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Published on October 1st, 2010 | by Niall


Nostalgia Week: The 80s films that defined a generation

It’s Nostalgia Week here on Culch and with that I’m looking back at my favourite 5 films from the 1980s. The important consideration for me in choosing these fab five was that they reflect the generation more than simply being the best examples of cinema from one of films finest decade. With that in mind such cinematic legends as Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Star Wars sequels and Batman miss out. So without further ado here are my Top  80s movies.

In at five it’s Gremlins. A perennial Christmas classic this Joe Dante B-movie manages to transcend its humble origins to become a fully-fledged genius of a black comedy full of dark, manic and magical energy. The simple story sees a young nerdy guy come into possession of a strange new pet, Gizmo the Mogwai. This furry ball of cuteness comes with 3 simple rules: never get it wet, never feed it after midnight, and never expose it to sunlight. In true movie fashion these rules are quickly broken and all hell breaks loose. The fashion in which the mayhem unfurls is what makes this movie so watchable, ad rewatchable and rewatchable again. Zach Galligan plays a naive innocent to a tee, and Polly Holliday is wickedly funny as Mrs. Deagle, the meanest woman in town. Brilliant special effects and a serious of slick spoofs make this exquisite viewing but it’s Gizmo’s cuteness that seals it.

At four it’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. For the record slackers rule, and nobody does slacking with more style than Ferris. Matthew Broderick is a guy who should never have been cool, and it’s the mark of this films calibre that somehow he’ll forever be cool because of Bueller. Even Inspector Gadget and Godzilla can’t diminish FB. A mind numbingly simple plot sees a high school prankster take a leisure day while his principal is determined to find out what he’s up to. As good as Broderick is Alan Ruck is better, as neurotic best buddy Cameron. His nervous energy offsets the calm of his companion to make one of the finest buddy comedies ever. Brilliant casting, great comedy and a series of memorable one-liners make this unforgettable.

Number three is Ghostbusters. The same winter that spawned Gremlins spawned another instant classic. After being fired from their cushy university research roles, Drs. Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler set up as removal experts for the spiritual and supernatural. However business doesn’t go so well until one Dana Barrett calls to investigate a voice in her fridge. With the city is in peril from a  spectral menace who you gonna call? The on-screen chemistry between the central trio, the brilliant comic timing of Rick Moranis and the screen presence of Sigourney Weaver combine with some outlandish quips, great special effects and a theme for the ages to make a movie that more that defines a decade it made a legacy.

Up one to two it’s E.T. Heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measure this tale of a lost alien is as timeless as the era that produced it. Elliott is an ordinary guy with an extraordinary friend, an abandoned alien whose only desire is to get home. Complicating this simple plan is the US government, who are hot on the tail of this visitor from afar. Drawing on his own personal experiences Spielberg crafts a wonderful heartfelt story of what it means to be a child. This movie is not only extraordinary for its emotional resonance, it is also so technically brilliant that Spielberg may never be able to top what is surely his masterpiece.

Only one movie is worthy of being at the top of the pile, a movie that manages to capture not just an unbridled enthusiasm for the future but also a profound sense of past, whilst embodying everything that was great about the 1980s. That movie Back to the Future. Set in 1985 the film sees high-school student Marty McFly travel back to 1955 in a time machine built by an eccentric inventor. Whilst there he inadvertently interferes in his parents meeting thus endangering his own existence. Marty and Doc represent the strangest yet most endearing duo ever to grace the screen and while the movie is clichéd and hokey in the extreme thing can take from the magic and wonder. Time travel has never been and will never be as cool as a flux-capicator powered DeLorean. I love this movie.

As luck would have it today also sees the re-release of Back to the Future in Irish cinemas. Do yourself a favour and see it on the big screen.

So what’s you favourite 80s flick?

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About the Author

The proverbial man lost in La Mancha. Sports aficionado and all-round scoundrel. Über-geek to boot. I run the movie website Scannain.com and can usually be found twittering away as @niallxmurphy.

5 Responses to Nostalgia Week: The 80s films that defined a generation

  1. Emlyn says:

    Great choices. And yes, Back To The Future is THE number one 80’s film…would have to put Ghostbusters, ET, Ferris and Gremlins after that myself.

    Most of my other favourite 80’s flicks would be stuff like Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Lost Boys, The Terminator, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, one or two other John Hughes flicks…

  2. Calum says:

    Didn’t define a generation, but Local Hero will always be one of my favourites.

  3. Kitty Cat says:

    GIZMOOOO! Too cute. I love him. Also, no Goonies? Que?

  4. Sweary says:

    90s was more my movie-watching era; I doubt I’d seen Back To The Future til then, anyway (my first cinema movie was Into The West, for God’s sake). So I’d nominate Clueless, Home Alone I and II, and, well, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of The Ooze. That was a class bit of stuff, that was.

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