Some parts of the Pac-Man Decade still pop up in our everyday—I swear I saw a scrunchie at the grocery store last week—but sometimes the good parts (like all-star movies) get swept away under the ever-evolving pop culture rug.
This list is for the particular connoisseur looking for a range of flicks to indulge in—from a wayward De Niro and saintly Irons to a tiny witch and her talkative black cat—these 80’s gems belong on your watch (and love) list.
The Mission (1986)
Directed by Roland Joffé.
Other than the all-star cast—Jeremy Irons, Robert De Niro and Liam Neeson—the score of this historical drama by Ennio Morricone alone makes it material for a best of list, and while it’s not the only great reason to watch the film, it’s definitely one of the reasons you’ll come back for more. When Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) is given the job of converting the natives of the Guarani lands in South America, he builds a mission and gets to work.
After being joined by Rodrigo Mendoza (Robert De Niro), a former slave trader looking for redemption, and a treaty transferring lands from Spanish to Portuguese control, the entire mission is at risk for the natives to be captured and turned into slaves. With inspiring performances and lush scenery, this tale is one for the ages—and also one that won the Cannes Film Festival Palme D’Or.
The Last Metro (Le dernier métro) (1980)
Directed by François Truffaut.
Catherine Deneuve is utterly enchanting—albeit full throttle mysterious—in this classic French film noir. When Nazis come to occupy Paris during the second World War, Deneuve’s Jewish husband goes into hiding and gives full control of his theater to her. Hiring a young Gerard Depardieu for the lead role in the theater performance, the two fall in love as secrets compile on secrets and no one is sure of the truth. Entirely in French, I suggest you get a new set of reading glasses before viewing this one with subtitles, but it’s available on Hulu streaming as part of the Criterion Collection.
Directed by John D. Hancock.
“Prancer” is one of my Christmas favorites, about a headstrong girl who’s got her brother and her father, and also (just a few days before Christmas) a live reindeer. Believing the reindeer is Santa’s lost Prancer, she spends all her time and energy concocting plan after plan to get him free from the townspeople so he can fly home for the big Christmas Eve night. Heartwarming and starring an irascible Sam Elliott with a heart of gold as the father, this tale is definitely one to pop out around holiday time, but actually goes down well any time of year.
Out of Africa (1985)
Directed by Sydney Pollack.
Sydney Pollack’s masterpiece is not so much forgotten as it is overlooked. Since Meryl Streep became the ‘it’ woman of the moment, people laud her for “Devil Wears Prada” and “Kramer vs. Kramer” (both great movies) while carefully overlooking this sweeping epic in Africa co-starring Robert Redford.
While I am no romantic when it comes to choosing films, there is something undeniable about this movie for me, and a lot of it has to do with the strong feminist slant when Streep’s character Karen Blixen strikes out on her own and creates a thriving coffee plantation, the score, and the undeniably breathtaking landscape. This movie swept the board during Oscar season—taking home many awards including Best Picture and Best Director—and it all began with “I once had a farm in Africa….”
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
While Miyazaki connoisseurs will sure to be well acquainted with this tale of a little witch and her snarky black cat, most only know about his Oscar-winning “Spirited Away” which is just a shame. Following a 13-year old witch named Kiki (voiced by Kirsten Dunst) as she travels to train on her own, the movie surprised with crazy characters, adventures into the unknown, and plenty of sarcastic side comments from Jiji, her black cat (voiced by Philip Hartmann). Full of laughs, triumphs and even failures, this coming of age story comes with all the real world experience of a live-action, but the perfectly bewitching character of a hand-drawn Studio Ghibli creation that fans have come to love. I dare you not to love it.
With titles like these, I’ll expect you’ll be bingeing this weekend, so just make sure you’re ready with plenty of great popcorn—because what’s a movie without some buttery goodness? Happy viewing!