1986 in Movies

Movie reviews I’ve written for movies released theatrically in 1986, when I turned 5.

1. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, directed by John McNaughton (10/10)

This is the greatest serial killer movie ever made. Probably. Every other serial killer film – at least to this point – doesn’t focus on the why well enough: it is explained by bad pop psychology or the supernatural. This film shows us a true, calculating sociopath, like we’ve never seen before. That’s what’s so scary: this guy is unpredictable in a way in which few if any movie serial killers ever are. One of the greatest horror movies of all time.

2. Blue Velvet, directed by David Lynch (10/10*)

Seen as a teen. What inspired my interest in Lynch. I may need to see it again.

2. Platoon, directed by Oliver Stone (10/10)

I have seen this more than once. I think it is probably the least of the great ’80s Vietnam War movies but I still think it is rather remarkable thing, even if it is over-scored. Sure, the dualism of the sergeants is a little obvious, but I think the film is still a noble effort at conveying something more than the average noble grunt film.

4. The Mosquito Coast, directed by Peter Weir (10/10*)

I saw this movie when I was quite young and loved it. I liked the book less and so I think that maybe I should re-watch it to see if it’s as good as I thought it was.

5. The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg (9/10*)

Seen as a teen. I should watch it again now that I’ve seen the original.

6. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, directed by John Hughes (9*/10)

I cannot be objective about this, the one John Hughes film I enjoy, and which I have seen probably 15 times.

7. Salvador, directed by Oliver Stone (9*/10)

Seen as a teen, and I might have even been going through a slight Stone phase.

8. Hannah and Her Sisters, directed by Woody Allen (8/10)

Unfortunately I believe I saw this just before I started recording my thoughts regularly. I apologize.

9. April Fool’s Day, directed by Fred Walton (8/10)

This is my favourite slasher of the ’80s, in part because it has a sense of humour. I know I wrote something eloquent about it when I first watched it, but I cannot find it. A must see though, if you like your horror movies.

10. Stand By Me, directed by Rob Reiner (8/10)

This is a classic. I think it deserves something better than I can give it right now.

11. Matador, directed by Pedro Almodovar (8/10)

This is a fairly disturbing “thriller” that manages to stay interesting through the bizarre love-story angle and the somewhat-foreshadowed left-turn in the third act. It’s certainly the most entertaining of his movies I’ve yet seen. Now that I think about it, the sense of humour is really the best part. Definitely not for the prudish.

12. Down by Law, directed by Jim Jarmusch (8/10)

I swear I wrote something reasonably intelligent about this film when I first saw it but I can’t find it. Certainly it is full of Jarmusch’s hallmarks, so if you don’t like him, you won’t like this.

13. River’s Edge, directed by Tim Hunter (8/10)

This is one of the better “kids these days” movies. Since this is told from the kids’ perspective, I guess it doesn’t really fit that mold.

The whole thing is pulled off really well. The kids are all believable (even Keanu) and their detachment makes sense. Something about the plotting keeps it from being truly great, as one scene isn’t adequately explained and the climax could have been a little better. But on the whole, this is a very good movie.

14. Little Shop of Horrors, directed by Frank Oz (8*/10)

I haven’t seen this in years but I used to love it.

15. Big Trouble in Little China, directed by John Carpenter (8*/10)

I cannot be objective about this film which is pretty silly…okay extraordinarily silly.

16. At Close Range, directed by James Foley (7/10)

I am not sure I actually wrote a review of this one. If I did, I lost it.

17. The Name of the Rose, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud (7/10)

At some point I wrote: “Seen in high school history class. First I will read the novel, then I will re-watch the movie.”

Ended up re-watching the movie first.

There are a number of problems with the film, such as:

  • What language are they speaking? (My guess is French.)
  • The climax is more than a little over the top, both with how William escapes and with what happens to Bernardo
  • Strands are unresolved.

But, given these flaws, it’s still mostly a very enjoyable medieval homage to Sherlock Holmes set in one of the best locations any film has possibly ever been set in. (The setting is so atmospheric it’s almost ridiculous. It turns out, the magic of cinema seamlessly unites multiple locations but still: it’s wonderful to look at.) Also, I like the score.

Still going to read the book at some point.

18. Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home, directed by Leonard Nimoy (7*/10)

I have always felt this was more than a little overrated but I haven’t seen it in years.

19. Ruthless People, directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker (7/10)

I remember being absolutely surprised that this film was as funny as it was, as I saw it after I had grown out of ZAZ’s sense of humour.

20. Manhunter, directed by Michael Mann (6/10)

When I was a little too fond of The Silence of the Lambs some critics told me I should really see this instead, as this was the real Hannibal. But Mann’s style doesn’t fit the material, in my mind.

21. Aliens, directed by James Cameron (6/10)

The virtue, as well as the curse, is that it’s markedly different from the original. At least it gave us Starcraft. Shouldn’t there be a copyright case about that?

22. The Big Easy, directed by Jim McBride (6/10*)

I haven’t seen it in years.

23. The Money Pit, directed by Richard Benjamin (6*/10)

I have seen this too many times, and at too young an age, that I cannot judge it objectively.

24. Labyrinth, directed by Jim Henson (6*/10)

I haven’t seen this in a long time.

25. Flight of the Navigator, directed by Randal Kleiser (6*/10)

Seen many times as a child and tween.

26. The Mission, directed by Roland Joffe (5/10)

The film presents a ridiculously rosy picture of Jesuit activity in South America , which is extremely problematic and, I think it’s safe to say, untrue.

Unfortunately this film gives us the idea that religious people are good and secular people are bad. In addition to that, the film argues that the Jesuit Reductions were Edens. (Historians are divided on whether they were Edens or Hells.) Certainly some of the Jesuit activity was probably like this, and probably some of the Reductions worked well, but the problem remains that we the viewers are only given a one-sided picture of everything.

And for those of us who don’t think sacrificing children en masse in the name of God is a good idea, we are left with a profound ambivalence about the nature of the “good” that the film is attempting to portray.

In addition, we have some pretty flawed film-making decisions. (The Portuguese and Spanish speak the same language? Really?).

It’s really nice to look at, but it’s profoundly flawed.

PS But I do love that soundtrack.

27. F/X, directed by Robert Mandel (5*/10)

Seen multiple times as a tween and teen.

28. Poltergeist II: the Other Side, directed by Brian Gibson (5*/10)

Seen as a teen.

29. Sweet Liberty, directed by Alan Alda (5/10)

At a remove, 5 feels charitable.

30. Three Amigos, directed by (5*/10)

I’m sure this movie is really terrible, but it’s a part of my childhood.

31. Heartbreak Ridge, directed by Clint Eastwood (4*/10)

I think Eastwood was trying to make an old war movie here, but I haven’t seen it in ages.

32. Something Wild, directed by Jonathan Demme (4/10)

SPOILER ALERT (Seriously, massive spoiler alert. Don’t read this without watching the movie first.)

This begins as an unfunny romantic comedy and then – spoiler alert – takes a complete left turn into psycho-ex thriller territory (never a great genre in and of itself).

The biggest problem (aside from the huge swing in tone, which doesn’t really work) is that Melanie Griffith’s character is not in any way believable, and not just because she is Melanie Griffith (rim-shot). Even when her motives are revealed, its still hard to really believe she’s doing what she’s doing, and then of course she changes greatly by the end (not just in her looks, which change constantly, but in her behaviour).

But on top of that the dialogue is often difficult to stomach.

And the whole wackiness of the first three quarters of the film rarely works (I laughed twice maybe, and they were chuckles).

So the left turn doesn’t work because the set-up didn’t work. So the movie doesn’t work.

33. Short Circuit, directed by John Badham (4*/10)

I haven’t seen this since I was a child (or maybe a tween) but I remember it being manipulative.

34. Chopping Mall, directed by Jim Wynorski (4/10)

I wanted to like this a lot, but alas it’s too messy to really enjoy. But the title is amazing.

35. Highlander, directed by Russell Mulcahy (3/10)

Why its fans can’t see that this movie is totally incoherent is beyond me.

36. House, directed by Steve Miner (3/10)

A pretty laughable exercise in the “This house is haunted and trying to kill us” sub-genre.

37. Top Gun, directed by Tony Scott (2*/10)

I can’t be objective about what is probably just a below average action film. However, my generation reveres this piece of shit and so I think my rating was a reaction to that.

38. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, directed by Tobe Hooper (2*/10)

I think I just didn’t believe there should be a sequel, especially so long after the original. I don’t know how fair that is.

39. Police Academy 3, directed by Jerry Paris (2*/10)

I think this is the one that I’ve seen most frequently.

40. Meatballs 3: Summer Job, directed by George Mendeluk (2/10)

I think this is the only Meatballs movie I’ve seen, and I’ve somehow managed to see it multiple times.

41. Mountaintop Motel Massacre, directed by Jim McCullough Jr. (2/10)

No mountaintop, no massacre, but there is a motel. 2 seems charitable.

1 Comment

  1. 5. The Fly: 9, loved it when I was young
    -vaguely remember it being ok
    6. Ferris Bueller's Day Off: 9, iconic
    10. Stand By Me: 8, great
    14. Little Shop of Horrors: 8, musicals can be good if they're funny
    -is that the one with the talking plants? Musicals are good!
    22. Aliens: 6, the virtue, as well as the curse, is that it's markedly different from the original. At least it gave us Starcraft. Shouldn't there be a copyright case about that?
    -Not bad for being the type of movie I don't like – again I was made to watch this – good stuff for a 4 year old
    26. Three Amigos: 5, I'm sure this movie is really terrible, but it's a part of my childhood
    -can't remember
    32. Top Gun: 2, so fucking stupid. This rating is extra low just because everyone else loves it so much. Can't I have an irrational hatred of a couple movies?

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