The Top 10 Films of 1985
At the end of the year, as we do every year, we’ll be counting down the Top Ten Films of 2015 according to Flickchart’s global rankings. In the months leading up to that, we’re going to be taking a look back and seeing what Flickchart users think are the best movies of ten, twenty, thirty years ago and so on.
It should come as no surprise to anyone glancing through Flickchart’s global chart that we love the 1980s. The decade has four pictures in the global top 10 and 16 in the top 100. A lot of users grew up on 1980s genre favorites, from E.T. to The Empire Strikes Back to Indiana Jones to… well, a few of the ones we’re about to tackle here. Some of us weren’t even born yet but fell in love with all these films later. For many, the 80s were when movies perfected the art of the Hollywood blockbuster, although we can see its roots in the late 1970s with films like Jaws, Alien, and Star Wars all paving the way for the explosion of blockbusters that now takes over the box office every summer.
The 1980s is an especially fascinating time to compare Academy Award picks with what are now seen as the most enduring classics. Oscar nominees The Color Purple, Prizzi’s Honor, Kiss of the Spider Woman and Best Picture winner Out of Africa are nowhere to be found in the year’s Global Top 10. (They occupy #23, #45, #57, and #33 on the 1985 chart.) But nor is the Flickchart top 10 entirely composed of crowd-pleasing blockbusters. Instead, lengthy films from foreign filmmakers and fantastical releases from auteur directors like Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen have risen to the top, despite getting less attention on their first release.
Which films have endured the past 30 years and which have gone by the wayside? Let’s venture into the top 10 and find out!
#10. Better Off Dead
I watched this one a few years ago as part of a personal challenge to watch several of Flickchart’s top-rated romances, and I had no idea what I was getting into when I hit “play” on my media player. Just a few minutes later, I was laughing. Hard. This movie takes the ultimate 1980s boy next door, John Cusack, and places him in the most of one of the most absurd and morbid romantic comedies I’ve ever seen. If Say Anything was a little sappy for you, this weird flick makes for a wonderful antidote. The premise centers around Cusack’s character trying multiple times to off himself after a breakup, only to be thwarted each time. Add in some weirder subplots, such as a bizarre life-and-death feud with the local paperboys and the skiing competition that he hopes will win back the girl of his dreams, and you’ve got a comedy that consistently offers up the unexpected in a nice little rom-com package. – Hannah Keefer
- Currently ranked #575 of all time
- Ranked 33824 times by 3342 users
- Wins 49% of matchups
#9. Come and See
A boy and a girl, in alternating shots, look nearly straight into the camera. Their faces are masks of dumbstruck terror. In the next moment, they may laugh, or cry, or both in succession, because they have lost their sanity. That’s before things really start to go badly. The start of the children’s personal hell, a microcosm of the collective hell the Russian people endured during the cataclysmic German offensive and occupation in the middle of World War II, is probably the best aerial bombardment sequence in film. Soil spews into the air, nearly reaching the tops of the pole-like pines that burst into flames and topple. The sound design of the film changes suddenly and permanently; it becomes muffled to illustrate blast-induced near-deafness. Director Elem Klimov‘s camera tracks the children in long forward and backward cuts as they go to an abandoned town, a swamp, a camp. Horrors black as the Book of Revelation (“‘Come and see!’ And I looked, and behold, a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed”) meet them at every juncture. Their ways part, and the terror intensifies. Come and See is a menagerie of monstrosities, impeccably staged and stunningly acted, and it culminates in a mind-bending montage of newsreel footage that asks the most difficult question of the twentieth century: could Nazism have been stopped? Though the movie was made in the Soviet Union and subject to some degree of censorship, it does not entirely lionize its protagonists, the Russian partisans; their abuse of the peasantry they ostensibly protect is felt even when it pales next to the ravages of the Germans. Silence, expressionism, and montage hearken back to the great Russian propagandist Sergei Eisenstein and help make Come and See the most effective anti-war film of all time. – David Conrad
- Currently ranked #490 of all time
- Ranked 8916 times by 335 users
- Wins 64% of matchups
The stories of H.P. Lovecraft are lushly-written New England tales that hearken back to the Romantic movement of the early 19th century. Re-Animator is gross-out 1980s body horror starring campy character actor Jeffrey Combs. What happened? Well, of all the Lovecraft stories you could film, this is one of the cheapest. It lacks eldritch monsters, and it mostly takes place in the dark morgues and laboratories where wicked Herbert West (Combs) raises the dead. A growing home video audience was ready for an update on schlocky monster fare, and Re-Animator was extreme enough – in its volume of blood, in its exploitative sensibilities – to satisfy their cravings. Critics bit, too, admiring Combs’ all-in commitment to the mad scientist persona. The unrated version, rather than the tame “R” edit, is the one to watch if you’re into this sort of thing; just don’t expect the naïve, poetic cerebralism of Lovecraft. – David
- Currently ranked #484 of all time
- Ranked 32988 times by 2422 users
- Wins 55% of matchups
#7. After Hours
The appeal of Scorsese‘s 80s black comedy After Hours is expressly because of the simultaneous absurdity and intelligence of its script. Griffin Dunne‘s superb portrayal of a New York pencil-pusher turned fugitive propels the film at a breakneck pace as he navigates through the city’s many twists and turns, meeting with myriad characters, and encountering bizarre situations left and right. The cinematography is superb – utilizing the dark alleyways and streets as a character all its own – maximizing the effect of placing the viewer directly into a night from hell. There are memorable turns from a host of actors – including Rosanna Arquette, Cheech & Chong, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Catherine O’Hara, and Will Patton. If a darkly comic overnight adventure in the seedy underbelly of NYC sounds up your alley, After Hours will delight you. Despite the many other heralded entries in his filmography, it’s my favorite Scorsese film – hands down. – Nathan Chase
- Currently ranked #441 of all time
- Ranked 32323 times by 2264 users
- Wins 47% of matchups
Some of Woody Allen‘s best work blurs the line between reality and fantasy, and this is, for my money, his best fantasy-infused film. Mia Farrow plays a mousy housewife who spends her free time at the movie theater watching the same black-and-white escapist adventure flick over and over. One day, she buys her usual ticket and takes her seat, only for the movie’s hero (Jeff Daniels) to comment on how he’s seen her there every day and step out of the movie itself to meet her and inhabit her world. Things get complicated because, well, it messes things up when a movie character departs his movie. Purple Rose has lots of laughs, as Daniels’ character has the childlike naivete of someone who lives in a world where there is no gore, cursing or sex, and everything always turns out right, but the film also tugs at our heartstrings as we see how desperately Farrow craves an escape from her life but has always been too timid to chance it. This effortless blending of comedy and tragedy makes this one of Allen’s very best offerings. – Hannah
- Currently ranked #394 of all time
- Ranked 30666 times by 1931 users
- Wins 52% of matchups
“The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency.” Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy said that a decade before Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, in which the staggering inefficiency of an all-powerful bureaucracy is no comfort to a man trapped in its tortuous bowels. Gilliam’s aesthetics are, of course, grotesque, and the picture he paints of drab corporatism is nightmarish, but Brazil has a certain beauty that comes out in the near-symmetrical framing of shots and occasional splashes of color (mostly pink!) Robert de Niro and Monty Python’s Michael Palin chew up their scenes with aplomb, but the focus of the story is information adjuster Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce). Pryce proves eerily in sync with Gilliam’s bizarre vision. His Lowry is pathetically anxious when interacting with other cogs in the machine, but when alone he imagines himself as a winged warrior who fights giant robot samurai and might – with the help of a terrorist played by Kim Greist – might topple the system and escape to beautiful Brazil. As an impressionistic take on the dissatisfactions of workaday modernity, Brazil is a dark but dazzling release. – David
- Currently ranked #220 of all time
- Ranked 232401 times by 20785 users
- Wins 54% of matchups
Steven Spielberg is currently 68 years old. George Lucas is 71. Martin Scorsese is 72. Francis Coppola is 76. Any year now, one of them might make a masterpiece to rival Jaws, Star Wars, Taxi Driver, and The Godfather, which they made when they were in their 20s and 30s. But would you bet on it? Maybe you would, if you’re a fan of Akira Kurosawa and Ran, the movie Kurosawa released at the age of 75. It was his 27th film, but only his fourth to be shot in color. Yet, he exhibits a mastery of hue and saturation with the film that even natives of the color era have seldom attained. The plot of Ran is a clever reframing of Shakespeare’s King Lear. The part of Lear, here called Hidetora, is well-acted by Kurosawa favorite Tatsuya Nakadai, but the real stars of the film are the bright green landscapes, the castles bathed in blood and fire, and the samurai armies bedecked in primary colors. Kurosawa himself storyboarded every shot as colored paintings (storyboards are usually rough sketches), a process that took ten years. The resulting aesthetics are so impeccable, and they support a story so quintessential, that many consider this late Kurosawa film every bit as strong as the black and white masterpieces he made as a young man. Ran pairs well with Kagemusha (1980), which Kurosawa considered its “dress rehearsal.” – David
- Currently ranked #184 of all time
- Ranked 52699 times by 3833 users
- Wins 53% of matchups
#3. The Goonies
Many people grew up loving The Goonies, a childhood adventure featuring a bunch of kids trying to find a rumored pirate treasure in order to keep their homes from being repossessed and turned into a country club. Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems that many people who saw the film later in life find it incredibly grating. It appears nostalgia plays a large part in The Goonies’ very high ranking among 1985 films on Flickchart. But I do not come to bury The Goonies but to praise it – I first saw the film only a few years ago in my thirties, and it totally worked for me. I bought into all the childlike enthusiasm, the adventure, the thrills, and especially the pirate ship. Internally manufactured nostalgia? Perhaps. I will just say that I’m very sorry that I didn’t see The Goonies as a child, because I would’ve loved it, and I’m very glad that I did see it as an adult, because I still did. – Jandy Hardesty
- Currently ranked #181 of all time
- Ranked 419721 times by 54243 users
- Wins 55% of matchups
If one was tasked with picking a quintessential movie to represent the 1980’s, The Breakfast Club would certainly be a top contender. Directed by John Hughes, American film’s voice for the youth of the 80’s, the film remains timeless despite the powerful era trappings. Though it has been three decades since the film hit the silver screen, every viewer can doubtlessly find something relatable in the film whether they went to high school in 1985, 1995, or 2015. The simple premise of five students, each members of different cliques, coming together to discover they are more than their stereotypes is not one unique to this film. But few other films capture the heart of adolescence so perfectly. That moment of being between youth and adulthood, that moment of uncertainty and fear. Each member of the cast brings their own unique take to the characters portrayed bringing them to life in a way that they only could at the time. Whether it’s Anthony Michael Hall‘s earnest portrayal of the geek, Molly Ringwald‘s subtle sneers that help to hide her character’s fear, or Judd Nelson‘s effortless swagger, they are able to make the simplicity work in a manner that opens the heart of the viewer up and look at their own life. Some may consider the film’s characters too simple or cheap, but the film’s heart has helped to create some iconic scenes of cinema. Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into air with victory represents the triumph of love and that the human experience may ultimately boil down to these small simple moments of being alive. – Connor Adamson
- Currently ranked #132 of all time
- Ranked 510576 times by 62116 users
- Wins 57% of matchups
When our April Fools’ Day post on Flickchart about a hypothetical Back to the Future 4 hit the site, it spread like wildfire and, before long, everyone was sharing a viral rumor that we’d started. But maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised – the whole Back to the Future trilogy has almost universal love and most of us would jump at the chance of more. None are quite as beloved as this first in the trilogy, though, the one that sets up all the funny-but-clever premises that the next two follow through on. The time travel element is more complex in the second installment and more historical in the third, but this first flick is great standalone fun. It’s surprisingly enduring for a film that’s all about comparing the past of 1955 to the “now” of 1985, but that’s because its humor is at least as much based in character and wacky circumstances as it is in pop culture references. With the perfect combination of smart, subtle jokes and goofy slapstick, a cast that will forever be associated with these roles, and a musical finale that brings down the house, there’s just very little to dislike about this film. It’s a crowd-pleaser through and through, and it well deserves the top slot here. – Hannah
- Currently ranked #9 of all time
- Ranked 850369 times by 80138 users
- Wins 70% of matchups
The above list is Flickchart’s Global Top 10 for 1985, calculated based on the rankings of all users. We wanted to showcase some of our own personal favorites, so each of us picked a favorite film of 1985 NOT included in the Global Top 10.
Nathan – Explorers
Directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, The ‘Burbs, The Howling). An underseen, underappreciated youth adventure about three boys trying to escape their lives and enter their dreams by way of a self-made spaceship. Quirky, triumphant, and fun. One of the best movies of my childhood.
- Currently ranked #1827 of all time
- Ranked 10733 times by 1039 users
- Wins 46% of matchups
David – A Room With a View
There are some real visual shocks in this literary continental romance. Most of them are “Oh, look, it’s that actor!” moments. Early on you notice people like Denholm Elliott (Marcus Brody from Indiana Jones), Maggie Smith, and a young Helena Bonham Carter. As if that weren’t enough, you soon encounter Judi Dench and three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis. These are big, big names in many circles (the circles that would watch this movie), so it is remarkable that they are all able to take a backseat to novelist E.M. Forster’s world. Midway through is the biggest visual stunner, a sun-dappled sequence at a country swimming hole that remains the longest, most guileless instance of full frontal male nudity I’ve seen on film. The central romantic arc, with its misunderstandings and parlor-room manners, is not so original or memorable as other Forster stories like A Passage to India, but the mood of the film is a welcome reminder that even in a decade dominated by blockbusters there are still some movies made for us snobs.
- Currently ranked #1276 of all time
- Ranked 10590 times by 1023 users
- Wins 42% of matchups
Hannah – Ladyhawke
This is one of those instances when I debated whether to go with this – my actual highest 1985 film that wasn’t in the list – or choose something I felt more confident I could defend. But Flickchart is all about choosing your personal favorites in your personal order, so here goes. Ladyhawke is not a great movie. It is cheesy and silly and ridiculous, and the big romantic scenes are pretty heavy-handed but it has a more unique love story than you get from most fantasy. Its cast isn’t bad either; we’ve got Matthew Broderick in his cool-and-charming years, Rutger Hauer as a likable leading man, and a truly stunning Michelle Pfeiffer. I loved this movie as a child and while I can see its flaws as an adult, I still think it’s fun enough to be worth a watch. If you’re at all into campy fantasy, this is worth a watch.
- Currently ranked #1617 of all time
- Ranked 16979 times by 2016 users
- Wins 39% of its matchups
Jandy – Clue
In the past few years, we’ve seen movies based on Battleship and Ouija boards, and rumors of several other board game movies that may or may not ever get made. Generally the idea of turning a board game into a movie is met with scoffing, and rightfully so. Yet the bar was set for board game movies thirty years ago, and it’s a surprisingly high one. The murder mystery of the game Clue (it was Mr Green with the wrench in the conservatory!) here becomes a hysterical comedy of errors ostensibly about an Agatha Christie-like closed-room mystery, but which is actually about letting very funny people (including Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, and Michael McKean) be very funny. 1980s comedy can be kind of a tough sell for me, but I’ll buy this one any time.
- Currently ranked #652 of all time
- Ranked 88204 times by 9792 users
- Wins 47% of its matchups
Connor – Teen Wolf
Michael J. Fox plays a high school basketball player who happens to come from a family of werewolves. The 80’s were a lovely decade, weren’t they? The premise of this film may be ridiculous, but only in a wonderful way. While Teen Wolf is completely eclipsed by some other Michael J. Fox film that came out that year (something to do with time travel?), it deserves to be remembered in its own right. Fox delivers another one of his naturally charismatic performances using the perfect mixture of seriousness and humor to sell the concept and make it work. There are scenes of a werewolf running down a basketball court and shooting hoops. It may be goofy but in a charming and endearing way that only the 80’s could have given you. And despite all of the silliness involved (looking at you, White Sheepdog Werewolf Dad), the concept works as a simple metaphor for puberty and helps create the small beating heart for the film to wrap itself around and draw the audience in. This film may not be art, but it doesn’t have to be. Teen Wolf is wonderful 80’s fun and should be viewed by anyone and everyone.
- Currently ranked #2031 of all time
- Ranked 49980 times by 6220 users
- Wins 39% of its matchups