1985 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1985, the year I turned 4.

1. Shoah, directed by Claude Lanzmann (10/10)

This is an incredible historical document. Nearly ten hours of interviews with both the victims and the accomplices of the most famous democide in history.

It is extremely long, very hard to watch at times, heart breaking at times, and also infuriating. But it does more than perhaps any other work (and certainly any other film) to explain – as much as this is possible – how the holocaust happened.

It destroys all denials – not that they needed destroying, as they are nonsense – but more importantly it helps explain that this is something that can happen at any time and any place, which is perhaps the most important part.

Possibly the greatest documentary ever made. Certainly among the very, very best.

2. Brazil, directed by Terry Gilliam (10/10)

Gilliam’s best movie deserves more than I can give it right now. An inventive and powerful movie.

2. Ran, directed by Akira Kurosawa (10/10)

Definitely one of the great Shakespeare adaptations. Hopefully one day I will write an essay on it.

4. Mishima: a Life in Four Chapters, directed by Paul Schrader (9/10)

This is an almost amazing and generally visually astounding sort-of-biopic.

At first it appears that Glass’ score is far too loud and far too insistent but soon it feels as though it is compelling the viewer towards the end, much like Mishima feels compelled to commit his act. It is quite a neat trick to have the black and white flashbacks and then the over-saturated colour of the plays.

The whole thing is very impressive but the tone isn’t quite all there and a few of the shots don’t really fit. It does work as a biography though, making Mishima’s act quite understandable even for a Canadian like myself. Probably Schrader’s best movie.

5. Witness, directed by Peter Weir (9/10*)

Seen as a teen. I can guarantee you I would not rate it so high now.

6. Return of the Living Dead, directed by Dan O’Bannon (8/10)

One of the best horror comedies made up until this point in time.

7. Prizzi’s Honor, directed by John Huston (8/10)

At first I didn’t quite know what to make of this. Nicholson’s performance is fantastic, but I couldn’t get the vibe. But it grew and grew on me. I’m not normally in to these Mr. and Mrs. Smith-type movies but this one works because the world they create is so believable (as mob movies go for believability). Turner is wonderful as usual, in addition to Nicholson’s awesome performance. And it’s funny, though it’s a little more subtle than the description suggests.

8. Back to the Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis (8/10*)

Iconic. I haven’t seen it in years but I saw it multiple times in my childhood.

9. Kiss of the Spider Woman, directed by Hector Babenco (7/10)

I have lost my review of this movie.

10. Lost in America, directed by Albert Brooks (7/10)

This is a funny movie but it lacks what makes great comedies great: either non-stop laughs and / or penetrating insight. The joke of yuppies playing Easy Rider holds up for the whole movie but that’s pretty much all it is. If that isn’t funny, I guess the movie isn’t. I liked the ending, it was abrupt and made sense. Um, anyway it’s entertaining but that’s about it.

11. The Falcon and the Snowman, directed by John Schlesinger (7/10)

Seen as a teen or early-twenty-something, before I had started recording my thoughts.

12. The Purple Rose of Cairo, directed by Woody Allen (7/10)

I have lost my review of this. But like so many of Allen’s ’80s comedies (as opposed to his ’80s dramedies), it’s slight but entertaining and engaging.

13. Re-Animator, directed by Stuart Gordon (7/10)

This is a pretty entertaining horror comedy that could be a little funnier but is on the whole quite effective; there are moments that are pretty gross, if not scary, in addition to the laughs.

Personally, I think this subject matter has been handled a little better both earlier (Return of the Living Dead) and later (Dead Alive) but this is still pretty solid.

The important thing is that it is entertaining.

14. Fright Night, directed by Tom Holland (7/10)

This is an entertaining take on the vampire flick that manages to occasionally startle you as well as make you laugh. There are a few pretty blatant continuity errors (one gigantic one near the end) that weaken the appeal. Otherwise, it’s a lot of fun and refreshing since, though it’s a little formulaic in parts, certain aspects of it are fairly inventive. The special effects are pretty decent, too.

15. Better Off Dead, directed by Savage Steve Holland (7/10)

This is an odd one, partly because the director was given free reign, or so it seems. Idiosyncratic.

16. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, directed by Tim Burton (7/10*)

Seen as a child.

17. A Chorus Line, directed by Richard Attenborough (6/10)

Interesting, even if it is inferior to the show. Read the review of A Chorus Line.

18. Out of Africa, directed by Sydney Pollack (6/10*)

Seen as a teen, but perhaps accurate as I don’t really enjoy Pollack’s films all that much.

19. European Vacation, directed by Amy Heckerling (6/10*)

Seen multiple times as a tween and teen.

20. To Live and Die in L.A., directed by William Friedkin (5/10)

There is a great movie in here somewhere. Well, this could have been a truly classic cop film. There are a number of major issues.

  • The soundtrack is generally atrocious.
  • There are some really bad scenes where the dialogue is C-grade.
  • There are some massive cop movie cliches: of course an LA cop has a beach house, which one doesn’t?

But there is a great car chase in the middle of this junk and the ending is mostly amazing.

I wish this was better.

21. Lifeforce, directed by Tobe Hooper (5/10)

I have lost my review for this, but I think it is overrated and it has dated poorly.

22. Silverado, directed by Lawrence Kasdan (5/10*)

I have seen this a ton of times, so I can’t judge it directly. But Kasdan was remaking the classic western here, so thereis a lot missing.

23. Warning Signs, directed by Hal Barwood (5/10)

Based on the premise – which had been done before – and the bad ’80s horror movie soundtrack, I was a little worried about this one. And there are some glaring plot holes to go along with the obvious low budget: there is a distinct lack of sets, for example, as most major events appear to take place within a few rooms.

But the cast is rather fantastic for something like this and they mostly do a good job with what is often a clunky script; though, in the script’s defense, sometimes it veers from tradition in nice and unexpected ways, like with the Major’s behaviour at the end. It’s this rather high quality cast which keep this movie from being like so many other ’80s sci-fi films (i.e. bad).

24. Year of the Dragon, directed by Michael Cimono (5/10)

This is a bit of a mess, but certainly better than it should be.

25. Clue, directed by Jonathan Lynn (5/10*)

I have seen this very stupid movie at least 10 times.

26. Ladyhawke, directed by Richard Donner (5/10*)

I have always had some kind of strange fondness for this movie. Seen multiple times as a tween and teen.

27. Commando, directed by Mark L. Lester (5/10*)

Seen multiple times. I think I overrate.

28. Day of the Living Dead, directed by George Romero (4/10)

It sort of amazes me that he wasn’t able to get a budget yet. This is the weakest so far in part because he doesn’t have the money and the actors.

29. Pale Rider, directed by Clint Eastwood (4/10*)

Seen multiple times as a teen, but I believe this is a pretty stale western.

30. Transylvania 6-5000, directed by Rudy de Luca (4/10)

Here we have a film inspired by the old popular song “Pennsylvania 6-5000” – supposedly the oldest continuously operating phone number in NYC, according to Wikipedia – a top 5 hit for Glenn Miller in 1940. The song inspired a 1963 Bugs Bunny cartoon and somehow that Warner Brothers cartoon became this movie. The title is a clue but unfortunately none of us remember 1940 – and few of us remember 1963 – and so how are we to know?

The film is seemingly an attempt to remake an Abbott and Costello horror comedy, only in the 1980s… with Jeff Goldblum and Ed Begley. It’s sporadically funny; there are a couple of great lines and a couple of great moments.

But on the whole one is left with the feeling that this was created by people who really wish we still lived in the 1940s. We are stuck with old comedy routines, old jokes, and no edge whatsoever.

Basically, this is a film made for old people and die-hard ’40s comedy fans. And yet I somehow doubt anyone old enough to appreciate it would ever actually watch it.

31. Phenomena, directed by Dario Argento (4/10)

I have lost my review of this, which starts out creepy and gets really fucking ridiculous the longer it goes on. Italians are way too obsessed with showing the supernatural.

32. Revolution, directed by Hugh Hudson (4/10)

Hardly the outright disaster many claim; still not very good.

33. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, directed by George Miller, George Ogilive (4/10*)

Seen multiple times as a teen.

34. King Solomon’s Mines, directed by J. Lee Thompson (3/10)

This is one of those wannabe Raiders of the Lost Ark films, even though it is based on a novel from about 100 years earlier. But unlike some of the other ’80s adventure revivals, this is practically a copy of the Indiana Jones series, albeit with more (attempts at) humour.

One could interpret it as a parody, but parodies are usually more clever than this. This film appears just to attempt to ape most things about Raiders (including the score, which is horribly derivative) without actually making fun of the movie in any obvious way. It’s more goofy Indiana Jones rather than satirical Indiana Jones.

This film isn’t remotely similar to the source material and I think that’s because they just didn’t care – they used the source material as a jumping off point for making a sillier copy of the most successful adventure movie in decades.

But aside from the jokes falling flat, there are just so many absurdities to this movie, not the least of which is the town in the opening act appears to be set in Egypt, the Middle East, Sudan, Tanzania and Namibia all at the same time. If that was intentional and part of the joke, the filmmakers never let the audience in on it.

The same goes for the Germans, who are apparently fighting WWI – though the novel was written 30 years prior to WWI – but who also make mention of the Reich, which at least gives a vague impression that they might be fighting WWII. (I know both were called reichs.) Again, if this is some kind of joke about these types of movies, the audience is never let in on it.

Also, this may be the worst performance of Sharon Stone’s career (though I haven’t seen the sequel). I’m glad she moved on to Total Recall and stuff like that, where she was actually allowed to act.

35. The Jewel of the Nile, directed by Lewis Teague (3/10)

Not Romancing the Stone. Read the review.

36. A View to a Kill, directed by John Glen (3/10)

The nadir of Roger Moore as James Bond.

37. Rambo: First Blood Part II, directed by George P. Cosmatos (3/10)

Pretty much nothing to do with the original.

38. Moving Violations, directed by Neal Israel (3/10)

I don’t know where this is supposed to be set, but I saw a New Jersey plate. I also saw a desert airport scene and palm trees… oops.

The jokes almost all fall flat. Maybe it’s the script, maybe it’s the actors.

There are some surprises: Fred Willard, and…was that really Don Cheadle?

Mostly this movie is incredibly boring. I’m sure an R rating would have helped somewhat, but having Proft as a scriptwriter pretty much guarantees the outcome.

39. Wizards of the Lost Kingdom, directed by H├ęctor Olivera, Alan Holleb (3/10)

A great terrible ’80s fantasy film. Read the review of Wizards of the Lost Kingdom.

40. Rocky IV, directed by Sylvester Stallone (2*/10)

This got made?

41. Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, directed by Jerry Paris (2*/10)

This one I have seen many times. I always sort of thought it was the first and had trouble conceiving of an earlier film until I finally saw the original.

42. Nine Deaths of the Ninja, directed by Emmett Alston (1/10)

So bad I only remember making jokes while watching it, not actually watching it.


“The Dark Glow of the Mountains,” directed by Werner Herzog (7/10)

This documentary Herzog made for TV focuses almost entirely on the preparation for a never before attempted double ascent of two of the highest mountains in world. In typical fashion, Herzog is more interested in the climbers than he is in the climb itself. One of the climbers in particular is articulate and philosophical about what he does to an extent that is refreshing and informative.

And though this is hardly one of Herzog’s essential documentaries, it is yet another of his penetrating insights into human beings who attempt to push the limits of what is possible.

1 Comment

  1. 5. Back to the Future: 8, iconic
    12. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure: 7, liked it when I was a kid
    -weird and I loved it when I was a kid – no idea if I would now
    16. Clue: 5, so stupid…
    21. The Breakfast Club: 4, one of the most overrated movies ever…ever
    -too corny it's funny

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