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A teenager named Alex (Lance Guest) reaches the top score on a video game arcade at his trailer park, not realizing it’s actually a recruitment tool for an intergalactic war. Swept off Earth and into the fight, he reluctantly, at first, joins the battle between the Rylan Star League and the Ko-Dan Empire, whose military leader is a Rylan traitor named Xur (Norman Snow). Kind of a spoiler here, but in the final battle, it’s Alex against Xur and after he uses the ‘Death Blossom’ to defeat the enemy armada, Xur is removed from duty and sentenced to death. Lord Kril (Dan Mason) takes over on the mothership but when Alex takes out the guidance system, it’s all over for the commander who, when asked by his second officer what they do now, replies: “We die.” Now that’s how you go out.
Based on the children’s book of the same name (though the author disapproved of the film), the movie follows the story of a young boy named Bastian (Barret Oliver) who, hiding from bullies in a bookstore, “borrows” a book and runs up to the attic of the school. The book tells of a land called Fantasia, which is slowly being consumed by the Nothing as the world outside loses hope and imagination. In the story is a luck dragon named Falkor (voiced by Alan Oppenheimer) and when it turns out that the book is a lot more real than little Bastian thought, he ends up playing a key role in Fantasia’s fate, eventually able to ride Falkor, which he does, straight back to the city where he swoops down on the three bullies and sends them diving into a dumpster. See kids? Once you find your luck dragon, no one will bother you ever again. That’s the message, right?
World War III has begun and it starts with a combined Russian, Cuban, and Nicaraguan invasion of the United States. While the world theater of war is largely unseen, the story focuses on a group of high schools students (led my Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen) who escape into the woods and eventually lead an armed resistance against the occupying forces. While the film has a number of memorable moments, it is the start when a peaceful Colorado classroom listens to the lecture of their history teacher, Mr. Teasedale (Frank McRae). As he speaks, he notices in the field behind the class a large squad of soldiers parachuting in. He steps outside to investigate. They shoot him down and he becomes the first death in the attack. It’s an iconic moment, in a jarring sequence that somehow has become more frightening in recent times. This movie has the distinction of being the first film released with the PG-13 rating. More on that later.
Best friends Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) are tormented nerds. But they think that once they get to college at a prestigious tech school, things will be different. No so much. Once again, it’s the jocks with all power . . . and the girls. But when the athletes burn down their own house and take over the freshman dorm, it’s just the start of all kinds of problems for the nerds. Eventually, they make a plan to go toe-to-toe with the jocks and enter the Greek Games, which decides who will be the coveted Greek Council president. In their final competition, the nerds go all out and perform a dazzling techno music/dance show that wins the crowd. Turns out we’re all nerds. And speaking of nerds . . .
Poor Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald). It’s her sixteenth birthday and everyone forgot. It’s her sister’s wedding and the family is in a panic. Her grandparent’s have come to stay in the house and brought their bizarre foreign exchange student with them. Sam’s also in love with guy who she thinks doesn’t even know she exists but accidentally got hold of a note that reveals Sam is a virgin and holding out for him. Worse, the school geek, Farmer Ted (Anthony Michael Hall) crushes on her hard, trying to win a bet to have sex with her. At the big senior dance, she ends up alone and with Ted, who confesses he’s not the sex god his equally nerdy friends think he is. He also tells her that the boy of her dreams, Jake (Michael Schoeffling) has been asking about her. Happy, she agrees to help Ted win the bet by giving him her panties, which, in this now iconic moment, he shows to a gathering crowd in the mens’ room (for a $1 admission). To these boys, it’s like finding the Holy Grail.
After a father secretly buys an odd little creature from a mysterious Chinese antique store as a gift for his son, he’s told there are three rules to follow in keeping the little Mogwai safe: don’t expose it to bright light, don’t get it wet, and don’t feed it after midnight. Billy (Zach Galligan) loves his new pet “Gizmo” but when his friend Pete (Corey Feldman) spills a glass of water on it, trouble brews. Five nasty gremlins pop out of Gizmo’s back and they are the start of a gremlin invasion that grips the town. When three of them end up in Billy’s mother’s (Frances Lee McCain) kitchen, she goes on the hunt. Armed with a knife, she dispatches the little buggers one-by-one in increasingly gruesome ways. So gruesome, the film caught flak for its violence and was seriously toned down for the far sillier sequel.
A beautiful mermaid comes ashore to meet the man she truly loves in this romantic comedy that made Daryl Hannah a star. Tom Hanks plays Allen Bauer, who as a boy saw a mermaid off the coast of Cape Cod, but can’t believe she’s real. When the stunning Madison shows up, he thinks he’s finally met the perfect girl, even though she’s a little odd. She doesn’t speak but is really, really affectionate, so he takes her home. While he’s at work, she goes about New York City on her own and ends up in a department store where she watches television for hours, learning English. When Allen finally tracks her down, she can finally talk to him and curious, he wants to know her name. She warns him it’s hard to say in English so he asks her to speak it in her language. She does, sounding like a high-pitched dolphin that explodes all the televisions on display. Something fishy about that.
The story of Mozart (Tom Hulce) is really about the relationship between him and Court Composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), a man of inferior skill who is disillusioned in god for granting such ability to a young buffoon and not himself. But as time passes, he recognizes the mad-genius in the ailing Mozart and works to aid him. In an early moment, as the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones) is about to welcome Mozart to Vienna, he plays a short march composed by Salieri as the boy-genius is escorted in. Mozart, with just one hearing, plays it for the Emperor and then “improves” the piece, insulting the court composer and igniting his quiet wrath. Classical music has never been so fun.
Not an autobiography of the late pop singer Prince, it does feature a lot of his songs. Telling the story of a rebel musician named The Kid, who comes from an abusive family, Purple Rain is not a particularly complex story, but does offer a surprisingly good performance from the renowned singer. In this moment, The Kid, who has been selfish and indifferent to his talented backup band, finally plays a song from the two girls in the group, who have tried hard to get him to even listen to their music. It’s the culmination of an emotional journey and is a very impactful moment, made so by both Prince’s dynamic presence and the musical masterpiece of the titular song. When he leans in and kisses Wendy, it seals its place on this list.
When Ren (Kevin Bacon), a high school senior comes to a new town, he discovers there is a law against rock music and dancing. That doesn’t sit well with his free-spirited self and along with some of the other kids he meets at school, organizes for their right to have a dance. He falls in love with Ariel (Lori Singer), the preacher’s (John Lithgow) daughter, a rebel in her own right. In this moment, things seems stacked against Ren and he can’t catch a break as the whole town seems out of their minds. Frustrated and at the end of his rope, he grabs a beer and a smoke and drives to the old mill. There, he cranks up the music in his car and unleashes a wild gymnastics/dance-a-thon to relieve a little of the stress. We love this movies despite some nagging questions.
The life of rock & rollers is one that has long fascinated the public, with their extravagant spending, party-all-the-time lifestyle and combustable drummers. Well, that’s what it’s like for Spinal Tap, the British band led by David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest). In this mockumentary of rock-documentaries, we follow this hapless bunch of musicians as they try to become rock legends but when inches and feet can’t even be understood when designing their Stonehenge stage props, things are bound to get out of hand. Good thing Nigel’s got the best equipment then. Speaking with the film’s host, Marty Di Bergi (Rob Reiner), he explains that the reason his band is the loudest is because his amps . . . they go to eleven. Meme born.
A new teenager in town, Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) has some trouble making friends. When he gets on the bad side of a gang of karate thugs, he turns to his apartment complex’s handyman, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) for help. In some rather unorthodox training methods, such as painting fences and waxing cars, he teaches the boy martial arts and soon Daniel is ready for the big tournament where he can defend his honor. He makes it to the final round, despite some illegal tactics by the Cobra Kai team and faces off against his nemesis Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). When it looks like there’s no hope for a win, his knee badly damaged, he takes up the Crane stance, something he learned from Miyagi, and takes down the champ.
In the next adventure of the thrill-seeking archaeologist, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) teams up with his sidekick, a ten-year-old boy named Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). They travel to India with a nightclub singer named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), a girl decidedly unlike Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) of the first movie. The three end up secretly watching a Thuggee Cult ceremony in a hidden chamber of a palace and witness a horrific tradition where a victim is locked in a contraption that is lowered into a pit of molten lava. Oh, and he gets his heart torn from his chest before he dies, just to make things extra icky. Remember that PG-13 rating we mentioned above? Here’s the reason why.
In order to stop John Conner, the human leader of the last surviving resistance fighting the machines, SkyNet–an artificial intelligence defense network–uses a time traveling device to send a robot assassin (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to kill the man’s mother before he is born. To stop that robot, Conner sends Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to protect his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton) to ensure he will eventually be born. Complicated? Sure. Awesome. Absolutely. In this moment, Sarah is in the local police station, thinking she is safe. The Terminator has other plans. When he first tries to enter the barracks politely, he’s turned away by the desk officer who tells him she is being questioned. The T-800 looks over the building, getting a feel for the structural integrity, and promises the policeman, “I’ll be back.” Chills.
When New York City is suddenly overrun by ghosts, there’s only one team of experts who can stop them. Using specially designed unlicensed nuclear accelerators, the Ghostbusters (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson) battle the demons, making their way to the top of Dan Barrett’s (Sigourney Weaver) apartment where the Sumerian shapeshifting god Gozer the Gozerain promises to reign terror on mankind and tasks the Ghostbusters with choosing the form of the “destructor”, something she can do by entering their minds and reading their thoughts. They all clear their heads, except for Ray (Akyroyd) who thinks of the most harmless thing he can. Whoops. In comes a giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to terrorize the city. It’s scary. It’s funny. It’s the best movie moment of 1984.