Top 10 From Back Then: The Movies Of 1984

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1984 was certainly a trying year for the citizens of planet Earth.  A merciless famine ravaged the nation of Ethiopia, killing over a million of its people by year's end.  Crack cocaine was first introduced into the Los Angeles region and soon spread all over the country, ushering in the infamous "Crack Epidemic."  But perhaps the most burdensome event of the year occurred on May 8 when the longest game in Major League Baseball history took place between the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers, spanning two whole days and lasting twenty-five innings.  1984 witnessed the deaths of funnyman Andy Kaufman and legendary musician Marvin Gaye; fortunately, in return, it birthed the world's sexiest woman, Scarlett Johansson.  The year also provided a bevy of films that proved hotter than Michael Jackson in a Pepsi commercial.  So, without further ado, PixelatedPop presents the Top 10 From Back Then: The Movies Of 1984!

Honorable Mentions:
The Karate Kid, The NeverEnding Story, Revenge Of the Nerds

10. Gremlins

"First of all, keep him out of the light.  He hates bright light, especially sunlight.  It'll kill him.  Second, don't give him any water, not even to drink.  But the most important rule, the rule you can never forget -- no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight."

If you plan on gathering the family together for a night of Christmas-themed movies this holiday season, here's one that might be better suited for after you've tucked the kiddies into bed.  Gremlins follows Billy Peltzer (played by Zach Galligan), a soft-spoken youth whose wacky inventor father purchases for him the gift of a Mogwai, a cute and cuddly creature with glistening puppy dog eyes.  The critter comes with one major inconvenience -- when combined with water, the little scamp multiplies, his clones transforming into bloodthirsty abominations.  In contrast to the appearance of Gizmo the Mogwai, Gremlins is actually quite violent in some scenes.  In fact, the film's mayhem led to producer Steven Spielberg teaming with the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating for future films that might be too mature for a PG but not quite strong enough for an R.  Despite its slightly uneven pace, Gremlins holds a certain charm that still captivates its viewers nearly 30 years later.

Movie Clip: Kitchen massacre

9. This Is Spinal Tap

"The review for Shark Sandwich was merely a two word review, which simply read 'Shit Sandwich.'"

Director Rob Reiner's hit mock-rockumentary, while not initially a financial success, quickly grew into a white-hot sensation, and with good reason.  Along with seasoned comedic actors Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer (who earned writing credits due to their sharp, mostly ad libbed dialog), Reiner inadvertently tricked an entire generation into believing that the heavy metal renegades were a real band.  The shtick was so convincing that early video releases included a disclaimer that stated, while the actors were genuinely proficient musicians, the group did not actually exist.  Nevertheless, this factoid won't spoil the fun in what many believe to be the biggest cult classic of all time.  You'll laugh yourself to the brink of tears while witnessing the band's ascension to greatness, as well as their collapse into obscurity, playing second billing to a childrens' puppet show.  All in all, This Is Spinal Tap is a comedy that absolutely goes to 11.

Movie Clip: Nigel shows Marty his equipment

8. Top Secret!

"I've tried everything -- the embassy, the German government, the consulate.  I even talked to the U.N. ambassador.  It's no use.  I just can't bring my wife to orgasm."

The lampooning triumvirate of Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker discovered new grounds for parody in Top Secret!, a riotous spoof combining elements of the espionage genre along with Elvis Presley films from the 60s.  The jokesters behind previous hits Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane! casted a young Val Kilmer in his first feature roll as Nick Rivers, an American singer on the verge of global superstardom who accidentally becomes the figurehead of a French resistance movement crusading against the malignant East German brigade.  Kilmer dances and sings his way into the heart of the ravishing Hillary Flammond (Lucy Gutteridge), aiding the darling and her assorted gang of commandos on their quest to rescue her scientist father (Michael Gough) from the evil German stronghold.  Kilmer actually performed the catchy, hilarious tunes that occupy the film's soundtrack, making this underrated gem one that shouldn't fly under your radar.

Movie Clip: Cottage raid

7. Indiana Jones And the Temple Of Doom

"Mola Ram!  Prepare to meet Kali... in Hell!"

Sifting through Steven Spielberg's filmography on IMDb, you'd be hard-pressed to argue against the idea that his run in the late 70s / early 80s marked the highest plateau of his decades-long career.  Jaws, Close Encounters Of the Third Kind, E.T.... all timeless classics that will surely be enjoyed by audiences for generations to come.  Indiana Jones And the Temple Of Doom marked Spielberg's first time ever revisiting characters he had previously fleshed out on the silver screen; 1981's Raiders Of the Lost Ark introduced us to the whip-snapping, artifact-hunting archeologist, while this prequel follows the doctor as he flees from the demonic clutches of India's Thugee regime.  The film includes an array of impossibly over-the-top action scenes that came to be a staple of the franchise, and although it has been criticized as excessively grim and a bit racist at times, Temple Of Doom still serves as a highly enjoyable installment in one of the most celebrated franchises of all time.

Movie Clip: Have a heart

6. Bachelor Party

"To tell you the truth, I'm envious.  I wish I had someone who was in my every thought.  Somebody I could spend all my time with.  Somebody I could really respect... hey, look at the cans on that bimbo."

Long before Tom Hanks stormed the beaches of Normandy in Saving Private Ryan or befriended a volleyball in Cast Away, the two-time Oscar winner beat out the likes of Howie Mandel and Jim Carrey to land the lead role of Rick Gassko in the outrageously lewd comedy Bachelor Party.  The movie's premise is fairly basic, following the antics of Rick and buddies as they indulge in one final night of debauchery before surrendering him to the icy clutches of marriage to the lovely Debbie Thompson (Tawny Kitaen of the 90s television show America's Funniest People).  The guys partake in an unforgettable evening filled with sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, all while skillfully dodging efforts by both Debbie's disapproving father (George Grizzard) and her meathead ex-boyfriend (Robert Prescott) to bring the celebration to a screeching halt.  Bachelor Party stands as one of 1984's most underappreciated comedies and helped cement Mr. Hanks as Hollywood's next big thing.


5. The Terminator

"Listen and understand.  The Terminator is out there.  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."

The Terminator has certainly withstood the test of time, setting standards that many action films continue to heavily borrow from today.  The movie jump-started the careers of star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director James Cameron, quickly establishing them both as major players in Hollywood.  The plot involves an unstoppable killer cyborg (Schwarzenegger) who travels to the present from a war-ravaged future to obliterate Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton), the mother of mankind's eventual liberator from the forthcoming android takeover.  Filmed on a modest budget of about $6.5 million, The Terminator earned $78 million worldwide, hypnotizing moviegoers with its brilliantly choreographed action and underlying messages concerning man's runaway obsession with technology.  Michael Biehn plays soldier Kyle Reese sent through time to protect Sarah as they're chased by the murderous machine through the steamy streets of Los Angeles.

Movie Clip: Police station shootout

4. Beverly Hills Cop

"Disturbing the peace?  I got thrown out of a window!  What's the fuckin' charge for getting pushed out of a moving car, huh?  Jaywalking?"

Leave it to comedic genius Eddie Murphy to take a script that was basically a collection of snippets from several unproduced screenplays and fill in the holes with his unique brand of in-your-face improvisational humor, giving birth to the film that officially rocket-lauched his career.  Beverly Hills Cop, the highest grossing film of 1984, would go on to topple box-office records and remain the most successful R-rated theatrical release for the next 20 years.  Murphy shines as Axel Foley, a fast-talking detective from the rough streets of Detroit who tracks his best friend's murderer to the conversely upscale Hollywood hills in search of justice.  Director Martin Brest allowed Murphy free reign over the material but still balanced the film's action and comedy perfectly.  Beverly Hills Cop endures as a high point in Murphy's storied career, so thoroughly enjoyable that it negates his future endeavors such as The Adventures Of Pluto Nash, Daddy Day Care, Norbit, A Thousand Words...

Movie Clip: The Beverly Palm Hotel

3. Sixteen Candles

"I swear to God this has got to be a joke.  Grandparents forgetting a birthday?  They live for that shit!"

The great John Hughes understood the awkwardness and misery that comes along with being a teenage like no other modern day filmmaker.  The late director created a slew of classic films during his heyday, most of them centering around the trials and tribulations of high school life, and Sixteen Candles stands as a perfect example of Hughes's genius.  The movie stars Molly Ringwald as Samantha Baker, who awakens on her sixteenth birthday expecting to be treated like a princess only to discover that her eccentric family has completely forgotten about what should be the most important day of her life thus far.  She subsequently befriends the school's biggest dork (Anthony Michael Hall in his greatest role ever), who tries to turn her frown upside down by hooking her up with the boy of her dreams (Michael Schoeffling).  Sixteen Candles remains a delightfully funny and honest testament to the budding adolescent inside all of us.

Movie Clip: No more yanky my wanky

2. A Nightmare On Elm Street

"Whatever you do... don't... fall... asleep."

Wes Craven got his foot in the door with the disturbingly gritty 1972 exploitation film The Last House On the Left, but his real fame didn't come until the release of A Nightmare On Elm Street, a frighteningly original horror movie that would go on to generate an endless chain of sequels and knock-offs throughout the 80s and 90s.  The film birthed a new icon into the world of cinema in Freddy Krueger, a demented child murderer burned alive by the local townspeople who comes back as an invincible nightstalker, slashing up the kids of those who sentenced him to death inside their dreams.  The very idea of one's mind being manipulated in his sleep by an unseen entity separates Krueger from the rest of the typical slasher film antagonists and solidifies him as one of my personal favorite movie villains.  A word of advice, though -- avoid the 2010 remake like an audiobook, or else succumb to the foreboding, ever-growing realm of shoddy horror reboots.

Movie Clip: Rest in peace, Tina

1. Ghostbusters

"Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown."

Ghostbusters just narrowly defeats A Nightmare On Elm Street as my favorite movie of 1984, thanks in part to the unbeatable ensemble casting of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as the notorious boys in grey.  The mirthful trio play a group of scientists roaming the avenues of New York City battling atrocious apparitions with help from their trusty "proton packs," handheld laser cannons that capture the ghosts with a streaming electric blast.  The comedic performances (especially by Murray) superbly balance out the startling encounters with supernatural demons and provide the audiences with an equal amount of laughs and thrills.  The astonishing success of Ghostbusters spawned a sequel five years later that failed to live up to the original's grandness, but with rumblings of a final movie being planned to round out the trilogy, it's easy to see why this series lives on as one of the most cherished franchises in film history.

Movie Clip: Library ghost

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