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Films of 1984

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published January 18th 2019
1984 - no George Orwell, just Kevin Bacon
I recently completed my latest novel (anyone know a publisher? Seriously?) and one thing stood out for me – even though set in 1990, the 3 films I mentioned that the characters watched on video were from 1984. Now, the reason I chose those films is because I enjoyed them and they were films I watched with friends at about that same 1990 period in my history.

This got me thinking – were the movies of 1984 really that fantastic?

Looking back on the year, there were no films that ended up being remembered by students of serious film-craft. There were no wonderful feel-good pictures that spoke to generations. We did see the start of some franchises, and some comedies that have come to be considered classics were released, but, you know, as far as quality goes, it might not have been wonderful, but as far as enjoying movies goes, it was a hard year to beat.

1984 I was 13 years old, and in year 9 (second year) at high school. I had started to go to films with my friends in 1982 as an 11 year old, but this year I started to see so many more. Some were a waste of money (Sixteen Candles…), others were really good. So quite a few of these films I saw at the cinema with other people. And, I guess, that might be why some of these films resonate with me so much (much like those of 1987 and 1988, although with a great deal less being with girls than in those later two years).

1984 on the world stage was very placid; music saw some great albums released and Marvin Gaye shot dead by his father. But I was 13; what did I care about Ronald Reagan, new Soviet premiers, or Australia finally getting a national anthem of its own? I just wanted to do well enough at school to pass and fly under everyone's radar. Oh, and be happy that George Orwell's vision of 1984 had not come to pass. Yet.
1984, george orwell, book, cover
No, really, not yet...


So, we come to the films. I opted not to include documentaries or concert films (despite Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense being released that year). And no made for TV films, no short films, and, further, I decided against including anthology or portmanteau films (sorry, The Company Of Wolves).

The honourable mentions, as usual, to start with: Electric Dreams (am I only including this to annoy one of my regular readers who considers it the worst film evahh? Maybe… but who can't be enchanted by champagne making a home PC sentient?); Ghostbusters (so close to making the main list); Hot Dog… The Movie (skiing comedy film filled with every teenage cliché, but on snow); Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (not as good as the original, but still fine); Johnny Dangerously (under-rated Michael Keaton bizarre gangster comedy); The Last Starfighter (every teenage video game nerd's wildest fantasy come to life); The NeverEnding Story (I liked it – deal with it); The Return Of Godzilla (Japanese) (sort of a reboot of the series, and much darker than the Godzilla good guy romps of the 70s); Revenge Of The Nerds (I think seeing this in the cinema helped me enjoy it); Romancing The Stone (this was just fun from the word go); Starman (incredibly under-rated sci-fi film with a feel-good attitude that was out of step with the adult movies of the time).

So, to the list proper!


Purple Rain

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this film, as I was not a huge fan of Prince's work (I maybe liked 2 or 3 songs), but I did like the soundtrack album, which I heard before seeing the film. I am glad I went. While the plot is a cliché-filled one, the acting by Prince and his band surprised me – it was actually quite good. And the music on the big screen, as part of the story, was incredible. This changed my mind about Prince (I now own a reasonable number of his albums) and I do enjoy this film still.
My favourite song from the film



Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes

I have been a fan of Tarzan since my grandmother introduced me to Edgar Rice Burroughs' books when I was ten or so. I saw some Johnny Weissmuller movies, some Ron Ely ones, some TV stuff and it did not match the books. Then I saw this film. The make-up to create the apes (ah, the days before CGI; there is something more concrete about a man in make-up), the story and Lambert's incredible portrayal (especially when his ape father is shot) make this, to my mind, still the best Tarzan film.


Bloodbath At The House Of Death

I was (am?) a fan of Kenny Everett, thought Pamela Stephenson was really hot and still think Vincent Price is one of the best horror actors ever, so, of course, I went to see this film! Critics hated it, my friends hated… I love it. A parody of so many horror films and tropes, I think it works really well, made even more awesome by Vincent Price basically sending himself up. I think it's great, a bit of forgotten British humour.


Amadeus

This biopic of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart won the Oscar® for best picture, and I won't argue with that decision. Not the normal sort of film I enjoy, I actually like Mozart's work, and liked Tom Hulce in Animal House, so I let myself be dragged along by some guys from school. I found myself really getting into it. Hulce puts in a manic performance and the music is Mozart so it's wonderful. How historically accurate it is, I'm not sure, but it portrayed Mozart sympathetically and made him seem more human than just a dead guy who wrote some good tunes.


Top Secret!

Who can't like a film set in the 1980's Cold War with a 1960s singer helping the World War Two French Resistance? The plot is complex, the songs are awesome ('Skeet Surfin'' is funny as anything, very 'Weird Al' Yankovic like), and the gags come so fast. We went to see it twice because we laughed so hard we missed jokes; then, it took me six months to find the soundtrack album (had to order it in from the USA!). From the amazing Abrahams/Zucker/Zucker trio, and with Val Kilmer doing an amazing comedy turn, this was just fantastic. From the gun-fight to the bar-room brawl at the bottom of the pond to the cow, it is just incredible. I still laugh at it.


A Nightmare On Elm Street

The first of a seemingly never-ending franchise, and still by far the best. Genuinely scary and creepy, the concept unique and original (the bad guy gets you in your dreams!), and Johnny Depp being killed makes this film a must-see for lovers of horror. It scares, doesn't just throw gore at you. Yes, all the tropes of scary movies are there, and you can see where the slasher films get some of their ideas from, but they are done so well, and when you don't know if it's real or a dream, that just amps up the audience's fear factor. Very good horror film.


Beverly Hills Cop

Eddie Murphy when he was still funny. This film is a great mix of action and comedy, with a pumping soundtrack, great performances all round, and a cop-based story about illegal importation that actually makes sense. Some of the set-ups are still hilarious ("banana in the tailpipe…") and the final showdown scene is as good as any action film of the era. What happened to this Eddie Murphy?


The Terminator

As I mentioned when I talked about film sequels, I consider this film as good as its sequel and better than the other sequels. This, to me, is a horror film built on a sci-fi basis, with a time travel plot that borders on breaking the whole "grandfather paradox" and does not care, because, in the film's universe and logic, it makes sense. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the robot so brilliantly while Linda Hamilton plays a woman thrown into the deep end of something she cannot understand with what would seem to me to be perfect responses. I still enjoy watching this film.


This Is Spinal Tap

One of the funniest films ever that has given the world so much ("…it goes to eleven…"; Stonehenge; "I call it 'Lick My Love Pump`…", just to name three). The songs are funny, taking the clichés and turning them into greatness. And a song like 'Big Bottom' being played with everyone playing a bass guitar is just a little thing most film-makers would not bother with. The parodying of so many heavy metal and hard rock bands (including the 'Jazz Odyssey' scene) makes people who have an obsession with music see more and more in-jokes every time they (we) watch it. And the guys in the band have gone on to keep on releasing music as Spinal Tap, as well as making other films together. This film ticks all the boxes. Just brilliant.


Footloose

Okay, it's not a classic. It's not an award-winner. It doesn't have an original story and some of the characters are two-dimensional. But, you know what? I don't care. This is my favourite film of 1984. I love the soundtrack ('Footloose', 'Holding Out For A Hero', 'Never', 'Almost Paradise'… such brilliant songs!) and I had the hugest crush on Lori Singer. But the film is about something – being yourself and standing up for what you think is right, the outsider trying to fit in, finding acceptance. Kids fighting for what they want in an adult way; the limited violence in the movie is between the kids, not the adults. Kevin Bacon became a sort of a hero of mine after this film. I saw this at the cinema with members of my sporting club, then again with friends from high school. I own it on VHS and DVD. I own the soundtrack on cassette and CD. This is my favourite film of the year, and is in my top ten favourite films of all time.
The title track


footloose, 1984, movie, fim, kevin bacon, lori singer



And there you have it, my favourite films of 1984. What have I missed? What did I get wrong? What other years would you like me to look at? Comments, etc. always welcome.

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