A not-quite-as-but-still impressive 39 Movies I’ve Seen in 1986. Though the quality at the top is significantly better than ’85, this year has some of my least favorite movies of all-time.
36. Iron Eagle
35. Police Academy 3: Back In Training
31. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
30. Flight Of The Navigator
29. The Great Mouse Detective
28. Blue Velvet
27. She’s Gotta Have It
26. The Transformers: The Movie
25. Crocodile Dundee
24. Short Circuit
23. Sid And Nancy
22. The River’s Edge
21. Gung Ho
20. Down And Out In Beverly Hills
19. The Golden Child
17. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
16. A Better Tomorrow
15. The Karate Kid Part II – Not as good as the original, obviously, but still pretty good as 1980s sequels go. The female lead is Tamlyn Tomita, who’s had a pretty spotty career since. She was in The Joy Luck Club, Touch, The Day After Tomorrow and Four Rooms.
14. The Fly – One of the few David Cronenberg films I’ve seen, and one that I like, though I think it’s better in theory than in actuality. It just isn’t a lot of fun watching Jeff Goldblum puke on his food before eating it. At least, not my idea of fun. These things are subjectictve. I really don’t like Geena Davis.
13. Pretty In Pink – I can’t believe she chose Blaine over Ducky. It’s all about the money with Molly. Great soundtrack though. Maybe the best of the 80s, in fact.
12. Three Amigos – Chevy Chase’s last great movie, and he needed Steve Martin and Martin Short to carry him through it. In small parts you will find Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, Joe Mantegna, Randy Newman (who also co-wrote with John Landis and Lorne Michaels). This might be the last really good SNL movie until Wayne’s World. “Mail plane” Heh heh.
11.Stand By Me – I think it’s overrated, but then, I never saw it as a kid. It does have a great cast, and it’s better than most Stephen King movies, but I can’t say it’s as meaningful to me as it apparently is to so many others. It’s good though.
10. Down By Law – Much like Stranger Than Paradise, Jarmusch’s next movie adds a very little more plot, and Tom Waits and Roberto Benigni to John Lurie this time. Slow moving, but very funny and featuring some very pretty swamps. If you like Jarmusch, this is a must see. If you haven’t seen any Jarmusch, this is as good a place to start as any, but patience is important and will be rewarded.
9. The Color Of Money – Tom Cruise doesn’t bother me, but I’m still not a big fan of this movie. It pales in comparison to The Hustler, for one thing. And the end drives me nuts. I don’t know what should happen instead, but I know that the film should not be over when it is. It’s like the whole movie is build-up, but never delivers. It was about time for Newman to win an Oscar, though, and I won’t begrudge him it.
8. Hoosiers – One of the great sports movies of all-time, and probably the best movie about basketball. I’ll agree with The Sports Guy that the pseudo-romance between Hackman and Barbara Hershey is totally out of place and doesn’t work at all. Nice performance by Dennis Hopper, much better than the scenery chewing in the ghastly Blue Velvet, also from this year. Director David Anspaugh went on to make Rudy and not much else.
7. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – My pick for the Best John Hughes movie, and there isn’t a greedy redhead in sight. Give me Mia Sara’s inexplicable accent over Molly Ringwald’s money-grubbing social climbers any day. Iconic performance by Matthew Broderick, classic supporting performances from Ben Stein, Edie McClurg, Jeffery Jones, Charlie Sheen, Alan Ruck and Jennifer Grey. The only problem with it is the totally unrealistic absence total Ferris has accumulated. 9 times? Please. That’s less than nothing.
6. The Name Of The Rose – Not surprisingly, the book is much better. Sean Connery is great as the sleuthing monk fighting the hordes of ignorance and superstition as he tries to solve a series of murders at a Dark Age abbey. Christian Slater, though, is not very good at all. F. Murray Abraham and Ron Perlman are decent in supporting roles, but neither gets much time to develop a character or anything. Director Jean Jacques Annaud went on to make The Bear, Enemy At The Gates and Seven Years In Tibet. Not an especially interesting career. The book’s great though. It’s Eco’s first novel, and his books tend to get worse as he goes along, so this one is highly recommended. The next one, Foucault’s Pendulum, is also great.
5. Top Gun – One of the better high-concept action movies of all-time. Chock full of great air combat scenes and blatant homoeroticism. Quentin Tarantino’s speech about this movie in the film Sleep With Me is one of the classic bits of film criticism. I have to say I’m more a fan of Tony Scott than his brother Ridley. I appreciate the fact that Tony seems to know what he’s good at and sticks to making the best action movies he can. Whereas Ridley tends to annoy me with his pretensions at profundity (Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator). Anyway, Top Gun’s got a great cast (Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Val Kilmer), a great soundtrack, is great looking, full of memorable lines and wall-to-wall inanity for a plot. You’ve gotta love it.
4. Aliens – It’s an odd year indeed when Top Gun isn’t even the best action film of the year, but that’s the case this year when the competition is perhaps the single greatest action movie of all-time. I definitely recommend sticking with the theatrical release, because much like with Apocalypse Now, while the extra footage is definitely interesting, it slows the pacing down way too much. Pace what Aliens is all about as the action never stops. It’s like the last 45 minutes of Hard-Boiled, only less balletic, but stretched over 2 hours. There’s supposedly a theme about Ripley and trying to be both a mother and an action hero (working mom) at the same time, but don’t believe it. Bill Paxton delivers another classic performance as Hudson (Game over, man! Game over!) and Michael Biehn is solid as he always is in James Cameron movies. Lance Henrikson and Paul Reiser also star. James Cameron’s best movie.
3. Platoon – Oliver Stone’s best movie. And the best movie about Vietnam, depending on whether or not you think Apocalypse Now is really about that war or something else entirely. Tom Berenger and Willem Defoe are outstanding as the veteran soldiers who fight out out over Charlie Sheen’s soul amidst the chaos of war and a My Lei-style incident. The outstanding cast includes Kevin Dillon, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Depp, John C. McGinley, and Dale Dye. A great looking movie, and perhaps the last time Stone made a film with any kind of subtlety. The soundtrack is great too.
2. Hannah And Her Sisters – Woody Allen narrowly loses his third Movie Of The Year award, and instead comes in second for the second straight year. The closest Allen ever came to making an epic, this follows the lives of three sisters, or rather, it follows the obsessions Allen and Michael Caine have with said sisters. All of the actors are terrific (except maybe Barbara Hershey), as you’d expect in a Woody Allen movie. My favorite part is Allen describing how his year-long existential crisis got solved. After Manhattan, this is his best serious comedy. Features Carrie Fischer, Max Von Sydow, Daniel Stern, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Joanna Gleason, Julie Kavner, Sam Waterston, Lewis Black, J.T. Walsh, John Turturro, and, uh, Soon-Yi Previn.
1. The Mission – A brilliant film about all the good and bad things that religion can do to people. First it saves Robert DeNiro, a murderer and slave-trader and turns him into a terrific guy. Then it helps the Amazon natives learn to sing Ave Maria and build houses and farms and civilization. Then it becomes greedy, tries to enslave all the natives and kill all the priests who disagree with it. Sounds about right. DeNiro and Jeremy Irons are the best parts of an outstanding cast featuring Liam Neeson, Aidan Quinn and Ray McAnally as the representative of the Pope who has to decide between saving the Indians and saving the Jesuits. The outstanding score is by Ennio Morricone, the screenplay by Robert Bolt and the absolutely beautiful cinematography by Chris Menges, who did The Killing Fields, Michael Collins, Dirty Pretty Things and the upcoming North Country. Director Roland Joffé never came close to anything this good again.
Not a lot of essentials in The Unseen this year, though there are a couple big ones:
Big Trouble In Little China
Little Shop Of Horrors
Howard The Duck
The Money Pit
Jean de Florette
The Mosquito Coast
9 1/2 Weeks
Peggy Sue Got Married
An American Tail
Back To School
Manon Of The Spring
Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer
Children Of A Lesser God
One Crazy Summer