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Best Picture (1980): Ordinary People (1980)

empireStar Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Release Date: May 17, 1980
Director: Irvin Kershner
Studio: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Surely, Empire is one of the greatest sequels ever created, on par with The Godfather, Part II. It is a brilliantly dark sequel in which Luke Skywalker begins his training with Master Yoda, but grows impatient to face his nemesis Darth Vader, only to prove that his powers are not yet ready. Meanwhile, Han Solo and his compatriots fly to the cloud city at Bespin only to be betrayed and fall into the hands of the empire. The film ends with a disturbing revelation: Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father, and the Rebel Alliance is on the verge of total destruction.

shiningThe Shining (1980)
Release Date: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Studio: Warner Bros.
Kubrick’s The Shining is one of the greatest cinematic horror achievements of all time. Kubrick notably entirely disregarded Stephen King’s novel and screenplay, much to the original author’s chagrin. The plot is simple, yet the film lasts over two hours, indicating the slow pace of the tension as the family’s descends into chaos. In the film, a family moves into the frozen and echoingly silent hotel, “The Overlook” in remote Colorado. Gradually they descend into madness, hallucinations, and murder.

raging-bullRaging Bull (1980)
Release Date: November 14, 1980
Director: Martin Scorsese
Studio: United Artists
Fueled by depression and a dangerous drug overdose, Martin Scorsese was persuaded by his friend Robert De Niro to complete this dark and complex examination of a brutal and insecure boxer called Jake LaMotta. He is abusive like a wild animal toward everyone in his life, inside and outside the boxing ring. Raging Bull is an operatic tragedy that features an outstanding performance from Robert De Niro, as well as from Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty.

Airplane! (1980)

Atlantic City (1980)

The Big Red One (1980)

Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)

Dressed to Kill (1980)

The Elephant Man (1980)

Kagemusha (1980)

Mon oncle d’Amerique (1980)

Raging Bull (1980)

Vengeance is Mine (1980)


Best Picture (1981): Chariots of Fire (1981)

For_Your_Eyes_Only_-_UK_cinema_posterJames Bond #12: For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Release Date: June 24, 1981
Director: John Glen
Studio: Eon/United Artists
For Your Eyes Only has often earned itself a reputation as one of the less goofy Roger Moore Bond films. It is the twelfth James Bond film, and the fifth starring Roger Moore. The film has an odd opening in which Bond kills what seems to be Blofeld. The rest of the plot is about a Soviet plot to acquire a device called a Automatic-Targeting-Attack-Communicator (ATAC) which controls the Royal British fleet of submarines.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Arthur (1981)

Body Heat (1981)

Das Boot (1981)

Gallipoli (1981)

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

Pixote (1981)

On Golden Pond (1981)

Ragtime (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981)


Best Picture (1982): Gandhi (1982)

star_trek_ii_the_wrath_of_khanStar Trek #2: Star Trek – The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Release Date: June 4, 1982
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan is the greatest of the Star Trek films. The Wrath of Khan is a terrific yet challenging film. It forces the audience to question the true heroism and infallibility of Star Trek’s central protagonist, Captain Kirk (reprised by William Shatner). A top secret mission looking to create a life-creating Genesis project stumbles onto a group of exiled genetically engineered super-humans led by Khan, a former rival of Kirk from the Star Trek series. Captain Kirk (now Admiral Kirk) retakes the helm of the Enterprise to defeat his old nemesis. The film ends in a tragic death.

blade-runnerBlade Runner (1982)
Release Date: June 25, 1982
Director: Ridley Scott
Studio: Warner Bros
Loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Sheep?Blade Runner is an extraordinary neo-noir dystopian detective film that was under-appreciated in its day but is now hailed as a classic. Watching Blade Runner offers a unique kaleidoscope of carefully crafted scenes that nevertheless appear effortless and unplanned. Greek composer Vangelis delivers a notably haunting and atmospheric score for Blade Runner filled with classical stylings, echoing saxophones, and ’80s synthesizers. It perfectly captures the ambience of the film.

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

E. T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

First Blood (1982)

Fitzcarraldo (1982)

The King of Comedy (1982)

Mephisto (1982)

Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982)

Poltergeist (1982)

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

The Thing (1982)

Tootsie (1982)

The Verdict (1982)

Veronika Voss (1982)


Best Picture (1983): Terms of Endearment (1983)

ReturnOfTheJediPoster1983Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Release Date: May 25, 1983
Director: Richard Marquand
Studio: Lucasfilm Ltd.
The third and final installment of the original Star Wars trilogy. The Empire is rebuilding its massive Death Star that was destroyed in the first film (episode IV). Luke Skywalker returns as a more confident Jedi trained by Master Yoda. He and his compatriots rescue Han Solo, Luke faces his father, and just when all hope is lost, Vader destroys the Emperor, his master, and helps the Rebel Alliance prevent the Empire from rising again. The brilliant conclusion takes us from the desert planet of Tatooine, to the swamps of Dagobah, and the forests of Endor.

octopussyJames Bond #13: Octopussy (1983)
Release Date: June 6, 1983
Director: John Glen
Studio: Eon/United Artists
Octopussy is the sixth film to star Roger Moore as James Bond. It is a predictably silly and slapstick late Cold War adventure that finds Bond chasing jewel smugglers and Faberge eggs in East Berlin while dressed as a circus clown. It is a mostly forgettable movie, but there was an interesting controversy in the background of the production of Octopussy. Sean Connery had signed on to reprise his role as James Bond in the non-Eon film Never Say Never Again, much to Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s chagrin. The two films locked horns in competition for revenue, but ultimately Eon’s Octopussy ($187.5M) beat out Warner Bros.’s Never Say Never Again ($160M).

jaws-3-dJaws 3-D (1983)
Release Date: July 22, 1983
Director: Joe Alves
Studio: Universal Pictures
Jaws 3-D is as bad as the title suggests. The third installment in the Jaws series relies on the cornball gimmick of creating a “3-D” horror movie, a popular cash-grab in the ’80s which has thankfully fallen out favor. The concept behind the plot is mildly interesting -a great white shark gets loose in Sea World and terrorizes the staff and animals. However, the film spectacularly fails to deliver on this idea. The film stars a young Dennis Quaid who claimed he was completely high on cocaine in every single scene of the movie.

A Christmas Story (1983)

El Norte (1983)

Entre Nous (1983)

Never Say Never Again (1983)

Prenom Carmen (1983)

The Right Stuff (1983)

Scarface (1983)

The Star Chamber (1983)

Tender Mercies (1983)

Zelig (1983)


AmadeusmovBest Picture (1984): Amadeus (1984)
Release Date: September 6, 1984
Director: Miloš Forman
Studio: Orion Pictures
Amadeus has been a long-time favorite of mine. The film was adapted from the stage play of the same name. It tells the story of a fictional conspiracy theory in which an envious Italian composer named Antonio Salieri tries to end the life and career of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a brilliant young composer who has taken Vienna by storm.

star-trek-iiiStar Trek #3: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)
Release Date: June 1, 1984
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Studio: Paramount
Notably directed by Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek III picks up where The Wrath of Khan left off. It is the second part of a trilogy ending with Star Trek IV. The film is about the quest to locate Spock who was regenerated as a result of the Genesis Device on the Genesis planet. Captain Kirk and crew must find Spock and return him to Vulcan while dodging the Klingons led by Kruge (played by Christopher Lee).

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Passage to India (1984)

A Soldier’s Story (1984)

A Sunday in the Country (1984)

A Year of the Quiet Sun (1984)

Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Ghost Busters (1984)

The Killing Fields (1984)

Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Paris, Texas (1984)

Places in the Heart (1984)

The Terminator (1984)

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)


out-of-africaBest Picture (1985): Out of Africa (1985)
Release Date: December 18, 1985
Director: Sydney Pollack
Studio: Universal Pictures
Loosely based on Isak Dinesen’s 1937 autobiography of the same name as well as her 1960 book Shadows on the Grass, the film Out of Africa takes us through the remarkable life of Denisen in Africa (her real name was Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke). Meryl Streep and Robert Redford deliver some great performances, and the wide-sweeping cinematography is gripping alongside a great score by John Barry, but ultimately Out of Africa is a long, meandering movie that I am happy to move past.

a_view_to_a_kill_-_uk_cinema_posterJames Bond #14: A View To A Kill (1985)
Release Date: May 22, 1985
Director: John Glen
Studio: Eon/United Artists
A View To A Kill is the last Bond film to star Roger Moore. Throughout the film we become painfully aware that Roger Moore is far too old to continue playing the role of James Bond. The plot follows Zorin, a rogue microchip businessman (played by Christopher Walken) as he develops a plot to detonate bombs along the Hayward and San Andreas faults in an effort to destroy Silicon Valley. It is a wholly forgettable movie.

A Room With a View (1985)

After Hours (1985)

Back to the Future (1985)

Brazil (1985)

The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Color Purple (1985)

Come and See (1985)

Day of the Dead (1985)

The Emerald Forest (1985)

The Goonies (1985)

Jagged Edge (1985)

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

Pale Rider (1985)

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Ran (1985)

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Shoah (1985)

The Trip to Bountiful (1985)


platoonBest Picture (1986): Platoon (1986)
Release Date: December 19, 1986
Director: Oliver Stone
Studio: Orion Pictures/Hemdale Film Corporation
Often compared to Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Kubrick’s Full Metal JacketPlatoon is based on Director Oliver Stone’s personal experiences in Vietnam. Platoon is a film that explores the nature of courage. How does a soldier act courageously in an unjust war? What is courage in the midst of horrendous savagery? We (the audience) experience the Vietnam War through the eyes of Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), a wide-eyed and young infantryman assigned to a platoon stationed near the Cambodian border. Throughout the film we experience an inner struggle between the platoon’s leaders: Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), a battle-hardened but cynical and scar-faced leader; and Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe), a romantic moralist who is a bit of a wild card.

aliensAliens (1986)
Release Date: July 18, 1986
Director: James Cameron
Studio: 20th Century Fox
By all accounts it should have been a cheap, sophomoric effort but Aliens is a surprisingly powerful roller-coaster of a sequel from James Cameron. Aliens picks up 57 years after the original. Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley. She has been rescued by her company but they have constructed a colony on the derelict alien planet. She joins a band of marines on the planet surface since she has experience with the aliens. The film ends on a note of hope and optimism.

Star Trek #4: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Betty Blue (1986)

Blue Velvet (1986)

Children of a Lesser God (1986)

“Crocodile” Dundee (1986)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

The Fly (1986)

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

The Hitcher (1986)

Manhunter (1986)

The Mission (1986)

Sherman’s March (1986)

Stand By Me (1986)

Top Gun (1986)


Best Picture (1987): The Last Emperor (1987)

predatorPredator #1: Predator (1987)
Release Date: June 12, 1987
Director: John McTiernan
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Predator is a cheesy, classic ’80s adventure thriller but it is still surprisingly entertaining and suspenseful. A conventional action movie now and again serves for some wonderful escapism. Predator takes place in a Central American jungle where an elite paramilitary rescue squad featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers are sent in, but they soon encounter a ruthless alien creature predator.

jaws-4Jaws 4: The Revenge (1987)
Release Date: July 17, 1987
Director: Joseph Sargent
Studio: Universal Pictures
Jaws: The Revenge is hands down one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Cheap, campy, ridiculous, boring -the fourth installment of the Jaws series is renowned for being a wholly unadulterated waste of celluloid. It was once called one of the “fastest” productions ever released in cinema history. It follows the Brody family as they travel to the Bahamas while being hunted by a vengeful shark.

the_living_daylights_-_uk_cinema_posterJames Bond #15: The Living Daylights (1987)
Release Date: June 29, 1987
Director: John Glen
Studio: Eon United Artists
The Living Daylights is the fifteenth canonical James Bond film. It is the first of two Bond movies to star Timothy Dalton as Agent 007, following the departure of an aging Roger Moore. The Living Daylights offers a welcome change of pace – a return to Cold War espionage. The plot follows Bond in pursuit of a KGB general when he uncovers a diamond scheme and even joins the side of the Mujahideen in a dated scene for the film, and in the end he wins out over the Russians. It is an entertaining ride. The Living Daylights is not the worst Bond film, but certainly not the best.

3 Men and a Baby (1987)

Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)

Babette’s Feast (1987)

The Big Easy (1987)

The Dead (1987)

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

House of Games (1987)

Lethal Weapon (1987)

No Way Out (1987)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

The Princess Bride (1987)

Raising Arizona (1987)

The Untouchables (1987)

Wall Street (1987)

Withnail and I (1987)


rain-manBest Picture (1988): Rain Man (1988)
Release Date: December 16, 1988
Director: Barry Levinson
Studio: United Artists/MGM
Rain Man is a bittersweet comedy/drama that occurs mainly on the open road. It is about the troubled relationship between two brothers, Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman) a high-functioning autistic savant who lives at the Wallbrook Institution and whose life is timed by a rigid series of schedules in order to maintain psychological stability; and a slick Los Angeles hotshot named Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) who is only interested in money. Dustin Hoffman delivers an incredible performance in what was no doubt a challenging role. For his performance he won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor. Outside Hoffman’s performance, Rain Man is a mostly bland, middle-of-the-road Best Picture winner.

die-hardDie Hard (1988)
Release Date: July 15, 1988
Director: John McTiernan
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Die Hard is a guilty pleasure movie, another amusing thriller from John McTiernan. It celebrates the great American working class hero, John McClane (Bruce willis in his theatrical debut) a lone everyman struggling against a sea of incompetence and bureaucracy -and the movie takes place on Christmas no less! The terrorist-villain Hans Gruber is played by Alan Rickman.

the_naked_gun_posterThe Naked Gun (1988)
Release Date: December 2, 1988
Director: David Zucker
Studio: Paramount Pictures
The Naked Gun is a hilarious crime comedy spoof told as a goofy film-noir satire. It was based on a television show entitled “Police Squad!” that was cancelled after a mere six episodes. This laugh riot-inducing film stars Leslie Nielsen as Police Lieutenant Frank Drebin, a dim-witted officer who uncovers an assassination attempt against Queen Elizabeth II while he is coupled with Priscilla Presley and a slough of other actors, including O.J. Simpson, George Kennedy, and Weird Al Yankovic to name a few. The sequels are also very funny movies.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

The Accidental Tourist (1988)

The Accused (1988)

Big (1988)

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

The Decalogue (1988)

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

Histoire(s) du cinema (1988-1998)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Moonstruck (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988)

Wings of Desire (1988)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)


Best Picture (1989): Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

licence to killJames Bond #16: License To Kill (1989)
Release Date: June 13, 1989
Director: John Glen
Studio: Eon/MGM/United Artists
Licence To Kill is a significantly darker film in contrast to the Roger Moore era. It is the second and final Bond film to star Timothy Dalton. While the movie leaves something to be desired (and it was one of the lowest grossing Bond movies), Dalton delivers a welcome performance as a ruthless assassin, which is closer to what Ian Fleming initially had in mind for the character. The plot follows Bond seeking vengeance for a personal vendetta against an international drug dealer named Sanchez, who has viciously attacked Bond’s CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter, and his new bride.

Star #5: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

The Abyss (1989)

Batman (1989)

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Field of Dreams (1989)

Glory (1989)

Henry V (1989)

The Little Mermaid (1989)

Monsieur Hire (1989)

Music Box (1989)

Mystery Train (1989)

Roger & Me (1989)

Say Anything… (1989)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)