5 Breakout 80s Movies of Daryl Hannah

Tall, statuesque and blonde, Daryl Hannah stands out on screen and had everyone’s attention in her early film career, and though her striking beauty caught people’s eyes, it was her lasting appeal as a gifted actress that won her fans. Refusing to fall into typecasting, her diverse roles were some of the most iconic in the 1980s and are still remembered as some of the best. Here are 5 movies that have shaped the career of Daryl Hannah and made her a breakout star.

Summer Lovers (1982)

Daryl Hannah
Summer Lovers, 1982

Young love brings an American couple to a lush Greek island where they are soon swept up in the uninhibited lifestyle of the locals and tourists. Michael Pappas (Peter Gallagher) and Cathy Featherstone (Daryl Hannah) experiment with sex and fantasies to improve their romance but soon Michael meets a beautiful French girl named Lina Broussard (Valerie Quennessen) working at a nearby archaeological dig site who captivates him enough to begin an affair. When he feels guilty and admits his mistake, Cathy is angry at first but after meeting Lina, the two becomes friends. It’s not long after that Cathy accepts Michael’s desire for two girls and before long, the three are summer lovers.

Daryl Hannah
Summer Lovers, 1982

Directed by Randal Kleiser, this erotic film is notable mostly for its copious nudity with all three leads baring full frontal throughout, causing a stir of course. While it left critics less than pleased with the uneven story and awkward balance of sex and plot, the actors were praised. Aside from the obvious draw of seeing Hannah in the buff (and the myriad catchy pop songs meant to draw in the new MTV crowd), she and her co-stars are all very well cast. Young, with both curiosity and temptation, Hannah portrays Cathy with honesty and depth, not vapid and ditzy as we’ve come to expect in beach blanket movies. It’s a stark contrast from the other movie she made that year. Speaking of which . . .

Blade Runner (1982)

Daryl Hannah
Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, 1982)

A high-concept sci-fi film, this highly-acclaimed visual masterpiece follows a near-future police detective named Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) as he hunts down some ‘replicants’ who have come back to Earth in search of some answers to very important questions. These androids are led by the intelligent and resourceful Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), who is planning to make his way to his creator. With him are three others, including Pris (Hannah), a ‘pleasure model’ who is lean and physical, able to seduce but much, much more. If Deckard wants to get to Batty, he’s got to get through her first.

Daryl Hannah
Daryl Hannah (Blade Runner, 1982)

Directed by Ridley Scott, this film was a dud on delivery but it wasn’t long after that critics and audiences starting taking notice of its before-its-time production values, visual effects, and intriguing story. Hannah has a substantial part, befriending a designer who works for the company that made her and the others. She wants to use him to get to the elusive creator of the replicants. What’s interesting is her approach, as we might think since she is programmed for pleasure, she might tempt her target, an isolated little man named J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson) with her sexual prowess, but instead uses sympathy. Hannah’s Pris is fully aware of her physical attractiveness and while we never see her performing in her designated role, we sense it was unpleasant. She makes efforts here to reduce her allure, spray painting her face in bandit-like black eyes and donning a flat wig. Becoming a fan favorite character, Pris makes a bold statement about her lot in life and Hannah draws us into her plight with a touching, empowering performance. Plus, (spoilers) best freakout death scene ever.

The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986)

Daryl Hannah
Clan of the Cave Bear (1986)

Based on the popular book of the same name by Jean M. Auel, this film adaptation followed the story of a young Cro-Magnon woman named Ayla (played as an adult by Hannah) who is separated from her mother in an earthquake and taken in by Neanderthals who discover her later. As a tall, blonde woman with different facial features from her saviors, she is often scorned and held in lesser standing, except by a few. She grows to become powerful, intelligent and cunning, but ends up breaking a sacred rule of the clan and is sent away where she must survive on her own. And yes, there is a big bear.

Daryl Hannah
Clan of the Cave Bear (1986)

Directed by Michael Chapman, the movie was critically blasted for its inauthentic sensibility and cliched characters, but praised for its sets and make up and great music (by Alan Silvestri). Hannah remained unscathed by the critics, her portrayal of Ayla one of curiosity and discovery, which held mostly true to the book. There is little in the way of recognizable dialog and much is relayed through odd sounds and body language, to which Hannah’s expressive face and bright eyes say much. A challenge role, though as the film is mostly forgotten, her great work here has been seen by few. As a feminist tale, it certainly ranks high, and Ayla is a character who easily inspires. Plus, best sexual un-fulfillment insult in prehistory.

Roxanne (1987)

Daryl Hannah
Roxanne, 1987

The story of Cyrano de Bergerac gets an updated twist as Steve Martin plays C.D. Bales, a man endowed with a rather large nose. Beloved in his community, he is the fire chief with a crew of misfits. New in town is the lovely Roxanne (Hannah), an astronomy student in search of a comet. She’s a got a lot of heads turning but becomes attracted to a musclebound fireman under Bale’s watch, but he’s not exactly the intellectual type, so asks Bales to help him score some action with Roxanne. Even though C.D. is falling in love with the girl, he agrees to help and with his romantic words, gets another man in her bed. Now what’s he going to do? He’s got a nose for this kind of thing.

Daryl Hannah
Roxanne, 1987

Directed by Fred Schepisi, this lighthearted romantic comedy is one of the better in the genre, with some stellar writing and great performances. Led by Martin, who shines throughout, the dynamic and highly alluring Hannah is his equal, making it easy in every way to see why Bales falls madly in love. Smart, independent, funny, and beautiful, Roxanne is one of those all-time great characters that just feels good to watch as she lights up every moment she’s in. Hannah plays her with just the right amount of sexuality, but more so, a tenderness that she reveals in the most subtle of ways. She is a woman with heart and is moved my more than the things that stimulate her body. It’s a great performance. And we’ll admit, she looks good in a blanket and nothing else.

Splash (1984)

Daryl Hannah
Splash, 1984

If there is a defining movie in Daryl Hannah’s long career, it is surely this. The story of a boy who encounters a mermaid after falling off a ferryboat, he grows up to met her once again, only to fall in love. Tom Hanks stars as Allen Bauer, a wholesale fruit and vegetable salesman, who is depressed over a recent breakup and so returns to the spot off Cape Cod where as he boy he is conceived he saw a mermaid. Circumstances as they are, that mermaid (Hannah) is real and she eventually finds him in the city and wants to have sex. Lots of sex. The two also find time to fall in love, but let’s be clear, she wants to have sex. Torn by her emotions and the need to return to the sea, she must face a difficult choice, though an obsessed scientist (Eugene Levy) makes staying on land a bit difficult anyway. Classic 80s comedy, this one made a, em, ‘splash’ heard round the world. Apologies.

Daryl Hannah
Splash, 1984

Directed by Ron Howard, this film was a huge critical and financial success that propelled both Hanks and Hannah into superstardom. Always funny, it is also bittersweet, with a surprising sentimentality. A little similar to her role in The Clan of the Cave Bear, once again, she speaks in peculiar sounds in the beginning and must acclimate herself to an unfamiliar world. Hannah is simply magnetic as the curious Madison, uninhibited, overstimulated, and overwhelmed by a life out of the water. Hannah embraces the role with such enthusiasm, it’s nearly impossible to look away. While the story has its holes, no one is really concerned with plot. We just want to see Hanks and Hannah work their magic. Hannah has done some great work in the movies throughout her career, and while there’s no diminishing her contribution, it is with Splash that the actress will always be most remembered, and rightfully so.

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