1984 in Movies

Movie reviews written about movies released theatrically in 1984, the year I turned 3.

1. This is Spinal Tap, directed by Rob Reiner (10/10)

“You’re sweet/but you’re just four feet/and you still got your baby teeth.”

If you watch Anvil! you will know just how true-to-life this actually is.

2. The Killing Fields, directed by (10/10)

Seen as a teen, but I guess it’s the impotent Western journalist movie.

3. Once Upon a Time in America, directed by Sergio Leone (10*/10)

Seen during the height of my Leone obsession. I must note that I also managed to find the full version, not the edited theatrical cut. But I haven’t seen it in years and I’m not sure if it really is as great as I wanted it to be at the time.

4. Repo Man, directed by Alex Cox (10*/10)

I had just discovered Godard when I saw this movie. I thought, I think reasonably, ‘How is this really that different from Godard? Just made a decade and a half too late, and in English.’

I have never watched it again, in part because I know people who think it is a terrible movie, and I am worried that I will be embarrassed at how much I liked it the first time, when I realize it is bad.

5. Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme (9/10)

I was fortunate enough to watch this on the big screen, which certainly makes you feel a little more like you are there.

This is a straight up concert movie, and there’s nothing else to it, but as such it is fantastic.

Though I would have preferred to see the version of the band with Belew on guitar, this is still a real treat, as I was 4 when this was made and had no idea who Talking Heads were (or what rock music was, probably).

So this is a little like being there, and it’s exciting. Their show was pretty amazing, and it’s a great concept that features lots of changes from the album versions.

But you can certainly see why the rest of the group got sick of Byrne

Anyway, a great experience for the fan.

6. Blood Simple, directed by Joel Coen (9*/10)

Seen during the height of my Coen Brothers phase.

7. Ghostbusters, directed by Ivan Reitman (8/10)

Produced probably my favourite bad guy of all-time: the form of the destroyer known as the StayPuft Marshmallow Man.

Still one of my favourite movies from the ’80s.

8. The Company of Wolves, directed by Neil Jordan (8/10)

I have unfortunately lost my review for this inventive version of “Little Red Riding Hood”.

9. Gremlins, directed by Joe Dante (8/10)

One of my favourite movies of the ’80s.

10. Paris, Texas, directed by Wim Wenders (8/10)

I have lost my review for this fascinating if enigmatic film.

11. Amadeus, directed by Milos Forman (8*/10)

I haven’t seen this in a long time.

12. Beverly Hills Cop, directed by Martin Brest (8*/10)

I cannot be objective about this film, having seen it way too many times.

13. The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension, directed by W.D. Richter (8/10)

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension was pretty awesome. Not quite as awesome as it sounds but definitely fun. Lots of fairly famous people in it too: Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Loyd, Dan Hedaya and a guy I’ve seen in a ton of movies but don’t know his name (he’s played a bad guy in a couple of ’80s movies).

Anyway, it’s fun and zany. You should check it out if you like comics or Repo Man.

14. La guerre des tuques aka The Dog that Stopped the War, directed by Andre Melacon (8*/10)

One of my favourite children’s movies when I was young. It is on Netflix but I am not sure if I can bring myself to watch it to see if it holds up because I’m sure it won’t.

15. Threads, directed by Mick Jackson (8/10)

As TV movies go this is pretty good (and no doubt a crazy thing to see on TV back then). Definitely better than The Day After.

But this still strikes me as a bit of a The War Game remake (which would have been even crazier to see on TV, had it been allowed).

16. The Times of Harvey Milk, directed by Rob Epstein (7/10)

So unfortunately the filmmakers made a strange – but perhaps understandable – decision when telling Milk’s story: they assumed they were speaking to a very particular audience. This assumption led to another: that therefore everybody knows everything they need to know about the backstory already. Since I was born in 1981, and since I am not from San Francisco, I don’t know certain things about a) Harvey Milk and b) San Francisco history and politics. In fact, I might watch a documentary like this one to learn those things I don’t yet know. However, because of the assumption that their audience was American (Californian more likely), probably gay or at least interested in gay rights, and very attuned to what was happening in the 1970s, the first third of the film is a wash: we learn very little about Milk, and very little about San Francisco politics, and it’s fairly disastrous. I think it is totally reasonable for me to demand that filmmakers make their movies transcendent. Documentaries, after all, are supposed to be educational.

Read the rest of the review.

17. Stranger than Paradise, directed by Jim Jarmusch (7/10)

For me, this is probably the hardest Jarmusch movie to get into, mainly because it seems like there is some kind of inside joke we are missing, at least for a while.

But it is sporadically funny despite this, and though it is hard to really care about these people, I do think we eventually grow to be concerned with their relationship.

For me, it’s the ending that redeems the monotony of the vast majority of the movie. Without it, I probably wouldn’t have liked this.

18. The Terminator, directed by James Cameron (7/10)

Inventive, anyway.

19. The Never-Ending Story, directed by Wolfgand Petersen (7*/10)

Seen multiple times as a tween.

20. Top Secret!, directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker (7*/10)

This is a gloriously stupid movie which I have seen way too many times to be objective about.

21. A Nightmare on Elm Street, directed by Wes Craven (6/10)

Maybe I’m being unfair but I like my villains, even my supernatural villains, to be in the corporeal world; my nightmares are probably more violent than this movie but they don’t scare me.

22. Silent Night, Deadly Night, directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr. (6/10)

I have lost my review for this film, which was far better than expected (and way better than its sequel).

23. 1984, directed by Michael Radford (6*/10)

Seen as a teen, before I had read the novel.

24. Revenge of the Nerds, directed by Jeff Kanew (6*/10)

I have no justification for this rating of a movie I saw multiple times as a child and tween.

25. Against All Odds, directed by Taylor Hackford (5/10)

First off, I should say I didn’t realize this was a remake of Out of the Past, though I really feel like I should have figured it out after the plot really started resembling it. Anyway…

Though I have no idea why Woods’ character recruits Bridges’ character, beyond that things get off to a good start: we understand why a washed up football star would take such a seemingly easy job.

But once in Mexico, things start to go a little awry. The motivations of some of the other characters get harder and harder to decipher, and it really feels like some scenes have been cut that should have been included. And as things elevate, some of the acting gets a little hysterical.

I feel like this film could have been significantly better, had it been less tied to the idea of making an ’80s football version of Out of the Past. A missed opportunity.

26. Romancing the Stone, directed by Robert Zemeckis (5/10)

I swear I had seen this movie before, but I’m not sure if it really was its sequel, or I’m just getting completely confused and thought it was King Solomon’s Mines. In any case, this is not the movie I thought it was.

It is a very silly entry in what was part of the “adventure” genre revival after Raiders of the Lost Ark – probably the best Hollywood ‘adventure’ movie ever. I wanted to watch this and laugh at how bad this was – that was what fault memory told me – but it was actually intentionally funny, which was refreshing.

The whole thing is still rather stupid, and very, very traditional in terms of re-imagining, and Mexico is a poor substitute for Colombia. (I would know, I’ve been to both countries.) But it’s entertaining enough that you can’t really hate it, for all it’s “Weren’t the Old Moves just the Best Movies?” nostalgia.

27. Star Trek III: the Search for Spok, directed by Leonard Nimoy (5*/10)

I have actually only ever seen this all the way through once, and I was fairly young.

28. Little Drummer Girl, directed by George Roy Hill (5*/10)

Seen during high school History, when I didn’t really like Keaton as an actress.

29. Dune, directed by David Lynch (5*/10)

I saw this at the height of my Lynch phase, and I think I was likely charitable. I have never read the source material.

30. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, directed by Steven Spielberg (5/10*)

Though fascinating as the darkest thing Lucas-Spielberg ever made, I still think this is a bunch of disjointed set pieces. I have seen it too many times to be objective.

31. The Last Starfighter, directed by Nick Castle (5/10)

A movie I would have loved had I seen as a kid.

32. Johnny Dangerously, directed by Amy Heckerling (5*/10)

Seen as a tween or young teen.

33. Red Dawn, directed by John Milius (3/10)

I’m sure the remake of this is even better. Just a classic “amateur American teens are clearly more capable than professionals from any other country, especially a communist country” nonsense.

34. City Heat, directed by Richard Benjamin (3*/10)

This rating is impossible to defend. I seem to remember enjoying it as a tween. But then, somewhere along the way, I read that it was supposed to be a disaster and I seem to have changed my rating without re-watching. I apologize.

35. Police Academy, directed by Hugh Wilson (3*/10)

This is one of the few Police Academy films that I have only seen once or twice, as a tween or teen.

36. Friday the 13th: the Final Chapter, directed by Joseph Zito (3/10)

When you are making the 5th installment you should not decide to put “final” in the title. Nothing is final.

37. Ghoulies, directed by Luca Bercovici (3/10)

The cover of this movie terrified me as a child and the movie isn’t even about the ghoulies! Read the view of Ghoulies.

38. Hot Dog: the Movie, directed by Peter Markle (2*/10)

Seen too many times to be objective about it, but I know it’s terrible.

39. The No-Tell Hotel aka the Rosebud Beach Hotel, directed by Harry Hurwitz (1/10)

Definitely one of the least funny “comedies” ever made.


“Ballad of the Little Soldier,” directed by Werner Herzog, Denis Reichle (6/10)

This is a film made by Herzog and a photographer about soldiers, child soldiers and the consequences of war in Nicaragua and Honduras. It’s brief (made for TV) and is basically just reportage. It has no obvious structure and it really just feels like a film made to try to let people know what was happening at the time. It’s pretty un-Herzogian in that sense.

It’s certainly interesting – I knew nothing about this – but it’s hardly an essential piece of his oeuvre.