Over the past few weeks I’ve posted blog entries listing my favorite science fiction movies of different decades. The last of these, the 1980s, was difficult for me. There were (in my opinion) two really good sci fi movies, a handful of sort of good ones, and a ton of really bad ones. Here is a list of my favorite science fiction films of the 1980s, meaning that if I was going on a long trip and could only take ten scifi films from the 80s, these would be the ten.
1. Blade Runner (1982) – One of my all time favorite films. In 2019, Harrison Ford is a Blade Runner, a policeman who tracks down replicant androids who go rogue. Complex plot, brilliantly imaginative sets, and beautiful cinematography.
2. The Thing (1982) – I liked the very different 1951 version but this remake is just as good in my opinion. At an isolated polar scientific research station, Kurt Russell tries to figure out who is human and who is a very unfriendly alien. Great blood test scene.
3. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) – In a post-apocalyptic world, Mel Gibson visits Bartertown, run by Tina Turner of all people. The plot was fairly predicable but I liked the unusual characters including Jedidiah the pilot, Blaster the big guy, and Pig Killer the, uh, pig killer.
4. Dune (1984) – This version was a box office flop and a critical disaster, but I like it. It probably helped that I had read the book about a dozen times and knew the plot. Kyle MacLachlan plays Paul Atreides, who seeks revenge against the galactic emperor after his father is murdered on the planet Arrakis. Big worms. Really big.
5. Brazil (1985) – A bizarre film directed by Terry Gilliam, who has done several of my favorite films. In a strange future, government has a gripping control over people. Oh wait, I think that’s called Obamacare. Anyway, it’s the vignettes I like rather than the overall story.
6. The Fly (1986) – Jeff Goldblum plays a scientist who creates teleportation pods. Not a good idea to test them when there are flies in the lab. Very nice special effects.
7. Predator (1987) – Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a team of commandos into Central America but runs into a nasty surprise. There’s not much plot here, which would normally keep it out of my top ten, but the action is good enough to carry the movie for me.
8. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) – The premise is strange – evil aliens who look like clowns. But I thought this film was really well done and was quite scary in some parts. This movie gave me some weird nightmares. I don’t like clowns, killer or otherwise.
9. Enemy Mine (1985) – During an interstellar war, Dennis Quaid as the human and Lou Gosset as a Drac are stranded on an (almost) deserted planet. This movie was a box office flop but I’ll put it in my top 10 of the 80s any time. Beautiful ending: “And, in the fullness of time, Zammis brought its own child before the Holy Council, the name of Willis Davidge was added to the line of Jereeba.”
10. RoboCop (1987) – This movie hasn’t held up as well as some of the others on my list, but it’s a definite top 10. Peter Weller as the ex-cop turned robot in Detroit. Very violent but lots of nice small touches like ads for the artificial heart (with extended warranty!), and the 6000 SUX car (bigger is better!)
Lifeforce (1985) – Alien vampires in England.
The Terminator (1984) – I prefer Arnold as a hero.
Return of the Jedi (1983) – Wraps things up nicely but the Ewoks are annoying.
Hall of Shame:
Invaders from Mars (1985) – A truly awful remake of a great 1950s film.
Movies on Most Top Ten Lists That I Don’t Like
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – I don’t like middle films of trilogies, including this one.
Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) – Didn’t like anything about any of these duds.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1985), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) – I’m a Star Trek fans but these movies flat out suck.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – Agh! I hate this movie.
Bonus: There were a boat-load of underwater movies in 1989. Do you remember any of them? One was OK, the others were awful.
The Abyss (1989), DeepStar Six (1989), The Evil Below (1989), Leviathan (1989), Lords of the Deep (1989)