10 iconic cinematic masterpieces from 1988
#10 – Akira
Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. Starring Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki & Mami Koyama.
Japan was already known for revolutionising animation through Studio Ghibli. Imagine seeing this animated beauty in 1988.
Akira is a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk film that follows a leader of a biker gang whose childhood friend acquires incredible telekinetic abilities after a motorcycle accident.
With the typical imaginative nature of a Japanese film and the aforementioned beautiful animation, it’s still a brilliant animated film by today’s standards, even over 30 years on.
This film is responsible for inspiring the wave of Japanese cyberpunk that we are still seeing today, including The Matrix, Alita: Battle Angel and Ghost in the Shell.
#9 – A Fish Called Wanda
Directed by Charles Crichton. Starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis & Kevin Kline.
Even outside of Monty Python, John Cleese is an absolute laugh riot.
A Fish Called Wanda is a heist comedy and the brainchild of Cleese himself. It tells the story of a gang of diamond thieves who double-cross one another to find stolen diamonds hidden by their leader.
This film really knows how to pull off a comedic set-piece. Not just funny for its brilliant gags from Pythons Cleese and Michael Palin, it’s also a masterfully written screenplay that tickled so many funny bones, it was nominated for an Oscar.
In a rather morbid coincidence, a Danish audiologist with a heart condition actually died while working on the film because he laughed too hard and his heart rate rose to 500 beats per minute, leading to a fatal heart attack. I’m pretty sure there’s a Python sketch about that.
#8 – Willow
Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley & Warwick Davis.
Combine the directorial mind of Ron Howard and the charm of Warwick Davis and you get a beautiful fantasy adventure.
Willow continues the dark fantasy trend of Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story to tell the tale of a reluctant farmer who plays a critical role in protecting a special baby from a tyrannical queen.
While it received mixed reviews upon its release, Willow has become a film at the centre of many childhoods. It was nominated for two Academy Awards and has become a cult classic.
It also continues the success of George Lucas as a screenwriter after his smash hits with Star Wars and Labyrinth.
#7 – Heathers
Directed by Michael Lehmann. Starring Winona Ryder, Christian Slater & Shannen Doherty.
It’s the original cliquey mean-girl film and still definitely the best.
Heathers blazed a trail of originality, blending black comedy with the coming-of-age teen film to tell the story of Veronica Sawyer (Ryder), who is thrown into a world of chaos when her psychopathic boyfriend J.D. (Slater) begins to kill off the cool girls at school.
Now adapted into an award-winning musical and considered one of the greatest cult hits of all time, it was lauded for its incredible originality and the performances of Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. It’s relevant to anyone who lived through the cruel world of high school.
While you’re at it, listen to the musical soundtrack. It’s pretty damn good for an adaptation.
#6 – Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Starring Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd & Charles Fleischer.
Speaking of incredible originality, here’s a film that will never be equalled.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a combination live-action and animation film that follows a private investigator who must exonerate a cartoon movie character who is accused of murdering a wealthy businessman.
Becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year, it revived interest in American animation and (obviously) won the Academy Award for best visual effects. Just look at the synergy between the animated and live-action worlds. It still stands up today.
The film also marks the first time in history that Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny were seen on screen together.
#5 – The Land Before Time
Directed by Don Bluth. Starring Gabriel Damon, Candace Hutson & Judith Barsi.
Admit it. This movie is your entire childhood. It’s also probably scarred you forever.
The Land Before Time is the emotional and ingenious animated brainchild of Don Bluth, concerning a young dinosaur who is orphaned when his mother is killed by a vicious carnivore, and is forced to flee apocalyptic devastation with his friends to search for the Great Valley.
It’s a brilliant idea that works on every single level imaginable. With adorable and loveable characters, brilliant performances, important messages for young kids and enough intelligence to be enjoyable for the adults as well, it’s got to be one of the greatest non-Disney animations ever produced.
Get ready to revisit those scenes that made you cry your eyes out as a 6-year-old.
#4 – Beetlejuice
Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis & Jeffrey Jones.
Now for a film that arguably isn’t as critically well-loved, but is absolutely a cult classic.
Beetlejuice is a crossover between the gothic aesthetic of director Tim Burton and the comedic genius of Alec Baldwin. It follows a recently deceased couple who become ghosts haunted their former home, and a devious poltergeist named Betelgeuse who tries to scare away the new inhabitants.
This film launched Burton into recognition as an auteur and a brilliant director, earning him the director’s chair on a film that I’m sure you’ll recognise in our 1989 countdown (wink, wink).
This is another one that has spawned a very successful musical adaptation – there’s just something about 1987.
#3 – Rain Man
Directed by Barry Levinson. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise & Valeria Golino.
Get ready for a film that is hilarious and will touch your heart at the same time.
Rain Man is the story of an abrasive young wheeler-dealer who discovers that his estranged father has died and given his fortune to his other, unknown son, an autistic savant.
First of all, kudos for incredible autistic representation in film, and Dustin Hoffman’s magnificent Oscar-winning performance in that role. The film as a whole balances comedy and drama brilliantly.
Not only did the film win Best Picture, it’s become synonymous with memory and the quirks of autistic minds. It’s brilliant.
#2 – My Neighbour Totoro
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Starring Chika Sakamoto, Noriko Hidaka & Hitoshi Takagi.
Studio Ghibli found its niche with this film – the adorable inhuman protagonist.
My Neighbour Totoro follows a professor’s two young daughters and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in post-war rural Japan. It broke Ghibli into the mainstream with its loveable titular character and gorgeous animation.
If you travel to Japan, seeing Totoro is like seeing Mickey Mouse. He’s just everywhere, an absolute cultural phenomenon. And rightfully so. He was so universally beloved that the film would be redistributed by Disney themselves globally.
If you include merchandise sales, this film has amassed $1.46 billion – from a budget of barely a few million.
#1 – Die Hard
Directed by John McTiernan. Starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman & Alexander Godunov.
It’s the best Christmas movie ever made! Yes, it’s a Christmas movie. You can’t change my mind.
Die Hard is the iconic action film starring Bruce Willis as cop John McClane, who single-handedly takes on a group of German terrorists who take over a building.
Known for its iconic quips, white-knuckle action and the brilliant antagonistic performance of Alan Rickman, it’s considered one of the greatest movies ever made while appealing to the lovers of the action genre at the same time.
Check it out. You’ll love it. Yippee kay yay… ladies and gentlemen.