DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: DIRECTORS OF THE 80'S

Monday 4 June 2007


Directors Who Can Say the 80’s Were Their Best Decade

NOTE: Many readers have made great comments and flagged some of my errors and omissions. Thank you everybody. I'll be making some edits based on people's suggestions over the next couple of days. Please check back. Thanks

The 1980s are generally considered a dead zone for great filmmakers. Pundits frequently laud the 70’s filmmakers of Friedkin, Coppola, Lucas, Ashby and also proclaim their demise in the 80s’. Indeed, the general conservative attitude in international politics perhaps caused this seismic shift in film artistry. In Hollywood circles, changing economics of cinema-going resulted in the first “tent-pole” films, and the proliferation of the over-exploited sequel-mania. When people mention the 80’s the brainless action films of Stallone and Schwarzenegger come to mind first. The number of literature comparing the 1990’s videostore generation with the 1970’s film school generation are increasing as well.

So where’s the love for the 80’s? Was it indeed the dark ages for our great filmmakers? Surely some filmmakers survived the depression. Yes, there are a few and in fact this article serves to applaud those who flourished in this depression. Let’s cause some controversy and examine the filmmakers who can honestly say the 80’s was their best decade:

John Hughes

Hughes is one of the standouts. Now that the audience for the “Hughes” films of the 80’s are older and now writing about and making films, Mr. Hughes is getting the respect he deserves. Let’s go through his contribution to cinema in the 1980’s.

- Sixteen Candles (84)
- The Breakfast Club (85)
- Weird Science (85)
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (86)
- Planes, Trains & Automobiles (87)
- She’s Having a Baby (88)
- Uncle Buck (89)

That’s 7 great films in 6 years – and even more remarkable that he wrote all those films as well. Only Woody Allen or Blake Edwards or Billy Wilder in comparable eras can match the quality and quantity of this output. Virtually every ‘teen’ film in the 90’s and 00’s is a descendent of either “Sixteen Candles”, or “The Breakfast Club”. These two films alone helped define the genre of the teen film.

As a writer, Hughes is equally as proficient. He’s also the man responsible for the first 3 “Vacation” films, the first three “Home Alone” films, not to mention, “Pretty in Pink”. His sharp and sudden reduction in output always puzzled me. He, of course, has made money hand over fist penning a series of Disney/family films, such as “Flubber,” “The Home Alones,” “Beethoven”, “101 Dalmatians” and on and on. Perhaps the rigors of day-to-day production were too much for him and threw in his towel.

John Carpenter

As with Hughes, Carpenter, the director of b-movie action classics such as “Escape From New York” and “Big Trouble in Little China”, is also receiving a new millennium revival of respect and admiration. Perhaps it’s for the same reason that the young boys who idolized his films and memorized his dialogue from overplayed VHS cassettes have now grown up to be the journalists and filmmakers controlling the media today.

Carpenter’s 80’s impressive oeuvre includes:

- The Fog (80)
- Escape From New York (81)
- The Thing (82)
- Christine (83)
- Starman (84)
- Big Trouble in Little China (86)
- Prince of Darkness (87)
- They Live (88)

Each of these films are distinctly Carpenter films, and each in its own way are near classics. Including his last two 70’s films, Hollywood is currently remaking or has recently remade the four theatrical films in a row Carpenter made from “Assault on Precinct 13” to “Escape From New York”. Not many directors have that unique claim to fame. From interviews and other writings about Carpenter, every film made after “The Thing” (which had a large backlash due to its violence) was a struggle, yet on each and every occasion he was able to rise to the task and produce an entertaining and lasting film.

David Cronenberg

Mr. Cronenberg exited the 70’s as a cult horror filmmaker with his own signature brand of organic gore and bodily degradation. Though highly professional and accomplished technically they had an unpolished feel to them – so gruesome it bordered on snuff. In the 80’s Cronenberg managed to take his filmmaking style from the 70’s and improve on it to create better and more mature films each time out. From “Scanners” to “Dead Ringers” Cronenberg turned himself into an internationally recognized auteur and a favourite at prestigious film festivals around the world. His films include:

- Scanners (81)
- Videodrome (83)
- The Dead Zone (83)
- The Fly (86)
- Dead Ringers (88)

The improvement in skill and storytelling from each film to the next is remarkable. Watch “Dead Ringers” again and I hope you might echo my opinion that it is Cronenberg’s finest work. He gets the best performance of his career from Jeremy Irons (his “Reversal of Fortune” Oscar win included) and manages to create a scary and frightful nightmare out of mood, and atmosphere instead of the technical effects he had been known for. The 90’s were hit and miss for Cronenberg, and so far the 00’s have been successful though sparse. Arguably, the 80’s were Cronenberg’s best decade.

Warning: spoilers and some excessive blood splatter in this one:

Oliver Stone

Again, another tough call. Love them or hate them, in the 90’s Oliver Stone created some controversial modern classics – “JFK”, “Natural Born Killers” and “Nixon”, but he also ended the decade two highly underwhelming misfires – “U-Turn” and “Any Given Sunday”.

But his 80’s output, discounting his debut horror film, “The Hand”, is one great film after another:

- The Hand (81)
- Salvador (85)
- Platoon (86)
- Wall Street (87)
- Talk Radio (88)
- Born on the Fourth of July (89)

Oliver Stone’s two, count ‘em two, Best Director Oscar wins (“Platoon and “Born on the Fourth of July”) more than makes up for Stone’s “The Hand”. No other film typifies the economic climate of the 80’s better than “Wall Street”. It’s the ultimate Reagan-era film. “Talk Radio” is the undiscovered gem of this bunch. Stone’s smallest film to date tells the real-life inspired story of Barry Champlain, a radio-shock jock who takes the controversial antics of his show too far. This was Stone’s first collaboration with Robert Richardson and together they would go on to create a whole new style and look to films which many others would imitate. Hands down the 80s wins for Oliver Stone.

Here’s a bit from “Talk Radio”:

Woody Allen

Again, another tough call. Considering the 80’s gave birth to 10 films, including some of his best – “Hannah and Her Sisters”, “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Zelig” it may be difficult to hear but the 80’s just may be his best decade. Also, it may be worthy to rediscover some of his more forgotten works, such as “Another Woman”, which is more complex and oblique than his comedies and “September” which broadens his range into more serious reflective drama.

Here’s his output:

- Stardust Memories (80
- A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (82)
- Zelig (83)
- Broadway Danny Rose (84)
- Purple Rose of Cairo (85)
- Hannah and Her Sisters (86)
- Radio Days (87)
- September (87)
- Another Woman (88)
- New York Stories – Oedipus Wrecks Segment (89)
- Crimes and Misdemeanors (89)

His 70’s film output, of course, includes perhaps his two finest films – “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan”, but don’t forget the sloppy beginnings of say, “Bananas”. The 90’s and 00’s were hit and miss, though some minor gems arose such as “Sweet and Lowdown”, “Match Point” and “Everyone Says I Love You”.

Here’s a great Woody Allen moment in “Hannah and Her Sisters”.

Rob Reiner

Where did Rob Reiner go? There was a time when he had the touch of gold. Check out these instant classics:

- This is Spinal Tap (84)
- The Sure Thing (85)
- Stand By Me (86)
- The Princess Bride (87)
- When Harry Met Sally (89)

With the exception of “The Sure Thing” which hasn’t increased in value since 1985, each of these films is distinct and great storytelling. The effect of “This is Spinal Tap” on films and TV today has not gone unnoticed. “Stand By Me” has aged well and remains one of the most poignant and defining films of the nostalgic 60’s revival. And “When Harry Met Sally” was perhaps the first of the modern romantic comedies that have been recycled year after year ever since.

Since the 80’s, there were a few high points in his career including “A Few Good Men”, which I don’t think has gained any new fans since 1992 and Aaron Sorkin’s “The American President” which was reshaped into “The West Wing”. Unfortunately in the 00’s Mr. Reiner has been a virtual no show.

You can’t help but smile at this one:

Lawrence Kasdan

How’s this for credibility, did you know Lawrence Kasdan wrote both “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Empire Strikes Back”? What a great start to a great career directing film in the 80’s. Yes, Lawrence Kasdan started writing screenplays. In fact, his first sold screenplay was “The Bodyguard” in the 70’s, originally intended as a vehicle for Diana Ross. In the 80’s he made the seamless transition to directing, which included:

- Body Heat (1981)
- The Big Chill (1983)
- Silverado (1985)
- The Accidental Tourist (1988)

Like the Coen Bros and the Wachowski Bros, Kasdan’s first film was a neo-noir - “Body Heat”, with Kathleen Turner and William Hurt steaming up the screen. Perhaps one of the most influential films of the 80’s is “The Big Chill”. This film is now in the modern cinematic lexicon used to describe ensemble character-driven films. “It’s the like The Big Chill meets… (fill).” Kasdan’s “Silverado” is generally considered one of the great new Westerns, perhaps only behind “The Unforgiven” and "The Long Riders" in prestige, and “The Accidental Tourist”, of course, won Geena Davis an Oscar. Not a bad apple in this bunch. Kasdan also helped start the careers of many of his usual players including William Hurt, Kevin Kline, and Kevin Costner.

Unfortunately of his 90’s and 00’s output only “Grand Canyon” managed to live up to the standard he set in the 80’s.

Here’s Mickey Rourke stealing a scene in “Body Heat”:

Barry Levinson

This is a very tough call, because Mr. Levinson has made perhaps his best film – “Bugsy” - in the 90’s. But let’s consider these titles:

- Diner (1983)
- The Natural (1984)
- Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
- Tin Men (1987)
- Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
- Rain Man (1988)

“Diner”, like “The Big Chill” helped define the ‘ensemble’ film, and also started the careers of Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern and Steve Guttenberg. Each of his subsequent films were highly successful, including the Steven Spielberg-produced “Young Sherlock Holmes”, the now-classic sports film “The Natural”, the Oscar nominated performance of Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietman” and finally his Oscar win for “Rain Man.” “Tin Men”, the Richard Dreyfuss/Danny De Vito vehicle has largely been collecting dust, but, in general, is a quality film, perhaps worthy of a revisit.

As mentioned the 90’s had “Bugsy”, and “Wag the Dog”, but it also had “Toys” “Jimmy Hollywood” and “Sphere”. Again, a close call, but I’ll give this one to the 80’s.

Richard Donner

All hail Richard Donner – the hitmaker. The 70’s were kind to Richard Donner - “The Omen” (1976) then “Superman” (1978). That’s a tough act to follow, but Mr. Donner would go onto give shape to the “buddy cop” genre with the birth of the “Lethal Weapon” franchise. Of course he had help from Shane Black and his other co-writers, and the second “Lethal Weapon” (1989) was arguably better than the original due to the introduction of the scene stealing Joe Pesci. In addition, I think “Goonies” ranks as one of the top nostalgic films of the 80’s. If “Goonies” wasn’t one of the first entries in the ‘kids vs. adults’ genre of 80’s cinema, it certainly was one of the best. Rounding out these three fab flicks are the holiday staple, “Scrooged”, one of Bill Murray’s best roles and the sword-wielding fantasy film, “Ladyhawk”.

The 90’s were hit and miss for Donner – two more Lethal Weapons, a couple sub-par Mel Gibson films (“Conspiracy Theory” and “Maverick”) and the atrocious “Assassins”.

Here is Donner’s full 80’s oeuvre to recap:

- Superman 2 (uncredited) (1980)
- Inside Moves (1980)
- The Toy (1980)
- Ladyhawk (1985)
- Goonies (1985)
- Lethal Weapon (1987)
- Scrooged (1988)
- Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

Zucker, Zucker, & Abrahams

Some of the funniest films of the 80’s were created by this talent team.

- Airplane (1980)
- Top Secret (1984)
- Ruthless People (1986)
- Naked Gun (1987)

Though not all three were credited as co-directing all these films, they essentially were co-creators – either as co-writer, director or producer or all of the above.

The legacy of “Airplane!” is still strong today. The Scary Movie/Not Another Teen Movie/Epic Movie ‘franchises’ were all born from “Airplane!”. This team also gave birth to the “Police Squad” series, which became “Naked Gun” as well the underrated “Top Secret” – another lesser-known ‘gag’ film with Val Kilmer (at least watch for it the scene shot backwards). “Ruthless People” was their non-gag film, but it’s also hilarious film – a comedy of errors based loosely on an O Henry novel!

Walter Hill

One of the great machismo directors, and one of the first of the Sam Peckinpah-influenced filmmakers. Perhaps not quite the blood-ballets of Peckinpah, Walter Hill also took action to high art. Watching his films for the editing alone is a treat. Hill did action very well, but also applied his panache in other genres. Check out his reel:

- The Long Riders (1980)
- Southern Comfort (1981)
- 48 Hours (1982)
- Streets of Fire (1984)
- Brewster’s Millions (1985)
- Crossroads (1986)
- Extreme Prejudice (1987)
- Red Heat (1988)
- Johnny Handsome (1989)

“Brewster’s Millions” curiously sticks out like a sore thumb, but his others are distinctly “Walter Hill films.” “Southern Comfort” is a blatant rip-off of “Deliverance” but it still manages generate some major chills. Before there was “Lethal Weapon” there was “48 hours”, shot when Eddie Murphy was king and at the top of his game. “Extreme Prejudice” is Hill’s most “Peckinpah-bloody” film. There are some virtuoso squib and blood-letting in this film as well as a fine performance from Nick Nolte. “Red Heat” is one of Arnold’s better action films, but it’s “Johnny Handsome” that needs to be praised. “Johnny Handsome” is a fascinating crime film/noir/character study. Though not spoken of in critics circles these days, it deserves to be rediscovered as a tough crime classic of the 80’s.

The 70’s gave birth to “The Warriors” and the stark and minimalist chase film “The Driver”, so some argument could be made for the 70’s, but the 80’s were made for Walter Hill and it was his decade.

P.S. Don’t forget that Mr. Hill also co-created, produced and co-wrote all of the “Alien” films.

Here’s the classic guitar duel between Ralph Macchio and Steve Vai in “Crossroads”:

John Landis

One of the most successful directors of the 80’s is John Landis, a director who successfully blended action, comedy and horror. And he’s also the director of the legendary “Thriller” video for Michael Jackson. Of course, this video was based on his own highly successful, horror/comedy hybrid – “American Werewolf London.” Arguably his best film was the classic original “Blues Brothers”.

- Blues Brothers (1980)
- An American Werewolf in London (1981)
- Trading Places (1983)
- Twilight Zone: the Movie (1983)
- Into the Night (1985)
- Spies Like Us (1985)
- ỊThree Amigos! (1986)
- Coming to America (1988)

Sadly he was also at helm during the fatal on-set accident during the filming of his segment of “Twilight Zone: The Movie” which saw Vic Morrow and two young child actors killed in a stunt gone wrong. The event and the subsequent aftermath affected Landis immensely. He did manage to make 3 funny, but not classic comedies before the end of the decade – “Spies Like Us”, “Three Amigos”, and “Coming to America”. And now, his best days are behind him.

Here’s the CIA exam scene from “Spies Like Us”:

James Cameron

Ok, in the 90’s “T2”, “True Lies” and “Titanic” made James Cameron a rich rich man, but I’ll duel pistols with anyone who says those films are better than “The Terminator” “Aliens” and “The Abyss.” “Aliens” is hands down Cameron’s best film. Need not say more. Here’s the films:

- Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)
- The Terminator (1984)
- Aliens (1986)
- The Abyss (1989)

PS Has anyone ever seen “Piranha II: The Spawning?

Istvan Szabo

Istvan Szabo, a great Hungarian filmmaker, had a remarkable string of great films in the ‘80’s, yet he’s never really achieved the international superstardom of, say, an Almodovar. He’s never had the success in America that say, Alfonso Cuaron, or Paul Verhoeven had. And this list of films may not conjure nostalgic memories…

- Bizalom (1980)
- Grüne Vogel, Der (1980)
- Mephisto (1981)
- Bali (1984)
- Colonel Redl (1984)
- Hanussen (1988)

…but Mr. Szabo received an astonishing FOUR Best Foreign Film Oscar nominations (“Bizalom”, “Mephisto”, “Colonel Redl” and “Hanussen”) and winning one for “Mephisto”. Szabo’s onscreen alter-ego was Klaus Maria Brandauer who starred in three of these films. Because of his Oscar win, Szabo is most famous for “Mephisto”, the story of a German stage actor performing his character as a way to survive the Nazi purge. Szabo has had some minor success in the 90’s and 00’s, specifically his grand Hungarian epic – “Sunshine”, but forever his 80’s output is what he will be regarded for.

Bertrand Tavernier

Like Szabo Bertrand Tavernier is not well known outside of Europe. He started making films in the 70’s and missed the New Wave, so he wasn’t glorified like Traffaut, Godard, or Chabrol. But don’t discount this French master. He is one the 1980’s best international filmmakers.

His films of the 70’s had already won a ton Cesar Awards (French Oscars), but in the 80’s Tavernier increase the scope and accessibility of his films with:

- La Mort en Direct (Deathwatch) (1980)
- Coup de Torchon (1981)
- Un Dimanche à la Campagne (1983)
- ‘Round Midnight (1986)
- La Passion Béatrice (1987)
- La Vie et Rien d'Autre (1989)

If you want to see one Tavernier film, watch “Coup de Torchon”, arguably his best film, a subversion dark comedy about hapless cop turned vigilante killer and a unique adaptation of an American Jim Thompson novel.

Joe Dante

Any discussion about 80’s cinema must mention the horror-comedy master Joe Dante. A fan of B-Horror films, Dante made camp art. First, his werewolf classic, “The Howling” and then of course, “Gremlins”. Dante will always be remembered for “Gremlins”. Few films were as funny, scary and melodramatically poignant. The scene where Phoebe Cates describes the story of how her father died, dressed up as Santa getting stuck in the chimney sums up Dante perfectly. Dante’s full 80’s oeuvre includes:

- The Howling (1981)
- Twilight Zone the Movie Segment (1983)
- Gremlins (1984)
- Explorers (1985)
- Innerspace (1987)
- The ‘Burbs (1989)

Peter Weir

Peter Weir shifted successfully from being an Australian filmmaker to a Hollywood filmmaker with ease in the 80’s. After a series of increasingly complex and powerful films in the 70’s, Weir developed into a bankable director with a broad storytelling range in the 80s:

Gallipoli (81)
The Year of Living Dangerously (82)
Witness (85)
The Mosquito Coast (86)
Dead Poets Society (89)

“Witness” and “Dead Poets Society” each gave him Academy Award nominations and were among the most popular films of its year. “Gallipoli” is a terrific war film and always included in discussions of the greatest war films.

The 90’s and 00’s he chose quality over quantity but directed two of the most memorable films of the past 10 years (“Truman Show” and “Master and Commander).

Warning: This “Gallipoli” clip contains spoilers:

Roland Joffe

Roland Joffe primarily worked in television in the 70’s before getting a chance to direct his first feature with “The Killing Fields”. It was a powerful film about the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, a multi Oscar nominated film, and a winner for first time actor and Khmer Rouge survivor, Dr. Haing S. Ngor. Joffe followed it up with the equally impressive “The Mission”, which again, garnered him another ticket to the Oscars.

The 90’s and 00’s has seen Mr. Joffe’s downfall, the low point being the trounced-upon “Scarlett Letter” in 1995. He’s been trying to pick himself up ever since, but so far nothing has compared to his films of the 80’s.

The Killing Fields (84)
The Mission (86)
Fat Man and Little Boy (89)

Again, this could go on forever, but I’ll stop here and ask readers to bring on their favourites. But remember these are filmmakers who arguably did their best work in the 80’s. Therefore I can say, despite the great films of Robert Zemeckis, he actually improved in the 90’s. Also, I’ve included only filmmakers who have made at least 4 films. Bring it on.


Anonymous said...

Another interesting topic, Alan. I'd agree with most, but the Scorsese call is iffy. I'd cross him out. Just like Spielberg, he's a guy that just keeps delivering. He's had a "classic" in every decade and to say the 80's was his best is wrongheaded. You also didn't mention Cape Fear in the 90's. Dude, Taxi Driver and Mean Streets (70's)? Goodfellas and Cape Fear (90's)? The Departed and The Aviator? Without Raging Bull in the mix, the eighties really are hit and miss. He should't be on the list.

Groovymarlin said...

Great topic! I could go on at length, but instead I'll just thank you for including John Carpenter. I think his version of "The Thing" is one of the best horror movies ever made. There's a lot to think about there, hiding beneath the shocking gore and groundbreaking special effects. Definitely a classic.

Anonymous said...

How about John McTiernan? After the Predator and Die Hard, it's been down hill...

Anonymous said...

Really good topic but I would have included a couple of others. One example of this would be Tim Burton who had the highest grossing film of the 80's with Batman and Beetlejuice is great.

Wade said...

Number one, it's not "Pussycat, Pussycat, I Love You," it's called "What's New Pussycat?" and Woody Allen only wrote it, not directed it. Ever heard of the IMDB? Maybe you could check these things out first.

Number two, Richard Donner? Aside from your love for the Goonies (which I have not seen, but seems at best like a nice diversion, not some great film) and the Lethal Weapon movies (which I'll concede as competent, but nothing more,) the rest of the films on the list are lackluster at best (Scrooged) and painful and offensive at worst. (The Toy)

Ultimately, I think your list illustrates how little good work was actually done during the 80's, comparatively speaking. Stack this list of "great filmmakers" against a list from any other decade, and I think it would be difficult to argue otherwise.

Alan Bacchus said...

Thanks Wade for correcting my Woody Allen error - I've now made the change. And you're right, in creating the list it's evident the filmmaking of other decades is superior. It was difficult thinking of great international filmmakers who consistently made great films. It was tough. If there's any I missed, please send them through.

Anonymous said...

Ivan Reitman! He did Stripes (1981) Ghostbusters (1984) and Twins (1988). He did Legal Eagles in 1986 which i have never seen and the lackluster Ghsotbusters II in 1989 but still, he ruled in the 80's. Since then its Junior, Six Days Seven Nights, Father's Day, Evolution and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

Tobe Hooper is a close second. As much as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is his best film, he also did the underrated Funhouse (1981) Poltergeist (1982) Lifeforce (1985) and a decent remake to Invaders From Mars in 1986. but how can you go wrong with the campy, gory The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)?

jaymart industries said...

Although he only made two films in the 80's, I would also toss in the ring the name of John Milius. The two that he did make were pretty important to geeks/80's dorks as they were CONAN THE BARBARIAN and RED DAWN. Say what you will about either flick, but anyone who grew up in the 80's has dropped lines from either of those movies at some time or another. He has done a lot more work behind the scenes as far as writing and producing and I personally consider THE FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER to be an 80's "We should have won Vietnam" type flick although it came out in 1991.

Also, lest we forget John Badham, who in my opinion also made some important 80's viewing materials. His reigning moments came from between 1981 to 1987 when he made such movies as WAR GAMES, SHORT CIRCUIT and STAKEOUT. He too has fallen on tough times in the last ten years, but he did do great things during the 80's...at least in my opinion.

Lars Born said...

Alan, you forgot The Long Riders (1980) in the Walter Hill section.

Other than that, I think it's a mighty fine topic.

Anonymous said...

I was expecting to see Roland Joffe on this list (The Killing Fields, The Mission).

- Jack

Charlie!!!!!!! said...

I have seen Piranha 2: The Spawning. It's pretty lame, but the Joe Dante original, which includes Paul Bartel as a bitchy summer camp employee, is worth watching.

Unknown said...

What about Taylor Hackford? He had some of the most 80's-centric and iconic movies from that time period. Let's take a look:

The Idolmaker
An Officer and a Gentleman
Against All Odds
White Nights
Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail1 Rock 'n Roll!
Everybody's All-American

And in the 90's and beyond, Dolores Claiborne, Devil's Advocate, Proof of Life, Ray.

But still, the 80's were his best, and The Idolmaker is still one of my all-time favorites.

Anonymous said...

DePalma - Body Heat, Dressed To Kill, The Untouchables...

Anonymous said...

You have to mention John Sayles when you discuss 80s filmmakers. He was one of the best independent directors. His first film, Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980), was the inspiration for The Big Chill. He never shied away from difficult topics, and the rest of his 80s output shows this: Lianna (1983), Baby It's You (1983), The Brother From Another Planet (1984), the brilliant Matewan (1987), and one of the best baseball films ever made, Eight Men Out (1988). Beyond his direction during the 80s, he was editing, acting, and writing such horror classics as Alligator (1980) and The Howling (1981).

Anonymous said...

Peter Weir? Jim Jarmusch?

And Woody Allen directed a little film in the 80s called Purple Rose of Cairo.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy you included Walter Hill. That's a guy who never gets enough credit. I also agree with the person who mentioned John Badham -- "Blue Thunder is such a quintessential '80s movie. And how about the underrated Peter Hyams, who gave us "Outland," "The Star Chamber," "2010," "Running Scared" and "The Presidio" in the '80s?

donnalee said...

great topic! I would throw Paul Verhoeven in the mix. Flesh and blood and ROBOCOP!!! And then he went on to do in the 90's total recall, basic instinct, showgirls, star ship troopers !!

m. said...

I agree with filmdude -- Purple Rose of Cairo is a glaring omission in the Woody Allen list.

Also, he had at least two other critically-acclaimed movies in the nineties: Mighty Aphrodite and Bullets Over Broadway.

Alan Bacchus said...

Hey film dude:
Wow. How did I miss Peter Weir? Humble apologies. I'll put him up as soon as I can. Sorry for leaving out Purple Rose of Cairo - I've seen added this one.

Many other great suggestions from other people. You may a couple new additions up there soon as well.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Haing S. Ngor's performance WAS impressive (most impressive) but he didn't play himself... he played Dith Pran.

Anonymous said...

If the often overrated Richard Donner made the cut, then guys like Peter Hyams, John Badham and John Milius should have too.

By the way, most, if not all of the directors mentioned under this topic are still alive today, and most of them don't work nearly enough. I can't believe the younger hacks who get hired nowadays ahead of these talented older filmmakers.

Anonymous said...

I agree with tangsting who nominated Brian De Palma in addition to Body Heat and The Untouchables (which were previously nominated) he also directed his best and most well known film in the 80s in Scarface. He has had some hits in other decades such as Carrie (70s) and Mission Impossible and Carlito's Way (90s), but I believe the 80s were when he did his best work.

P.S. I had a lot of fun/good memories while reading your column along with the comments associated with it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with the other two posters who nominated Brian De Palma (whose '80s work includes "Dressed to Kill," "Blow Out," "Scarface," "Body Double," "Wise Guys," "The Untouchables" and "Casualties of War"). Taylor Hackford is another interesting choice. I don't know if doing just two movies during the entire decade is enough to qualify, but Martin Brest ("Beverly Hills Cop," "Midnight Run") is another fine director to emerge in the '80s.

ebrown2112 said...

IMO the 90s was Sayles' best decade. "Lone Star", "Men with Guns", "Passion Fish", and "City of Hope" are brilliant films.

Pasukaru: EVERY decade is brilliant for Scorsese. :)

1970s: Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, The Last Waltz, Taxi Driver
1980s: Raging Bull, After Hours, The Last Temptation of Christ, Life Lessons
1990s: Goodfellas, Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence, Casino
2000s: The Aviator, The Departed

I agree about the 1980s being Woody's best decade.

Anonymous said...

"Raging Bull" (1980) is widely considered a masterpiece.

I also think "The King of Comedy" (1983) is Scorsese's unsung masterpiece. It's a movie that gets better with each viewing.

And while "The Color of Money" might not be one of Scorsese's most personal or talked about films, it's easily on the the 10-best films of 1986.

Anonymous said...

Concerning the poster who mentioned John Sayles...While I would like to see Sayles added to any list to increase exposure, adding him to this list would be a contentious affair, as his output during the 90's, arguably is at least equal to his 80's output in many circles, lets compare:

Eight Men Out
The Brother from Another Planet
Baby It's You
Return of the Secaucus 7

Men with Guns
Lone Star
The Secret of Roan Inish
Passion Fish
City of Hope

Passion Fish was nominated for 2 Oscars (deservedly), Lonestar for 1 & Limbo a Golden Palm. Like the other poster said, Matewan is excellent and arguably his best, it was Oscar nominated for Wexler's camera a work, but it's not irrefutably his best decade.

Anonymous said...

I've got a few issues with things you said, but mostly...

Coming to America is not a classic comedy? Are you kidding? It's BRILLIANT.

Anonymous said...

FYI, the first Oliver Stone-Robert Richardson collaboration was SALVADOR. TALK RADIO marked their fourth picture together...

Anonymous said...

Didn't I write that EVERY decade was great for Scorsese: "He's had a "classic" in every decade". If that didn't come across, that's what i meant... I wanted to say the 80's was not his best decade.

Alan Bacchus said...

Thanks Anonymous for pointing out my error with Oliver Stone/Robert Richardson. I actually meant to say 'Talk Radio' was their first collaboration with Richardson's signature hazy-hardlight lighting style.

sophomorecritic said...

What a great list and what a great site. I hope you check out my blog sometime. We do some of the same stuff:

When I think of directors who burnt out in the 80s, I think Stone definitely comes to mind as does Hughes. Even if JFK was notable, his three top movies were in the 80's no doubt.

I think Weir is famous for 5 movies (M&C, Truman Show, Gallipolli, Witness, and Dead Poets' Society) and 3 were in the 80s but i just think he's being less prolific.

As for John Landis, he never was a top-tier director. He simply had the luck to land projects with top-tier talent.

And James Cameron can't count because he had Titanic in the 90's and I hear he's got two great films this year.

Anonymous said...

Two more "'80s directors" for me:

Alan Rudolph. CHOOSE ME, TROUBLE IN MIND, MADE IN HEAVEN, THE MODERNS, and LOVE AT LARGE...all quirky, humorous and bursting with romantic longing. I was never taken with his turn from there to a more "serious" tone, and his later attempts to capture that same sensibility felt more freakish and self-derivative than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I should have revised that opening line above... I was also going to mention Stuart Gordon, whose RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND are probably his best. But the third film that merits mention with those, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, creeps into the '90s...and his other titles, while having some nice ideas (the illiterate population of ROBOT JOX foreshadows IDIOCRACY), haven't really been too compelling.

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sophomorecritic said...

I think that Terry Gilliam is the ultimate remnant of the 80's, so I'm totally surprised you left him off. His films because they rely on visual effects so much, seem so dated to that particular decade.

In addition, I think now that Guest has gone onto patent that brand of humor in 4 films ranging from 1997-2006, that Christopher Guest us the real autuer behind spinal tap and not Rob Reiner.

I think Barry Levinson is also very much in the 80s. I tend to think that anything with Warren Beatty is a Warren Beatty film and not a film by the director.

#1 80'S MOVIES ADDICT said...

hands down...the all time best 80's movie director...JOHN HUGHES.