1988 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1988, the year I turned 7.

1. Dead Ringers, directed by David Cronenberg (10/10*)

I cannot begin to defend this. When I saw this movie it was probably the first “controversial” film I had ever seen. It made a rather large impression me.

2. Dekalog, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski (9/10)

I really don’t know whether to include this. It was a TV series but it was released theatrically in North America. Either way, you should watch it as it is one the great accomplishments of the ’80s.

3. Grave of the Fireflies, directed by Isao Takahata (9/10)

Unfortunately I have lost my review for one of the best anime films ever.

3. The Thin Blue Line, directed by Errol Morris (9/10)

Taking what’s in The Thin Blue Line is much easier when you’re familiar with what happened as a result of the movies’ release. As the saying goes, it is perhaps the only movie to ever reverse a court decision. It obviously didn’t do it on its own, but it started the appeals apparently. Therefore, even though the movie is about injustice and it appears as though nothing can be done, you know (if you’ve read about the movie) that there was eventually a happy ending.

5. Alice, directed by Jan Svankmajer (8/10)

This is a really inventive interpretation of the story. Really worth seeing.

6. Die Hard, directed by John McTiernan (8/10)

The best action movie of the ’80s.

7. Scrooged, directed by Richard Donner (8/10)

This is my favourite Christmas comedy, even if it gets pretty sentimental at the end.

8. The Vanishing, directed by George Sluizer (8/10)

Unfortunately the ending of this was ruined for me; not intentionally, as I asked for it. But I wonder what I would have thought of this had I not known what was going to happen.

9. Mississippi Burning, directed by Alan Parker (8/10*)

Seen as a teen.

10. A Fish Called Wanda, directed by Charles Crichton (8/10)

Not up to Python standards but still very funny.

11. The Last Temptation of Christ, directed by Martin Scorsese (8/10*)

Seen when I was really interested in alternative interpretations of our myths, even willing to accept Keitel as an Israelite.

12. Clean and Sober, directed by Glenn Gordon Caron (8/10)

If ever you’re wondering whether or not Michael Keaton is a good actor, you should watch this. But anyway, though this theme has been done a lot, this variation on it is pretty good and features and excellent performance by the lead.

13. Bull Durham, directed by Ron Shelton (8/10)

A classic, I guess. Read the review of Bull Durham.

14. The Naked Gun: from the Files of Police Squad, directed by David Zucker (8/10*)

I cannot be objective about this or any Naked Gun movie.

15. Return of the Killer Tomatoes, directed by John De Bello (8/10)

This is one hell of a good time. I haven’t seen the original since I was young, and all I remember of it is the theme song, but if you are going to make a sequel to a movie about killer tomatoes, this is how you do it. It is meta but not overly complicated meta (unlike Horror High) and it is meta only for the sake of (often very dumb) jokes. It goes way past stupid. It is a celebration of bad taste and as such it is totally fantastic.

16. Beetlejuice, directed by Tim Burton (8/10)

I have a real soft spot for this film which is probably more creative than funny.

17. Willow, directed by Ron Howard (8/10*)

I haven’t seen this since I was a tween or possibly even a kid.

18. Coming To America, directed by John Landis (7/10)

Haven’t seen it in some time but it’s a funny one.

19. Talk Radio, directed by Oliver Stone (7/10)

I feel like I should re-watch this as it has turned out it was incredibly prescient. I feel like Limbaugh uses the early parts of this movie to pump up himself.

20. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, directed by Philip Kaufmann (7/10)

I watched this in a film class in university immediately after reading the novel. I’m sure I had my reasons.

21. Eight Men Out, directed by Jonathan Sayles (7/10)

I have lost my review for this movie.

22. Working Girl, directed by Mike Nichols (7/10)

Funny. And somehow still relevant. Read the review of Working Girl.

23. Cinema Paradiso, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (7/10)

More than a little over-hyped. But I also don’t like this genre. Read the review of Cinema Paradiso.

24. The Accused, directed by Jonathan Kaplan (7/10)

I lost my review for this, but I do remember I felt like something was lacking in the execution.

25. The Great Outdoors, directed by Howard Deutch (7*/10)

I loved this as a child. I actually saw it again in the middle of the night on a ferry in Labrador…And what can I say? It was disappointing. But for some reason I can’t bring myself to alter the rating yet.

26. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, directed by Frank Oz (7*/10)

I haven’t seen this in forever. I need to re-watch it.

27. High Spirits, directed by Neil Jordan (6/10)

This is a very, very silly but endearing film, shot in just an incredible-looking castle and half the fun is just ogling the castle. But Peter O’Toole is great and there are some memorable turns by other members of the cast. This is one of those ’80s films with rough edges – the script could have used some tightening, among other things – where the charm of the film outweighs its obvious problems.

This is the kind of film I likely would have fallen hard for had I seen it as a teen – it likely would have been too “scary” for me at age 7, the age I was when it came out – and I can see the appeal of something like this, with its silly premise and rather bizarre, fantastical plot.


28. Dominick and Eugene, directed by Robert M. Young (6/10)

As a critic (whose name I can’t remember) has noted, this film is actually pretty good for some time and then suddenly it realizes it’s American and gets Plot! because apparently the human drama was not enough.

29. My Neighbor Totoro, directed by Hayao Miyazaki (6/10)

Extraordinary to look at but lacking enough story to keep adults interested. I have lost my review.

30. BAT*21, directed by Peter Markle (6*/10)

I have seen this too many times to be objective about it, but I have lowered my rating over the years.

31. The Bear, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud (6*/10)

Seen as a child or tween.

32. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, directed by Terry Gilliam (6*/10)

Seen as a tween, or even younger.

33. Rain Man, directed by Barry Levinson (6*/10)

Seen as a young teen, and my rating was probably based on how much I liked Tom Cruise.

34. Return of the Living Dead Part II, directed by Ken Wiederhorn (6/10)

There’s really no explaining this “sequel” which is in many ways a remake. But it’s funny. Hopefully intentionally so.

35. The Presidio, directed by Peter Hyams (5*/10)

Seen multiple times as a teen.

36. Twins, directed by Ivan Reitman (5*/10)

Haven’t seen since I was a tween, but 5 seems charitable.

37. Tequila Sunrise, directed by Robert Towne (5*/10)

Seen multiple times as a teen, at night. I feel like I should give Towne another chance, but then I think about the scenes I remember…

38. Midnight Run, directed by Martin Brest (5*/10)

Seen as tween or teen.

39. They Live, directed by John Carpenter (5/10)

Sometimes Carpenter rules (The ThingBig Trouble in Little China) and sometimes he sucks (Ghosts of Mars or whatever, that Vampire movie). This is closer to the suckier side. I suspect it’s principally because of casting. Wrestlers don’t make leads. I think that if Kurt Russell had been in this doing his BTILC John Wayne impression, I might have loved it. The premise is pretty silly too, so it might have helped to have more of a BTILC attitude, than the supposedly serious one I sensed. It’s too obvious as well.

40. Cocktail, directed by Roger Donaldson (5/10)

Dumb. Read the review of Cocktail.

41. Stand and Deliver, directed by Ramon Menendez (4/10)

“How do I reach these kids?!?!”

42. Hairspray, directed by John Waters (4/10)

I didn’t write down my review for this but basically safe Waters is even less good than regular Waters.

43. Frantic, directed by Roman Polanski (4*/10)

Haven’t seen it in years.

44. Sunset, directed by Blake Edwards (4/10)

Oh this movie is silly. So James Garner is Wyatt Earp. And Bruce Willis is some other cowboy. And they’re at the first ever Oscars. And they’re solving murders. And you’re wondering, ‘why haven’t I ever seen or heard of this movie?’ I don’t even know what to say.

45. The Dead Pool, directed by Buddy Van Horn (4/10*)

Haven’t seen it in years. This feels charitable.

46. Big, directed by Penny Marshall (4/10*)

Seen as a kid, but Penny Marshall made it.

47. Off Limits, directed by Christopher Crowe (3/10)

I saw this is the middle of the night, once, which probably explains my antipathy.

48. Funny Farm, directed by George Roy Hill (3/10*)

Seen as a tween or teen.

49. Short Circuit 2, directed by Kenneth Johnson (3/10*)

Seen as a tween or child.

50. Crocodile Dundee II, directed by John Cornell (3/10*)

I haven’t seen this in forever and at this point I can’t even remember if I ever saw the original.

51. Puss in Boots, directed by Eugene Marner (3/10)

Christopher Walken is…Puss in Boots.

52. A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: the Dream Master, directed by Renny Harlin (3/10)

Probably a little too charitable.

53. Killer Klowns from Outer Space, directed by Stephen Chiodo (2/10)

This had the potential to be a great parody of ’70s / ’80s alien monster invasion movies. However, they completely ignore character development and the jokes are mostly really horrible (there are a couple funny lines). The one thing they get right is claiming that terrestrial clowns are merely a human reproduction of this alien race. That amongst everything else is actually believable and appropriate.

54. Rambo III, directed by Peter MacDonald (2/10)

I really have no idea what this has to do with the original film.

55. Poltergeist III, directed by Gary Sherman (2/10*)

As a tween I found scary. Then I grew up.

56. Braddock: Missing in Action II, directed by Aaron Norris (2/10*)

I haven’t seen this in years.

57. Scarecrows, directed by William Wesley (2/10)

Scarecrows are not scary so Scarecrows is not scary.

58. The Brain, directed by Edward Hunt (2/10)

I have lost my review for this amazing movie, if I ever wrote one.

59. Friday the 13th Part VII: the New Blood, directed by John Carl Buechler (2/10)

The 7th Jason film should be called Carrie vs. Jason because that’s pretty much what it is. Wow, it’s shitty. Too bad I watched the Spike TV cut and lost all the blood. Good to see the original tree bashing scene though (which I learned about watching the ridiculously awesome Jason X).

60. Critters 2, directed by Mick Garris (2/10)

I really don’t know why I was so nice to this.

61. Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach, directed by Alan Myerson (2/10*)

Another one I’ve seen a whole bunch of times. Isn’t this one film in Toronto or something?

62. Bad Dreams, directed by Andrew Flemming (1/10)

What I said at the time: Bad Dreams was a a major waste of money. It’s more a “psychological horror” movie than a horror movie. And it blows. It blows goats. Oh it sucked.

What I said maybe 10 years later: Ghosts don’t scare me and ghosts with continuity errors really don’t scare me. I feel like I’ve seen this movie more than once just because there are so many ’80s horror movie cliches present.

63. Ernest Saves Christmas, directed by John Cherry (1/10)

The title says it all, does it not?

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