Shue owns this as the harried but resourceful girl in charge of three kids for one wild night.

    Outrageous Fortune-Aptly named buddy comedy with Bette Midler & Shelley Long as arch rivals who must team up to pursue a man both want and are in turn are pursued by others.

    Stakeout-Another buddy comedy/adventure with Richard Dreyfuss & Emilio Estevez undercover cops who overstep the line during a stakeout and find both love and a load of trouble.

    Suspect-Public defender Cher is assigned homeless murder defendant Liam Neesom’s case and when juror Dennis Quaid notices inconsistencies is drawn into a web of lies and deceptions.

    Au Revoir Les Enfants-In a French boy’s boarding school during WWII a young student befriends three new arrivals only later discovering they are Jewish refugees hiding from the Nazis.

    From the Hip-One of my Against the Crowd titles! Comedy/drama of madly ambitious young lawyer Stormy Weathers making a name for himself by showboating and then finding himself over his head when handed a murder trial.

    The Hidden-Kinetic, propulsive sci-fi (and sort of horror) of a malicious alien that uses whatever vessel available as hosts to go on a violent and murderous rampage across L.A. and the cop and odd FBI agent who pursue it.

    There are dozens more from this year that I could pick as runner-ups but I kept myself to an even twelve.

    Babette’s Feast, The Dead, Hope and Glory, Innerspace, Maurice, Moonstruck, No Way Out, Overboard, Prick Up Your Ears, The Princess Bride, Radio Days and Roxanne.

    1. There was definitely something for everyone this year. Never heard of 84 Charing Cross Road - surprising given who's in it. I haven't seen all the rest, but I do like the ones I have.

    2. Charing Cross is a very small movie based on writer Helene Hanff's slim memoir about her years long correspondence with London bookseller Frank Doel and how though they never met they formed a close friendship based on respect and a mutual love of books. Though its basically the Anne & Tony show there is a small but very good supporting cast with Judi Dench as Hopkins's wife, Nora.

      Curious if you've seen The Hidden? If not I think it's right up your alley!

    3. That sounds interesting, but I can't say I'm in a huge hurry to find it.

      I am aware of The Hidden, but I've never seen it. That one, I might find quicker.

  6. The '80s in general are a HUGE Blind spot for me (it's the decade of my birth), but The Untouchables has always been one of my favorites, so I was really happy to see it in your top spot.

  7. You made it to my birth year! From your list I've only seen Predator, Full Metal Jacket, Nightmare 3 and Raising Arizona.

    Flowers in the Attic is a weird nostalgia pick for me. We had taped that on VHS and I watched it all the time despite it being weird subject matter for a kid.

    1. Imagine this, I read the book as a teenager.

  8. A really strong year for movies. Even the ones that didn’t make the list are hugely entertaining.

  9. Good picks in a year that provided an embarrassment of riches. Raising Arizona is among my favorite Coen comedies and good to see Angel Heart made the top 10 which is endlessly rewatchable.
    I'd rank Princess Bride and Wall Street higher but nice to see them receive HMs. My #1 of 1987 is Wings of Desire, it's in German, though the story is applicable to anyone. Where do you rank Planes Trains and Automobiles, The Lost Boys,Spaceballs?

    1. I've only seen The Princess Bride for the first time within the last few months, so maybe it'll grow a bit more on me. Wall Street was in and out of my top 10 multiple times before I settled on it as an HM. Haven't heard of Wings of Desire. I grew up on The Lost Boys, it's a fun movie, just outside the HMs for me. I've only seen bits and pieces of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.