10 cinematic classics from 1983
#10 – Cujo
Directed by Lewis Teague. Starring Dee Wallace, Daniel Hugh-Kelly & Danny Pintauro.
Stephen King very quickly took over the world of Hollywood and many of his adaptations are now cult classics.
Cujo follows a mother and son who have to protect themselves from a rabid St Bernard on a rampage. One of King’s most plausible and also most chilling novels that translates well to the screen.
Critics weren’t in love with this film from the get-go, but they seemed to agree that it was suspenseful and scary. Nowadays, it’s a cult classic, beloved in particular by fans who binge the King classics on a regular basis.
The St Bernard in the film was played by four real St Bernards, several mechanical ones, a Labrador-Great Dane cross in a St Bernard costume and even a stuntman in a large dog costume.
Pretty cool, right?
#9 – Christine
Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Keith Gordon, John Stockwell & Alexandra Paul.
Speaking of classic but often-forgotten Stephen King adaptations, this one is absolutely excellent.
Christine follows a young man whose life changes for the worse after he buys a classic 1958 Plymouth Fury, which seems to have a jealous, possessive personality.
It’s a little bit sillier than most other King adaptations, but it’s a lot of fun while retaining that creepy horror vibe. It does very well to give personality to a completely non-human antagonist.
If you’re a millionaire who happens to be reading this, you can buy one of two remaining models of the car used in the film, although I expect it to be a very large investment.
#8 – The Pirates of Penzance
Directed by Wilford Leach. Starring Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury & Linda Ronstadt.
A bit daring, a trifle naughty and a smashing success! This musical is catchy from start to finish.
The Pirates of Penzance is the adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1879 comic opera, with the original Broadway cast taking their places on the screen. It includes, in my opinion, one of the best renditions of ‘I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General’ in the history of the musical.
Despite somehow being a commercial failure, critics praised the adaptation. It’s daring, it’s a lot of fun, and it brings a classic musical to the screen in a creative way. You’ve gotta love it.
Plus, look at that cast! There are enough Oscars, Grammys and Tonys in that lineup to fill a pirate ship!
#7 – The Big Chill
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Starring Tom Berenger, Glenn Close & Jeff Goldblum.
A comedy-drama with big names wherever you look in the cast. This is absolutely brilliant.
The Big Chill follows a group of baby boomers from the University of Michigan who reunite after 15 years when one of their friends commits suicide. It’s simultaneously touching and hilarious. What more could you ask?
It’s an incredibly smart movie as well. It delves into personality and what it means to be human, exploring themes of youth, politics, sex, drugs and age. It’s a wonder we aren’t studying this film in high school English classes.
As if the film needed another big name to sell it, Kevin Costner was meant to play Alex, the friend who had passed away, but his scenes were cut in post-production.
#6 – Terms of Endearment
Directed by James L. Brooks. Starring Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger & Jack Nicholson.
Speaking of another comedy-drama that launched stellar careers…
Terms of Endearment follows 30 years of a relationship between mother and daughter. It swept at the Academy Awards, receiving eleven nominations and winning five: Best Picture, Best Director for Brooks, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress for MacLaine and Best Supporting Actor for Nicholson.
Other big names you might recognise include Danny DeVito, Jeff Daniels and John Lithgow, and even cinematographers, art directors and editors started their careers on this film.
Quite famously, Jack Nicholson improvised a lot of his work in this film, so this is an excellent film to admire his genius.
#5 – Flashdance
Directed by Adrian Lyne. Starring Jennifer Beals, Michael Nouri & Lilia Skala.
What a feeling!
Flashdance is another one of those iconic dance films from the 1980s that tells the story of a passionate young dancer aspiring to become a professional ballerina. Featuring an incredible soundtrack and wonderful cinematography, it’s become an icon of 80s cinema.
The narrative is mediocre at best to be perfectly frank, but the dance sequences and the cinematography more than make up for it. Few things in cinema give me the chills quite like Irene Cara’s smash hit song blasting while Jennifer Beals nails that dance routine.
The film’s poster is also iconic, although it was a complete accident: Beals shrunk her sweater in the wash and cut a hole to make it fit again, but overcompensated. Now it’s a legendary image.
#4 – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life
Directed by Terry Jones. Starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese & Terry Gilliam.
Nobody expects the joke Monty Python review! Its chief weapon is surprise! Surprise and fear. Fear and surprise! Its two weapons are fear and surprise – and ruthless efficiency! Its three weapons are fear, and surprise, and ruthless efficiency, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope! It’s four… no…
Among its weaponry are such elements as fear, surprise… I’ll start again.
#3 – Risky Business
Directed by Paul Brickman. Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca de Mornay & Joe Pantoliano.
Remember when Tom Cruise was known for this kind of performance and not jumping on Oprah’s couch?
Risky Business is an iconic comedy dealing with materialism, loss of innocence, coming of age and capitalism. Aside from being one of the most well-remembered comedies of the 1980s, it’s renowned for that famous pantsless dance scene from Cruise himself.
It was considered one of the greatest films of 1983, being praised as a hilarious examination of teen angst that explores dark themes while remaining bright and funny.
That iconic dance scene is well-remembered too, making AFI’s Top 100 Movie Songs and being parodied dozens of times over.
#2 – Scarface
Directed by Brian de Palma. Starring Al Pacino, Steven Bauer & Michelle Pfeiffer.
The greatest crime… was that Al Pacino didn’t win an Oscar for this.
Scarface tells the story of a Cuban refugee who arrives in Miami with nothing and rises to become a powerful drug lord. With one of Pacino’s greatest performances and line after line that almost anyone can quote, it’s indisputably an all-time great.
It feels like a Scorsese film, and as a matter of fact, Martin Scorsese has given this film a lot of praise and credit for inspiring his own works. It’ll make you shudder, but it’s real, and it’s incredible to witness.
Credit and mention must be given to writer Oliver Stone, who wrote the screenplay while recovering from his own addiction to cocaine.
#1 – Return of the Jedi
Directed by Richard Marquand. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford & Carrie Fisher.
Even what fans describe as the weakest entry in the original trilogy just can’t be toppled from number one.
Return of the Jedi is the concluding chapter of the original Star Wars saga, bringing Luke Skywalker’s battle against the Galactic Empire to a close. It was arguably one of the most anticipated sequels of all time upon its release.
Considered one of the greatest films of the 80s, despite being considered weaker than Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, there’s no disputing this film brought an incredible and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. You can’t watch the other two and not want to watch and admire this one.
So, Star Wars clean-sweeps the top spot with its original trilogy. And I don’t think anyone can say it doesn’t deserve it.