Top 10 From Back Then: The Movies Of 1988

Our country entered a state of renewal in 1988.  Weeks after NASA resumed exploration following the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, George Bush Sr. became President Of the United States, the first sitting V.P. to move directly into this position in over 150 years.  Severe drought caused $60 billion in damages across the country, 750,000 acres of Yellowstone National Park burning over the course of four months due to the brutal conditions.  The nation sought distraction from these disasters with the formation of World Championship Wrestling and the debut of the cult TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000.  1988 blessed us with the births of future Hollywood hotties Emma Stone and Vanessa Hudgens while taking from us legendary porn actor John Holmes and Anne "Ma Fratelli" Ramsey.  Tip-toe around those hypodermic needles washing onto the shore and into your local video store to check out these Top 10 From Back Then: The Movies Of 1988!

Honorable Mentions:
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Rain Man, Twins


10. Big

"I wish I were big..."

Before the burdens of adulthood urged us to go through all the typical crap associated with growing up, many of us found ourselves desiring our driver's license or longing for our first sexual encounter, two experiences that usually don't end up living up to the hype.  Twelve-year-old Josh Baskins (David Moscow) speeds through his glory years by making a wish on a carnival fortune telling machine, awaking the next morning in the body of a 30-year-old Tom Hanks.  Josh soon learns that his youth shouldn't be taken for granted when the pressures of a career testing toys for MacMillan Toy Company as well as a budding romance with a co-worker (Elizabeth Perkins) become too much for his prepubescent brain to process.  Hanks' child-like portrayal snagged him his first Academy Award nomination in what remains one of his most enchanting roles to date.  For those who have yet to witness the simplistic yet magical tale of Big, there's no time like the present.

Movie Clip: Chopsticks


9. Child's Play

"Hi, I'm Chucky. Wanna play?"

Riding his success garnered from Fright Night, Tom Holland stepped up as the director of Child's Play, the irrefutable king of the killer doll brand.  The film created one of the genre's tiniest icons in Chucky the Good Guy Doll, spawning a string of comical sequels that can't hold a candle to this staple of 80s horror.  Loving single mother Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) surprises her wide-eyed son Andy (Alex Vincent) with the birthday present of a Good Guy Doll.  Unbeknownst to the happy family, this particular toy is a vessel carrying the soul of recently-deceased serial murderer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif in a career-making performance).  Chucky systematically kills off those who wronged him during his human life before turning his attention to young Andy, the only person aware of Chucky's true identity.  The film's greatest strength lies in how it flirts with the idea that Andy is actually causing the carnage until the unforgettable scene where Chucky finally springs to life.

Movie Clip: Voodoo you think you are?


8. Scrooged

"You've got a promo featuring America's favorite old fart reading a book in front of a fireplace!  Now, I have to kill all of you!"

Outside the live-action Garfield movies, one constant has remained over the last 30 years -- Bill Murray can do no wrong.  The road paved with grand-slam roles in Caddyshack, Stripes and Ghostbusters led one of the all-time greatest comedic actors to Scrooged, a modern-day retelling of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  Murray suits up as Frank Cross, a contemptuous television executive who takes pleasure in punking out hard-working assistant Grace (Alfre Woodard) and firing underling Eliot Loudermilk (Bobcat Goldthwait), on Christmas Eve of all days.  The Ghost Of Christmas Past (David Johansen as a greasy cab driver), the Ghost Of Christmas Present (Carol Kane as an obnoxious, slap-happy fairy) and the Ghost Of Christmas Future (a Grim Reaper-esque creature with a TV screen face) show Frank the error of his ways in a cautionary tale whose lessons on generosity and regret make Scrooged perfectly acceptable viewing for any time of the year.

Movie Clip: "Your life might just depend on it!"


7. The Naked Gun

"It's true what they say -- cops and women don't mix.  It's like eating a spoonful of Drano; sure, it'll clean you out, but it'll leave you hollow inside."

From The Files Of Police Squad! comes The Naked Gun, the first big-screen adventure of bumbling Lieutenant Frank Drebin originally introduced in the short-lived 80s Police Squad! television series.  Leslie Nielsen reprises the lead character from the TV show in easily his most remembered role, his deadpan performance bouncing elegantly off of the constant barrage of puns and visual gags in this ingenious spoof of the cop movie genre.  Brothers David and Jerry Zucker, along with Jim Abrahams (the team behind Airplane! and Top Secret!) spin an infectiously hilarious story as Drebin attempts to clear the name of his partner Officer Nordberg (a pre-If I Did It O.J. Simpson), who becomes entangled in a heroin smuggling ring.  Shenanigans ensue and the slapstick begins flowing in full force when Drebin uncovers a plot by his enemies to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II.  Two sequels followed, the film series totaling half the amount of Police Squad! episodes during its entire run.

Movie Clip: "Can ya spot me a twenty?"


6. Midnight Run

"Can I ask you something?  These sunglasses, they're really nice.  Are they government-issued, or do all you guys go to the same store to get them?"

Hot off of his portrayal of Al Capone in 1987's The Untouchables, two-time Oscar Winner Robert De Niro tried his luck in the comedy genre with Midnight Run.  Director Martin Brest (more celebrated for his work on Beverly Hills Cop) helmed this picture centering around bounty hunter Jack Walsh (De Niro) on his last job -- tracking down Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin in a reserved yet effectual role) and delivering him to bondsman Eddie Moscone (Joe Pantoliano).  Naturally, things don't go as planned for Jack on his final assignment, as he and "The Duke" are forced to work through their mutual insolence for one another to outsmart mob boss Jimmy Serrano (Dennis Farina), FBI Agent Alonzo Mosely (Yaphet Kotto) and fellow hired hand Marvin Dorfler (John Ashton).  The source of this one's greatness lies in the never-ending banter between Jack and Jon, a crucial component to one of the most underappreciated buddy action movies of the entire decade.

Movie Clip: Living in denial


5. They Live

"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum."

Move over, Dwayne Johnson; "Rowdy" Roddy Piper's coming through.  Why the WWE Hall Of Famer didn't pull down more high-profile film roles after the awesomeness that was They Live is beyond this "Hot Rod" fanatic.  You've got John Carpenter (architect of Halloween, Escape From New York and The Thing), drawing inspiration from a short story originally published in the 1960s Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction entitled "Eight O'Clock In the Morning" to craft a commentary about the deceptive nature of American commercialization... oh, and there's aliens, too.  Piper plays a drifter who teams with construction worker Frank (Keith David) to challenge an extraterrestrial race for global dominance.  How the monsters are revealed underneath their human disguises is ludicrous but inconsequential.  Just sit back and let the former Intercontinental Champion show you how, just when you think you know all the answers, he changes the questions.

Movie Clip: "You?  You're okay... this one..."


4. Beetlejuice

"I attended Juilliard; I'm a graduate of the Harvard business school; I travel quite extensively; I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that; I've seen The Exorcist about 167 times, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT!"

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure put Tim Burton on the map, and since then, the acclaimed director has had his share of hits (Batman, Edward Scissorhands) and misses (Planet Of the Apes, Dark Shadows).  Whatever one's opinion of the quirky, stringy-haired Burton, it's hard to deny Beetlejuice as one of his zaniest, most ambitious outings.  Barbara and Adam (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) die suddenly, and after returning home as ghosts, the couple hires maniacal poltergeist Betelgeuse (pronounced "Beetlejuice") to drive out a new family who's taken claim to their New England country estate.  Michael Keaton's unforgettable performance as the deranged titular character remains the highlight of this off-the-wall fantasy / comedy, as well as the outrageous special effects work that captured the Academy Award for Best Makeup.  A sequel is still in the works, so it could only be a matter of time before audiences are once again chanting, "Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!"

Movie Clip: "Don'tcha hate it when that happens?"


3. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

"A laugh can be a very powerful thing.  Why, sometimes in life, it's the only weapon we have."

Before Who Framed Roger Rabbit shattered box-office expectations during the summer of 1988, no other movie had so seamlessly blended live-action with animation, and the film still amazes 25 years later.  Robert "Back to the Future" Zemeckis helmed this classic collaboration between Walt Disney Productions and Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment based on Gary K. Wolf's novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?  The story takes place in the late 1940s, centering around private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) investigating a murder allegedly committed by living, breathing cartoon character Roger Rabbit (the lovably toon voiced by Charles Fleischer).  The energetic cast also includes Kathleen Turner as the voice of the sultry Jessica Rabbit, Christopher Lloyd as the devious Toon-hating Judge Doom and a gaggle of cameos from the modern era of American animation -- Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Porky Pig and Dumbo, just to name a few.

Movie Clip: Dabblin' in watercolors


2. Die Hard

"Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker."

An icon was born with Bruce Willis's star-making portrayal of New York City police officer John McClane in Die Hard, a film whose nearly-flawless execution has earned its place in the pantheon of the all-time greatest action movies ever made.  Equally iconic is Alan Rickman's role as Hans Gruber, a calculating criminal mastermind leading a heist, along with a squad of henchmen, into a Los Angeles skyscraper on Christmas Eve and taking its occupants hostage.  With the LAPD perturbed outside, it's up to McClane to single-handedly cut through Gruber's cohorts and save the terrified captives, including McClane's estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia).  A supreme example of how action films can entertain while providing plenty of surprises along the way, Die Hard's biggest strength lies in how McClane is constantly at odds with his aggressors, providing the viewer with an enthralling viewing experience all the way through until its breath-taking climax.

Movie Clip: F-bombs away!


1. The Blob

"The sky!  It fell from the sky!"

This update of the 1958 semi-classic takes everything from the original and cranks its awesomeness up to 11.  A meteorite touches down in an average community and releases a man-made bio-weapon onto its helpless population.  Cheerleader Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) and bad boy Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) try to warn the townspeople of the shapeless menace as it dissolves citizens into gooey leftovers.  The kitchen sink sequence remains a personal favorite scene of this horror enthusiast, just one shiny spot amongst many in the script co-written by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, television's The Walking Dead).  It can't be bargained with.  It can't be reasoned with.  It doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear.  And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.  No, this isn't the Terminator.  This is the Blob, the amorphous mass of never-ending hunger gobbling up everything in sight.  Scream now, while there's still room to breathe.

Movie Clip: I'm never washing dishes again...

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