Top Five Since I've Been Alive: The Movies of 1986

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In 1986, I turned two years old and was greeted by my first epiphany.  The debut of The Real Ghostbusters changed my life forever and brought about my love for animation which I still carry to this day.  1986 also saw the comic book landscape change forever as the critically-acclaimed Watchmen series debuted.  1986 wasn't completely filled with pleasant debuts, however.  Those of us occupying the eastern side of the United States can attest to the horror brought on by the 1986 formation of CSX Transportation.  In states like Indiana, Ohio and South Carolina, if you're late to work, you can bet your ass that you will find a train *stopped* in your path.  Despite being only two years old in 1986, I was quite aware of the cinematic awesomeness that was rolling out at the time.  Join me as I celebrate the five greatest motion pictures of 1986!

5. Back to School

"The football team at my high school, they were tough.  After they sacked the quarterback, they went after his family!"

I had a few movies to pick from to round out this top five, but I chose to go with Back to School as my number five choice of 1986.  When Rodney Dangerfield's role in Caddyshack boosted his career exponentially, a starring role wasn't far behind.  Back to School was Dangerfield's second starring role and was one of the year's highest-grossing movies.  The movie's success can mostly be accredited to a few factors.  First off, this movie has a kick-ass soundtrack.  Jude Cole's titular theme "Back to School" is riff-tastic and Oingo Boingo even shows up in the movie to jam out their greatest song, "Dead Man's Party."  Another factor was the casting of movie super-asshole William Zebka as the swim team nemesis of the son of Thornton Melon (Dangerfield).  If Michael Phelps had an adversary at the Olympics that was like Zebka's character Chas, then his triumph would have truly united the world.

4. The Money Pit

"Oh hello, Mr. Stairs... I've missed you."

Every time I have trouble inside my apartment or problems with an appliance, my mind hearkens back to this movie.  While Bachelor Party allowed Tom Hanks to parlay into the raunchy side of comedy two years earlier, The Money Pit showcased Hanks' ability in the world of physical comedy.  Hanks was not the only one to give a great performance here.  Despite being a Cheers fan, I was never much of a Shelly Long fan.  However, she does a fantastic job here, even managing to hold her own in Hanks' comedic wake.  This movie also featured the comedic debut of Alexander Godunov, better known for his serious roles in Witness and Die Hard.  With each repair of their newly-acquired house, Walter (Hanks) and Anna (Long) force further erosion to their home, causing the house and their relationship to nearly implode.  The stunt coordinator, Richard Ziker, should be commended for the rather elaborate stunts that were put together in this comedy.  Each new rip and tear in the house causes a destructive chain of events that would make even Rube Goldberg proud.

3. Big Trouble In Little China

"Just remember what ol' Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake.  Yeah, Jack Burton just look that big ol' storm right square in the eye and he says, 'Give me your best shot, pal.  I can take it."

Ah yes, the underrated team of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell.  Eat your heart out, Burton and Depp.  At this point in his career, Russell had portrayed a few anti-heroes and was initially slated to play the same type of character in Big Trouble In Little China.  However, after much fine-tuning, a different sort of anti-hero emerged with this role.  Jack Burton is a character with a big ego, a big mouth and a big knife.  Despite his big talk, he ends up on his ass quite often, unable to deal with the circumstances alone.  More than 75% of the cast was comprised of Asian actors, which for Hollywood at the time was extraordinary.  With so many choices going against the grain, personal experiences on this little gem nearly left John Carpenter disillusioned with Hollywood.  With executives and producers breathing down his neck, Carpenter likened this film experience with claustrophobia.  With little promotion, the film bombed and the blame was rested on the director's shoulders.  It's a sad tale for a truly great and unique film.

2. Aliens

"Get away from her, you bitch!"

Many movie purists will tell you that Alien trumps the rest of the series in terms of tension and suspense.  For a long time, I agreed, until I realized that most of the characters in Alien acted rather moronic and got picked off too easily.  In retrospect, I believe it hurts the film a bit.  The same cannot quite be said about James Cameron's 1986 masterpiece Aliens.  This sequel packs more power, ammo and aliens than you care to count.  As he did two years earlier with cybernetic beings in The Terminator, Cameron helped craft an alien that would paralyze viewers in fear.  Of the many achievements and accomplishments of Aliens, the greatest perhaps is the impact this film had on mainstream Hollywood.  If there were any doubts left in 1986 about the ability of a woman to become a true action star, then Sigourney Weaver put those fears to bed with gusto.  Her brilliant performance here managed to catch an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.  She would've won if it weren't for the less-bad-ass Marlee Matlin.  I'm willing to bet she wouldn't even have heard those Aliens coming...

1. Ferris Bueller's Day Off

"Cameron has never been in love... at least, nobody's ever been in love with him.  If things don't change for him, he's gonna marry the first girl he lays, and she's gonna treat him like shit, because she will have given him what he has built up in his mind as the end-all, be-all of human existence.  She won't respect him, because you can't respect somebody who kisses your ass.  It just doesn't work."

In 1986, Matthew Broderick's turn as the fourth wall-breaking Ferris Bueller joined the likes of Cool Hand Luke and James Bond in the pantheon of super-cool movie characters.  He doesn't take on the world with his physical prowess or literally spit in the face of authority, but he charms nearly everyone he meets with his blithe attitude.  He can bend others to his seemingly innocent will while using the tact of an army general.  Ferris is worshipped by slackers and the opposite sex, while despised by the authority figures whom secretly wish to emulate him.  Those of us that grew up with this movie spent most of our high school years wishing to a "skip day" like this one.  Even now as we are older and aren't oppressed by the tyranny of high school, we long for the courage to toss aside our responsibilities, steal a Ferrari and drive off into the sunset.  Sorry... I didn't mean to priggishly wax poetic there, but the themes presented stretch beyond the boundaries of this movie and strike a chord within all who view it.  Simply put -- this is a damn fine movie that will stand the test of time.

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