May 28, 2005

The second set of 20 films that if you haven’t seen you should see immediately or risk having protein wisdom sneer at you like certain embarrassingly snobby blue state gourmands sneer at salt water taffy and chili-cheese fries

1980s, group 2

  1. The Long Riders (1980)
  2. Maniac (1980)
  3. Melvin and Howard (1980)
  4. Mon oncle d’Amerique (1980)
  5. La Mort en direct (1980)
  6. My Bodyguard (1980)
  7. Ordinary People (1980)
  8. Popeye (1980)
  9. Prom Night (1980)
  10. Raging Bull (1980)
  11. Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980)
  12. Seems Like Old Times (1980)
  13. Somewhere in Time (1980)
  14. Stardust Memories (1980)
  15. Stir Crazy (1980)
  16. The Stunt Man (1980)
  17. UFOria (1980)
  18. Urban Cowboy (1980)
  19. Used Cars (1980)
  20. Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)


There are three bonafide classics on this list:  The Stuntman, Raging Bull, and Ordinary People. Beyond that, My Bodyguard is one of my all-time favorite coming of age films, while Used Cars is still quite funny today.  Where the Buffalo Roam is the Bill Murray-as-Hunter Thompson flick that critics panned, but which is worth a look; and for the more interesting precursor to The Big Chill, check out John Sayles’ Return of the Secaucus 7.

Posted by Jeff G. @ 5:05pm

Comments (36)

  1. Popeye has the most surreal sets.

    And Robin Williams is pretty good.

  2. I’d put Stir Crazy on the classic list, myself.  I don’t think you could ever go wrong with Wilder and Pryor together.

    “That’s right, that’s right, we bad, we bad”

  3. Haven’t you listed The Long Riders twice now?

  4. No.  Listed it in a post about for sale DVDs, but not on one of these lists.

  5. Gotta love Raging Bull.  A true “man-up” classic.

    “you been f@#king my wife, Joey?  I heard some things…”

  6. I LOVED “Used Cars”!  And “Popeye”!  When I think of the people that used to sneer at my taste in entertainment I could just…well, just wait til I get to the Moose Lodge tonight.  Smug bastards.

  7. I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

    Weird sound values though. Couldn’t follow the dialogue.

  8. “Somewhere in Time” is great! Filmed on Mackinac Island, (My backyard) John Barry and Rachmaninoff provide lush music, and Jane Seymour improves the view. One problem with the plot. The old lady gives Chris Reeve the watch to entice him back in time- the same one he left behind when he was sucked into the temporal vortex.

    Where did the watch come from?

  9. While Raging Bull is a personal favorite of mine, I would never classify Ordinary People as a classic of any kind, unless there’s something called a movie soap operal genre.  Good film, just not classic.

    No, this is not just because Scorsese was robbed then too.

  10. The Stuntman. For decades now I’ve been repeatedly stunned at how many of my friends and acquaintances have never even heard of it. Great film. My copy is now, as it almost always is, out on loan. Best comment from someone I loaned it to, “There’s a little bit of Fellini to this. But minus the mescaline or whatever.”

  11. The Stuntman really doesn’t hold up, and I speak as someone who worshipped it when it first came out. I think it influenced much that came after, so a lot of what I thought was cool is now normal. Other than that and Ordinary People, a classic that has never been forgiven for beating out Raging Bull, there’s not much on that list I’m fond of. A while back, I wrote two pieces on movies you should see, here and here.  But they’re older.

  12. My error, Jeff.  Apologies.

  13. I loved Return of the Secaucus 7. Big John Sayles fan. He eventually made a movie with the mother of a friend of mine, which was interesting to me because I’d been following his career since his prose fiction (The Anarchist’s Convention, and Union Dues). We grow up and our childhood idols turn into real people.

    And I loved The Stunt Man, which oddly enough I was thinking about just this morning, before I saw your post.

  14. Ironically, the film I’d say is the worst in the bunch, Somewhere In Time, is the one I’ve seen the most times.  While I found it interesting in a solipsistic kind of way, it was just too damn corny for words.

    Jane Seymour was awful hot back in the day, though.

  15. I’m really glad you included Seems Like Old Times, though.  You can count the decent flicks Chevy Chase has made on one hand, but this is definately one of them.  The others, just in case you were curious, are:

    Foul Play

    National Lampoon’s Vacation

    CaddyShack and


    But it’s a shame that a guy who did lighthearted comedy as effortlessly as he did also happens to be such a self-important ass in real life.

  16. What? No Body Heat? You can’t beat lines like this:

    “My temperature runs a couple of degrees high, around a hundred. I don’t mind. It’s the engine or something.”

    “Maybe you need a tune up.”

    “Don’t tell me. You have just the right tool.”

    And this little exchange that should warm JeffG’s heart: 

    “Whatcha got for pie today Stella?”

    “I got cherry, cherry and cherry.”

    “Well, what do you recommend?”

    “I like the cherry.”

    “Bring it on.”

  17. Good list Jeff, but I’ve got a question:  Is this going to be a list of the best movies of the 1980’s, or the best movies from the YEAR 1980?  Because, you’ll be down to NBC movies of the week before you get to list 6 or 7 if it’s too year specific. 

    “My Bodyguard” and “Used Cars” are classics.  The first has never gotten it’s due respect, while the second (in a just world) would be as widely quoted as “Caddyshack” or “Animal House” in pop culture.

  18. I saw “Popeye” when it came out and I am looking forward to senile dementia when the memory of it will finally be eradicated from my mind…

  19. I hear ya’, Brian.

  20. The Stunt Man is a good bookend to Lawrence of Arabia, so far as Peter O’Toole’s stylistic range goes. 

    I always laugh at one line, when the daily rushes are playing, and O’Toole asks what reel it is.  He is told, and he exclaims, “Ah! [the scriptwriter] should be here; I believe we kept a line or two of his dialogue!”

  21. Having previously slighted Rollerball, you have lost all credibility, have forever branded yourself as an unreliable movie dork, and I am going to ignore these lists.

  22. …well “Maniac” definately has the best “babe bound spread eagle on the bed” scene from 1980.

    Never saw “Urban Cowboy”. Same kind of action?

  23. Some decent domestic violence in Urban Cowboy, sure.  But watch it for Scott Glenn.

  24. My Bodyguard was a great film, Somewhere in Time is possibly the best Chris Reeves film (I never cared too much for Superman, even when I was younger).

    I’ll be surprised if Repo Man doesn’t make it onto one of these lists, that’s a film that seems right up your alley Jeff.

  25. If you cite _The Stuntman_, I can only assume that the (slightly superior, way funnier) _My Favorite Year_ will be forthcoming when you finally get to 1982.  For sheer acting chops, I’d go for _The Lion In Winter_ over _Lawrence_ to show off O’Toole early work, but by god the early eighties were good for him.  Maximally ugly filmography since then, though.

    Jeff, I think you should know that your lists have inspired my new diet.  I call it “The Amazon Wishlist Diet”.  Every five pounds lost and maintained I get to one-click ten movies off my (newly expanded, thanks) wishlist.  Once I get to my target (about 160 movies from now), I get five movies a month if I maintain.  How I do it is optional, but I’m thinking of eating less and exercising more.  Just a concept.  It’s all about motivation.  It’s one thing to think that if I put down the hamburger I’ll eventually live longer, feel stronger, and my partner will want to keep having sex with me.  It’s another to think that I’ll have _The Taking of Pelham 123_ and _The Last Detail_ showing up in my mailbox in a few days.  I know exactly which side my hindbrain is buttered on.

    BTW, _Somewhere In Time_ is unwatchably execrable.

    More than pretty much any other movie I can think of, _Somewhere In Time_ is simply gooey.  The movie you actually meant was _Time after Time_, featuring Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenbergen meeting cute.  Wrong decade for this list, though, and I’ll admit it’s not quite good enough to make the 1970’s list.

  26. Dave, Yeah, with MacDowell as HG Wells coming to modern New York and deciding to dine at that Scottish restaurant.

  27. I think Time After Time made one of my 70s lists.

    Somewhere is time is just one of those films you either love or hate (as some of the comments in this thread attest); I tend to hate treacly movies; but I do like me some Jane Seymour.

  28. All right! I haven’t seen any of them! Go me!

  29. I’m one of those that loved Somewhere in Time.  Totally absorbed when watching it, and I’ve only seen it a couple of times (the first when I was 13 or so) so it’s not ruined.  I think the thing with the watch is there as a nod to the paradox.  It’s an intentional non-flaw to make you think.

    I never got Popeye.  Seemed really weird to me, but then I hear there were a lot of drugs.

    I also never got into Ordinary People.  It was ok, I guess, but not as emotionally engaging as you’d expect.  My Bodyguard was awesome though.

  30. Well, after many of these lists, and having seen so few of the movies in question, I can only assume PW has a permanent sneer on its face, directed towards me.

    As for Repo Man, great stuff.  Especially the scene in which Emilio asks his mother if there is any food left.  She tells him to look in the refrigerator, and there he finds an open can generically labeled “Food.” Classic.

  31. I still stand by what I said about Somewhere in Time.  I still say it’s the worst film on the list.  But I must admit, if it came on right now, I’d stay up and watch the thing.  I’m weird that way.

    I remember at the time, I thought Jane Seymour was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, but that was before I saw Judi Bowker as Princess Andromeda in Clash of the Titans, just about a year later.

  32. I loved Return of the Secaucus 7 at the time, and found The Big Chill way too whiny compared to it. But then, maybe that made it more accurate? I’m interested to see how it has aged and if it still holds up.

    After almost commiting Bambicide this weekend, you can bet I flashed back to Sayles’ movie.

  33. David, the generic label gig in “Repo Man” was a running joke through the whole movie.  EVERY product shown in any detail in the movie has a generic label slapped onto it. 

    My favorite scene from Repo Man:  Where Emilio is sitting in the bar listening to the “Circle Jerks” do a schmaltzy-lounge singer act.  He says to himself “Man, I can’t believe I used to LIKE these guys.”

    I really wish that movie had more pop culture exposure, if only for the reason that I wouldn’t have gotten as many funny looks when I slipped a quote from this classic into a conversation.

    Punk #1:  “C’mon, let’s go do some crime.”

    Punk #2:  “Yeah, let’s order some sushi & not pay.”

    Otto:  “Do you like my friends?  I made them myself.”

    Punk:  “I know that my violent ways led to this sad end….but still; I blame society.”

    Otto:  “You’re a white suburban punk, just like me.”

    Punk:  “True, but it still hurts.”

  34. I dig Repoman.. I lived Repoman in the late 70s and early 80s in L.A.  (you know..except for the nukes and black ops types).. but Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Fear.. The whole ‘Decline of Western Civilization‘*** thing… Emilio captured it pretty well.. The ”Cosmic Web of Coincidence” and the 2 handed flip off stick in my mind.. I got to use it on a crappy manager at a crappy job a few years later.. Damn it felt good.

    *** Decline of Western Civilization better make it on one of these list.. It and ‘Dogtown & Z-Boys captured my (and a whole lot of other SoCal guys) days in the sun.

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