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12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980

At the start of the big hair decade, sci-fi movies were continuing to grow in popularity while a new (old?) breed of adventure films were about to dominate the box office. As the political landscape was undergoing a big change, movie-goers were also shifting sensibilities. As part of a series where we countdown the 12 best movie moments of each year, let’s start with 1980. Remember, these are the best MOMENTS, not best movies (though most are, too).

12) Football Fighting

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon, 1980)
FILM: Flash Gordon

When talking 80s sci-fi cheese, there can only be one name on top of that list: Flash Gordon. An epically silly but totally fun film, it follows the story of New York Jets football star “Flash” Gordon (Sam J. Jones) as he is whisked away on a space adventure to the planet Mongo where he must face off against Ming the Merciless (Max von Sydow). In this classic scene, Flash uses his football skills to try and stop Ming’s henchman from taking Dale (Melody Anderson)–Flash’s one true love–to be his love slave. Flash can’t fight until he’s given a football-shaped icon and then he’s all about the ruckus: “41, 42, 43, hut, hut!” This whole movie is a touchdown.

11) Sissy Rides the Bull

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Debra Winger (Urban Cowboy, 1980)
FILM: Urban Cowboy

For some reason, mechanical bull riding was a huge craze at the turn of the 80s and Hollywood answered the call to bleed it dry. In this romantic drama, Buford Uan “Bud” Davis (John Travolta) and Sissy (Debra Winger) have one of those long, drawn out, they hate each other but we know they will fall in love with each other relationships. At one point, while the two are in one of the ‘hate’ parts and dating others to make each other jealous, Sissy, who’s become quite good on that bull, gets up and does something a little different. If you think the words ‘sexy’ and ‘mechanical bull’ could never be combined to make any sense, you are wrong. And that’s no bull.

10) Smoking After Sex

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Kevin Bacon (Friday the 13th, 1980)
FILM: Friday the 13th

The one that started it all. Decades after a tragedy at Camp Crystal Lake closed it down, it opens again, and as the young counselors arrive to refurbish the cabins and grounds, they don’t realize they are not alone. One-by-one, they get dispatched in this classic horror film that spawned a franchise that is still going strong (sort of). In this terrifying moment, Marcie (Jeannine Taylor) and Jack (Kevin Bacon) have just had sex in one of the cabins, unaware that one of their friends is in the bunk above them, very much dead. After Marcie heads to the ladies room, Jack stays on the bed and has a cigarette. It’s the last thing he’ll ever do. In what might be the scariest death in the entire series, a hand emerges from under the bed to holds Jack’s head while an arrow come ups through his throat. Gruesome. Least he got a little before the end.

9) Trapped by a Mob

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
The Elephant Man, 1980
FILM: The Elephant Man

The true story of John Merrick (John Hurt), a disfigured man who is forced to work in a traveling freak show until doctor Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) takes him to the hospital where he works. He soon discovers that Merrick is an intelligent, kindly man trapped in a body that repels most others. Merrick learns to have a far more secure and healthy life but is betrayed by a staff member and kidnapped by the circus freak show ringmaster and stolen away. Eventually, Merrick is able to escape and make his way back to London, but once there, is tormented by a mob that gathers from an accident Merrick causes with a young girl. He is chased, and at last, cornered by the throng, shouts the immortal line: “I am not an animal.” No sir, you are not.

8) Driving Through The Mall

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
James Belushi, Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers, 1980)
FILM: The Blues Brothers

On a “mission from god”, Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood(Dan Aykroyd) Blues try to get the old band back together in order to put on a show to raise money to keep the orphanage they were raised in open. Due to 116 parking tickets and 56 moving violations though, when Elwood runs a red light, the police decide to give chase. For most of the film the Blues Brothers keep one step ahead, until finally they get chased into a Chicago suburb and drive through the Dixie Square Mall. As cops bear down, and the boys literally leave a trail of destruction behind them, they casually point out the highlights: “Disco Pants and Haircuts.” Why hasn’t that store made a comeback?

7) Cinderella Story

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Bill Murray (Caddyshack, 1980)
FILM: Caddyshack

Greenskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) is a lovable misfit with a vivid imagination. As the wealthy play golf and the horny caddies hook-up, Spackler’s main mission is hunting down a suspiciously clever gopher that outwits the disheveled and unkempt groundsman throughout the film. But the highlight is a short moment when Carl is tasked with trimming a bed of chrysanthemums and uses a garden trimmer like a golf club. All the while, he comments on his action like a sports announcer on a televised event covering a pro: “It’s in the hole!” This looks more fun than actual golf.

6) Going to Jail

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor (Stir Crazy, 1980)
FILM: Stir Crazy

Writer Skip Donahue (Gene Wilder) and actor Harry Monroe (Richard Pryor) have both been fired and decide to head west to start again, taking small jobs along the way. In Arizona, they are mascots for a bank, playing song and dance numbers dressed as woodpeckers. When they are framed for robbery, they end up in the county jail cell before heading to prison. To make sure nobody crosses them, they decide to “get bad” and begin to walk the walk and talk the talk. With the holding cell full of criminals watching, they make fools of themselves as they attempt to scare off anyone looking for trouble: “That’s right. We Bad.” Don’t try this in a real jail.

5) Superman Brings It

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Christopher Reeve, Jack O’Halloran (Superman II, 1980)
FILM: Superman II

In this follow-up to the Superman (1978) origin story, the Man of Steel does battle with evil General Zod (Terence Stamp) and his loyal followers Ursa (Sarah Douglas) and Non (Jack O’Halloran) who were once banished from their home planet of Krypton by Superman’s father. Seeking revenge on Earth, which gives them extraordinary powers, the three begin a reign of terror as they try to lure their enemy out. Finally, in an epic showdown over Metropolis, Superman (Christopher Reevetakes them on with lots of super blowing and streaky eye lasers: “Kneel before Zod!” What, and scuff up his spandex?

4) Striker Must Fly The Plane

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Leslie Nielson (Airplane!, 1980)
FILM: Airplane!

In the one that started it all, this absurdist, satirical comedy remains the greatest in the genre. A loosely-told story of a traumatized war vet named Ted Striker (Robert Hays), who has a fear of flying. He boards a plane to try and win back his flight attendant girlfriend Elaine Dickinson (Julie Hagerty). When a rash of food poisoning takes out the pilots and several passengers, it’s up to Striker to bring the plane safely down. He’s told the news of the situation from fellow passenger, Dr. Rumack (Leslie Nielsen), who explains that he’s the only one who can save them now. When Strikers relies, “Surely you can’t be serious,” Rumack says . . . well. You know the rest. You’ve probably said it three times since you read the word ‘airplane’.

3) Jake Accuses Joey

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Robert DeNiro (Raging Bull, 1980)
FILM: Raging Bull

Considered by many to be the greatest film of the decade, this story of Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro), a supremely talented boxer with an explosive temper and a nasty streak of jealousy, is a black and white masterpiece from director Martin Scorsese. The movie is full of highly influential and provocative scenes, but it is the moment when Jake confronts his brother Joey (Joe Pesci) that stings like a punch. In it, Joey is frustrated by Jake’s decline and blames it on his wife Vikki (Cathy Moriarty), who Jake already is convinced is sleeping around. It turns unbearably tense when Jake then questions his own brother if he in fact had sex with Vikki. Joey refuses to answer and it leads to some terrible consequences: “Did you f*ck my wife?” Your answer should be a resounding, “No!”

2) Jack Wants In

12 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Jack Nicholson (The Shining, 1980)
FILM: The Shining

In this adaptation of Stephen King‘s book of the same name, a father, mother and young son head to Colorado to be caretakers of a resort for the closed winter season. In the isolation, it’s not long before Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) begins to unravel while his son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who is already telepathic, senses an evil in the halls. As Jack finally loses his mind, he goes on a hunting spree, trying to kill his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) with a fire ax. In this moment, she hides herself in the bedroom bathroom as her lunatic husband bashes the door open with his ax. Screaming in terror, armed only with a kitchen knife, she curls into a corner as Jack breaks through and stuffs his head in a gap, uttering the two most memorable words in horror movie history: “Here’s Johnny!” Here’s new undies.

1) Luke Meets His Father

!2 Greatest Movie Moments of 1980
Darth Vader (Star Wars: Episode V – the Empire Strikes Back, 1980)
FILM: Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back

In the history of cinema, no movie series has gained the popularity and adoration more than Star Wars. In this first sequel to the surprise space opera/adventure, the forces of good continue to struggle against the greater power of evil that has regrouped and expanded since their initial defeat on the Death Star. There are a number of great moments in this film, especially between Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), but the one moment that had everyone absolutely freaking out was the revelation that Darth Vader was in fact (spoiler?) Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) father. There are few moments in cinema history as impactful or as resonating as this epic confession, and it left fans and critics stunned. It’s the greatest movie moment of 1980, if not the entire decade.

What are your favorite moments of 1980?

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  1. movierob July 1, 2016