1987 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies I’ve seen released theatrically in 1987, the year I turned 6.

1. Full Metal Jacket, directed by Stnaley Kubrick (10/10)

Yes, this is really two films. The first is an incredibly realistic and frankly horrifying – and funny – portrait of life in USMC boot camp. (R. Lee Ermey has been forever type cast as “Drill Sergeant” because of his role in this film.) The second act depicts Vietnam, but a very specific and likely not very realistic Vietnam. But the second part still has its strengths, even if many view it as the weaker film-within-a-film; it posits the same moral dilemma as Apocalypse Now: what is murder in war?

But aside from the individual strengths of the two segments, I think the film is notable for another reason: as a parody of the so-called “noble grunt” genre – wherein innocent Americans just try to do the right thing in the terrible situations they have been placed in by their confused or misguided governments or generals – of which Platoon is likely the apex. I’m not sure Kubrick did this intentionally – I don’t think we can ever know that for sure – but the second act in particular feels like a direct comment on previous Vietnam noble grunt films: nobody in this half of the movie is particularly noble, and many of them feel like caricatures of archetypes of those earlier films. (This is not my original theory, but I heartily agree with it.)

And much like Apocalypse Now, FMJ has become a bit of a model for later “the very situation of war is absurd” films and series such as Jarhead and Generation Kill, films which also deviate substantially from the noble grunt concept: it’s hard to figure out what exactly is noble, let alone who is noble, in these films. So I feel like this film is extremely influential in addition to featuring some classic reminders as to why none of us should really ever want to go to war.

2. Cobra Verde, directed by Werner Herzog (10/10)

I have lost my review of what is essentially “part 3” of the spiritual trilogy Herzog and Kinski made about European man at his limits, trying to conquer the world.

3. Raising Arizona, directed by Joel Coen (10/10)

There are a lot of movie critics who hold up the screwball comedies of the ’40s and ’50s as great. I have a hard time with most of them, with the exception of  His Girl Friday. But this revival of the genre I absolutely love. I’m not sure if it’s because I find more in it to enjoy, or because the humour is more on par with my tastes, or what, but as far as I’m concerned this is how you do screwball. Howard Hawkes be damned.

4. Au revoir les enfants, directed by Louis Malle (9/10)

I regret to say that I have lost my review for this great film. A must see though. But I dispute that this is his best.

5. Hope and Glory, directed by John Boorman (9/10*)

I have seen this movie too many times – and at too young an age – to judge it fairly. But I always felt like it would be nice to watch this and Empire of the Sun together as a way of looking at the way Spielberg makes his movies compared to some other filmmakers who don’t shy away from offending their audiences.

6. The Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner (9/10)

My favourite fantasy-comedy. I cannot say anything against it, really.

7. House of Games, directed by David Mamet (8/10)

I saw this right before I started writing down my thoughts regularly.

8. The Last Emperor, directed by Bernardo Bertolluci (8/10)

I have lost my review for this movie.

9. Angel Heart, directed by Alan Parker (8/10)

This is an over-stylized but interesting attempt at reviving American Film Noir in a decade in which it could be presumed dead and it’s combined with an interesting genre-mashing twist.

Read the full review.

10. Spaceballs, directed by Mel Brooks (8/10*)

I have seen this probably 20 times. Perhaps more. I cannot judge it.

11. The Untouchables, directed by Brian De Palma (8/10*)

Years ago, I thought this movie was amazing. I have seen it many times and I have slowly modified my opinion. However, I haven’t really watched it all the way through as an “adult moviegoer” and so I cannot say whether or not this rating is justified. I suspect it is not. But I will have to re-watch it to confirm.

12. Withnail and I, directed by Bruce Robinson (7/10)

I think I saw this just before I started regularly writing down my thoughts so my review is nonexistent and unfortunately it has been long enough that I cannot remember the movie well enough to toss off some kind of half-assed “review.”

13. Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders (7/10)

I think that Wenders is perhaps the poor man’s Fassbinder. He clearly has many similar abilities: this film has some absolutely spectacular (and ballsy) shots in it, and has a pretty great sound design, both things Fassbinder was also extremely adept at. But where Fassbinder grabbed you with his very human dramas (despite his characters sometimes being so eccentric as to be unlikable) Wenders’ films seem to almost always lack the kind of compelling – and often difficult – stories that Fassbinder liked to tell. And this is as true of this film, where Wenders gives us a story about…angels.

Read the full review.

14. Lethal Weapon, directed by Richard Donner (7/10*)

I cannot be objective about this movie.

15. September, directed by Woody Allen (7/10)

A decent but not fantastic Allen entry.

16. Babette’s Feast, directed by Gabriel Axel (7/10)

This is a remarkably engrossing film for a film that is about a meal. You really should see it, if only to be shown that someone can make a good movie about a meal.

17. Near Dark, directed by Kathryn Bigelow (7/10)

I have lost my review for this.

18. Beverly Hills Cop 2, directed by Tony Scott (7/10)

I have a soft spot for this movie, and I actually have seen it more than the first one and enjoy it more, even though this is arguably the weaker film, since it has to set up the dumb premise again.

19. Roxanne, directed by Fred Schepisi (7/10*)

I haven’t seen this in a really long time.

20. Planes, Trains and Automobiles, directed by John Hughes (7/10)

A little too earnest for me but still amusing enough.

21. Broadcast News, directed by James L. Brooks (6/10)

Read the review.

22. No Way Out, directed by Roger Donaldson (6/10)

I have seen this movie multiple times and so I am perhaps a little too critical. I enjoy it but I don’t respect it and I can’t really say why.

23. Predator, directed by John McTiernan (6/10*)

Perhaps the quintessential so-bad-it’s-good ’80s action movie. I cannot be objective about it. At least the production values are sky-high.

24. Wall Street, directed by Oliver Stone (6/10)

I haven’t seen this in years, but it is significantly overrated.

25. Return to Horror High, directed by Bill Froelich (6/10)

Return to Horror High is a few too many great ideas in one film. It is sporadically funny and definitely at least aware of it’s own shortcomings but it is hard to tell whether the incoherence of the later acts is deliberate (a la Murder by Death) or whether the filmmakers really just had one good idea too many…or three. It’s way too meta.

16. The Living Daylights, directed by John Glen (6/10)

I appreciate the new take on Bond: Dalton is very, very different from Roger Moore and that’s a good thing. The film around him is also far less silly than the worst of hte Moore films. But it is still a Bond film filled with some really, really silly things and a whole lot that doesn’t make sense, especially as the film reaches its climax in Morocco posing as Afghanistan. I worry that my expectations for re-watching this film for the first time in more than 20 years were just too damned high, because of how much has been written over the years of the “Dalton was Craig before Craig” variety.

Still better than most of the Roger Moore films.

27. The Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, directed by Sam Raimi (6/10)

The same movie, only this time played for laughs. I’m okay with that.

28. Robocop, directed by Paul Verhoeven (6/10)

The effects have dated very poorly, but this is still a reasonably inventive film for the subject matter.

29. Throw Momma from the Train, directed by Danny DeVito (6/10*)

I haven’t seen this comedy version of Strangers on a Train in a long time.

30. The Witches of Eastwick, directed by George Miller (6/10*)

This is a very strange movie which I watched when I was perhaps too young to fully appreciate it.

31. Dragnet, directed by Tom Mankiewicz (6/10*)

Seen as a tween and perhaps enjoyed too much.

32. Dirty Dancing, directed by Emile Ardolino (6/10)

I always thought I had watched this movie – more than once – but I watched it last night post-beer tasting and realized I had never seen it, just the music videos.

I had no idea it was set at a summer resort. I had no idea it was a summer movie. I really had no idea what the plot was.

I understand why this movie was a big movie for a lot of people (mostly women) when it came out. It follows a similar formula to the male-targeted summer movies and I understand it’s appeal.

It’s pretty corny and has dated like all ’80s movies. Also, I can’t say I love the confused soundtrack, that jumps between the early ’60s and the ’80s.

But I understand why people like it.

33. Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise, directed by Joe Roth (6/10*)

I saw this years and years ago – more than once I think – and I cannot defend this rating in any way shape or form. I’m sure this is terrible.

34. Walker, directed by Alex Cox (5/10)

I think going in that one must accept that Alex Cox made this movie. If one doesn’t like Alex Cox (or Godard, or filmmakers like that) one should probably not watch this film. That being said:

Cox appears to rarely get great performances out of his decent to great actors. I don’t know why that is, but this is yet another example where the lead performances draw attention to themselves in not so good ways. I wouldn’t say that Harris is terrible in this, but he is curious and I think a better performance from him – and from a few others – might have made this a little more consistent.

But the main problem is what Cox is trying to do: he is trying to make a political film about the contemporary US involvement in Nicaragua, but he is also trying to make a satire of that involvement, and he is trying to make a satire of action films and westerns, and of course he is also trying to do his anarchic ’80s I-wish-I-was-the-British-Godard thing.

The results are obviously very inconsistent: there are some really hilarious and / or classic moments in the film, and I cannot help but admire his ambition. But Cox gets much of the handling of the backstory wrong and there is little character development. There are at least 3 too many montages and that suggests that Cox had some image-music pairings in mind when he thought about making the movie, and not telling the story of walker.

But I can’t hate this; I enjoyed it too much, even if it is a bit of a disaster on technical levels. (On the other hand, how many of Cox’s films are actually technically much good?) For fans of Cox and / or anarchic cinema only.

35. Fatal Attraction, directed by Adrian Lyne (5/10*)

Seen years ago, before I knew Lyne’s work – and disliked said oeuvre – and before I really knew the genre. I don’t trust the rating but I’m not saying it would have rated it higher had I seen it more recently.

36. Empire of the Sun, directed by Steven Spielberg (5/10)

Though I haven’t seen this film in years, I do think Hope and Glory and this would make an interesting study in how to – and how not to – make films about children in war. Add Au revoirs les enfants to the bargain as well.

37. Adventures in Babysitting, directed by Chris Columbus (5/10*)

Seen as multiple times a child.

38. Harry and the Hendersons, directed by William Dear (5/10*)

Seen multiple times as a child.

39. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: the Dream Warriors, directed by Chuck Russell (4/10*)

Seen as a teen or early-twenty-something.

40. Hellraiser, directed by Clive Barker (3/10*)

I don’t remember this at all, but the director is an author so there you go.

41. 3 Men and a Baby, directed by Leonard Nimoy (3/10*)

Seen as a tween. 3 seems generous.

42. Masters of the Universe, Gary Goddard (3/10)

3 feels really charitable.

43. The Running Man, directed by Paul Michael Glaser (2/10*)

I haven’t seen this in forever, and maybe my memory is underrating it but I feel like this is an extraordinarily gimmicky and lazy attempt at “science fiction”.

44. Cry Wilderness, directed by Jay Schlossberg-Cohen (2/10)

This is one of those movies that are so mediocre you kind of wish they were worse. Read the review of Cry Wilderness.

45. Tough Guys Don’t Dance, directed by Norman Mailer (2/10)

The first 20 minutes or so are some of the worst I have seen from a Hollywood-budget-level movie. It gets better (somewhat) but still is so amateurish I can’t even begin to describe it. It is readily apparent that Mailer doesn’t know the first thing about making movies: the staging is odd, some of the shots make no sense, the audio is HORRIBLE for something this expensive, the flashbacks make no sense – how can people not present tell the stories??? – and obviously the acting is legendary. (Notably O’Neal’s famous “Oh God, Oh Man” moment, which you might be able to find on Youtube.) One of the worst Hollywood films of its era, though on the other hand hardly close to the worst thing I have ever seen.

46. Jaws: the Revenge, directed by Joseph Sargeant (2/10)

This movie shouldn’t exist.

47. Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, directed by Jim Drake (2/10*)

I have seen this one a bunch of times too.

48. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, directed by Lee Harry (2/10)

I pretty piss-poor follow up to a not-half-bad slasher.

49. A Return to Salem’s Lot, directed by Larry Cohen (1/10)

I have never seen the original. (Is there an original?) I just know that this is beyond bad.

50. Ernest Goes to Camp, directed by John Cherry (1/10)

You don’t want to know how many times I’ve seen this movie.

51. Berserker, directed by Jeff Richard (1/10)

Watched this as part of my unofficial bad movie club. Terrible.


1. “Terpenie trud,” directed by Aleksandr Sokurov (6/10)

The man who eventually became famous for a single take film combines tons of footage (both new and found) to create a montage of what it is like to be an athlete in the Soviet Union. Fine.

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