Al’s Top 5 Films of The 80s

As a film fan, there’s a few things I dislike a fair bit.

One is being thought of, or referring to myself as, a film fan.

Second would be the needless immediate discussion of a film, or of any artform/performance after the experience. The inane chatter of people leaving a cinema screening with such constructive insights as “I liked that” or “It was long” is nearly enough to make me not want to go to the cinema… but I LOVE going to the cinema, so not quite. There really is rarely any reason to discuss a film, musical performance or play immediately after seeing it, so let’s agree not to.

Thirdly, it genuinely makes me panic when asked what my “favourite film” is, indeed my “favourite anything”. I just can’t commit that strongly, knowing how easily this can change with time, age, mood etc, and I really don’t think you can go thru life having one immovable favourite of anything… film, band, cheese… although perhaps one makes an exception in an attempt to prove the rule… (see below).

Finally, as a child of the 80s, I don’t like how much I love so many 80s films, it’s just so obvious, so clichéd and so pretentious to love 80s movies just because I was born in the 80s… but there are some seriously great movies that came out of that particular period.

There are so many amazing and incredible films, works of art, that are released every year around the world and many creep into at least a temporary favourite list every year, some stick around, some don’t. Stuart asked us months ago to do a top 5 list and having a few days off over the festive period has given me an opportunity to get around to writing it. I have decided to list some key movies, all released in the 1980s and all films that I could watch over and over again and still happily enjoy. By doing so I shall be voiding the above complaints entirely. I am nothing if not inconsistent.



I imagine it is pretty difficult for many working people to pinpoint the moment, or event that led them into their current chosen profession. And in a way, it may well be for me, perhaps I have just subconsciously invented a reason for why I do what I do, but it seems logical based on the evidence I have so let’s go for it.

When I was around 4/5 years old, I saw this incredible film for the first time and have a vague and distorted memory of my total fascination with not just the events happening on screen but how, as human beings, we were able to create such wonderful things on the screen. Somehow I knew, that I had to at least try to be a part of a world that would lead me to make something so incredible. I spent the next few years playing an old VHS of BTTF at every available moment, often re-winding it as soon as the Delorean fills the screen with a flash and starting again from the beginning.

I really do dislike the concept of having a favourite film, honestly, but as I have gone thru life, no film has ever quite been able to affect me in the way Back to the Future has. I truly honestly believe it is a perfect movie, everything that goes into movie making is simply perfect; the direction, cinematography, effects, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, the set decoration, the music, the dialogue. Even if for some strange reason someone doesn’t like BTTF (and I fully accept that it’s possible) I would challenge anyone to actually find any real objective fault with this film. There is really nothing like it (apart from the equally wonderful parts 2 and 3).

I saw The Dark Knight back in July of 2008 and, as it finished, I had to really question whether I had finally seen a film that may have made a bigger impression on me… and for at least 45 minutes, TDK had equalled BTTF in my mind as a truly perfect cinema experience… and although to this day I cannot find a single fault with The Dark Knight, somehow Back to the Future still remains the absolute pinnacle in my mind and a total inspiration for my life.


I know it’s an adaptation from the novel of the same name, but rarely does a film come along that tackles such an awesome concept in such an original way. The Rockbiter sums it up best when trying to explain the nothing, “No, a hole would be something, no it was nothing”. It’s just such a scary and weird abstract concept that NOTHING is destroying their world. The film is just filled with such memorable characters, imagery and set-pieces, another I used to watch over and over as a kid and another that still enthrals me, makes me laugh (stupid bat) and cry (Artex). It continues to inspire me and lots of other people it seems around the world, inspiring awesome products like this:

And this:

3. STAGE FRIGHT a.k.a Aquarius

As a genre, Slasher movies are certainly a “cut above the rest” for me. I love horror in its many forms to a pretty obsessive degree, and nothing gets me better than a good 80s Slasher. The “origin” of the slasher movie can be attributed to many a movie, Psycho, Black Christmas, Texas Chainsaw to name a few, but I think Halloween was the film that really made the movie business wake up to the possibilities for exploiting the genre that stills makes big money today. Halloween is probably one of my all time favourites then of the “80s style slasher” movie… but it was made in 1978 so is not viable. Four Halloween sequels were released in the 1980s, namely Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, and if I had to pick my favourite of those it’d actually be Halloween III, but that’s really peripheral to my choice of Stage Fright here. I actually can’t think of anyone I know who has seen this movie, but trust me, if you like Slashers, especially 80s slashers, you should see it. It’s got all the staples of what makes them great horror movies.

Simple plot: escaped mental patient dons a mask and kills a bunch of people in a confined location and timeframe.

Body count: I can’t remember exactly, it’s not the 18 of some of the later Friday the 13ths, but it’s a pretty substantial one (about 9/10)

Gore: Inventive deaths, nicely executed

Chilling 80s score: The Sax Solo!!

Iconic and memorably sinister mask: Giant owl’s head.

There’s not a whole lot more I can say, this is one I can watch over and over as well and it gives you that feeling that I think makes the difference between a slasher movie and great slasher movie; the feeling that something just isn’t right… and it leaves you with a real sense of dread. Classic stuff. Get Region 1 if you can… I have an odd feeling the BBFC may have got their hands on this and messed about during the video nasty paranoia.


Another worn out VHS tape from my childhood, and my favourite Tim Burton film by miles. Batman has always been my favourite superhero by a long long way, and the things Christopher Nolan has done with him are incredible, indeed, the anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises is so high here at Turtle Canyon Media, you can practically taste it. But before all of this, Tim Burton’s Batman was revolutionary in the sense that it practically invented the modern day superhero movie AND reminded everyone that Batman had no use for shark repellent or orphans dressed as birds. Jack Nicholson’s Joker is simply awesome, in the post Heath age, it’s easy to forget that and dismiss it as something less sophisticated, and in ways it is, but Jack Nicholson’s joker was frightening, powerful and a wonderfully realised version of Batman’s arch-nemesis. I have often read that Tim Burton rather prefers Batman Returns, and as much as I admire the chap, I think perhaps Tim Burton doesn’t realise what’s so special about Tim Burton sometimes. Batman showcases what he is really capable of doing, a truly splendid and wonderful movie.


A dear family friend and neighbour, Colin Corby was the Camera Operator on Labyrinth and as such, was landed with a souvenir crystal ball from the shoot. When I was growing up, already a huge fan of Labyrinth, I discovered the crystal ball at Colin’s house and could not believe anyone could be so cool as to be allowed to take that home; another film memory that led me on the path to my career from an early age. Labyrinth is just great fun, and the songs in this film are just incredible! There’s goblins, Ludo, Escher inspired staircases and one of my favourite exchanges from any movie ever:

Sarah: “You’re a worm aren’t you?”

Worm: “Yeah! S’right”

Sarah: “You don’t by any chance know the way thru this Labyrinth do you?”

Worm: “Who me? Nah, I’m just a worm”


Anyway, I’m not sure what exactly this list comprises. They are definitely all 80s movies, they’re definitely all awesome and my “favourite” film of all time is up there, but no means are they my definitive top 5 of the decade, some notable exceptions would include The Terminator, Robocop, Beetlejuice, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Nightmare on Elm Street etc, etc… this is simply a list of some of those movies that define the era for me personally. If you haven’t seen them, or haven’t seen them for a while, I suggest you do so!


2 responses to “Al’s Top 5 Films of The 80s

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